Durielle places a hand on Marisol's injured arm. The oracle once again attempts to merge the time stream of another possible future with the actual one.
[dice=[i]cure light wounds]]1d8+4
I think you got some extra code in there somewhere and it's making things a little wonky?
Though Marisol expresses some relief as Durielle adjusts her condition by tugging on the threads of time, her body seems to "resist" the influx of healing energy somehow, as if it is reluctant to accept this gift.
Nevertheless, Marisol manages to flash a grateful smile. "Thank you, Durielle. That already feels much improved." She glances back at the makeshift cage and then asks, "What should we do with these folks? I suspect Vlad intends to give them one chance to change their ways and return to society, but are we going to be staying here for a day or just heading straight back to Chafwinth Crossing with them all in tow?"
"If we are not going to behead them, then we should just leave them in there to rot," Balter says harshly, nodding toward the bear trap, his arms full. He clearly does not care much for bandits. "Their leader is a dead man no matter what he says. And I doubt there is any room for this lot in Chafwinth. At best, they'll have a trial for the sake of formalities and then kill them on the spot. A waste of time, if you ask me."
He practically tosses down the last of the loot recovered, the pile otherwise being neatly organized.
"The real question is what we are planning to do with all of this."
The bruiser stays stone-faced, the swordsman lowers his head and quietly sniffles.
Topper snorts "You throw away the prestige you could garner.. ending me here." He tips his head toward Balter. "Your swordsman does have a point. Chafwinth?" He shakes his head. "I am known in Elmere."
"Though I'd naturally prefer to live on unshackled til I'm Topper Grey, t'would be a fitting final chapter in my life's work." He looks to the swordsman bandit "Wouldn't you say?"
Vladimir turns his attention toward the sniffling swordsman."He seems t have it in for you. Why?"
Dispassionatly he turns back to Topper, "Prestige is not why we are here. Putting an end to your activities and those of the Stag-Lord on the other hand..."
"Since you will not choose, I will choose for you. Lean over. I will make your death swift and as painless as possible...a great deal more than what you surely deserve."
Either way, Vladimir will strike for the neck to behead Topper.
The swordsman shakes his head - seemingly unsure himself. The bruiser however, speaks up - with a ire-filled glance at Topper as Vladimir prepares to end him. "Harder to spin lies - or shift blame if we're still alive, eh Top?"
Topper's sudden change in expression suggests he might be right. His "too pleased with himself" bravado falls with the finality in Vladimir's words... no angle to work, neither room nor time for manipulation. It's over.
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Marisol watches Vlad carry out the grim sentence and says,
"There once was a bandit named Topper
Who bullied poor people for copper.
'til he he met a sword-wielding lass
And while he ogled her ass
The law cut off his head with a chopper."
She rests a hand on the pommel of her cutlass and continues, "By the authority granted to us by the charter of the Swordlords of Brevoy, let High Justice be carried out. For the crimes of brigandry, larceny, highway robbery, and most of all organization and leadership of same, the sentence is execution, carried out forthwith."
She turns back to the surviving bandits and says, "Your full cooperation is your only hope of leniency. Think about what you know of the operations of the brigand called the Stag Lord and consider strongly the consequences as you reflect upon the error of your ways."
Cleaning his blade off on Topper's shirt, Vladimir turns to the remaining bandits.
"You heard the lovely lady, and you have heard our terms. What shall it be?"
"Many men and women turn to a life of predation upon the weak because they fall in with the wrong crowd, and it is the easiest option. However, such a path also quickly leads to a swift end when someone stronger comes along.
In the past, we have given a number of former bandits the option to take on new lives as productive members of society in the nascent community that we have been building. If you want a fresh start, you are welcome to join. It won't be easy, but it will be relatively safe, and productive. You'll have a roof over your head, and regular meals."
He then frowns.
"Know, however, that you will be on probation - if there is any indication that there is any back-sliding with regard to your ways, it will most likely end in hemp. What do you say?"
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Durielle's expression is sad as she watches Topper beheaded. Most possibilities of the future had had very little hope of his redemption, but she had hoped for that one almost faded dreamlike future she had seen. The one in which Topper had offered a penance of his own of servitude to the citizens of Chafwinth. There would have been the slightest of chances for Vladimir and the others to accept it. Topper would have had a very hard life the next few years, abused by the some of the more angry, and he would have lost vision in one eye as the result of one attack on him, but he would have lived. Topper Gray would have died beloved by the next generation finally free of his sins having served as bard and lorekeeper for this wilderness town. His past transgressions only remembered faintly but overshadowed greatly by the good he had done as a teacher of children and writer of poetry and history. A first edition of The History of Chafwinth in Poem and Song by Topper Gray would have sold at auction in Abasalom for over three thousand gold some two hundred years from now.
Durielle felt a tear slide down her cheek as that future faded from the world. Now only to be remembered by ones such as she. It had never really had a chance to be, so unlikely was this fate given Topper Red's general disposition. His death at the hands of those righteously empowered had been a near certainty.
The oracle stood among her comrades and felt alone. Fate shadowed her vision, the cruel and unrelenting master it had always been. The day on the road when she had first found her power had shown her that her patron is not concerned with partiality. Durielle hoped for the best in everyone, but she had been forced to accept time continued regardless of whether what occurred was good or evil. Time the silent and cruel master. There is always a resolution with enough time. She knew she was a fool to want anything other than what happened. She felt she couldn't help it, being able to see the best of everyone...as well as the worst.
And so the silent tear fell. Down her pale cheek, the tear slid until it reached her chin. Hanging there for a moment, it caught the light of sun before gaining enough weight to fall to the earth below. With it fell also a future of one bandit Topper Red, a future never to be, a future known only to one.
Balter watches with approval when Vladimir carries out the execution, harboring a glimmer of respect for the swordsman. For a man like Topper Red, it appeared that he knew exactly what had to be done, and was willing to follow through. Good riddance. But with the bandit leader's death, so ended any animosity the ranger harbored toward him. After all, what value was there to be had in hating a dead man? Instead, Balter redirects his distaste to the surviving bandits. Having already spoken his piece, he says nothing as the others offer them their ultimatum. 'Repent or die,' as it was.
These fools are so fortunate to be given this chance, he thinks, glowering at the prisoners, gauging their reactions to his comrades' words, Can we truly expect them to be sincere? To have a change of heart? So convenient is it to renounce your ways when death is the only alternative. Balter did not have an ounce of faith in these men. Even if they did one day become respectable, it would always be because they had feared for their lives. On some level, they would always be lying to themselves.
And after all, he had made that decision without having to watch his boss' head fly off.
Vladimir walks closer to the two remaining bandits, silently looking each in the eyes as he awaits their answers.
Not so sure about the brawler...the swordsman Topper kept trying to sell out could actually be repentant like the few back at Oleg's.
Seeing Topper's head removed from his body visibly changes the demeanor of the remaining bandits. The swordsman speaks up first - after swallowing hard... "Aye, sirs... madams... " he nods repeatedly "fairer offer than one could hope for I'd say."
The bruiser grumbles "if his words are the truth.... ", then shrugs "We'll take your offer."
The swordsman looks to the bruiser, and comments on his skepticism... "Could always change your mind, and ask to have your head lopped off, I suspect."
"My word is my bond." Vladimir says to the seemingly repentant bandits. "That applies to all parts of this offer. Any inkling of regression to banditry or the like and your life is forfeit, as Hrafen has already said."
"Should you still choose to repent, know that a price is still exacted. You will lose the index finger of your off-hand and be placed into an indentured servitude of sorts to those you have harmed for one year to pay for your crimes."
Vladimir pauses for the bandits to confirm their choice.
Turing back to his fellow explorers he asks, "The others that have sought forgiveness have be brought to Oleg's to serve their sentence, should we bring these two to the Crossing?"
Marisol seems to steel herself at Vlad's mention of the loss of an index finger -- though she obviously understands it's to make it harder for someone to use a bow or a spear, and thus less able to engage in banditry.
She nods in assent to Vlad's statement but gestures with her head, trying to catch his eye, in hopes of speaking to him afterward.
I'll send a PM to Vlad so that it doesn't interrupt the flow of our narrative here.
"Two should be few enough for them to handle," Balter suggests, apparently acceding to the fact that these men would be spared. Perhaps the maiming that they were promised was enough to satisfy him. "Otherwise they are in for quite the trip."
The half-elf glances around at the goods they 'liberated' from the bandits, remembering something. "This is the lot that should have the old man's bow, no?"
Vladimir notices Marisol's gesture, and responds with a quick nod and holding up one finger, suggesting he will be with her in just a moment.
"I would agree, Balter, the folks at the Crossing should be able to handle these two. None-the-less, we shall ask those fine folk their opinion on the matter before leaving them there. If there is not a high enough level of comfort among the citizens of the Crossing, we shall take them to Oleg's, where Kesten and his men can help keep an eye on them."
Hearing Balter's statement about the bow, Vladimir says, "That had entirely slipped my mind...see anything that matches Brother Aster's description of it?"
Turning back to the bandits, "Any thoughts about the bow? Otherwise, I shall give you a few more moments to contemplate your decision." he says before stepping aside to see what Marisol wishes to discuss.
Marisol takes Vlad to one side and says . . .
"By the same token," she continues, "we are potentially setting them up for failure. Everyone will know who they are and what they did, which invites the possibility of abuse at the hands of the community. They will have a hard row to hoe, with a missing finger -- not only will it prevent the use of a bow or spear, but it will make it difficult to use many farm implements. Now, they have chosen a hard lot and I am not saying that they don't deserve it, but I think that if our goal is to rehabilitate them rather than just kill them later, we need to create circumstances that will give them a stake in the community so that they want to work hard and protect it."
She fidgets slightly, a bit uncomfortable, and says "I didn't want it to look like I was undercutting your authority in front of the others, or like we didn't have a unified plan, so I didn't want to speak up in the middle of the exchange earlier."
She straightens and continues, "We need to give these men a reason to live, and that reason needs to help shape them into members of the community. We need a carrot as well as a stick -- not just the punishment for bad behavior, but the reward for fitting into the community and truly changing their ways. They need to know that life can get better if they work hard to make it better, and that they are not just looking forward to endless days of toil under the lash of someone they despise, hoping only for a chance to escape back into the woods."
"I think this bears some discussion with the leaders of the various local communities. If we're going to bring criminals back to them, they have to be amenable to re-socializing those criminals. We don't want to leave the next day and later discover that the criminals simply ran away, or worse still, as soon as we turned around the villagers stoned them to death."
Vladimir listens carefully to Marisol's thoughts on the matter, nodding in agreement numerous times throughout the commentary before resonding.
"First and foremost, milady, I have no authority here other than that granted by the Swordlords of Restov and the Dragonscale throne have granted to each of us. We are all equals here and I simply have handed out the options that had been granted by the members of the Charter even before my time." the swordsman says with a smile.
"I have no intentions of forcing these men upon the citizens of the Crossing. If it is something they believe they can handle without abusing those who have submitted to the price of their crimes. Likewise, I have no intentions of leaving these men to be abused by those they have wronged...if they have submitted to our judgement, that is what they will receive and no undeserved punishment beyond that."
Vladimir takes a deep breath before continuing, "I hear your concerns about the finger, but please do note that it is to be taken from the off-hand. Yes, it may make some tasks more difficult, and that is intentional, but it will not make their transitions to productive members of a community impossible. The idea is to teach them the concept of an honest day's work, not enslave them...even if that is what it sounds like is being offered."
In a calm voice, pleading his case, Vladimir ends with, "There are five individuals back at Oleg's that have made this same choice. They have not been treated poorly and in fact have slowly gained more freedoms as they have begun to see there is another way to live in this world. I would not be a bit surprised if a few of them remained even after their sentence is complete."
Knowledge (Local) DC 14: 1d20 + 8 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 8 + 2 = 25
Calling out to the others as they look through the bandit's spoils, Vladimir says, "I would imagine Brother Aster's bow would have antler like protrusions on the front."
"The main thrust of my point is that we are giving these men a very grim decision to make and very little incentive to make it. Consider it from their perspective -- a rough life as a brigand, but able to do as they choose, versus spending the rest of their lives as servants and farmhands, toiling at the order of people who hate them and have every reason to treat them harshly. I'm not debating whether it is just, I'm saying that it is unmotivating and that it makes them at great risk to fall back into their old ways as soon as the chance presents itself. They'll choose to live, only to turn back to their former habits."
"These men need to see that glimmer of hope -- the chance that the other five back at Oleg's are starting to earn, the chance for a better life and one where they can turn to valuable members of the community. Right now the choice before them is death or maiming and servitude. They need to know that while their punishment is harsh, it does have an end -- that the choice is death or rehabilitation, not death or slavery."
"Anyway, that is all. I in no way mean to be argumentative or to denigrate your position. I agree with you, I just worry that if we do not give these men a better motivation than fear to change their ways, they will simply become trouble again in the future, and then we will be left with more corpses."
Marisol says all of this with a confident air, head raised to address Vlad (who is several inches taller than she), gesturing with one hand as she speaks. When she finishes she lets out a heavy breath, smiles, and rests her hand on her hip.
"In my initial explanation to them, I told them that their servitude would be for one year. If you believe it is important to reinforce that point to them, that is perfectly fine. The rest shall be explained in more detail to them as we travel back to whatever their destination be. Fair enough?"
Following the conversation with pale-skinned, dark haired woman, Vladimir returns to the others and the bandits.
Marisol nods in agreement with Vlad. "Yes, of course. This is going to be a continuing process, after all." She turns to rejoin the group alongside Vlad.
Approaching the bandits again, Vladimir asks, "What was it the two of you did before falling in with Topper? I can not imagine that you had been bandits your entire life."
Durielle listens quietly to one side as Marisol expresses her concern over the options Vladimir has presented the men. When they break apart, she moves to Marisol's side.
Whispering, the oracle says to the woman, "I believe I may have a way to appeal to the part of them which may still have a trace of goodness. I cannot guarantee it will sway their hearts, but it has a chance. And perhaps this will allow them to keep their whole hands." She gives Marisol a hopeful smile. "The carrot to Sir Vladimir's stick."
She waits now to see how the men respond to Vladimir's latest question.
Consider this notice that if Vladimir goes to execute his finger chopping promise, Durielle will forestall him.
The swordsman answers, "Known Top our whole lives... worked for his father, Woelder Hague... keeping the peace, and motivating workers in Elmere. Top got into it with the old man more'n once. Woelder threw him out. Top said we could earn ourselves some serious gold gettin supplies and such to Nugrah's fort - Stag Lord's now... his boy."
The bruiser nods, "You wanna see one mean monster of a man... head on over there."
The swordsman adds, "Aye. Even the Shrike takes issue with that beast."
"Motivating workers? How so? Tell us more about Woelder Hague and Nugrah." Vladimir says, in a calm manner, attempting a civil conversation with the two bandits.
Marisol leans to the side slightly to listen as Durielle whispers to her, and she nods appreciatively. She also seems interested in hearing the discussion between Vlad and the prisoners, so she remains silent for the moment and takes in the conversation rather than replying to Durielle immediately.