Codex VI-Chapter 6

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They headed southeast, just to make sure there was no chance that Manson and his party would accidentally see them, since the road through the woods was generally headed in a northeast direction from Rhun. Two days sailing brought them beyond the forest to the flat plains that seemed to stretch for a while. Drikdare guided the Cloudlovers to where he thought his clan, the Mithereen Tribe, might be. It took a few weeks of sailing, landing, asking other centaur or travelers if they had heard or interacted with the Mithereens, sailing some more, asking more travelers, etc. Eventually, however, they found the tribe.

Several centaur warriors rode out, armored, with wicked-looking longbows as the ship descended. As soon as Drikdare and his family were spotted, however, the arrows came down and the centaur were overjoyed. A runner was sent back to the camp, and soon centaur were pouring from the tents as the party finished dismounting. Drikdare, Eloranos, Eapas, and Gwnyll were all absorbed into the mass of centaur.

Eventually Drikdare introduced the party and the Cloudlovers, and they were all immediately showered with affection and hearty slaps. Some of the centaur spoke common, much to Khaska’s relief, and they were all invited to join the clan for a feast that evening. There was dancing and singing and celebrating. Drikdare’s father, the chieftain Faelan, insisted that the party sit by him around the biggest of the fires and eat the choicest cuts of meat. An older centaur, gray hair and beard, Faelan was interested to hear of their quest and how they had come to free his son and family. He seemed wise and thoughtful, and Rynn was grateful to meet him. Orensland felt a bit out of place—rangers, druids, hunters, gatherers, there wasn’t much in common with him, a shadowdancing thief. Sanjin had interacted with centaur tribes before in his wanderings on the Death Side, so seemed as content as ever, unflappable and willing to continue to see the adventure through. Khaska was a bit of an oddity, since there were so few of his race on the Death Side, but they made him feel welcome despite needing to constantly shoo the younger centaur away from gaping at him.

The party went on late through the night, and eventually everbody retired to a tent that had been set up just for them. There were many fine furs and rugs decorating the floor, and the group fell asleep instantly.

The next morning, the Cloudlovers left after being showered with gifts and items to trade from the tribe. The centaur gave a rousing cheer as the skyship rose into the morning light and sailed off back towards Rhun.

Then, at Faelan’s insistence, the party was escorted into the large chieftains tent with Faelan, Drikdare, and several other of the male centaur.

“My friends,” Faelan said, “we are greatly indebted to you for freeing my son and his family. If you need anything that we can provide, you need merely ask. We are in your debt, and you have made friends of the Mithereen tribe. This is a war council, and we have invited you here because you seek the same enemy we do.”

Drikdare stepped forward. “I call for a war party to hunt down Manson and his followers. They kidnapped me and my family, locked my wife and children up, forced me to do their bidding, and made me a servant of their overzealous ways. They are an enemy and have committed gross crimes against the tribe.”

The vote was unanimous. The clan was going to war against Manson.

Drikdare turned to the party. “Will you join us in the hunt?”

Eryx (DM)
Will you join them in the hunt? Do you wish to negotiate that they take care not to destroy or harm Lady Maramos?

The people of Rhun are going to use the nice shiny black carriage as firewood. Don’t worry about it. It’s gone. You still have the ledger, your copy of it, and the jewels were cached near the village.

Crosis
Orensland votes yes! Hunts sound fun. He would also try to negotiate in trying not to harm or destroy lady Maramos. Probably indicating that the clerics have a borrowed cart, and we want what is on the cart. Keeping some horses alive (for the cart, I'd prefer if we didn't follow the pioneer's example on this one) and providing some provisions would be nice as well.

Attacking at night would likely be the best option, if we can choose. It would give us the element of surprise as well as guaranteeing some shadowdancing opportunity for Orensland.

As for the ledger… I thought we were leaving it at Rhun for when we got back. That is not an item I would want on my person when (if) Lady Maramos wakes up. I'd assume we can haggle out between ourselves what to do with Lady Maramos once Manson and his crew are defeated and the centaurs are gone.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin agrees with Orensland to join their hunt. However he feels that we should be careful whom the party trusts their secrets to -few will understand the necessity of their plans with a Vampire.

Eryx (DM)
The ledger can be back at Rhun if you want. If I misunderstood what you wanted to do with it, I apologize. That's an easy enough detail to retcon. Is that where you all want it?

Thev
Orensland could make up a tale about how we ended up with the ledger, if we trust his bluffing against Lady Maramos. Perhaps the coach was damaged and had to be discarded after the battle? Plus, we're not sure when we'll be making it back to Rhun in the first place.

Khaska, still smarting from Jake's parting coolness, is somewhat loath to sign on to more violence. But he doesn't see much of a path forward beside it at this point, though he'd like to minimize the impact of it. He'd like to point out that the clerics back in Rhun had sworn oaths to Manson; it's possible that were he dead, those oaths would be rendered invalid, freeing the clerics in Manson's train from that bond. He'd pass along the idea that they concentrate on Manson and offer clemency to as many as remain and will surrender, swearing another oath (which we could brainstorm about). He knows the rest of the party probably won't go for this, but… he feels he should.

Eryx (DM)
I also forgot to give out XP. Orensland gets 675 for killing Gill in single combat. Everybody gets 500 XP for the "quest" of returning Drikdare and his family to their tribe.

BlackWolf
Rynn is excited to join them in the hunt. Partly because it means we're heading out against our enemy, but mostly because Rynn is feeling like he's in his element. I suspect "the hunt" will mean a lot of tracking and navigating the wilds which is what the ranger loves. No more cities and those pesky laws. :)

Rynn won't speak out either way about Maramos. He's said what he said to Drikdare in the last chapter, and won't revisit it at this time. He wouldn't be disappointed at all if the centaur destroyed her, but he doesn't want to argue in public against his friend, Orensland. Rynn is deferring for now, hoping things will become clear later.

Similarly, the ranger won't argue for or against the killing of Manson's companions.

As for the ledger, I think it's better to keep it with us. If it's back in a cache at Rhun, it's hard to retrieve it if we need it. The information therein might be useful down the road. I'm not worried about Maramos searching our stuff… that wasn't a problem before, and we can control when we revive her. But Rynn doesn't really have the social skills to make effective use of the ledger himself, so I'll defer to the rest of the group.

(I'm middle ground on all these things in this post, but that's sort of just circumstance. These are just details that both I as a player, and my character Rynn are just kind of indifferent about. I'm happy to let you all decide on these; I'm sure that Rynn will have more to say on future topics.)

Orensland didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely!” Then, a bit chagrined at his outburst, he stopped smiling. “That is, I would say yes, but I will let my companions speak for themselves.”

Rynn half-smiled at the shadowdancer. “We will join you in the hunt. Manson is an enemy of ours, and has taken …”

“Something that belongs to us, that we would like to retrieve,” Sanjin interrupted. The wizard glanced at his friends, wary of giving away the secret of Lady Maramos.

“I am aware,” Drikdare said, dryly, “of why you helped me. You will get your share of the spoils from our war party, and I can’t imagine that any of us will want the items you would like to claim.”

Drikdare was in the know, but was also being cagey about it.

“The box in question, a cart, and hopefully some horses to carry it,” Orensland said. “I’m not one for dragging a cart across the Deadlands by myself.”

“Are we just going to slay the entire group with Manson?” Khaska inquired. All eyes turned to him.

“Speak, Khaska of the Maha’i,” Faelan said. “Your voice is welcome in this council.”

The cleric stepped forward. “Several of Manson’s group back in the town where Drikdare’s family was being held followed Manson for personal reasons. Oaths, felt like they had no better alternative, things like that. My thought was that if we focused on Manson, perhaps some of those who follow him still might be persuaded to surrender or to abandon their overzealous ways. I am loathe to participate in unnecessary killing if there is another way.”

“Your words are wise,” Faelan said, “and I do sympathize. However, you are a stranger to our ways, and this is a war council. Those who fight against us will be slain. Innocents among our enemies, and those who do not take up arms against us or who surrender, will not be harmed.”

Khaska bowed his head. “Thank you for explaining. I will join my companions in your war party, and pray that there will be some that surrender instead of being needlessly slaughtered.”

The centaur council seemed to accept this, and with that their discussion turned to tracking, tactics, war party numbers, and other considerations. In the end, fully a third of the centaur males volunteered, and Drikdare, as the one who had called for the war council, selected those who would come. The Mansonite caravan would have twenty-one people in it, clerics and fighters, mostly, with a few acolytes and two monks. It was possible that Manson might have more followers who would join them on the move, but Drikdare wasn’t concerned. In the end, forty-five centaur were selected, and with the four members of the party, there were forty-nine, a number, it was explained, that had significance. Seven times seven—the number of a tribal council multipled by itself.

There were preparations to be made with that many male centaur leaving the tribe for an extended period. Drikdare explained that there were many kinds of hunts, manhood hunts, like Eapas would participate in next year, courtship hunts, etc. Each had their own set of traditions and rituals. For a war hunt, Drikdare, as the one who called for the hunt, needed to find and slay an animal that would be used in preparations. He left the very next morning.

He was gone for several days, during which the party stayed with the tribe. Orensland was able to use his juggling skills to entertain the younglings, while Khaska and Sanjin conversed with the tribal elders, Khaska learning and sharing stories, and Sanjin inquiring about cursed sites and possible dungeon locations the tribe might be aware of. Rynn was able to put his ranger skills to use hunting and foraging for food and aiding the tribe in its self-sufficiency.

Drikdare returned from his hunt carrying the corpse of a dead male lion. A powerful good omen for a war hunt, was the consensus. The war party would leave in the morning.

They woke before dawn and participated in the rituals preparing them for a war hunt. The women of the tribe painted specific druid runes on the forehead of each war party member using a mixture of mud, water, and a bit of blood from the lion. Orensland thought it was really cool, Rynn was intrigued, Sanjin just wanted to get on with it, and Khaska had to steel himself to be touched by a woman because, like Eloranos and Gwynyll, the women of the centaur tribe were mostly topless. While he had grown accustomed to this fact, being touched by them was a different matter entirely. He hoped his reticence wasn’t obvious, or rude.

Eranaois, the high priestess of the tribe, Faelan’s mate and Drikdare’s mother, also came and pronounced a blessing on each member of the party. She walked slowly, beset by arthritis, supported by two younger female centaur at either side of her. She seemed frail and thin, but set in her purpose. With some of the war party, she gave a generic blessing, but sometimes she would pause, her hands on the temples of the kneeling centaur, and then deliver something more specific.

Orensland and Sanjin, first in line of the party, got generic blessings. “May you have the strength of the earth with you as you fight for our tribe” and “May the spirits of the earth be with you in your journey and protect you as you fight” respectively.

Rynn, however, got something more specific. She paused for a while, her eyes closed in concentration.

“You seek something that has been lost from you. You will find some answers soon and will have both sorrow and joy. But know this: the end of your quest is not at hand.”

Rynn was kneeling before her as she pronounced this, and wondered what this portended.

Khaska was next, and the sudden possibility arising in his mind of a personal blessing caused him to forget of his discomfort at being touched by the high priestess. And his premonition proved true. She paused for such a long time that the other tribe members began stirring. “May Teresh bless you in your hunt,” she finally said. A generic blessing, it seemed. She gave him a long look, and then moved on.

Drikdare was blessed last, just before dawn. As the sun spilt over the horizon, Eranaois brought her hands up as high as she could and prayed loudly to the spirits of earth and wind and air that the party would find success in hunting their enemies. With that, the war party departed. However, one of the other females came to grab Khaska and pull him aside. Eranaois approached him, and the younger female bowed and left them alone on the edge of camp, still visible to all, but without earshot.

“Khaska, I do not know what to make of the visions swirling in my head around you. I have lived many years and not had premonitions of such strength. There is great evil in your future, yet there is also great good. You must find the meaning of these visions, but I cannot interpret them for you.” She leaned in closely. “There is a seer atop Mount Elduin, a stone giant who has lived for so long that we centaur no longer even remember his name. Perhaps he can help you. I fear for your future with all the heartache that will come, and rejoice in your future, for all the joy that you will find. I wish you well, my friend. Thank you for bringing my son and his family back to us.” With that, she leaned in to grasp the Maha’i by the shoulders and bestowed a kiss on his cheek. “I will forever be grateful that I got to seem them again before I pass from this life.”

Khaska took her hands in his, heedless of whatever impropriety he was committing by doing so. “I thank you for the gift of your visions, and will seek their meaning. We all must leave this world sometime, but I know that for me, my life is the better for having met you and your family, and your tribe.” He straightened, and released her hands, tilting his head back in a sign of respect. “When your time comes, may Markus conduct you into the everlasting hills, and may you there never know aught but happiness.”

She motioned over her assistants and they took her limping away. Khaska turned, resolute, and follower the war party that was receeding into the distance.


Finding Manson and his party was not difficult, more a matter of travel time than of searching them out. The Mansonite caravan was barely a week out of the forest and into the plains when the scouts first encountered them. It was a question of how to approach them and engage in combat.

Rynn went ahead with some of the scouts to get an assessment of their forces. The druids of the war party, with their wild shape ability, were definitely useful in scouting out, but the ranger’s help was more than welcome, as it had been these past weeks during their journey. Well-hidden in a patch of bushes atop a hill, he peered at the Mansonite camp through Captain Bronzebeard’s spyglass.

Drikdare’s assessment of the party seemed accurate. There were twenty-four of them, three more than expected. Manson must have found another group of his acolytes while on the move. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

But as he peered through the telescope, he saw something that made his heart skip a beat.

One of Manson’s acolytes was Jared Evans … from Silver Meadow. Rynn slowly put the spyglass down and blew out a long breath. Jared must have been one of the survivors of the bugbear raid on the town. Eranaois’ blessing came to his mind, unbidden. “You will find some answers soon and will have both sorrow and joy.”

This was a problem. He observed the camp for a few more minutes to get a better sense of the flow of things among Manson's followers, and then left to return to the war party.

Eryx (DM)
I thought about asking Rynn to roll some Survival and Gather Info checks to help in tracking down Manson and his caravan, but since you were going to automatically succeed anyway it didn’t make much difference and would have slowed us down. There are a great many centaur rangers and druids, and the group is basically self-sufficient and able to track and find Manson’s caravan regardless. However, sufficieth to say, the centaur were grateful for your help, and you were able to help provide food and water for the party as well as some of the centaur. As a ranger, you more than pulled your weight (assuming average rolls of 10 over several weeks), and impressed many of them. Rynn has made some good friends in this tribe beyond even Drikdare.

And now you might have to cash that goodwill in. Jared is a survivor of Silver Meadow, Rynn thinks. It’s possible that Jared might have similarly been away during the bugbear raid, like Rynn and Jacob were, but Rynn thinks that unlikely.

So, the questions to answer in this gray box.

1. What does Rynn want to do about Jared?

2. How will your party recommend the centaur attack? Pick them off one by one as they travel? Just do a frontal assault during the night? Show up and ask for their surrender? Wait until they are crossing a river or stream to create a natural split in the caravan? (The land is pretty flat, there won’t be a lot of opportunity for ambushing them in a ravine or something like that.)

3. What plans do you want to make around making sure Lady Maramos survives whatever you suggest in response to question 2?

And it is now April. You've mostly been traveling with Centaur and with the Cloudlovers the last two months, and so I think I'll just rule that you need to pay the "self-sufficient" upkeep prices. Please deduct 4 gold total from each of your inventories.
Also, using in-game time, the party met for the first time barely over a year ago. What a year it's been for your characters, eh?

BlackWolf
What would Rynn know about Jared Evans? What sort of relationship did they have; was he just an acquaintance from the town? Did he have family there? How old is he? What kind of person was he then? The ranger realizes that Jared may have changed greatly, just as Rynn has. But the context of the past may help. Also, if Rynn was able to identify Jared's face, was he able to take in any other details? Like, how is Jared equipped? Is he wearing any Whitecloak garb?

Things may change slightly based on what Rynn remembers of Jared, but Rynn at least wants a chance to speak to him to learn what he knows about what happened at Silver Meadow.

Tactically, it seems like a difficult request to ask the centaur to spare a specific person. How would they know which person? And what if he fights back; would that be out of self-defense or because he's following Manson? So he will tell everyone of his past and why he wants to speak with Jared, but will not ask them to risk their lives to intervene. Instead, Rynn will attempt to deal with Jared himself. During the attack, he'll try to find Jared and get him to surrender, or use a wand to heal him if he falls. Perhaps even try to sneak into the enemy camp before the attack.

If Orensland is willing, it might be possible for him to go in and disable (tie up or knock out) Jared before the fight starts. But that would probably mean we have to attack by night… which seems like the best strategy to Rynn in any case. The longer we watch them, the more we risk being seen. Picking them off could tip them off or at least put them on their guard.

Asking Manson's group to surrender does not even cross Rynn's mind.

As for Lady Maramos… well, Rynn doesn't care what happens there. And he'll be preoccupied about Jared at this point anyway. Perhaps if Orensland does volunteer to sneak in to disable Jared, that could put him in a position to do something about the vampire?

Eryx (DM)
Great questions about Jared. Rynn knew Jared mostly in passing. Silver Meadow wasn't a large town, but Rynn mostly interacted with Jared in trade situations. Jared was a little older and is now in his early 40s. He had been married for a time, but his wife had died from disease some years before. They had no children. Jared had not remarried, but didn't seem to be a recluse or anything. Just not terribly social. He had been part of the town militia but, then again, most men of the town were available for the militia if needed.

Jared appears to be a Whitecloak (since he was wearing the trademark white cloak), but a low-ranking one. Adept is likely his character class, but he might be a cleric. He was wearing a holy symbol, but it was too far to make out specifics, even with the spyglass. He seemed to have leather armor as well as a quarterstaff, and was engaged in the more menial tasks (setting up tents for the night, helping light fires, etc.) when Rynn observed him for the few minutes. (In the narration it sounded like Rynn saw him and then immediately left, but I had conceived of Rynn observing the camp for a while even after his discovery. I've slightly altered the text to more clearly convey that.)

BlackWolf
Hmm. So Jared probably won't just end up as some bystander then, and likely has more loyalty to the Whitecloaks at this point than to a casual acquaintance from years ago. Thus, I think I'll stick with what I outlined above.

Eryx (DM)
So Rogues can do a special kind of sneak attack with a weapon called a "sap" that does non-lethal damage. Orensland doesn't have a sap, but they cost 1gp and basically are the equivalent of a rock inside some leather. One of the 45 centaur has a leathermaking craft skill and some tools on hand (to repair tents, weapons, etc.). You can have a one-use only improvised sap if you want, and could basically sneak in and knock Jared out at the beginning of combat. Or wait until you can flank him and get sneak attack damage and knock him out then (perhaps with Rynn's assistance in the flanking department).

Crosis
I'm on my phone and in public, so my typing abilities are limited. Orensland would feel happy knocking him out in advance, probably in an isolated area. We should warn the centaurs to not kill unconscious people just for his sake.

I'd prefer not to do the sniping method. If I get caught, I get swarmed. I would likely be in camp when the fighting starts and pick out stragglers from the back. Or middle, if the camp is surrounded. In general, though, he would avoid fighting groups without backup. If there are no stragglers, I'll crack out my crossbow, pick a safe location, and fire away.

Orensland is also happy to sneak in and assassinate Manson in his sleep. (Explained over the phone earlier this week, and re-confirmed by text right now.)

Eryx (DM)
I would like a better sense of what tactics you all want to use in this fight? Snipe them from afar? Get into the camp in hand-to-hand (especially Rynn, so he could get close to Jared)? Stay back and heal (Khaska)? Stay back and nuke (Sanjin)?

You guys aren't necessarily the only higher level characters among the war party, but you're expected to pull your weight.

The centaur seem to be of the opinion that attacking in the night would be best, just as true night begins, shortly after twilight sunset. The entire party is rangers and druids of varying levels, by class. Especially for those of you with more D&D experience, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the tactics of the war party and then of your characters should be.

Thev
Whew! Finally I get a chance to post. First: well, Khaska now has a goal for the next place he wants to visit: Mount Elduin. Do we know where, exactly, that is? Do the centaurs? Is it merely a name that came to the seer in vision?

Eryx, recall that Khaska also has wilderness survival skills, so it wouldn't just be Rynn among the party helping to scope out food and water during the trip.

Regarding tactics: how are the centaurs' healing abilities? If Khaska feels he'd make a bigger difference in providing support through healing, he'd be willing to do that. (And though he'd be loath to mention it, it'd help keep his ever-more-nagging conscience at bay; he'd be quietly pulling a Desmond Doss.) He'd be alright with attacking at night, and would support a moratorium on killing the unconscious or fallen. (Of course, another character could remind him that this move was exactly the one that caused much of the trouble in Rhun, a perspective Khaska is unlikely to achieve by himself.)

Eryx (DM)
Druids can heal, but as a cleric you can literally change a spell you've prepared to cast a healing spell instead (if you prepared any level 3 spell you can cast the equivalent healing spell instead). Druids can do that for spells that summon animals to fight (if they prepared any level 3 spell they can cast the equivalent "Summon Nature's Ally" spell instead). Basically, they can heal, but you are the most versatile healer in the group. And in Rhun it wasn't just that you didn't kill the unconscious or fallen, you literally healed them so they wouldn't have a chance to bleed out. Not the same thing at all. Metagaming, in general I don't really even take note of bleeding out of enemies, once they're unconscious, I count them as dead. Sometimes I make exceptions and keep track of such things when I feel you might want information from your opponents or might have other considerations. It really doesn't seem that any of those conditions apply this time, except to Jared.

So, we have Orensland willing to assassinate Manson in his sleep, Rynn who wants to personally fight Jared to try to keep him from dying, Orensland willing to sap Jared, Khaska who just wants to heal allies this time, and … still waiting for DeltaWolf to post, but I assume Sanjin will stay back and nuke things while sending in his snake staff to squeeze people to death. But I'll wait for him to see if there's anything specific he wants to do.

Thev
Ah, thanks for the clarification. I suppose I meant it in the generic sense of "showing mercy," though it's good to note the difference between healing and allowing to die.

Further, Khaska will join battle if he feels he's needed—melee, with his scimitar, in order to conserve his spells—but will heal otherwise.


Khaska immediately noticed that Rynn’s demeanor was different when the ranger returned to camp. He quickly inquired as to what had happened, and Rynn explained the situation to him. They immediately left to find Drikdare and discuss the ramifications.

“I sympathize,” Drikdare said, “as you well know the great driving force of my life the past year has been to keep my mate and children safe. Now you find yourself in a position perhaps to know more about the fate of your mate. Describe this Jared Evans to us, and I will order my men to take pains to avoid killing him.”

“I don’t know if I can ask you to do that,” Rynn said. “In the heat of battle, I don’t want them to hesitate each time they fight a new Mansonite.”

“It was not a guarantee of his survival,” Drikdare said, “but I am open to suggestions.”

“Let me knock him out,” Orensland said. The shadowdancer had just arrived around the campfire and had heard the last bit of Rynn’s explanation and Drikdare’s response. “I was going to suggest my sneaking into camp and killing Manson anyway.”

Drikdare furrowed his brow. “You would go, alone, into the Mansonite camp to personally engage Manson?”

Orensland smiled, and then stepped to the side, blending into the shadows as he did so. Drikdare had not, as of yet, known that Orensland had that ability. There were gasps of astonishment.

“I was going to sneak in to the camp and kill Manson in his sleep. I have no desire to waltz in and challenge him to personal combat.” He reappeared a few feet away. “The dwarf was a one-time deal back in Rhun.”

Drikdare nodded. “I understand.”

They discussed how this might fit into the plans the Centaur had. The initial plan had been for Drikdare to open the attack with a Lightning Storm. After that initial salvo, and because of their superior darkvision, they had planned on using their druid magic to try and extinguish the Mansonite torches, if they were lucky some of the fires, and entangle the camp so they could then use their bows and other ranged spells to attack the people in the camp. Then they would charge in for hand-to-hand combat to kill any survivors. It was decided that Orensland would sneak in, try to kill Manson and knock out Jared, and then leave camp so as not to be caught in the nature spells the centaur would be using.

“You will have a few minutes, but if you have not returned by then, you will be caught with Manson and his followers in our magic.”

Orensland nodded. “I can make it in and out. But I am going to need some help before we go.”

The shadowdancer didn’t own a sap, an oversight he thought he might correct in the future, but with the help of one of the centaur skilled in leatherworking he was able to cobble one together, just a rock inside a leather pouch, bascially. It was a hasty job, clearly good for only one or two blows before it would basically disintegrate, but it would work.

With that, the camp all spent a few moments in silence, for prayer, or meditation, or whatever they wanted to do. Khaska prayed under his breath, while watching the centaur and his companions. He particularly prayed that Jared would survive so that Rynn might obtain some answers about the fate of Juliet.

Then the war party began to move forward. Khaska stayed towards the back. Since everybody but him had some form of low-light or darkvision, he followed closely behind one of the centaur, an arrangement they had agreed upon.

The centaur began to slowly fan out as they emerged from the copse of trees they had used to mask their approach. Rynn used the spyglass to find and point out Jared, who was still cleaning up from the camp’s dinner. This information was conveyed to everybody in the party.

With that, Drikdare pointed at Orensland, and the shadowdancer nodded.

He had about five minutes before the druid would unlease his Lightning Storm spell and begin the attack.

Eryx (DM)
DeltaWolf, you haven’t posted, but we’re moving forward. Per the Campaign Rules: If a player does not post within 5 days twice, that's a strike. After three strikes and the DM and the player will have a discussion on whether or not you should continue in the campaign. I know we haven’t been exactly following the 5 day rule perfectly, but I feel this warrants an invocation of this rule, the spirit of the law, if you will. You’re halfway to your first strike.

Alright, I need Hide and Move Silent Checks from Orensland, as well as attack rolls for Manson and Jared (you have a sap with Jared). Each time you use the sap, roll a % dice. First time, if you roll a 51+, it disintegrates. The second time, 76+, it disintegrates. Third time, 91+ it disintegrates. Fourth time it will disintegrate no matter what and you cannot use it anymore. Would you like to go for Jared first, or Manson first?

Aside from those rolls, everybody give me initiative and three rounds of actions.

Crosis

I'll go for Manson first, then Jared. If Manson is awake, I'd just go for Jared. We can talk about this over text if you want.

* Hide: 26 (rolled 2 + 24)
* Move Silently: 37 (rolled 13 + 24)

(Manson)
* Hit: 23 (12 + 11)

I forget the Coup De Grace rules, do you want to do that part?

(Jared)
* Hit: 13 (rolled 7 + 6 base?????????)

…I don't know the rules for knocking someone unconscious.

(General Combat)

  • Hit: 22
  • Damage: 9
  • Hit: 23
  • Damage: 12
  • Hit: 16
  • Damage: 9

I gotta run, but I included the 1d6 damage. I just got terrible rolls. :(

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will enter the fight using Burning Hands to catch a wide spread of enemies then use Acid Arrow on a survivor.
Round 1:

  • Cast Burning Hands
    • Damage: 12 (4,2,2,3,1)

Round 2:

  • Cast Burning Hands
    • Damage: 16 (2,4,4,3,3)

Round 3:

  • Cast Acid Arrow
    • To Hit: 6 (4 rolled +2 Dex)
    • Damage: 6 (2,4)
    • Damage: 6 (3.3)
    • Damage: 5 (1,4)

Thev
As mentioned above, Khaska will mainly focus on healing the injured. However, he will have spells prepared just in case they're needed (I'll get those updated as soon as possible). Let me know if your characters would suggest that he prepare any particular spells; they'll have had ample time to plan ahead.

Let me know, Eryx, if you require the rounds of combat despite that not being his focus.

[Addition]

Khaska will use his spells to give the party some strategic advantages in the battle. For instance, he'll cast Shield of Faith on Orensland before he goes off to face Manson. Immediately before the attack, he'll cast several instances of Silence on the Mansonite camp. He'll cast Bull's Strength on two of the centaurs who would need it and Greater Magic Weapon on a weapon that might have the most action (this would probably be decided upon beforehand).

Throughout the battle, he'll use spells like Virtue, Resistance, Guidance, Bless, Prayer, Dispel Magic, and Summon Monster IV to support the party and the centaurs.

He'll reserve Magic Vestment and Fire Shield for self-defense if they're needed, or will give them to others if warranted.

Let me know if you'd have any strategic advice that would be different.

And if he gets into melee, he'll draw his scimitar:

  • To Hit: 14 + 8 = 22 — Damage: 2 + 2 = 4
  • To Hit: 3 + 8 = 11 — Damage: 3 + 2 = 5
  • To Hit: 10 + 8 = 18 — Damage: 6 + 2 = 8

BlackWolf
Rynn will be hoping for the best with Jared, but knows that the most important thing at this point is for the attack to be quick and successful. When the time comes to engage, he'll fire his bow at the enemy.

Round 1:

  • Longbow: 25 (rolled 12 + 13 bonuses), damage: 7 (rolled 5 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 17 (rolled 9 + 8 bonuses), damage: 4 (rolled 2 + 2 STR)

Round 2:

  • Longbow: 25 (rolled 12 + 13 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 15 (rolled 7 + 8 bonuses), damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 STR)

Round 3:

  • Longbow: 29 (rolled 16 + 13 bonuses), damage: 3 (rolled 1 + 2 STR)
  • Longbow: 25 (rolled 17 + 8 bonuses), damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 STR)

Rynn's bow (or arrows) get a lot of action because he can fire 2 (or more) each round. So if we decide that Khaska's Greater Magic Weapon should go to the ranger's bow, it would add +1 to each of those attack rolls (because it was already masterwork), and +2 to each damage result.

But I'm not certain that's the best use of the spell; just throwing it out as a suggestion.

With the sun behind Pressen, the five of so hours of “true night” the best time to attack, the shadowdancer had little trouble sneaking into the camp. Scouts had watched Manson retire to bed after their evening meal, and he knew exactly which tent it was. The only problem was that there was a guard stationed right outside the only door, a dwarven cleric. Orensland snuck around back, pulling his dagger out. Easy enough. Make a new door. He could hear Manson snoring in the back of the tent, making it easy to identify where he was. A few gentle nudges allowed him to determine where he could cut the tent without hitting something inside, and he went to work.

The sound of the dagger neatly slicing through the tent couldn’t really be avoided. Orensland listened intently to see if the guard heard him, and, unfortunately, it appeared that the dwarf did. Orensland could hear the clank of the plate metal coming around the side of the tent, and quickly made a decision. If the man was coming around the tent counter-clockwise, then it would be simplicity itself to go the same direction and then just sneak in the front door!

While the cleric was looking around the back of the tent, Orensland did indeed manage to dive in the front door. His eyes needed no adjustment (this still amazed him) in the pitch black darkness of the tent. Manson was asleep, his armor to the side, but his sword on the floor right by his bedroll. Orensland stole over, quietly drawing his sword, raised it, and then swung.

He drove his blade into Manson’s chest, and Manson moved in astonishment before dying. Orensland relaxed. The most dangerous person in the camp was dead.

But he was able to relax just for a moment.

The door flung open and the dwarf looked in. He took the scene in with a glance, Manson literally still spurting blood, and cried out in horror. “Cedric!” he yelled. “Someone help!” He rushed into the tent. “Cedric’s been attacked!”

Orensland jumped to the side, doing his best to avoid the barreling dwarf while not giving away his location by other means. He managed to step on a chest and vault over the dwarf, not touching anything else and not hitting the dwarf, who was trying in vain to use his healing spells on Cedric. “There’s an intruder in the camp. To arms!”

The tent flap burst open just as Orensland was about to exit and the shadowdancer hugged the wall of the tent. It was the other cleric from the Ruvalk. Orensland nearly held his breath, still blending into the shadows. Light now spilled into the tent as someone with a torch stood without.

“The assassin was just here, Preston. Lord Manson was bleeding out moments ago!” The other cleric looked around, and then chanted a quick prayer. His maul lit up with a Light spell and he looked around the tent.

There were still enough shadows that Orensland could harness their darkness, but had to readjust a bit. Luckily it appeared that still nobody could see him.

“Search the camp!” Preston yelled, leaving the tent. “The intruder is still here!”

Orensland could hear the sounds of the camp rousing, and silently cursed. Manson was dead, but the element of surprise had been lost. He wasn’t sure it was a trade-off he would have made knowing the outcome. The guard, openly weeping, and with blood all over his hands, left the tent.

He followed the guard out immediately, hoping nobody would notice the tent door flapping twice. Nobody did.

The shadowdancer allower himself one big gulp of air—blending into the shadows literally right next to a high-level cleric had not been in the original plan—but he had another task to try to complete. Jared had been in the common area when he had last checked, helping clean up the evening dinner. After darting around for a few minutes, Orensland found him. The man had already been wearing his leather armor, but now was armed with a sword and a buckler. The entire camp was awake and moving. There really wasn’t an opportunity to hit Jared over the head and then drag him outside of the camp. So Orensland just trailed the man as best he could.

Jared was assigned to guard the outskirts of the camp. With no intruder detected (Orensland heard Preston speculating that a vampire could have flown into camp in gaseous form), they were expecting an attack. This left Jared a slight distance away from others, but well within sight of them. Knocking him out would be risky. Orensland didn’t much like the idea of running away carrying a comatose body while being chased by the entire Mansonite camp. So he waited.

Suddenly, however, the sounds from the camp faded into nothingness. He heard a few voices cry out—apparently some had resisted Khaska’s casting of Silence, but he knew what was coming next, and he didn’t much want to be around for it. He clubbed Jared over the head, and the sap disentegrated on the first attempt, the rock spinning off into the night. No matter; the one blow had done the job. Jared crumpled to the ground. Orensland reached down to pick him up … just as the Lightning Storm hit. The sky suddenly came alight with Drikdare’s magic, lightning bolts spraying across the camp. Orensland heard cries of pain and curses from behind him as he picked up Jared’s unconscious body and took a single step when the magic blazed into him as well.

Lightning sprayed across his vision, playing up and down his limbs and rattling his teeth. He felt his skin burning and his hair catching fire as he began to sprint. He was close to the edge of camp, so only got hit once, but man, it sure hurt.

He had to duck down to avoid a blast of wind that erupted from the air in front of him, but he pressed on as the druids kept up their next phase—using Gust of Wind to knock out torches and campfires. Preston’s sword was still lit up like a beacon, however, giving everybody a good idea of where the camp was, even while far away and in the dark.

Orensland managed to make it back to the line of centaur, dropping Jared on the ground.

“Someone,” he gasped for air, “stabilize,” another gasp, “him.”

One centaur reached down and green magic moved from his hand onto Jared. The singed acolyte began to breath more steadily. Orensland relaxed, and then turned to see how the battle was going.

Really well. Vines and branches and other plants had sprung up in the camp, virtually trapping everybody where they were. Lightning played across the entire encampment, blasting everything in sight. The thunder was almost deafening. The shadowdancer whistled to himself. “Remind me never to get on Drikdare’s bad side,” he said to nobody in particular. He glanced over and could see Rynn firing into the camp, his arrows aimed at Preston. Khaska stood back and waited, healing spells prepared, and Sanjin appeared to be doing the same.

Eventually, the lighning stopped. Most of the Mansonites had fallen to the ground. It was unclear if they were dead. From the light of Preston’s sword, it looked like three of them were still up, perhaps more beyond the range of the spell. He was barking orders, pointing at one of the carts.

“Slay the vampire! At least let us rid the world of her pestilence!”

All three of them were trying to get to it, but moved slowly, encumbered by the vines and the other plants from the Entangle spell.

But it didn’t matter. The cart was on fire, and an unintended side effect of the Lightning Storm became apparent. With the cart on fire, the makeshift coffin was also on fire. The lid must have been too damaged by the storm, which had also then gotten inside the coffin … and must have lit the stake in Lady Maramos on fire.

The coffin lid exploded outward as she shoved her way to freedom, her elegant clothes hanging off of her in tatters. She took one glance around the camp field and then, shrieking arcane command words, threw her hands forward as a burst of icy magic blasted the three remaining clerics. Two of them dropped dead.

Only Preston remained.

Drikdare looked at Rynn, Khaska, and Sanjin. Orensland had run out of the camp in a different direction.

“I am confident we can kill the remaining Mansonites. But what would you have me do about her? Shall I continue the attack?” he asked in Elven.

Rynn looked at Khaska. “Should we have him just annihilate the rest of the camp? Her included?”

Eryx (DM)
Orensland took 17 points of damage from Drikdare’s Call Lightning Storm spell. Jared is stabilized. The infiltration mission was a success!

I … did not expect Drikdare and Khaska to singlehandedly destroy like 90% of the Mansonites. With Khaska’s Silence spell limiting some of them from healing and Drikdare’s Call Lightning Storm doing a ridiculous amount of damage (coupled with some abysmal single-digit rolling saves from the Mansonite group), most of them are now on the ground bleeding out. Someday the dice are going to turn against you all. But today was not that day. Again.

So, the Lightning Storm had an interesting and unintended side effect. Lady Maramos is now awake, the storm having burned her coffin and the stake in her heart. She looks the worse for wear, having taken damage from the magic itself, but is up, and just blew away the remaining Mansonites (that you can see) except for Preston.

Drikdare can continue to cast the Lightning Storm spell for five more rounds, actually, and could conceivably continue to blast the camp to smithereens.

You don’t know the condition of the carts and horses at this point. Drikdare took pains to avoid killing the innocent creatures, however. Lady Maramos’ cart was, unfortunately, in the center of camp and it got blasted something fierce. There were at least two others parked more on the edge of camp.

Orensland isn’t close to Drikdare, but he could hear you if you wanted to yell something. What will you all recommend to him? Shall he blow the rest of the camp away, including attempting to do so to Lady Maramos?

DeltaWolf
Q: with all the lightning being shot down -did Sanjin get a chance to use any of his spells?

Sanjin (if in a position to make a suggestion) would be in favor of just destroying the vampire. Now that she is free it seems like we should just cut our loses.

Thev
Given more time for thought, Khaska would probably be somewhat torn: it would seem like a terrific waste of life to kill so many clerics, though oppressive and overzealous, just to destroy the thing the party came to get. But in the spur of the moment, his reaction would be to destroy Lady Maramos while we still have the chance.

(Side note: how does the Silence spell affect LM?)

Perhaps the best way to do it would be to convince her to flee temporarily (say, by shouting to her), then let the coffin burn and scatter the soil from her graveyard around the scene so it can't all be gathered again; she'd have no place to go before sunrise.

If she doesn't flee, we could all concentrate fire on her. With a couple more Lightning Storms (if possible), the spells the rest of us have saved, and so forth, we might be able to reduce her to a gas, after which we could destroy the coffin and scatter the soil.

I know there isn't much time in-narrative to consider the next course of action, let alone strategize, but I'm guessing that here we can do a little discussion that our characters might not be able to do in order to think about potential outcomes of these choices.

Eryx (DM)
Sanjin used his Acid Arrow spell, but was never close enough so far to use Burning Hands.

Given that she just cast a spell, Lady Maramos has made her Will Save against the Silence spell.

Crosis
Well, that threw a wrench in the plans.

Orensland's immediate inclination - trying to save Lady Maramos - would likely not go over well with… anyone else, really. As a knee-jerk reaction, Orensland would likely shout "Get out of there, Maramos! Run!"

It's a short post, but everything Orensland would do following shouting that sentence depends on what happens in the camp.

Thev
Khaska would be fine with Orensland's knee-jerk reaction. And would then, as described, immediately go about trying to ensure that Maramos would perish.

Eryx (DM)
Thev, give me a Knowledge (Religion) check.

Thev
22 = 11 + 13

Eryx (DM)
The thought occurs to Khaska that, if Lady Maramos were to escape on her own power (not be reduced to 0 hitpoints), and her graveyard dirt scattered, he's not actually sure how long she can survive without "rest." After all, she doesn't need to feed every day (she fed from Sebastien every other day), so she might not need to "rest" every day. She indicated that not feeding would eventually drive her mad, but not kill her. Being without "rest" will kill her, but Khaska is unsure of the time it will take to do so.

Thev
Khaska's thought was that daylight would come in about five hours, and being unsure of how she'd find shelter in the wastes, she might perish then. Is that accurate at all?

Eryx (DM)
Daylight will be in about 4 hours and yes, she would need to find some kind of shelter in the Deadlands. You're on the plains right now. Think African Serengeti.

BlackWolf
Rynn feels a pang of guilt given that Orensland risked a lot to help him with Jared, and now the shadowdancer may lose his opportunity with Maramos. But the ranger doesn't hesitate to confirm Khaska's initial reaction; he replies in Elven, "Destroy her."

Hopefully in her injured state she won't be too hard to take down. Disoriented and with nowhere to go, hopefully she will be destroyed. If luck holds, we'll be able to confirm this rather than just wonder if she got away in some kind of gas or bat form… :P

Using his movement for the round, Rynn will pull his +1 longbow from the quiver. Usually his other bow is preferred, but for this he'll need a magic weapon. So the first round he won't be able to do a full attack.

Round 1:

  • Longbow: 26 (rolled 13 + 13 bonuses), damage: 2 (rolled 1 + 1 magic)

Round 2:

  • Longbow: 30 (rolled 17 + 13 bonuses), damage: 6 (rolled 5 + 1 magic)
  • Longbow: 28 crit (rolled natural 20 + 8 bonuses), damage: 16 (crit x3: 8 full crit + rolled 6 + rolled 1 + 1 magic)

Round 3:

  • Longbow: 25 (rolled 12 + 13 bonuses), damage: 5 (rolled 4 + 1 magic)
  • Longbow: 14 (rolled 6 + 8 bonuses), damage: 5 (rolled 4 + 1 magic)

Here's hoping that crit lands well…

Orensland’s voice rang out clearly before any of them could make a decision. “Get out of there, Maramos! Run!”

Rynn felt a pang of guilt in that Orensland had just risked so much to help him with Jared, and now would lose his opportunity with Maramos. But the ranger didn’t dither much about what he thought the right course of action was.

“Destroy her,” he said, in Elven.

Drikdare continued his assault, lightning blazing from the sky and the thunder pealing across the plains. As the druid continued his spell, Khaska walked over to Rynn.

“We should make sure her coffin is destroyed and that the dirt from her graveyard is scattered across the grasses here so it cannot be reassembled. She would have nowhere to rest.”

“That would kill her?”

The thought occurred to Khaska in that moment that it would, but he was unsure on how long it would take for her to actually perish without “rest.” After all, she fed from Sebastien only every other day. She had said that not feeding would not kill her but drive her insane. But he dismissed that parallel. Not being able to properly rest would eventually kill her. However, perhaps it would take a few days for her to die if she was unable to rest in her coffin or upon her graveyard dirt. That was assuming she found some way to shield herself from the sun during sunrise twilight and sunset twilight. Sunset twilight would begin in about three hours.

“Eventually, yes. I am unsure on how long she could go without rest before it destroyed her.”

“Hopefully in her weakened state she’ll be easy to take down,” Rynn said as he swapped out his regular bow for the magic one he had acquired before. The Lightning Storm was blasting away at the camp, but he could still see her atop the cart. He sighted his arrow and fired.

He was unsure if his arrow connected. It was difficult to see moment to moment as the lightning flashed down around the camp. But he was unable to see her to fire a second shot off, and so held back. He scanned and looked, but could not tell if she had fallen or flown away or taken shelter or turned to her gas form from the damage.

Eventually Drikdare exhausted his spell. The peals of thunder died off and everybody’s eyes had to adjust again to the normal low-light conditions of night. Khaska was additionally blinded, more than even he had been before, the afterimages of the Lightning Storm causing him to see everything around him through a haze of purple.

The Light spell from the cleric’s sword still lit the camp up, and the dwarf could be seen clearly moving. Nothing else in the camp stirred. Drikdare’s spell, probably combined with Khaska’s tactical use of Silence, had made it impossible for the clerics to heal each other. They had obliterated the camp.

One of the centaur approached Drikdare. “The omen of your lion kill came true.”

Drikdare hoisted his lance up. “There is still one to slay,” he said. “But he is wounded and must have used many healing spells to stay alive. He will know who hunts him before he dies.” He began to trot forward. The others came with him.

Preston was scorched and singed, but held his shield in a defensive posture, his back to the burning cart. He saw the number of enemies approaching and was clearly wary, but didn’t move.

Drikdare stopped about ten yards from the man. Orensland had made his way over and stood with the rest of the party now, near Drikdare.

“Drikdare,” Preston said, an acknowledgement.

“Preston,” Drikdare said.

“What happens now?” the Mansonite asked.

“We will kill you, but I wanted you to know who it was that killed you. You kidnapped my wife and children and forced me to serve you. For that, the Tribe of Mithereen has named you and your allies targets of a war party.”

Preston smiled. “I always figured you for a Darkfriend. Allied with these servants of Lady Maramos. I hope you all get what’s coming to you.”

Preston stretched forth his hand and yelled a single word, as the centaur, and Rynn, collectively fired their bows at him. A pulse of darkness spread from him and everybody in the party, as well as Drikdare and several other nearby centaur, winced as an Inflict Mass Light Wounds spell hit them. Preston died seconds later, his body seemingly sprouting multiple arrows as the war party all unleashed their bows at him.

Drikdare glanced around. A number of his people had been affected by the cleric’s final spell, but none had fallen from it.

Orensland rushed forward, pushing aside the cleric’s body to peer into the wagon he had been backed against—the one with the burning coffin they had been carrying Lady Maramos in.

“She’s not here,” the shadowdancer said.

Eryx (DM)
You are not entirely sure if Lady Maramos has survived, or she escaped on her own power. The Mansonites have been destroyed.

You were hit with Preston’s last stand attempt to harm you all with an Inflict Mass Light Wounds spell. Roll a Will Save. If you get above a 20, you take half damage and only take 8 points. If you get a 19 or below, you take 16 points of damage.

If Orensland is going to stick to his plan of trying to fight the others so Lady Maramos can survive, this is the opportune moment.

What do you all want to do?

Thev
Rolled a 5 — Khaska gets 16 damage.

Khaska would move that they take the dirt from her cemetery and scatter it as thinly as the can, as well as destroying any shadow in the vicinity (especially the coffin).

After that, he'd move to see if they can't bury all the bodies or, at least, show them off with respect (after checking, of course, for survivors). He'd understand, though, if the others would want to return during the day to avoid Maramos coming for them in an obvious location.

DeltaWolf
Will Save 25 (16 + 9 mod) Sanjin takes 8 damage.

Returning in the day may be prudent.

Crosis
So… we don't actually know if Lady Maramos is still alive or not. I know Orensland is biased by saying this, but he thinks it would be unwise to do something that would anger the vampire if she were to be floating over our heads watching us right now. If we started scattering her dirt right now, she would be in a very desperate situation, and a desperate vampire is not one I want to be around. We may be able to take her on in her weakened state, but given the two dead clerics she took out with one spell, I suspect casualties would be inevitable. Orensland votes to not anger the vampire, and to ultimately proceed to Darkcrest as planned.

Before all else, Orensland would vote the party members have this conversation out of earshot from the centaurs.

My plan: we could suggest the centaurs return to their makeshift camp until morning, when we plan to bury the bodies. I don't know how centaurs feel about pillaging the conquered, but Orensland for one would love to request the opportunity to sift through the tents. Or we all pillage the camp now if centaurs feel that way, whatever works best. Generally speaking, however, Orensland would try to be alone (or with other party members) in the vicinity for if the vampire is above us and watching. If she is, she would have an opportunity to come down and chat. She's likely very confused right now.

As part of the pillaging, Orensland would try to procure a couple of the tents for their own travels. Maramos needs shade, after all. Other travel goods would be welcome too, including rations or horses.

As for the Will save, I rolled a 6 (rolled 4 + 2). Orensland gets 16 damage.

BlackWolf
Rynn is fine with delaying any further action until daytime. It would be easier to deal with the campsite anyway, and if Maramos is in the area then it would be her most difficult time to act against us. But the ranger is very set against trying to travel with the vampire. Thinking about getting tents for her shade is madness in his mind. Rather, he thinks that by daylight we should dispose of her coffin as that's our best bet to destroy her.

As for the Will save, Rynn got exactly 20 (rolled 16 + 2 base + 2 WIS mod). That's not above a 20, but it's also not "19 or below", so I guess he takes half damage (the DM instruction wasn't 100% clear). But it may be a moot point now that the battle seems to be over…

Meanwhile, Rynn will also be looking to tie up Jared and then talk with him (and heal him?) in the morning. Tying him up is a precaution; the ranger is bothered by how quickly these Mansonites speak "darkfriend" and ignore their worse evil acts. We don't know how Jared will react once he knows the situation, so better safe than sorry.

Eryx (DM)
Unfortunately, I'm headed out of town for vacation, and then will be home for a single day and then fly out for more vacation in Utah. We'll pick this back up sometime after the 29th of July.

“She’s not here,” the shadowdancer said.

“Then I suggest that we return in when the sun rises, when we can see things better,” said Khaska. He was aware that literally everybody else had low-light vision, but thought it prudent to be around when the sun was up to limit any options Lady Maramos, if she was alive, might have.

“I agree,” said Drikdare. He exchanged a knowing look with Khaska.

“Will you centaur be wanting any of the loot?” asked Orensland.

“We will bury the bodies with respect,” Khaska said, perhaps more vehemently than he expected. This seemed to be a recurring conversation with Orensland.

“Of course,” Orensland said.

“It may be that there are things that can be of use to us,” said Drikdare. “In a war hunt, possessions of the hunted are to be distributed among the war party members. You will get your fair share, Orensland Shadowalker.”

Orensland, still crouched down in the smoking wagon, nodded. “Then I agree, we should come back when the sun is up.”

“Should be another three or so hours,” Sanjin said.

The centaur moved out, away from the wreckage of the Mansonite camp. As they departed, Rynn moved alongside Drikdare. “We don’t know if she survived or not. Best to still set a watch tonight and be on guard.”

The druid nodded. “Let us hope she did not survive.”


As they returned to camp, Orensland broke off from the main group to head towards a group of trees. “Gonna go pee,” he said, “then I’ll help with the watch if you like, Drikdare. Too jittery after all the excitement to sleep anyway.”

He went deep into the copse of trees and did indeed begin to urinate. His hope, however, was that if Lady Maramos was still alive, she would see him separated from the party and approach him. Indeed, as he pulled his trousers up and turned … there she was, standing about twenty feet away from him. Even though he had half been expecting her, and had been listening for her approach, seeing her so close startled him. She stood there, her elegant clothes in tatters, hanging off of her in ill-fitting ways and smudged with dirt and grime. Even though it was very cold, she showed no sign of discomfort. He glanced around, but it appears they were alone.

“My Lady,” he intoned. “We’ve had an … interesting time trying to catch up with you.”

“But catch up with me you have. Your pay will be substantial upon our return to Darkcrest. And I will personally introduce you to your superiors in the Cult of Skyrnyn when they arrive in Darkcrest. They will be very happy with you. Now, where are the others in your party?”

“I imagine they are with the centaur back at camp,” he said.

“Why are you with a group of centaur?”

“Manson had kidnapped a family of centaur, holding them as hostage to force their father to work as a scout and otherwise assist them. He was the bear when we fought on the Ruvalk. I freed the skyship and from there we were able to track Manson. When we freed the centaur’s family being held in a small town call Rhun, we became allies. He and his clan launched a ‘war party,’ against Manson, and we joined up in the hopes of rescuing you. But I don't think most of them would be friendly towards you.”

“So where are we now?”

“The plains to the east of Clearwater Lake. Darkcrest should be to the north of us.”

“And Sebastien? I didn’t see him back in Manson’s camp with the rest of you.”

“Unfortunately, my lady, he died back on Clearwater Lake. He was visibly distraught when they were taking you away, and he rushed to defend you. He was quickly put down.”

She nodded. “A faithful servant to the end. This complicates things.”

“I am aware of that.” He almost shuddered. “You will need food.”

She nodded. “However, there is a more pressing matter concerning my needs. If we do not have a coffin or dirt from my graveyard, I will severely weaken over each night I do not rest. Vampires cannot survive more than two nights without proper rest.”

Orensland reached over his shoulder to put his backpack on the ground. “We left your carriage behind to make better time. But, the bag with your dirt was in the wagon you had been held in by Manson and his party. It had been damaged by the lightning storm, but I grabbed as much as I could.” He opened one of the side pockets. “It’s a magic haversack, so it might be hard to judge, but I think I got most of it.”

“If you got most of it, that should be sufficient. There is …” she stopped, bringing herself up short, and pausing for a moment, as if pondering what to say. “There is no need for alarm.” Then she bored into his eyes, shifting her weight a bit forward. “Now, as to food … Are you willing to serve as a source of food for me until we return to Darkcrest?”

Orensland took a deep breath. He had been pondering this since Sebastien had died, and especially with her new offer of increased pay and an in with the leaders of the Cult, he made up his mind. “I would, my lady.”

“You will have the resources of the entire House of Maramos at your disposal when we reach Darkcrest. Weaponsmiths, tailors, all the pleasures of the flesh, fine foods and wines, anything you want will be yours. And your pay will increase yet again. Substantially. I will insist on your leaders in the Cult hearing of your dedication and for advancing you in the Cult. And I will have substantial sway with your leaders upon my return.

“That brings me to my final point. There was a ledger in the carriage that held information I was to bring to your superiors in the Cult. I assume that you didn’t bring that with you?”

“No, my lady,” Orensland said. He watched her carefully to see if she caught his bluff. It appeared that she did not.

“That is unfortunate, but not debilitatingly so. How shall we proceed from here? Sunrise Twilight will be in a few hours, it appears. I need cover. This copse of trees looks to be insufficient.”

Orensland tossed out his bedroll and took his Cloak of Elvenkind off.

“We planned on raiding the Mansonite caravan during Sunrise Twilight, and hopefully be able to obtain a wagon and horses. Also, Rynn would like to speak with one of Manson's acolytes, a person from his past. We captured him before destroying the camp. Let me return to the camp—I should go so my absence isn't suspicious—and I will talk to the others in the group and see what we want to do.” He turned to go.

“Orensland,” she said. “Leave your backpack. I will find you after Sunrise Twilight ends.”

He nodded, dropped it on the ground, and then watched as she picked it up, then vanished into mist that floated away.


Drikdare was conversing with the others back at camp.

“I vote we go back and spread her dirt, if we can find it, so it cannot be collected again,” Khaska was saying.

“And make sure her coffin is destroyed,” said Rynn.

“And do it when the sun is up,” said Sanjin, “though I’m still not sure this is the wisest course of action.”

“All prudent plans,” said Drikdare. He glanced around. “I have tried to keep your secret out of respect for what you did for me and my family, but I fear others from the war party have discovered the truth behind her.”

“Preston was yelling ‘destroy the vampire,’ before she emerged from her coffin,” Sanjin snickered. “I’d be disappointed in your people if they hadn’t figured it out.”

“We did indeed,” said one of the other centaur, approaching, leading a group of four or five others. “Have we entered this war hunt on false pretenses, Drikdare?”

“No,” he said, straightening. “We hunted Manson and his allies for what they did to me and my family. These outlanders joined us for their own reasons, and after we part ways I will consider my debt to them paid.”

“Even if they serve a vampire?”

“We serve her under ‘false pretenses,’” Sanjin said. “We are not the bodyguards she thinks she has hired, and now that we’ve helped you remove Manson from the world, wish to make sure that she too, leaves it.” He glanced around. “Though, I do not think Orensland will be happy about it.”

This conversation was happening in elven again, with Rynn muttering translations to Khaska.

“Because you are our chieftain’s son and leader of this war party,” the centaur said, “we will overlook these half-concealed truths. But if I see this vampire, I will try to kill her.”

“You saw what she did to the remaining clerics with a single spell,” Rynn said. Now Sanjin hastily began to translate for the Maha’i. “If she has survived, and we do attack, we need to attack as one or there will be many casualties. She is a powerful sorceress as well as a high-ranking lady from one of the vampire houses of Darkcrest.”

“She is an abomination and must be destroyed.”

Orensland walked up to the group as this conversation was finishing. While it was clear there was a little bit of bad feelings over the situation, it appeared the centaur party grudgingly still accepted Drikdare’s explanation and the party’s words.

“Well,” Orensland said, pulling the others aside as the camp settled in and Drikdare went to check the sentries. “That’s going to make this next part a little awkward.” He flashed what he hoped was his best smile.

And then he explained in whispers what had just happened with Lady Maramos in the woods.

Eryx (DM)
I spoke with Crosis in emails and texts, and this was what he decided his character would do. He rolled a Sleight of Hand check to obtain her dirt (which was in the wagon with her burnt coffin) and nobody’s spot check was high enough to tell what he was doing. Instead of direct combat with the party, Orensland has opted for this devious approach to try and force their hand somewhat. I normally don't let characters use skill checks on each other (I believe this is the first time in the entire campaign), but in this case decided to allow it.

Everybody indicated previously that they were okay with inter-party conflict. This is the way it has played out. It feels railroad-y to me, but I’d like to point out, in the interest of pre-empting any bad feelings among the players, that I’m not railroading you into this scenario, and even Crosis isn’t really railroading you into this scenario. ORENSLAND is doing so. I hope that makes sense.

So what do you all want to do? Lady Maramos is alive and expecting you to procure a wagon and horses. The centaur are unaware she is alive, and most of them would want her eliminated. Drikdare has deferred to you out of respect for what you did for him and his knowledge of your ruse as her “bodyguards,” but the rest of the war party seems less persuaded. Also, what do you want to do with Jared, who is still unconscious.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin feels things have worked out well considering. He doesn't like that Orsensland has offed himself has food for the vampire -and is secretive obedience will make him concerned for Orensland lest he has been (or will be) enthralled in some way.

Crosis
How much time do we have before Sunrise Twilight?

Orensland would point out that we should still speak with Jared (Rynn should definitely do the talking) and loot the camp before any rash actions are made. Such actions may offer more information that will be vital to our future decisions. It is no secret that Orensland sees this as a golden opportunity – having been close to Zeke and his mother in his months away from the party, Orensland feels a powerful obligation to determine the root purpose, organization, and pressure points of the pilgrimages that are resulting in the deaths or at least slavery of thousands of men, women and children. Orensland would plead that the party members deeply consider just how much this opportunity means for the fate of Jenoa.

Eryx (DM)
You have about 2 hours until Sunrise Twilight, which lasts 4 hours.

Regarding whether or not Orensland has been dominated by Lady Maramos, again, normally I don't really want you to be using skills against each other, but sussing out whether Orensland has been dominated by Lady Maramos seems a reasonable precaution. Sanjin would know that people under a dominate person spell act funny and can be relatively easily discovered. (Metagaming, the DC for a successful Sense Motive check on a dominated person is 15.)

Sense Motive checks are the purview of the DM. I have rolled for all 3 of you, and none of you notice anything off about Orensland. As well as you can ascertain he is under his own control and has acted of his own volition.

And BlackWolf, how would you like to do the conversation with Jared? Over text/IM? Google doc? Email (you ask all the questions at once, and I give the answers and then do a write-up)?

Thev
Khaska is upset that Orensland rescued Lady Maramos without the party's consent—and, indeed, against the wishes of the party. Though he recognizes that she can be an asset in the search for the secret behind the migrations, Khaska is wearying of the duplicity, of the need to pass off as evil. (See: the centaurs' distrust.) Furthermore, given his acute awareness of the story of Tawru, he's worried that the miming evil might become indistinguishable from committing evil. (See: the slaughter at Rhun, which provoked Jake's coldness, and of Manson's whole party, in which he was complicit though he didn't attack offensively.) At the moment, he wants nothing more to do with this borderline evil, and he'll need some assurances about the lines that the party won't cross in their pursuit of more evidence.

He's also concerned about being conspicuous: here on the Death Side, he sticks out like a sore thumb, and he doesn't want to be known for these acts of which he is far from proud. He'd like to specify that, before he enters Darkcrest, he'd like a disguise (the hat of… I forget the name).

He'd also want to avoid any direct interaction with Lady Maramos (out of disgust and, perhaps, lessened ability to conceal his preferences for Good) and is contemplating only acting in defense of the party in future confrontations.

Addendum: Eryx asked me to describe not only what Khaska feels, but what he does. How inconvenient! :P

Khaska will renain tight-lipped, until Sunrise Twilight, when he's certain Maramos won't be snooping. As soon as an opportunity presents itself—probably if someone challenges him about the necessity of burying the Mansonite dead—he'll express, vehemently, the need to uphold some degree of decency. He'll explain his dismay about the turn of events, insisting that the party establish boundaries to prevent them (or, at least, Khaska) from performing any deeds that could be functionally evil, even if motivated by supposedly good desires.

BlackWolf
Rynn will be visibly upset on hearing the news about Maramos, but will bite his tongue as he listens to the story. The longer we've been carrying on the ruse of being Lady Maramos' bodyguards, and the closer we've gotten to Darkcrest, the more worried Rynn has been that things will take a major turn for the worst.

Returning a powerful vampire to the safety of her home feels wrong. And Drikdare told us that the pilgrimages have been heading to the Zyrbryxion Marshes, not Darkcrest. The ranger has hated how the Mansonites say "darkfriend" all the time, and yet, now Rynn wonders if returning Maramos to Darkcrest would actually make him one no matter what information we might learn.

However, Rynn will begrudgingly admit that heading to Darkcrest is our best chance at learning what our enemies are doing. Even if the pilgrimages aren't heading there, we might learn more about them and about the Cult of Skyrnyn. Mostly he just worries that we put ourselves not just into the lion's den, but stick our heads right into the lion's mouth. But on the other hand, it's not like going to the marshes would be any better.

On top of all that, now Orensland is offering to be food for the vampire. Rynn had hoped that ridding ourselves of Sebasten would cause Orensland to acknowledge that we just have to dispatch the vampire. Now he worries that his friend might be willing to go too far for this. The mere thought that this road could lead the shadowdancer to betray the party like Amara did tears at Rynn emotionally. (But he won't verbally compare the two, as he feels that would be too insulting. It's just a thought that has now crossed his mind that he wants to push away.)

So… given all that, Rynn will state that he still thinks we should get rid of Maramos. But he worries about centaur being killed, and he's hesitant to challenge Orensland about this given how dedicated he is on it. So unless Khaska or Sanjin speak against Orensland's plan, he'll just suggest that we go with the centaur to loot the camp and destroy the coffin. We can then part ways with the centaur saying that we're off to continue our quest to learn of the fate of the pilgrimages.

As for Jared, we should make sure he is tied up as a precaution. Then once he's awake, Rynn will want to find out what he knows about the disaster of Silver Meadow; what happened to Jared and if he knows about any other survivors.

The ranger would also like to get a feel for Jared's current situation. If he's strongly aligned with the Whitecoats, then letting him go might be a liability… nevertheless, that's what Rynn is leaning toward before speaking with him. It's possible that if he is obstinate enough, then Rynn could end up with a different opinion.

As for how we go about the Jared conversation, I'm taking my kids camping for most of the week, so I won't be available until Friday at earliest. But doing it over Google doc seems like it has worked out easiest for me in the past — just need to carve out a bit of time.

He noted that as he explained, Rynn and Khaska were both visibly upset with him. The ranger literally bit his lip in rage. When Orensland finished, he looked around at the others.

Nobody said anything. Rynn’s eyes bored into Orensland such that the elf eventually turned away.

“Let us at least talk to Jake and go through the Mansonite camp,” the shadowdancer said. “The sun will be up while we do so and we will be in little danger from Lady Maramos.” The shadowdancer was a bit taken aback by the reaction of his friends, and offered this suggestion as a thing they could all agree on.


Jared had been tied up by Orensland, and the acolyte was slumped against a tree, unconscious. The party approached, and several centaur also came, including Drikdare. Rynn got the impression that the centaur, with the revelations about Lady Maramos, were more wary of them. Certainly they were wary of Jared, but deferred to Drikdare and Rynn’s story of wanting to find his lost wife.

Khaska reached out and said a prayer to Teresh. Divine magic flowed into the Whitecloak, and with an inrush of a deep breath, Jared woke up. Rynn knelt on one knee before him.

“Jared. I don't know if you remember me, but we lived together in Silver Meadow. It seems like a lifetime ago. I was only there a year, living with the Alard family.”

“I remember you, Rynn. It’s been a while.” He looked around at the camp. “You’ve picked up some new friends along the road.” He looked down at his bound hands. “Looks like I’m not trusted here. Can’t blame you. Are there any other survivors? We were transporting a dangerous vampire. Did he survive?”

Rynn noted the pronoun. Apparently Jared was so far down the hierarchy of Manson’s organization that he didn’t even know that it was a female vampire.

“The vampire's coffin has been destroyed. Hopefully it will be dead soon.” Rynn was completely serious about this, but didn’t feel it necessary, especially with the centaur near, to reveal that he knew that she had survived the attack. “I'm sorry you had to be bound; it was a necessary precaution so I'd be able to speak with you. Cedric Manson kidnapped some centaur to coerce their father to serve him. Now there are many centaur here that would gladly kill anyone associated with Manson.

“But first, I was hoping you could tell me about what happened back then. Back at Silver Meadow.”

Jared nodded.

“Bugbears attacked the town, killing off most of the militia. Once the militia had been routed they began rounding the survivors up and chaining them together. Then they dragged us off into the Deadlands.”

Rynn remembered finding the town after their trip, houses destroyed, corpses of people they lived strewn about the village streets. Burying his father-in-law. “When Jacob and I returned to Silver Meadow and found it in ruins, we were devastated. Jacob was determined to do what we could, so we tracked the bugbears until we found the camp. But then… he was so angry and distraught that he wasn't thinking right. He lashed out as soon as he found them.”

“I was in the camp when that happened, and saw Jacob die. Foolish boy. It’s a good thing you managed to get away.”

“Lost and alone in the Deadlands. It’s been a long road to this place.”

“For both of us. But we’re both still here. The bugbears were taking the survivors to be sold off as slaves. However, when we got to the meeting place with the others, they were all ambushed by Bringers, led by Lord Titanius. Their numbers were too small to take on the entire camp of slavers, but with so many different parties present the entire meetup broke up.

“I’m sorry, Rynn. Some of the slaves were freed in the chaos, but Juliet wasn’t among them. I don’t know which group managed to snatch her away during the fighting.”

Rynn will nod in a gesture of understanding. He was hoping to learn more about the fate of his wife, but this at least gives him something.

Jared seemed a bit hesitant, biting his lip. “Rynn, she was with child.”

Rynn’s breath left him. Juliet had been pregnant! It took him a moment to collect himself. Orensland put his hand on Rynn’s shoulder, and the ranger was comforted by the silent presence of Khaska and Sanjin. Even the wizard seemed unusually somber. Voice almost cracking, Rynn continued.

“So what happened to you after that? Were you set free?”

“I joined the Bringers of Light. Owed Lord Titanius my life. Have served him ever since. Somedays I think about heading back to the edge near Silver Meadow, but to what end? I have a good life here, and can do some good.”

“What were you doing with Manson's group? I understand that he is an outcast from the Whitecloaks.”

“I actually don’t work for Manson. I’m a spy, sent by Lord Titanius to keep tabs on Manson. Manson was making a play for leadership of the Bringers, and there are enough fanatics that Lord Titanius had him excommunicated. Since I’m a willing subject, the true Bringers scry on me every now and then without interference. Helps them keep tabs on where we are and what’s going on.”

“Smart thinking,” Sanjin said. “A clever ruse.”

“Lord Titanius is trying to focus the Bringers more and more on the slave trade. The experience in freeing us and the others at that slave market camp helped him focus his efforts on fighting real evil, not like Manson. Manson thought Titanius weak and even attacked those who followed him. If you’ve been tracking him for a while, you probably know what kind of overzealous nutjob he is. Was?”

“Was,” said Rynn. “I believe you are the only survivor. And since you were not allied to Manson, I'll see about having you released. I have some sway with the centaur leader.”

Drikdare spoke up.

“This would be acceptable, if for no other reason than for Jared to spread the word that the Mithereen tribe slaughtered Manson and his followers.” In elven, he said, loudly. “No good winning battles if nobody is left to tell the tales and make people fear you.” The gathered centaur laughed in agreement.

“I would appreciate that,” Jared said. “I’ll make my way back to a Bringer outpost to formally report in, send a message back to Garth Calad. Some of Manson’s men were honorable and good, but choose to follow a deluded zealot. They may not have completely deserved their fate, but I know that Lord Titanius and his followers will be relieved. We can focus on bigger issues than who’s the most zealous in the cause of righteousness.” When he said “the cause of righteousness” his voice changed, dripping with sarcasm.

Drikdare approached and offered a dagger to Rynn, who reached over to cut Jared free.

“Thank you, sir Centaur. I’ll not forget your mercy.” He began to rub his hands to restore circulation, and stood up.

“What more can you tell me about the slave trade?” Rynn asked. The thought of his wife and child being slaves haunted him. “My companions and I came to the Death Side seeking after pilgrimages of people led here. We thought they were brought here by vampires, so when an opportunity presented itself for us to replace the vampire's real bodyguards, we took it in a dangerous gambit to learn more. But now it seems that it may have been the Cult of Skyrnyn or some other faction.”

“You know of the Cult? You most have been busy investigating; they try to keep themselves well-hidden behind intermediaries and mercenaries. They secretly are the top of the food chain of the slave trade on the death side. Buying up as many slaves as they can, stealing more, and, of late, even killing other slavers outright for their ‘merchandise.’” He smiles grimly. “Or just enslaving other slavers themselves. Can’t say I’m too broken up about that possibility. They’ve got something big going on, but we’ve been unable to find out what, despite all our efforts.

“Vampires are a good example. Let them do some of the dirty work for the cult. Act as a front. It’s been difficult to track down any cult leaders with any kind of real knowledge. We either encounter the cult’s allies and minions, like the vampires, or the drow, or other slavers, or someone so low-level in the cult they can’t give us more information than we already know.”

“It sounds like your Lord Titanius is trying to do some real good. Is he someone who can be reasonable? Could we be allies in our fight against these slavers, or would he just spit ‘darkfriend’ at us for our involvement with the vampire?”

“Lord Titanius is trying to turn the corner with the Bringers. Darkfriends do abound, but not in every village and in every corner of the Death Side. If you seek to free slaves—though I think we all hope your wife and child are not among them—you would be an ally.”

“I am glad to hear the Whitecloaks are not all like Manson.”

Jared nearly spat. “We prefer to be called the ‘Bringers of Light.’ Or ‘Bringers,’ for short. ‘Whitecloak’ has become a bad nickname. And Manson deserved what he got. He did more damage than good more often than not.”

Khaska stepped forward. “Pardon, Rynn, but I am curious what steps this Lord Titanius has taken to turn the wall with the Whiteclo—with the Bringers. And what steps have they taken to track the slave trade? I know the Knights also seek the end of the slave trade.”

“Turn the corner,” Sanjin said. Jared smiled at this exchange.

“I don’t know all the things we’ve done or what efforts might be duplicated by the Knights—you would have to ask someone higher in authority among the Bringers. The cult’s activities seemed centered in the Marshes, but I know that we have neither the numbers nor enough specific information to make it worthwhile to mount an expedition. It’s deeply frustrating to Lord Titanius.”

“A sensible precaution,” Sanjin said. “I’ve never heard of anybody who came back from the marshes alive. Ever.”


In the few hours that remained before Sunrise Twilight, the party was on edge. Were Lady Maramos to try anything, she would do so before the sun came up. However, nothing happened. The war party moved towards the camp.

The fires of the Mansonite camp had burned out, but smoke still rose here and there from the smoldering ash. Orensland noted a few horses that had not escaped and at least one working cart.

The tents and supplies were mostly destroyed, but there were some things. Orensland and Jared pointed out the various parts of the camp, near as they could be recognized. It helped everybody find the things that would be counted as “spoils” for the war party. Sanjin was able to help with a casting of Detect Magic.

The centaur were very orderly about the rights to spoils. The bodies were stripped of armor and weapons and items that could be claimed were deposited together. Khaska began moving the bodies, lining them up one by one after they had been stripped of items worth distributing among the war party.

“Why do you care so much about these enemies?” one of the centaur asked him.

Khaska paused, unsure of what to say. “There is tale I know of a hero of my people,” he hedged the names and details a bit, but in his mind he thought of Tawru, “who thought himself doing good, but in reality slowly turned to evil. I am wary of walking such a path myself, and feel that I may have done so more than I realized in this quest. I will treat these fallen enemies with respect. Are we not all children of the gods, after all?”

The centaur considered this for a moment, then said, “I will join you in paying homage to these fallen enemies.” Several other centaur joined over the next few minutes. Khaska had the centaur line the bodies up, and he spent a moment praying over each one of them. Jared declined to join, but several of the centaur were moved by the Maha’i cleric’s compassion, and joined him in praying over their fallen foes. The centaur then dug a mass grave and deposited the bodies into it, doing as best they could, at Khaska’s behest, to treat the bodies with respect.

After they had completed this, and the spoils had been collected, it was time to distribute the spoils. Drikdare, as the leader of the war party, had first claim on an item. He selected Manson’s personal weapon, an enchanted maul, a trophy of victory.

“Darn,” Orensland muttered to the others, “I’ll bet we could sell that off for a pretty high price.” Khaska glared at him, but Sanjin nodded in affirmation. Rynn almost smiled at this exchange—Orensland worried about loot. But another thought had crept into his mind. Orensland had deliberately gone against the wishes of the party. As much as the ranger tried to push the thought away, memories of Amara resurfaced. Was Orensland traveling down a simlar path?

But then the ritual of claiming loot took his mind back to the present. The party had next claim, per the agreement with Drikdare, and then the remainder of the war party, one at a time. Then Drikdare would select again. Items that would actually be used took priority over things that were merely to be sold or bartered off in the future.

Eryx (DM)
First, to the loot. The centaur aren’t really as interested in loot per se. Mostly they plan on taking what they can to barter and trade. They obviously have little use for, say, plate armor made for humanoids. I’m not going to generate a loot table for the entire camp of 20+ people, so … Let’s do this:

Tell me 2 items you would be interested in, and I’ll roll to see if someone had them that you could lay claim to. The items can’t cost more than 50k gold. (There were some high level characters in the camp with some cool stuff, but be aware the more expensive it is, the less likely someone had it. In other words, if you want a +1 sword, there are probably a bunch of those. If you want a +5 shield of blinding with spikes and resistance to cold damage … there might not be one.) If it turns out the item is not available, then I’ll make some more rolls to see what similar item was available.

1. What 2 items under 50k gold do you want?

List of magic items here.

If you want to take some items for selling later, that’s fine too. I’ll roll for what you got for selling off and you could throw it into your cart/bags of holding/haversacks.

2. It is during Sunrise Twilight, so you are reasonably certain Lady Maramos won’t make any kind of move against you. Given the situation, it would be nearly suicidal. What’s the plan? Orensland spoke several times of getting a cart and horses to head to Darkcrest. Or, in this case, to load up on spoils to be sold elsewhere. Lady Maramos indicated she would find you. Will you be parting ways with the centaur at this point (Drikdare seems to think so, though you have made allies of the clan)?

3. What do you want to do with Jared? He’s unarmed and has no rights, by the rules of a centaur war party, to any of the spoils. If you want to turn him out in the deadlands with some weapons, you’ll need to claim some to give to him. (They will not count as your 2 items.)

Thev
1. Khaska's first priority is a Hat or Ring of Disguise; he wants to be ready for arrival in Darkcrest. I'm guessing that counts as his two items! He's not really interested in anything to sell.

2. Now, hearing about Lord Titanius, Khaska's more annoyed at not being able to go to Garth Calad. However, with Maramos around, any move save in the direction of Darkcrest would probably be fatal (for the party or the nearby centaurs). So despite his misgivings, Khaska thinks they'd best commandeer a wagon and find some horses to pull it to Darkcrest. (Sidenote: because I'm a nerd, I'm literally reading a history of horses in the United States, and for travel on bad roads oxen are much superior to horses.) He'd be willing to take on the task of gathering and harnessing the horses, exercising a significant skill of his that hasn't gotten much attention of late and keeping him busy and quiet while Maramos is around.

He'll also bid farewell to the centaurs, with whom he can use a traditional Maha'i valediction without adaptation: "May the grass grow thick under your hooves." He'll thank them for their help and hospitality.

3. Khaska would gladly lay claim to gear on Jared's behalf. In fact, were Maramos not around, he'd invite him to join them.

Crosis
Orensland, knowing that he has thoroughly irked the party members, would offer some ideas that would hopefully cater to their wishes.

It appears we have allies among the Bringers of Light, something we had only somewhat considered earlier as we hunted one of their more zealot and ambitious clerics. It appears we have similar goals so far as uncovering the inner workings of the Cult and the vampires, especially as far as the slave trade goes. So, Orensland would suggest the following:

Presuming we are still headed to Darkcrest with Maramos, would could offer ourselves as scrying subjects for the Bringers of Light, much the same way Jared was among the Mansonites. It seems we will be speaking with higher-ranking officials of the Cult, and in Orensland's case being let in on some of their darker secrets. If the Bringers are actively listening in, that may give them direct access to information they have been seeking for some time. Would anyone around the party be able to determine if we are being scryed in any way? That would… complicate that idea. If it could help relay information more clearly, Orensland would try to obtain items that enhance his sight and/or hearing.

Also, we could give the ledger we took from Maramos's carriage to Jared to deliver to the Bringers of Light. I suspect they will know how to make good use of it.

To aid in his travels, if there were a object that bestowed flying among the loot (a broom, a carpet, or Wings of Flying) giving it to Jared seems the best plan. Centaurs would have little use of it, and it would greatly enhance the likelihood that Jared survives the remainder of the journey. In that sense, a ring of sustenance would aid him as well.

Should Maramos question why we let a Bringer of Light survive (presuming she sees him walking around), we can say (with honesty) that the centaurs wanted someone to spread the word that centaurs are not to be messed with.

So, to answer your direct requests, 1) Orensland would look to secure magical objects that would enhance his spot and listening checks for the scryer's sakes (like Eyes of the Eagle, but hopefully more powerful) and objects that aid Jared in his journey, 2) we stock up and start heading to Darkcrest, and 3) we tell Jared about everything we're doing with the vampire, giving the Bringers of Light another way "in" to Darkcrest, and equipping him with the necessary tools to make it back to Garth Calad quickly and safely. Orensland would also ask if there's any information in particular the Bringers of Light would like the party to seek out aside from understanding the Cult's role in the slave trade.

Orensland would tell Rynn privately that his first priority in entering Darkcrest is coming to know more fully what the Cult does with it's slaves. That was Orensland's main purpose so far as the pilgrimages went, but the focus has been expanded to determine what happened to his wife and, apparently, child.

Eryx (DM)
Relevant Rules for Scrying or Greater Scrying.

The magic sensor created by a Scrying spell can be detected by others. "Any creature with an Intelligence score of 12 or higher can notice the sensor by making a DC 20 Intelligence check. The sensor can be dispelled as if it were an active spell."

There is also the Detect Scrying spell itself. You don't know whether Lady Maramos knows this spell or not. (Sorcerers/Sorceresses know few spells, but can cast them more often, as opposed to wizards, that can know literally all arcane spells, but can't cast as many per day.)

Texts between me and Crosis:
Crosis: As a quick question, do you know how Jared did his scrying? It seems some of the other followers would have caught on that he was being Scryed on at some point if he was just walking around with a sensor following him

Eryx: It’s an invisible sensor (that can still be detected-I’m guessing it looks like a cloaked Klingon ship) so the true Bringers would just cast the spell on him every once in a while and he would carry on as if nothing had happened. Or perhaps try to drop some hint of what was going on in casual conversation, so the scryers could clue in to his “report.” If he was alone, he could just talk and give a full report. I should probably post this to the wiki.

So I posted it to the wiki. :)

Crosis
In that case, if Jared would agree to this scrying idea, we would probably agree to a specific time that the Bringers should scry on me. It would have to be far enough in the future that we both could make it to our destinations, even with unexpected delays. Perhaps a month after we would expect to arrive. While I would normally suggest a nighttime hour, given that we'll be in a city of vampires and vampire worshippers, daytime may be best.

Additionally, if there's an object imbued with the Detect Scrying spell available at the camp, I could possibly lay claim to it. That way I'd know if I were being scried on, and could relay necessary information at any given time. If questions are raised as to why I'm wearing a detect scrying object, I may tell them the honest story of how my father found me once and may employ somebody with scrying capabilities to try to find me again. When the object was found at the camp, I decided to don it so I could be forewarned. If this detect scrying object idea is too risky (raises too many questions), then just setting the date and time with Jared would be best.

Regardless, setting the date and time with Jared would allow me time to try to be alone, with our without said object. That way nobody else would be notified that a sensor was in the vicinity. After all, who wants to be pegged as the enemy in a city full of vampires and vampire worshippers?

Eryx (DM)
The one item that might have some relevance is the Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location, which would make it harder for someone to scry on you. There is no such item like you are requesting.

BlackWolf
After all that, Rynn will wander off by himself to think and process it all. But ironically, when he comes back he will be in favor of heading to Darkcrest with Maramos! She told Orensland that we would be richly rewarded, and introduced to the leaders of the Cult. Now the ranger has an idea of what he wants. Rather than money or magic items, he wants two slaves. A very specific two slaves.

There will be many dangers, but not the least of which would be if Gulnith or Amara are present to recognize us. But at this point, Rynn is willing to take the risk. This may get him the closest he's been in five years.

Rynn really likes the idea of letting the Bringers scry on us, so he will use his dagger to cut off a small lock of his hair and give it to Jared to make that easier. Anything they can learn about our enemies would be great, especially since there is a very real danger of us never returning. The ranger also wants to help Jared with it with any gear he might need, and is worried about him getting back safely. I wonder if we could convince a few centaur to travel with him?

As for items, Rynn would use his first picks to get gear for Jared. But as for himself, he'd be looking for things like:

  • A magical bow. Ideally a composite 2 longbow, but he'll be open minded about other options, especially if there is something better than the +1 longbow he has currently.
  • Anything that would help his archery, such as Bracers of Archery or Gloves of Dexterity (he already has +2 gloves though).

DeltaWolf
There is not particular item Sanjin is interested in -anything that could increase his spell-casting or give him more AC would be appreciated. Other then that anything that could be sold would be good.

Thev
Khaska thinks the scrying idea is a good one, and would be willing to volunteer for it. He'd suggest that each member of the party contribute a few strands of hair to Jared to facilitate such communication. Of course, Khaska admits he might not be the most helpful at infiltration: with the Cult's ring, Rynn might have a greater in, and Orensland of course would be the best at bluffing and sneaking about. In any case, Khaska plans on spending most of his time in Darkcrest quietly observing what he can, disguised (whether by something he finds in the camp or purchases in Darkcrest).

There's one thing, though, that might need explanation if scried by the Bringers. So long as he's in Darkcrest mostly against his will, and as was suggested a while back, he might try to do research into what might be happening with Tawru's sword. Of course, he wouldn't tell anyone in Darkcrest of the objective of his researchand will drop some false hints to mislead anyone paying too much attentionbut he'd want any onlooking Bringers to know what they might suspect of his activities so that they don't suspect him of doing anything untoward. To that end, he'd forewarn Jared (perhaps while handing over some tail hairs) that he has a mission that requires research into demons, and would swear by his horns that he does not seek such knowledge for evil purposes.

In terms of another item from the wreckage of the camp… perhaps a Periapt of Wisdom?

When all of those entitled to items had their share, two items each, the remainder was divided up to be bartered and sold. Orensland laid claim to a cart with a few oxen and dumped some of the remaining loot into it, to be sold off later for money, also grabbing a tent, ostensibly to keep things covered, but mostly so that they could use it to hold the dirt from Lady Maramos’ graveyard when she caught up with them.

Jared was not allowed to bid on items. However, the group made sure that Jared was outfitted with a few extra items, a pack, rations (singed, but still edible), a water flask, weapons, and a horse. The centaurs didn’t much mind them laying claim to such mundane items, and it appeared that most of the animals were going to be turned loose into the wilds.

Rynn left the camp as Orensland was loading up the cart, walking a ways away into the tall grass to ponder and think.

A child. Juliet had been pregnant. The thought hadn’t occurred to him. I mean, they had been trying for some time, but without success. To finally have her pregnant, only to be snatched away.

It was some time before he could compose himself enough to return to the Mansonite camp. He was grateful for Ranna’s companionship, the wolf laying her head on his lap as he sat, crying. Khaska was practically waiting for him, the Maha’i’s face somber.

“Are you well, Rynn?”

The ranger nodded. “We go to Darkcrest.”

The cleric also nodded. “We will seek the further fate of your mate and child.” He placed a hand on Rynn’s shoulder. “I will pray every day until they are found and safe that Teresh and all the gods of goodness and light will watch over them.”

As the centaurs were busy bustling about, Orensland also approached Rynn. “I’ve always wanted to find out the purpose of the pilgrimages, and what the Cult does with its slaves. But now my focus is determining also what happened to your wife and child.”

“Thank you Orensland.”

“Also, I had an idea. If the Bringers were scrying on Jared, couldn’t we get them to scry on us? I mean, we’re heading straight to Darkcrest.”

“Yes,” Sanjn said, approaching the two of them. “Vampire central!” The wizard looked giddy. Rynn wasn’t sure he liked that. “But they don’t know us from Marcus. If we give them something of ours, like some hair or an object or something, that would allow them to scry on us more easily.”

Rynn didn’t hesitate, he pulled out a dagger and loped off a portion of his ponytail, then walked over to Jared to explain their plan.

Jared seemed rather pleased by this possibility. Khaska and Orensland both gave the acolyte some of their hair.

“I think that Lord Titanius will be grateful for the reconnaissance,” Jared said. “I wish we could do more to help, but I wish you all the best. Darkcrest is not for the faint of heart.”

It was decided that the Bringers would attempt to scry on them at the beginning of Twilight Sunrise as much as possible. When Jared could get back to them, and when they could begin attempting the spell was likely at least weeks, probably months, in the future. It might be of no help at all, but it would be worth the attempt.

Finally, it came time for the war party to ceremonially end. Everybody formed a circle around the camp, and Drikdare prayed loudly to the spirits, thanking them for their strength and the success of their hunt. After that, the centaur lined up behind Drikdare, who spoke to the party first.

“Where will you go now?” he inquired.

“We will head further into the Deadlands, to try to find out more concerning these pilgrimages,” Orensland said.

“I wish you luck,” the druid said. He looked at Rynn. “And I will pray to the honored dead of my tribe and the spirits of the earth and sky that they watch over your mate and child.”

One by one, the centaurs all came by to wish them well. Khaska was grateful to be able to use, without irony or re-translation, a traditional Maha’i farewell. “May the grass grow thick under your hooves.”

During this ceremonial disbanding of the party, Jared waved and rode off to the east. By the time the last of the centaurs had said farewell, he had all vanished over the rolling hills.

Drikdare leading the way, the centaurs galloped off, heading back to their tribe, flush with success and laden with items of power and items to be bartered and traded. It had been a good hunt.

“Well,” said Sanjin, as the pounding of the hooves faded into the distance, “let’s get a move on. Darkcrest awaits!”

About an hour after Sunset Twilight ended, Pressen only illuminated with a sliver of daylight, Rynn whistled sharply and pointed up. A small cloud of mist was hovering about fifty feet above the ground, approaching from the southwest. Orensland pulled on the reigns and brought the cart to a stop. The cloud approached, descended, and coalesced into the form of Lady Maramos. It was the first time the party, other than Orensland, had seen her. Her clothes hung off her in tatters, singed and burned. She had Orensland’s backpack on.

She took one look at the cart.

“I will not ride with all this extra junk. Why did you acquire it?”

Orensland raised an eyebrow. “We thought to sell it in Darkcrest. No need to let it go to waste. There’s some good money to be had here.”

She waved her hand. “Dispose of it. The reward you will receive from the House of Maramos will make this seem like a mere handful of copper pieces. And the faster we get there, the sooner you can get your reward, I can have a proper meal, and get a proper rest. I appreciate your mercenary attitude, but rest assured, it is unneeded in this case.”

Eryx (DM)
Three items that we can easily retcon if needed. Please actually answer these questions, sometimes I post a question and it doesn’t get explicitly answered. If you don’t have an opinion, then say that.

1. There was a proposal to give Jared the ledger. Did you want to do so? Also, at one point someone suggested making a copy of at least major pertinent information from the ledger. Did you want to have done that before now? Or, conversely, give Jared some information from the ledger and keep the original?

2. There was also a proposal to try to convince a few of the centaur to escort Jared back to the whitecloaks? I’ll need Diplomacy checks from those willing to try.

3. Did Sanjin want to give Jared some hair or something to facilitate scrying? Everybody else basically volunteered except for him. Sanjin is also the only one that has access (can cast, if he can prepare it, Detect Scrying, which can only be cast on oneself).

You all get the following loot:

Khaska—Hat of Disguise. Periapt of Wisdom +2.
Orensland—Eyes of the Eagle. Ring of Protection +2.
Sanjin—Ring of Spell Storing I, Bracers of Armor +2
Rynn—Two Arrows of Undead Slaying; One Arrow of Greater Evil Outsider Slaying; Flaming Burst Composite Longbow (STR rating +1).

On to Darkcrest? Throw out the stuff from the back of the wagon (you would actuall need to keep at least some to help make a “bed” for the dirt to stay in)? Is one of you secretly planning to toss open the canopy during a Twilight Sunrise or Sunset and just be done with Lady Maramos?

There’s going to be some back-and-forth between you players and me in this gray box, so stay tuned. Just because you posted once doesn’t mean there won’t be more to respond to.

Thev
Oh, hooray! Khaska found the items he wanted. He'll keep the Hat of Disguise a secret from Maramos, if at all possible, in order to not tip her off to his plan of being incognito while in Darkcrest.

Regarding Eryx's questions:

1. Given that we don't want Maramos to find the ledger in our possession (that would be very bad), Khaska would support handing it off to Jared for transport to the Bringers of Light. (Looking up top, we apparently still have a copy of the ledger… what shall we do with that?)

2. Khaska thinks an escort for Jared would be advisable, given that his errand and cargo are enormously important. Here's his roll: 22 = 6 + 16. He might also try to weigh in on other party members to lend their arguments.

3. Y'know, maybe we could've asked Jared for some of his hair so that we might be able to have some two-way conversations going. What do y'all think about that?

After that, I suppose it is just on to Darkcrest. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to dump the extra stuff, but what can we do more?

Crosis
Sweet! Time to walk into the heart of all evil and hopefully burn it to the ground. This should be fun. :)

1. I frankly had always considered it a bad idea to bring the ledger in the first place. I'm glad we did now, but it just seemed like a huge risk to carry it into Darkcrest when we had "lost" it earlier. So yes, I whole-heartedly vote we give the ledger, and any copies we have on hand, to Jared.

2. Orensland would also agree that an escort would be best for Jared. I can't access my sheet right now, but if someone could see what my Diplomacy modifier is and add it to 9 that would be great. Note that Orensland doesn't consider Diplomacy his strong point, and would therefore only step in if he feels he can uniquely contribute.

3. I don't have an opinion on this matter. I'm not sure how two-way scrying works, but it sounds like a good idea, as long as whoever is doing it on our end is somewhere absolutely private.

Eryx (DM)
1. I went back and re-read the relevant portions of Chapter 5. Captain Bronzebeard was willing to pass along a copy of the ledger, for a normal postal fee, to Rider Reitman in Hammerdine. So at least that is moving forward. Sanjin made a copy for you guys to keep with the idea you would cache the ledger with the cash. (See what I did there?) This is one of those items that wasn't fully decided on by the group, so if you have the original, you can give it to Jared. If you have a copy of the most pertinent information, you can give that to Jared. Or you can give nothing to Jared. But you know that the Knights will be getting a copy of it when it winds its way there. (Post on the death side is not what you would call fast.)

3. This question was mostly just for DeltaWolf.

Regarding two-way Scrying and communication through the spell, you need to be able to cast Greater Scrying, followed by Message through the spell, and Khaska won't be able to cast Greater Scrying until 12th level and Sanjin not until 14th. It's not a viable option for you guys yet (and I see the spell doesn't exist in 5E, but I will probably rule that it does with much the same stipulations it has in 3.5E, since it was the way you were to contact Captain Bronzebeard when Khaska was high enough level to raise Harrison).

Thev
Hmmm. I didn't mean to suggest two-way scrying; I meant "two-way communication," which I interpreted to mean "sequential bi-directional one-way scrying," if that makes sense.

Eryx (DM)
It does make sense. Theoretically, if you scry on them, and they scry on you at the same time, you could also communicate. Good luck coordinating that 10 minute window hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

DeltaWolf
You gave me good stuff -thank you.

1. Sanjin has no opinion
2. Sanjin has no opinion
3. Sanjin does not like the idea of people “spying” on him even if it is for a good cause -so no he would not give anything to facilitate scrying (at least not unless the group makes him feel more awkward about it).

Sanjin has no intention of secretly exposing the “Lady” to sunlight -tempting though the idea is.

BlackWolf
1. Rynn is definitely in favor of handing off the ledger. Better in Jared's hands now than our own, for the reasons mentioned. I had thought we did cache it for later, but I guess that doesn't matter now. It would be nice to have more info from it; see what we could learn, but it's too risky to keep it now.

2. Rynn only got a 9 (rolled 6 + 3 mod) on his diplomacy check, so not much influence there. He'd basically try to tell the centaur that it's worth their while, if only to ensure that the Bringers and the rogue Whitecloaks know not to mess with them again.

Rynn is very glad to have this new longbow, especially with us going into vampire city. Though Rynn had once been tempted by the idea of throwing Maramos into the light of day, that is no longer something he would do. He now finds himself in the unfortunate situation of needing her. She represents a desparate attempt for him to get back his wife and child. For the next few days (at least) he will be more quiet, determined, and aloof than usual.

Finally, a technical question about the bow. The rules state that "a weapon with a special ability must have at least a +1 enhancement bonus." So is that bow a +1 Flaming Burst Composite Longbow (STR + 1) which would be worth 18,600 gold? Or was that a mistake and it should be a +1 Flaming (not Burst) Composite Longbow (STR + 1) which would be worth 8,600? I just want to be sure I'm not assuming something more powerful than you intended.

Eryx (DM)
You are correct that I mislabeled the "+1 Flaming Burst Composite Longbow (STR + 1)." But that is indeed what you received. I had a specific system for how likely it was items in certain price ranges were to be found, and in your case it gave you a really nice bow. Say you wanted a new sword. I rolled to see if you could get a low-level sword. If that roll succeeded, I rolled for a slightly more powerful sword. If that succeeded, I rolled for an even more powerful one, and kept going until the dice failed you. Others were not so lucky, because the dice giveth, the dice taketh away. I'm not that concerned since we're switching to 5E rules after this Codex anyway, and will have to re-do a lot of your loot in the rule switch.

The world is dangerous, and the Deadlands particularly so. It will take you several months to arrive at Darkcrest, and traveling with a cart and moving more slowly, the chances of running into something dangerous along the way are decent. But I'm not going to do the rolling for random encounters.

You are.

I would like each of you to give me the following rolls:
d6
d12
%d
Survival Check
Spot Check

These, together, will determine if a random encounter happens, what the random encounter is if it happens, and whether Lady Maramos will be able to assist.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Crosis

Again, I do not have access to my spreadsheet, so I don't know my modifiers. You'll have to look it up. Sorry :/

I got the following:
d6: 5
d12: 7
d100: 40
Survival: 4 rolled 4 + 0 mod
Spot: 21 rolled 9 + 12 mod

Thev
d6: 6
d12: 5
d100: 2
Survival: 11 + 5 = 16
Spot: 16 + 5 = 21

DeltaWolf
d6: 5
d12: 8
d100: 70
Survival: 12 + 2 = 14
Spot: 14 + 4 = 18

BlackWolf
Cool, thanks! I just wanted to be sure. :)

  • d6: 3
  • d12: 7
  • %d: 88
  • Survival Check: 31 (rolled 16 + 15 bonuses)
  • Spot Check: 14 (rolled 6 + 8 bonuses)

If we happen upon Rynn's favored enemies, the Spot and Survival checks would get another +2 (undead) or +4 (goblinoids) as applicable.

The party had never counted or appraised the bag of jewels they had found with her ledger, but it had been enough to make them easily believe her when she said their mercenary attitude would be more trouble than it was worth. They did keep some items to help secure and make a “bed” of sorts with the dirt she could sleep on, but other than that, they merely dumped the rest of the items on the ground and headed off deeper into the Deadlands.

Eryx (DM)
That will end this chapter.

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