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DM CH-P's CoT: The Bastards of Erebus

Game Master Are


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Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

"She tells no falsehoods. She made no promise to perform the ritual, only that we could discuss it once the siege was broken."

"What is your price?"


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

"I think I have an idea, mutual enemies right mother?
You want us to go after someone who we will tangle with anyway.
And since the council was responsible for the attacks..."


Female Changeling (Mauxi Mwangi) Mwangi Spiritualist 11

Yahirma favors Madjaw with an apologetic look - hopefully enough to keep him sated - before focusing on the negotiations at hand. "It appears that technicalities impel us to perform some yet greater task. Very well, let us discuss the terms," she says as she dry-scrubs her hands with a pinch of salt.


The Mother smiles, gently and grandmotherly.

"Let me first tell you a story. It's a tale of greed and tragedy. Like many such stories, at its heart is a young man desiring power and prosperity."

"More than a third of Westcrown's noble families were destroyed financially or literally after Aroden's death, while more than half of the remaining families moved north to Egorian as House Thrune rose to prominence. The Drovenge family, wealthy moneylenders and property owners, succeeded in maintaining a significant amount of their wealth and respect even after the god's fall. In large part because of the underworld holdings they controlled as one of the key families comprising the Council of Thieves."

"The Council was originally formed more than 400 years ago, by several of the most powerful gangs and thieves' guilds in Westcrown. Many of the guild-leaders became wealthy enough to purchase lands and titles, and with their newfound wealth they began operating more as businessmen than street thugs. Gradually, they were able to barter and blackmail for influence within Westcrown."

"Nearly 250 years ago, the Council was the only sizeable criminal operation within Westcrown, and rumor held that half of Westcrown's noble families held ties within the organization. In the face of growing concerns over banditry, kidnapping and racketeering, the Queen herself parlayed with representatives of the Council, paying a hefty sum in exchange for increased subtlety. What followed was a staged hunt for members of the guild, resulting in very public executions of low-ranking criminals. The dottari proclaimed the Council eradicated, while the Council leaders refocused their efforts towards smuggling, money laundering, loan sharking, and similar illicit activities."

"As open crime became a thing of the past, the Council slowly faded from memory, eventually becoming legend. In the centuries since, the Council fared well, relying on discretion and an honored tradition of gentlemanly crime. Over the years, they rooted out and crushed any rivaling criminal elements, no matter how small, that arose within the walls of Westcrown."

The old hag takes a break.

"Forgive me for rambling on so. But the history is important, I think you will see. And now it's time for our story."

"The patriarch of the Drovenge family, Vassindio, also ruled the Council for the past several decades. But this was not enough for his arrogant son, Sidonai. He desired greater power for the Drovenge family and for himself, as equals to the ruling families of Egorian. Sidonai was incensed upon the birth of his first offspring, a daughter his wife named Chammady. He had wanted a true heir, a son, to usher in the new era of power he so desired."

"In the weeks following his daughter's birth, Sidonai schemed to sire a son with a divine mandate to rule among the devil-obsessed nobles of Cheliax. He sought a way to sire a son with one of the archdevils, an infernal son they would have to respect. To that end, Sidonai bargained for the aid of the Flies."

She cackles with glee before continuing.

"We, my sister, my daughter, and myself, presented this noble scion with a coin taken from the depths of Erebus, the realm of the archdevil Mammon. We told him to swallow the coin before he next bedded his wife. And this, he did. Hah! Little did he know! Mammon is the treasure within his vaults, knowing many forms and none. By swallowing the coin, Sidonai allowed Mammon himself to possess him and impart his own immortal seed unto his wife!"

More cackling.

"Nine months passed, during which Sidonai's wife had to endure many complications with her pregnancy. The child was a boy, as Sidonai had wished, but the boy's appearance left no question as to his true parentage. Disfigured with horns, silver eyes, and golden skin, his unholy origin was obvious to all."

"Vassindio Drovenge, believing his son's wife had brought shame upon the family by laying with another, murdered her as she recovered from her exhausting labor. This brought the whole story from a panicked Sidonai, who confessed to everything he had done. Disgusted by his son's insane plot, Vassindio ordered the deaths of everyone involved. Sidonai's servants and his wife's midwives found their lives cut short."

"Even my sister and my daughter were murdered. I was away at the time, and thus escaped the elder Drovenge's wrath. Once I returned to my home and saw the destruction that had been wrought upon it, I sought to learn everything I could about this new foe and his secrets. I slowly accumulated the knowledge I might need to bring vengeance upon he who had destroyed my family."

She pauses again in her tale.

"Perhaps the destruction was justified for our part in granting his family an infernal heir. But his son was a fool who should have known better!"

A brief cackle, then the tale continues.

"Sidonai survived as well, but his enraged father sent him to live with distant relatives. Sidonai never arrived, but Vassindio already considered his son dead, and saw no reason to investigate his disappearance. No longer able to sire children of his own, Vassindio took it upon himself to raise his son's children. Despite the baby boy's unholy features, he was now the only male heir of the Drovenge family. After a long night of soul-searching, Vassindio decided to let the boy live, and gave him the name of Ecarrdian."

"Over the following years, Chammady and Ecarrdian were raised by servants among cold luxury. Theirs was a family of two, and their devotion for eachother grew. Their grandfather largely ignored Ecarrdian, while Chammady had some contact with him, receiving gifts and boons she secretly shared with her brother. Over the years, amid mockery and scolding from servants and tutors and lack of love, both Chammady and Ecarrdian grew resentful of the world and their grandfather."

"They thought to escape their gilded cage, but their grandfather proved watchful and domineering. He assigned them duties within his criminal empire, while remaining vigorous despite his age, with no signs of dying. The plot the siblings engineered to secure their freedom was simple. Murder their grandfather, take control of his empire, and claim the entire city as their own. Finally, they would be the ones who would be obeyed and respected."

"The siblings have begun their plot, first spreading chaos in both city and Council, then using this chaos as diversion while they murdered their grandfather. They have assumed control of the Council and all of its assets, and soon they will seek to assume control of the city itself."

"Only one thing could cause the siblings to turn against eachother, or at the very least drive a wedge between them. You see, when Sidonai swallowed that coin, he entered into an infernal pact with Mammon. This infernal pact created a bond between Ecarrdian and the person he loves most in life; his sister. With each success and increase in power for Ecarrdian, Chammady's soul becomes further entwined with Mammon's. Should Ecarrdian truly come to rule Westcrown, her soul will be forfeit, to eternally exist as Mammon's plaything in Hell. I doubt even her devotion to her brother could overcome knowledge of this fate."

"My divinations have shown me that a copy of the contract likely lies forgotten within a Council guildhall known as Walcourt. If you can find the contract, Chammady might become an ally for you against her brother instead of a foe. At the very least, it would be an interesting development! You may be interested to learn that this guildhall also houses a person known as the Lord of Shadows, who controls the movements and actions of the shadowbeasts that have plagued Westcrown for the past three decades."

The volume of her voice rises as she continues.

"But enough of that! The order to kill me must have come from the boy, Ecarrdian. He must have discovered the nature of the pact, and thus he seeks to eradicate anyone who could inform his sister of her true fate. He who owes his very existence to me!"

She spits on the ground beside her.

"My price for lifting the vampire's curse is your promise that you will kill Ecarrdian Drovenge, in as gruesome a fashion as you are able, and make sure he knows before his death that I sent you!"

The old hag leans forward on her staff, exhausted by her long speech.


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

Maddok listens to the story intently, grim determination visible in his features.

"You would ask me to kill one man to make the woman I love whole again?", the big Shoanti asks aloud while tightening his grip on Vahnwynne's hand. "For her, I would kill them all..."

Maddok's words are punctuated with a savage disembodied growl and the lines of his tattoo-work glowing briefly.

"Of this Lord of Shadows, what is his connection to the Council and the Drovenges? If he truly is the source of the shadowbeasts that have preyed on the people of Westcrown, we've been hunting him for some time."


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11
DM Are wrote:
"...Over the years, they rooted out and crushed any rivaling criminal elements, no matter how small, that arose within the walls of Westcrown."

Yet my Church is allowed to function. Interesting.

DM Are wrote:
"My price for lifting the vampire's curse is your promise that you will kill Ecarrdian Drovenge, in as gruesome a fashion as you are able, and make sure he knows before his death that I sent you!"

Appario shakes his head.

"I can't and won't agree to that. I'll deal with the man justly, after I am sure of his crimes, if any. And, even then, there will be nothing grotesque about Abadar's swift justice." Appario picks up Stiglor and begins to check him for weapons...and picks up Stiglor's ax(es?).

"Maddok, if you want to make this deal, that's up to you. And *if* what she says is true, then I'll be dealing with Ecarrdian in time anyway, but I will not put my honor with this hag."

Appario addresses Stiglor.

"Now, which one of these is your tent? Let's get what we need out of here before things get worse."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

"I wouldn't ask you to swear yourself to this", the Shoanti replies. "This was never your burden."

As the Abadaran prepares the prisoner, Maddok calls out to him. "What of Chammady? If we cannot convince her of her fate at the hands of brother her life may be forfeit."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

Hmm... Forums ate my post.

"I wouldn't ask you to swear yourself to this", the Shoanti replies. "This was never your burden."

As the Abadaran prepares the prisoner, Maddok calls out to him. "What of Chammady? If we cannot convince her of her fate at the hands of brother her life may be forfeit."


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario turns back on Maddok, but turns back to answer the blacksmith.

"I will deal with the Council, and whatever Chammady's part in that might be, regardless of whatever happens with this Hag. I do not need to make promises to her in order to fulfill my obligation to Abadar and the people of Westcrown."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

"Good, then we are of one mind."

"No promise is needed from you. You did not ask a boon from her."


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

"Asmodeus hairy arse!"
Derek whistles under his breath.

Vassindio...V... "He is his...". She meant to say Grandson back then!
Oh Jalki...if only you had not caught that slip of your tongue we might have avoided so much...

Despite the gloomy thoughts, Derek cannot quite repress a smirk of triumph at seeing his suspicions being affirmed.

But should I swear or not? If I do, can I ask a boon as well? Because anything that can help might be useful.
On the other hand, I've been meaning to stop the council ever since I suspected they were behind these things anyway.
I'll see what Yahirma does, she has good ideas.

...
And I need to meet Jalki as soon as we return, if the siblings have made their move, then dear ol' granpappy is gone, and Jalki was loyal to him I think.
There is no place left for her in the organization now, so finally she will spill the beans to me.


Female Changeling (Mauxi Mwangi) Mwangi Spiritualist 11

Yahirma ponders the Mother's deal, considering what is offered and what is requested.

In some ways we have been paid already; we received good information for freeing the Mother. I can only trust that some who know the city better than I can make best use of it.

"Maddok has heard your terms and accepted them - a twin debts incurred to be repaid in the future. I see a different deal," begins the Mwangi priestess. "You send us to face an entrenched villain of considerable might, and though you equip us with weapons of knowledge, your bargain also slips past a most critical point: during our long assault, Vahnwynne will remain locked in her form.

"I understand most deals see the exchange of goods simultaneously, but those are the mundane transactions of those with lesser goals and lesser means of enforcing the bargain. Let us say that I wish to see Vahnwynne released from the depredations of unwilling undeath sooner than we could defeat the devil-blooded Drovenge.

"I myself am willing to aid your petitioner in his quest, but understand that I will neither be the one to strike the killing blow nor the one who eviscerates the corpse to smear its greasy offal across the streets of Westcrown. I go willingly, however, to defame him, denounce his actions, and deliver your message of retribution," she declares. "If it interests you, we might even discuss the prospect of you delivering the message to him yourself..." Yahirma adds, cupping a hand close to her body as if holding a bowl or ball.

Diplomacy to strike her own take on the bargain (second Natural Divination of the day) 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (3) + 20 = 23
Using Yahirma's Fortune ability to re-roll 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (20) + 20 = 40
Bluff (innuendo to the Mother) 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (20) + 15 = 35

In short, Yahirma is trying to secure the immediate performance of the ritual in exchange for the future services - either what Yahirma is herself implying or some other interest of the hag.

DM Are:

The innuendo is to pass along that Yahirma is willing to discuss soul-trapping. I can imagine that a coven-less hag would enjoy tormenting her sisters' slayer in person.

Also, Yahirma does not know more than hints of her own non-human heritage - particularly intriguing because she is green hag-blooded. I'm not sure if the Mother of Flies can sense these things, but I am curious to see where these and future deals with the Mother go.


Maddok:

Still recovering from her exhausting speech, the old crone continues standing hunched over as she answers Maddok.

"The shadowbeasts were not my concern; I didn't spend much time divining on this Lord of Shadows. The man came from Nidal at the request of the House of Thrune, but has since shifted his allegiance. First to the Council itself, and most recently to the Drovenge siblings."

***

Yahirma:

The hag is visibly surprised by Yahirma's suggestion, looking up and studying her as if seeing her for the first time.

"An interesting notion, but Ecarrdian's soul will do me no good. Another, far greater being than a mere hag has a firm clasp upon it. Should the boy fail to realize his Hell-given destiny, Mammon will surely not be content to leave his soul to the meddling of mortals."

She cackles as she straightens on her staff.

"The elder Drovenge's soul, on the other hand! Now that would be a fine gift indeed! Alas, he is already dead, his soul departed from this realm. Perhaps it still wanders among those waiting to be judged, but.."

She sighs.

"No, such talk can bring no fruit. Your request has merit on its own. I will begin the ritual this night, but it will take much time. The vampire will stay within my abode, of course, as I gather the required ingredients and perform the ritual. She will be safe here. I will return her to your side when the curse has been broken."

The Mother of Flies suddenly seems invigorated, beginning to move towards Yahirma as quickly as her legs will take her.

"Your eyes! Let me see them!"

Stopping as suddenly as she began moving, the hag studies Yahirma's face with great scrutiny for a time. She then speaks in a soft voice, low enough that others would have to struggle to hear it.

"Have you been hearing voices, child? Voices only you can hear?"

***

Appario:

Stiglor gives no resistance as Appario picks up his two battleaxes (both made of cold iron) and searches him for concealed weapons, finding only a pair of potions and a key. The man's armor is a breastplate, and he also wears a finely made belt.

He shrugs, briefly touching his unseeing eyes, as Appario asks for directions to his tent.

"My tent is the large one, where we fought."

Within the largest tent there, Appario finds a masterfully crafted composite longbow, as well as 20 cold iron-headed arrows.

When Appario re-emerges, Stiglor stretches out a hand to halt him, speaking intently.

"It won't be safe for me to come near Westcrown's walls. The dottari were already seeking my death, and now that I have failed this task the Council will, too."


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

Derek is a little hurt at the hag paying attention to Yahirmas eyes. While being prideful and cocky is more of an act than aything else when it comes to it, Derek does have a deep pride in his strong Azalanti eyes.

Ah well, I must remember to not let negative thoughts take too firm hold of my heart, such is not Cayden Caelians way.


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

Maddok nods towards Yahirma in thanks before embracing Vahnwynne tightly, "Did you hear her? She will begin the ritual to cure you soon."

"How long will it be until she can feel the sun's warmth on her skin again?", he asks. "I will wait here with her while you perform the ritual."


Female Changeling (Mauxi Mwangi) Mwangi Spiritualist 11
The Mother of Flies wrote:

The Mother of Flies suddenly seems invigorated, beginning to move towards Yahirma as quickly as her legs will take her.

"Your eyes! Let me see them!"

Stopping as suddenly as she began moving, the hag studies Yahirma's face with great scrutiny for a time. She then speaks in a soft voice, low enough that others would have to struggle to hear it.

"Have you been hearing voices, child? Voices only you can hear?"

Yahirma hesitates before responding in kind, her voice kept low. "...I have, but the voices have been quieter since I left the lands of Garund," she confides while scanning the Mother's own face for some hint of what this might be leading to. "These are the voices of the Wendo, though the spirits have learned to speak with darker tongues since I traveled here. What is it you see?"


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11
DM Are wrote:
"It won't be safe for me to come near Westcrown's walls. The dottari were already seeking my death, and now that I have failed this task the Council will, too."

Appario will gather up the supplies from the tent, placing much of it in his handysack.

"Yeah, I know, Stiglor," Appario answers the man. "But I still have questions and you still need your sight back, so you're walking with us at least most of the way back to Westcrown. Right now, you're under my protection." Appario begins to lead the man out of the tent.

"Unless you'd like to leave my protection now, Stiglor? There is a nice lady made almost entirely of flies who might like to spend time with you." Appario mentions.

"Or you could go visit the with the Satyr, he seems quiet excited and, though you are not the woman he was expecting, you might be a nice plaything for him." Appario hopes Stiglor has some common sense left.

Appario leads Stiglor away from the Satyr and Hag, but still within sight of the Gardeners, awaiting them for their trip back to Westcrown.

"So, tell me again, Stiglor: where can I find the Council of Thieves? Have you met Ecarrdian? And what do you know personally of Lady Chammady's involvement?"


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

Sometimes I suspect there is a core of cold iron under all that soft gold of Apparios.
Or maybe a jagged rusty blade judging from his sense of "humour".


Maddok:

Almost in passing as the Mother's attention is consumed by Yahirma, she shakes an admonishing finger in Maddok's direction.

"I will not have a man within my sanctum. If you must stay, you will sleep under the sky. It will take a week to gather the necessary ingredients, and only time will tell how long it takes to finish the ritual. It could take days, or weeks. Ever different."

***

Yahirma:

The others momentarily forgotten, the old hag walks several steps away from the group, motioning for Yahirma to join her. She continues speaking in hushed tones.

"When a hag mates, the offspring is not a true hag, but a changeling. Always a girl. Never raised by the hag herself. A changeling's eyes are often mismatched, their hair dark, and their skin pale. When a changeling reaches adulthood, her mother begins calling out to her, attempting to summon her child back to her side."

She pauses, looking into Yahirma's eyes as she continues.

"Your eyes are mismatched, your hair and skin also show the signs, and you have heard the calls. What do you know of your origins?"

***

Appario:

Stiglor lets himself be led, but Appario senses reluctance in the man's steps.

"The Council is everywhere. You heard the tale the old woman spun. Many, perhaps most, or all, of Westcrown's noble families have footholds within it. Guildhouses exist all over the city, and their business is concluded even within the mansions of the nobles themselves."

"Those few times I was summoned to the city, I was given a room within one of the guildhalls; Walcourt. It resides on the eastern edge of the central islands, making it easy to transport someone such as me, someone who should not be seen by authorities, to the place by boat."

"I have met both Ecarrdian and Chammady, but only when they were still lieutenants within the Council hierarchy. They seemed ambitious, as befitted a Drovenge. I had no personal dealings with them."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

The Shoanti growled at the idea of leaving Vahnwynne with the witch but he had little choice but to continue trusting her.

"Then I will return to Westcrown and see to the Ecarrdian Drovenge's end", Maddok replies.

Taking one of Vahnwynne's hands within his own and retrieving the enchanted stake he forged for her from her harness with the other, he presses the silvered weapon into her palm.

"One more time we must be apart", the big man laments. "But when this is done everything will be right."


Vahnwynne winces in pain as the silver eats into her flesh, the reaction stronger than the last time she touched the silver stake, but she holds it firmly nonetheless.

"You would leave me here? To be alone with this creature who speaks so freely of archdevils and possession, and laughs as she recollects old trickeries?"

Her voice is without conviction, as if she too realizes there's little else to do than trust the hag to perform her end of the bargain.

She grasps Maddok's hands with her own, pulling him close and whispering in his ear.

"I will keep you in my heart, no matter where you go or how long we are apart. Once it beats once more, nothing will keep me from reaching you. You will feel the warmth of my life again!"


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario sighs audibly so that Stiglor can hear.

"How in the heck did you wind up with a field commission when you are so incapable of seeing the big picture here, Stiglor? Quit dragging your heels. Are you really worried about the dottari?"

Appario breaks out his disguise kit and begins to take as much time as needed to make Stiglor look different.

Take 20 disguise: 20 + 3 + 2 = 25

"Listen here. Stiglor is now dead. As part of your submission, I take your name and give you a new one. Your new name is 'Ruhk the Dandy' or 'Ruhk the Repentant', whichever you prefer. Should we meet the dottari, just keep quiet and let me talk."

Appario finishes with the disguising.

"There. Now back to the questions, Ruhk. Where did you live such that you were summoned into the city? And how were you paid? Where there others like you who were given different tasks? What are those tasks? Who else is held positions like yours?"


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

"I know", Maddok answers as he holds the vampiress's colder form close to him. "And as in depths of Delvehaven, I will find you wherever you are."

Maddok is ready to go back whenever.


"I know the forest, and I know how to fight. The big picture was never my concern."

Stiglor makes few comments as Appario applies his skills with the disguise kit, cutting off swathes of beard and mustache and applying oils and powder to cover the man's weathered features. He feels his face for a few moments once Appario announces he's finished.

"This should work well. Thank you."

The former commander seems to be in better spirits as he follows Appario's lead, and no further complaints are heard from his mouth as the journey progresses.

"Ruhk will do. My home is a cabin in the hills east of Hagwood. One of the dark men would come, either delivering a spoken message or carrying a letter from someone within the Council. Payment for services rendered would usually be in the form of gems or gold. Most of my payments still remain within my footlocker in Walcourt; on my rare visits, I would only take what I needed to purchase supplies. There is little use for gold and jewels when one lives in the wild."

"There are many the Council go to for various tasks, each with a different specialty or position. But only the leadership would know them all. I've only met a few. Kruthe, most know him as "the Hammer", is a brutish thug. Sandor the Strange is a master of the arcane."


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario nods and smiles at Ruhk, forgetting the man can't see him.

"See? There you go, Ruhk. What else did you want to tell me? What kind of crimes are the Council involved in? Why should I even care about them? If all they are doing is keeping other crime elements out and so fair business can take place, what is so bad about them?"

Appario ponders, trying to make his point clear.

"Ruhk, if I'm going to stop them...and, hence, stop anyone who might wish you dead, I'm going to need to know why I should do that. Please, only tell me truths...but, after I get your blindness cured and you're off making time out of Cheliax, what can you tell me that is going to make me want to take out the Council and help me in doing it? It's your life too, Ruhk."

* * *

When the party is ready to leave, Appario will share:

1) Ruhk the Dandy's new name and his trouble with the Council and Dottari.
2) What Ruhk has shared about the Council.
3) The details of Appario's agreement: Ruhk is under Appario's protection. Ruhk agrees to answer questions about the Council. Appario will be curing Ruhk's blindness.
4) Separately, he will tell the group that he plans to let Ruhk go if Ruhk will swear to leave Cheliax to never return.


Ruhk/Stiglor looks confused.

"I never asked you to stop the Council. They will wish me dead because of this failure, but that is to be expected. Failure has consequences. All I asked of you was if you could cure my blindness. If you can do that, I will leave this area, and the Council will no longer be a concern of mine."

He pauses.

"That old woman seemed to want something done with the Council. Perhaps you should ask her why you should care?"

***

Edit: Heh. I wrote Ruhk's reply before I read the off-topic part of your post. We seem to be of one mind in terms of his future :)


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

Ruhk The Dandy? Yup, he sure looks like a dandy alright, let's break out the doilies and the hair pomade.

"Things are becoming clearer AND more complicated by the minute..."


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario responds to Ruhk's words with a smile.

"True. However, if you think they will hunt you down then it is in your best interest to help me stop them. If not, then you'd better hope that the information you give me will help us succeed. Because if I get caught and tortured by them, I'm sure I'll mention that you're still alive and that you helped me."

Appario leans into the Ruhk's face.

"Now, what sorts of 'bad' stuff are they into? How are they stopping free trade within Westcrown?"


Ruhk raises his voice slightly, becoming agitated at Appario's sudden change from simple questioning to browbeating.

"I'm sure you will. You have taken my sight and my weapons. I have answered your questions honestly. And now you want me to directly oppose an organization with far greater resources than I've ever had. One I worked for less than an hour ago. Why would I deliberately place myself in even greater risk?"

He lowers his voice to its normal level again.

"All I want is to get my sight back and leave. Any quarrels I have with the Council will be far behind me then. Like I said before, I never concerned myself with the big picture. I know no details of the Council's operations. They are ruthless to any who oppose them, and involved with corruption, blackmail, and smuggling. That's all I know. I was never in a position of trust within the organization."

Ruhk tries to explain himself, hoping Appario will understand.

"Look. When I was first approached by the Council, while I was a young officer of the dottari, I desired gold. The Council paid well. I gave them information and looked the other way when instructed to do so. I was court-martialed when the dottari discovered my dual allegiance, but escaped with the Council's aid. So I have done as they ask since then."


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario grins again.

"Ah. Just one more question for right now...I think my companions are almost done here. What is the Council smuggling? Sounds like they control the city already and what could possibly be 'illegal' that they need to have smuggled? Or is it just tax evasion?"

When the group is ready, Appario will lead Ruhk with him back to close to Westcrown.

About 1/2 hours journey from Westcrown, Appario will leave Ruhk in a secluded spot and go buy a scroll of Remove Blindness/Deafness (375 gp).

He will return, cast the spell from the scroll, offer Ruhk one of his axes back and a give him a pouch of 150gp.

"Go now Ruhk. You have an axe, you have gold, and you have your freedom. If anyone asks me, Stiglor is dead. Go create a new life, Ruhk."


"Yes, tax evasion would be the primary reason for the smuggling. But they also smuggle illegal drugs into Westcrown."

***

Ruhk makes little of himself as he joins the group on the two-day carriage ride back to Westcrown, speaking only when spoken to.

He is fairly nervous when Appario returns with the scroll, but all nervousness vanishes as his sight returns. He blinks rapidly several times as his eyes once again adjust to daylight.

"Thank you! I hardly dared hope you would keep your word."

The man gladly accepts the axe and pouch.

"You are an honorable man. If you choose to make a move on the Walcourt guildhouse, remember the key you found in my pocket. I believe the contents of my footlocker will serve you better than me."

He turns, beginning the long journey to a new life.


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

Are we waiting for Yahirma to finish up with the Mother or have we returned to Westcrown?

Maddok watches in silence as Appario and Stiglor/Ruhk have their final words and part ways.

Edit: You just answered my question in the OOC tab.


You're not back in Westcrown yet, but the Stiglor/Ruhk story could be finished up without impacting anything else. All that remains is the conclusion of the Yahirma-Mother conversation and the group encountering our new player, then they will return to the city.


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

He does have a roundabout way to do things, but honor is something I always knew he had.

"Payment for services rendered eh Appario? And they say the good never prosper?"


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

Appario smiles at Derek.

"He surrendered honorably, I see no reason to treat him other than such. However, we have much to talk about Derek. Firstly, do you think we, as Gardeners, should spread word of what happened here? Not sure the conflict has too much to do with Westcrown and not sure that we Gardeners want to highlight our spot in it. Or do we? I suppose the Council will hear about what happened on their own, but that might be different than what the public needs or wants to know."

Appario ponders more.

"Highlighting our presence in this conflict will definitely put us square against the Council, will it not? We definitely took a side."

I should tell the Church. I wonder where they stand on this.


Male Human (Taldan) Abadaran Militant 11

When Ruhk the Dandy is gone, Appario will lay out the remaining loot from Ruhk's tent for Derek and Yahirma to inspect.

I think it's one cold iron axe, 2 potions, the breastplate, fine belt, one key, one bow, 20 arrows, and anything else, DM Are?

"Any of it worth anything? I hope to recoup my losses on this."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

Maddok considers Appario's words.

"Even if our actions in the Hagwood did not mark us as opposed to the Council our movement against Eccaridian and their Lord of Shadows will. Isn't ending the threat of the shadowbeasts what we originally swore to do?"

The big man reflects on the hag's story told two days past now.

"The Mother did mention that Eccardian and Chammady had taken control of the Council. Perhaps we could find an ally among them, one that resented being displaced, to get more information from."


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

"No, I doubt it would really make a difference to tell this tale. I mean, the tale of how we robbed the mayor might have had an effect since he isn't well liked, but I doubt anybody would care much about this. Aside from people who HAVE a reason to care, like the council right?"

"I guess they will know soon anyway, but it may take a LOT of time for them to sort fact from fiction, so let's leave it for now.
I know I know, ME saying we shouldn't flaunt it...what is the world coming to?"

"As for information, I am way ahead of you big brother. Remember Jalki? She wants to meet me, and I bet she will have some secrets to share.
Some slips of her tongue makes me suspect she worked DIRECTLY for old grandfather Drovenge, so if there is a better source of knowledge... Well there is, but he is pushing up the daisies as we speak!"


Female Changeling (Mauxi Mwangi) Mwangi Spiritualist 11

Hag Meeting

DM Are wrote:

The others momentarily forgotten, the old hag walks several steps away from the group, motioning for Yahirma to join her. She continues speaking in hushed tones.

"When a hag mates, the offspring is not a true hag, but a changeling. Always a girl. Never raised by the hag herself. A changeling's eyes are often mismatched, their hair dark, and their skin pale. When a changeling reaches adulthood, her mother begins calling out to her, attempting to summon her child back to her side."

She pauses, looking into Yahirma's eyes as she continues.

"Your eyes are mismatched, your hair and skin also show the signs, and you have heard the calls. What do you know of your origins?"

Meeting the Mother's stare, Yahirma responds"My mother was never known to me, but several people of my village spoke as though she had died soon after my birth. My father sired several more children, all of whom shared his appearance more than I - all of whom were accepted into the fold more readily than I." At this, Yahirma pauses for a moment to recollect other details while scratching idly at her arm with a gloved hand. "I understood later - after pestering some of the women - that my mother had never lived in the village and that I was born elsewhere. It would explain my different features," she adds, as if it might be some defense against mounting evidence of the supernatural. "If she were of a different village, that is..."

Knowledge (Nature) to connect a few dots regarding popular hag "courtship" traditions 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27

Yahirma's lips silently mold themselves around a few key words from the tales imparted by her tribal teachings. Her eyes glance groundwards before confirming the Mother's position, and the increasingly self-aware changeling shoots out a hand to grab the Mother by the arm - doing what she can to telegraph firmness without crushing any of the Mother's...'children.' "Does this mean...was my father...unwilling? Was he some plaything like a dryad's charmed toy?" she furiously whispers. "How can it be that -"

Letting go, her eyes glaze slightly with the torrent of unprioritized thoughts flying about her head. "You said you had a daughter. A daughter that was fully hag-blooded as well or a changeling?" she inquires with wide eyes, uncertain as to what answer to expect.

If always a hag's offspring is a changeling, from where are true hags derived?"

---In Westcrown---

Yahirma will gladly peruse any recovered items for magical auras.

Spellcraft Checks (use as needed - divided into groups of 5 for easier reference):

1d20 + 13 ⇒ (16) + 13 = 29
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (11) + 13 = 24
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (15) + 13 = 28
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (9) + 13 = 22
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (3) + 13 = 16
-----
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (20) + 13 = 33
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (14) + 13 = 27
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (2) + 13 = 15
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (19) + 13 = 32
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (6) + 13 = 19
-----
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (7) + 13 = 20
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (18) + 13 = 31
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (10) + 13 = 23
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (7) + 13 = 20
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (8) + 13 = 21
-----
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (15) + 13 = 28
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (2) + 13 = 15
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (17) + 13 = 30
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (5) + 13 = 18
1d20 + 13 ⇒ (8) + 13 = 21


The Mother watches with something resembling pity in her eyes as Yahirma struggles with this new knowledge of her parenthood.

Scores of flies take flight as Yahirma's hand clasps the Mother's arm, some setting down elsewhere on the old hag's body, but several buzzing about above their former position. Maggots slither to escape the invasion, but Yahirma still feels several of them beneath her grasp.

"In the moment, he would have been willing. Whether his willingness was real or imparted on him by the hag is difficult to tell. We don't always look like this."

The hag shifts, her features melting together before being molded into the form of a beautiful young human woman; the features somewhat marred by the layer of maggots still crawling over her and the flies taking flight around her.

"You see? If your mother looked like this, your father's feelings could well have been his own. Until he learned the truth, of course! But the hag would likely have manipulated his feelings, to make him do her bidding. "

She shifts back into her own form, flies settling back after their startled flight.

"One thing is odd about your tale. Your father was alive. Since she didn't kill him after their mating, perhaps your mother harbored real feelings for him."

The old Mother hunches over her staff once more.

"My daughter was born a changeling, like you. As was I."


Just before the group leaves the Maggot Tree:

The Mother of Flies beckons Vahnwynne to her side and clasp her arm tightly. She makes a gesture with her other hand, and a translucent door opens in front of the pair. As the Mother ushers Vahnwynne to go through, herself following closely behind, the rest of the group sees a small "room" through the open door. The room seems to have been formed by a tangle of webs and twisted branches, and is decorated with hundreds of eldritch fetishes.

Just before the door closes behind them, the Mother's hand stretches back, setting a small box on the ground.

***

The box contains 12 potions and a scroll.

***

Appario: Yes, that's the items of interest on Stiglor and inside the tent; the tent also contains food supplies and bedrolls, but nothing else of value.


Emerging from Hagwood:

When the group emerges from Hagwood into the clearing where their carriage arrived the previous evening, the light of the sun just beginning to break through above the distant hills, they find their carriage driver asleep in a makeshift camp laid out next to the carriage. The horses stand nearby, some asleep while some eat.


Item identification:

Over two days, Yahirma identifies the following magical items:

+1 cold iron battleaxe
+1 breastplate
belt of mighty constitution +2
scroll of slay living
potion of cure moderate wounds (2x)
potion of cure serious wounds (12x)

In addition, the following nonmagical items are present:

cold iron arrows (20x)
masterwork composite longbow [+3 STR]
key to footlocker


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

"Aah, I don't know about the rest of you, but after sampling the hospitality of the hagwoods, I cannot wait to get back to friendly Westcrown, what with street gangs, corrupt Dottari, vast criminal conspiracies, shadowbeasts at night and...
Anybody else fancy a week in the wild?"

Derek pauses for a moment.
"Westcrown DOES have ale and my beautiful protégé though..."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

I'll update the loot sheet in a bit.

Maddok is too preoccupied with thoughts of Vahnwynne, left with the Mother of Flies, and the Drovenge he must now kill to let the fatigue from their long night of running across the Hagwood slow him down.

The big man nods towards Derek, "As dark as they are the Hagwood does have a certain beauty. A place, devoid of scheming greedy nobles and prowling beasts of shadow", he agrees.

"But Westcrown is our home and if we abandoned her we would be no better than this Council and the shadowbeasts that prey on her people", the Shoanti finishes as the bard's joke seems to be wasted on him.


Male Chelish Arcane Caster 11 HP: 111/112 AC: 22 FF: 20, Touch: 15 F:+14, R:+10, W:+17 Perception:+9(Effects: Mage Armor, Heroism, Barkskin+4 -1 level)

As the party descends on the makeshift camp, Derek busy extolling the virtues of the city, footsteps can be heard approaching from the opposite direction. Those that look for the source, see a figure in a dark blue and black robe. Based on its shape, the figure is a man's, but his hood and the distance make it hard to see his face.

"So this is the group that's been causing trouble in Westcrown?", the figure calls out. "Oh, how I forget my manners. I know we've never met in person, but you know me as Bluehood. When we last interacted I believe I gave your group some coin.", he continues as he studies the party.

Hmm.. a fool with a ridiculous hat, probably a sidekick. That Shoanti looks like a capable sort, but probably a meathead. The Taldan, there's something about him I can't place. Gonna watch him closely. Now what do we have here? This woman looks to be their leader, maybe?


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

"Bluehood?, the Shoanti says, slightly alarmed at the stranger's sudden appearance.

"Who are you and why did you follow us so far from Westcrown?", Maddok demands.


Male Human (Azalanti) Bard 8/Fighter 3

Derek smiles at the newcomer.
"Being accused of causing trouble in a town like Westcrown is akin to calling Cayden Caelian a drunk. The accusation is true enough, but so obvious that only a master of stating the obvious would bother."

"Westcrown is a town thriving on corruption, lawlessness and thuggery, which means that half the population cause trouble for the other out of spite, and the other half cause trouble just to survive."

"And I dare say, any trouble WE may have caused if indeed I was willing to label it trouble in the first place, would only be considered trouble by the corrupt, evil or despicable."

Derek chuckles in a friendly manner, confident that if this newcomer meant them harm, he would be dead before he hit the ground in all manners of pointy, stabby or burny ways,


Male Chelish Arcane Caster 11 HP: 111/112 AC: 22 FF: 20, Touch: 15 F:+14, R:+10, W:+17 Perception:+9(Effects: Mage Armor, Heroism, Barkskin+4 -1 level)

"Calm down, it's nothing sinister. I just have a proposition for you all. It seems as though there are more shadowbeasts in Westcrown and Cheliax than I can kill by myself. The bounty that you collected was a test of sorts. To see if any were powerful enough to help me. Obviously you passed that test." The man pulls back his hood. His chelish features are marred by various scars. His short black hair is a mess, as though he'd been up all night.

"When I said you were causing trouble, I meant that with all the utmost respect. My name is Xerath and I wish to join you. I sincerely hope you accept, partially because it was a lot of work to follow you out here. Especially without your knowledge."


Male Shoanti Barbarian/Summoner 11 | 50/126 hp + 0 nonlethal, Init +2, AC 25 (29 /w barkskin) (+1 near Derek) [touch 16, FF 23], Fort +15, Ref +9, Will +12; Perception +5
Resources:
1st 3/6 | 2nd 0/5 | 3rd 1/4 | 4th 2/2 | Summon 0/6 | Rage 6/20

The big man calms a bit as the blue-cloaked figure gives his name.

"So you seek to end the shadowbeast threat as well?", he asks. "What do you know about us Xerath?"

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