Maddok will escort the stalker and the thief with Appario to the church of Abadar in hopes that they'll be able to get some useful information out of them and figure out what to do with them afterward.
Afterward, the big Shoanti returns to the safehouse to get some rest.
As per usual, unlike the rest of the group, he starts to head back to his lair in a different part of Westcrown.
"Slow down Xerath. We just attacked the lair of a powerful vampire with an untold number of shadows at his command. We will finish what we started tomorrow but for tonight it'd be best we stay close. Come to the safehouse, with us. I won't be returning home tonight either."
"Perhaps you are right. Though I'd prefer to be by myself, I do not have the strength to fight off a legion of shadows." Xerath reluctantly follows the group back to the safehouse.
Maddok nods and follows Appario back to the safehouse.
Even in his exhausted state, Maddok sleeps little that night. The blood hammers in his ears when thoughts of his soon-to-be vengeance surface. Shu-Ak’eh-Di's presence seems closer than ever but for the first time he can remember, Maddok welcomes it. He would need the savage spirit's strength to overcome the trials to come.
Maddok is not the only one to sleep little. In fact he is seen staying up, pacing around the safehouse, lost in thought. The same is true when he is on watch duty.
Maddok returns to the common area of the re-purposed shrine to Aroden to pour himself a drink when he catches sight of Xerath pacing.
"I see you've had trouble finding sleep as well."
"Yes, I have a lot on my mind. That brush with death, however brief has disturbed me. What I saw disturbed me. From what you witnessed, it enraged me and I lost control. And now I keep seeing it when I close my eyes. "
Yahirma enters the common room while bearing a bulging roll of canvas under one arm. She nods to the two men in acknowledgement both of their presence and of their right to a privacy as needed. Partially unrolling the canvas reveals first a rolled piece of parchment then a statue of dull silvery metal depicting a short-beaked bird about to take wing. She extracts a few files, a whetstone, a rag, and a small ointment jar then sets to work filing off the rough edges left over from casting the piece of art. After smoothing the edges, she favors a smaller file that she deftly passes over some of the more detailed patches. Over the course of a few minutes' work, the outlines of the flight feathers stand out in greater contrast to the metal itself, and the eyes adopt an inanimate intelligence. Finally, Yahirma opens the salve jar, wipes the rag through its contents, and begins buffing the bird to realize a brilliant shine. Now glowing with a silver radiance not entirely a result of the room's lights, Yahirma sets the exotic avian on the table where it perches upon a stand of smooth ebony.
This takes a little while, so feel free to continue your conversation
Maddok pours that drink takes a long draw.
"What did you see?", the Shoanti asks. "Did you see your ancestors?"
The smith nods a greeting as Yahirma joins them and attends her late-night work.
After taking a brief break from finishing off her latest project, Yahirma takes a few minutes to analyze a few of the acquisitions from earlier in the day.
Spellcraft for the Mhartis trident: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (9) + 14 = 23
Spellcraft for the model of Walcourt: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (17) + 14 = 31
Spellcraft for the magical dagger: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (16) + 14 = 30
Spellcraft for the magical loincloth: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (9) + 14 = 23
Spellcraft for the bracers: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (7) + 14 = 21
Spellcraft for the amulet: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (10) + 14 = 24
Spellcraft for Potion 1: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (20) + 14 = 34
Spellcraft for Potion 2: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (9) + 14 = 23
Spellcraft for Potion 3: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (15) + 14 = 29
I understand the potions were from the morhg's room.
Appario sleeps well during the night, arising early to work on his tumbling as he was saddened by his failures on the yester. Per his usual routine, the hour of tumbling and footwork is then followed by breakfast, and a trip to the markets to purchase supplies.
Appario will offer to pick up supplies for those who need it, seeking to sell some of the gear to create coin for his purchases.
Appario will dip into his beer money to purchase a Headband o' Hotness +2.
With that purchase and the previous stuffs, Appario is ready to return.
Appario will also try to ID the 3 potions, using his sense of smell and taste:
1d20 + 12 ⇒ (2) + 12 = 14 Perception on Potion #1
1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15 Perception on Potion #2
1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29 Perception on Potion #3
"More like my future. There was hellfire and fiends everywhere. I knew I was destined for the pit, everyone in my family is. I thought I was prepared for it, obviously I wasn't. You see, long ago my ancestors made a great deal with devils, much like Drovenge did. In exchange for the souls of all my lineage, they were granted supernatural insight. That's where my powers come from. From the wretched house of Carthagnion." Xerath almost seems relieved to get that off his chest.
" I apologize for lying about it earlier. I just did not think you would still trust me if you knew I was a "devil tainted noble". But after that experience, I feel I have to come clean."
Maddok considers the sorcerer's confession. At first he's angry about the deception, then confused about it, and finally he just shakes his head.
"Cheliax is full of those from families bound to hell and its dark masters. Our concern is two in particular, Eccardian and Chammady. I would like to see a Westcrown free of Thrune's influence but for now the Gardeners fight for a safer Westcrown."
"So all those in House Carthagnion have powers like yours. Do they use them as you do?"
Derek sleeps deeply that night, but with strange dreams.
At first he cannot fully comprehend what it is that he is seeing.
It is not until he wakes in the morning that realization slowly dawns on him.
Through his spiritual connection to his big brother, he has witnessed the very binding of Shu-Ak’eh-Di'in his dreams, as vivid and present as if he had been there while it happened.
Most disturbing of all, he felt sure that he had been noticed.
In his dream, a small strand of energy seemed to emanate from the beast and snake out, towards the area where he had been standing if he had been physically present at the time.
What...what does this all mean? Is this why Shu-Ak’eh-Di called me brother and why I felt such rage bubbling in me when we fought close by?
I think that ritual of Yahirmas may have had unforeseen consequences...
Item identification results are in the OOC-thread
If someone (Appario, probably) at some point decides to take a look at the ledgers found in the Walcourt offices, this is what they find:
One ledger provides a long list of low-ranking guild members and thugs, middlemen, smugglers and smuggling routes, counterfeiters and forgers, drug dens, gambling houses, prostitution rings, and extortion victims.
There's also a list of people accepting briberies, including the Mayor, several members of the Dottari (including the Commander, Iltus Mhartis), and a Hellknight Signifer.
The other ledger is much shorter, and seems like a single person's writings (apart from a few names near the top). The writing is in Infernal.
ECARRDIAN DROVENGE (in big, bold letters)
Chammady Drovenge (in a flowing, elegant script)
LIEBDAGA - MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
Sian Daemodus - Died in the Knot?
Jalki Alessi - TRAITOR! (the name itself has been crossed out)
Nobles - Keep them out of the game!
Crosael Simiin - Arvanxi & Rasdovain
Maglin - Mhartis & Ciucci; to handle as he (she? it?) pleases
Jerusen - Mhartis; on Maglin's request
Council Captains & Sister - handle the others as planned
The Mayor - bribes
Dottari - bribes & assassinations
Hellknights - sow dissension
Army of the Dead
"The Lord of Shadows"
Irimeian - I hope the Lord can control this one..
Palaveen - suits that bastard well!
Skarx Veskandi will handle jailings
That old hag must still die! Where did that turncoat Stiglor go?
Create chaos and anarchy! Thrune MUST send Vourne's Navy!
Vourne and Westcrown will be impressed when I "kill" Liebdaga!
Guard the Well, Sister! Don't give that Abadaran too much!
Ooo, crazy stuff!
Did Derek partake in the heart-feasting?
"Not quite like mine. As far as I know, I am the only one in my family who has arcane magic. Most are acolytes and inquisitors of the Dark Lord. I think I even have a few cousins who trained in the martial arts. But they tend to use them for personal gain. Power is just a toy for the younger generation of my family. The older ones, well I don't think I have to spell it out what they use it for."
"Well you've chosen a worthy cause. I'd known Westcrown had needed those with the strength and will to fight in her name but I'd never suspected something like this. Did you ever suspect something like this to be at the heart of the Shadowbeast threat?"
"What was your impression of Shu-Ak’eh-Di?"
"I knew it was some ambitious plot I could not understand. Just not how ambitious."
"I respect his power and will when it comes to objectives. It seems like he is willing to do what is necessary for victory. Though I cannot understand him, at least verbally."
Maddok nods, "I'm glad we-he was able to help. Coming to terms with his presence has been a challenge. His power still frightens me even if he's stopped fighting to be free."
"Each time I let him loose to do battle he grows a little stronger and the line between the two of us grows a little thinner."
For whenever Maddok and Xerath finish up (no rush):
Yahirma takes the lull in conversation as an opportunity to approach while carrying the silvery bird. ”I had planned to share a few of my most recent projects in the morning, Maddok,” she begins. Setting the statue next to him, she continues, ”Given the hour and the timeliness, though, I thought you might want this a little earlier than that. I get the impression that tomorrow morning we might face the so-called Lord of Shadows, and though we fight for the soul of Westcrown, our larger battle cannot eclipse the conflict over a well-intentioned warrior’s soul. If you wish to correspond with Vahnwynne tonight—about tomorrow’s tasks or anything else—this construct will be able to ferry a letter to her and return with any missive of hers before dawn.”
Gazing upon the statue and stroking its lifeless cheek feathers, she speaks a Polyglot command and pulls away her fingers as the statue begins to warm and move. ”This is the palladium parrot Chigitchi, and he is yours to do with as you like. Once you are ready, speak the word or phrase that you would use to awaken him, and he will be ready to fly.” As Chigitchi stretches its wings and tries flapping them experimentally, Yahirma adds, ”Although his appearance is that of silver, he is not so; I was concerned that such a metal might discomfort those to whom you might send a message.”
Chigitchi is effectively a parrot-shaped silver raven figurine of wondrous power with the added benefit that Vahnwynne shouldn't suffer an allergic reaction just for touching him. Maddok can define the command word as he sees fit.
More is coming tomorrow.
"I think I understand. I believe it is similar to when I shapeshift. Sometimes the form's instincts threaten to take over. I have to make sure I control my powers, and not let them control me." That last line sounded like someone else's words.
Maddok regards Xerath curiously, as if he wants to ask for more information but declines for now.
Maddok handles the avian figurine gently at first as Yahirma explains its purpose. The big Shoanti takes a moment to consider the object's use and what could be accomplished with such a trinket. He allows himself a small smile and embraces Yahirma.
"Again, you a better friend than a man could deserve. I will use Chigitchi now."
Maddok gathers some parchment and writes a message.
We have sieged Walcourt and cleared most of its denizens. We are resting now and recovering out strength but plan to enter its dungeons tomorrow to finish the task. It is believed that the Lord of Shadows calls these dungeons his home. I will destroy him for the pain he's caused you and cast his ashes into the wind. Listen and you may hear them. When I lay my eyes upon you again, it will be in a Westcrown freed from vampires.
How is your condition and how goes the Mother's ritual to treat it, permanently? She is a strange woman but I've prayed to the spirits that she would treat you well. Have there been any other signs of the Council's forces? Have they made any other attacks on the Maggot Tree?
This creature is a magical trinket constructed by Yahirma so we could communicate. His name is Chigitchi. You should be able to use him to return a message to me.
You are the Moon of my Life,
He attaches the message to Chigitchi and whispers the special command.
As Derek enters the safe house that morning he spots Maddok and Xerath in conversation, tipping his hat respectfully he holds back until they finish up before walking over, in an unusually subdued manner.
"Greetings big brother, Xerath, I...," Then he stops and studies Xerath intently for a moment.
"I don't know what you were talking about, I won't pry, but by the look of you, it did you a word of good.
You look a LOT more comfortable in your own skin."
Turning to Maddok, he pauses for a moment, frowning.
"I'd like to talk to you about a few things big brother, no offence intended, but it is private, can we find somewhere to talk?"
Maddok bids Xerath a good night and turns to the bard.
"Of course. Follow me", the big Shoanti leads the duo to a more isolated area of the safehouse.
"What troubles you little brother?"
Derek looks uncomfortable for a moment, looking at his feet, stroking his beard, everything seems like a clear atempt to delay speaking for a moment longer.
Eventually he looks up, meeting Maddoks eyes.
"If I told you something that may be hard to believe, would you give me the benefit of the doubt?"
Maddok shakes his head, "Having seen what we've been through together these past months, there's little I wouldn't believe."
He places a big hand on the bard's shoulder reassuringly, "What is it?"
"A dream..." Derek begins, "And yet NOT a dream...
It was TOO vivid, TOO clear, and too...much alive."
The normally very witty and glib bard seems to struggle, and his silence stretches for a whole minute before he heaves a sigh and starts talking again.
"When I awoke, I realized something, it WAS a dream...but a dream of a memory...only, it is an impossible memory!"
In frustration, he begins to stalk back and forth as he speaks.
"I was THERE, but I couldn't have been...but I remember it clearly."
Whirling around, Derek fixes Maddok with an intense burning stare.
"You told me ABOUT the story of Shu-Ak’eh-Di being bound...but not THE story how it happened yes?"
Maddok's mood darkens as he recalls the night.
"The shamans had tried everything to appease him, to force him from my flesh, but he would not leave. Desperate, they performed a ritual to bind his power and seal him away. It was magic of a sorts - old magic, full of blood and power but it in the end it failed. It was then that my Quah's elders decided that I was too great a danger to keep nearby and banished me."
"I remember the Beast raging within me, furious at what the shamans had tried. He was as strong as ever and yet somehow... diminished. I'm afraid I still don't understand."
Hearing Maddok speaks seems to calm Derek down considerably.
"And so you left, exiled because the Shaman said it was best for the tribe.
And as you left, he was the only one to see you off, his pale eyes watching you, milky, hooded like a snake.
Under his left eye he had a tribal tattoo stretching down and over his cheek."
Nodding quietly, he goes on.
"I saw it, but it wasn't me that saw...you see, the reason that they could not bind him to you was that he was no longer complete.
When the shaman tried to drive him out, he DID succeed, but only after a fashion, only a little.
A part of him WAS cast out...but only a very small part.
Insignificant in the large scheme of things, but enough to make him an incomplete being."
Sighing a little, Derek goes on.
"Yahirma will tell you that names hold power, especially in rituals and magic, but when you change the essence of a being, you change the name, or rather, the old name no longer fits.
They tried to cast out Shu-Ak’eh-Di...but he was no longer the being of that name."
Sitting down slowly, feeling fatigue building from all the stress that is slowly being released from his system, the bard stays silent for a while before beginning the tale again.
"But a being like Shu-Ak’eh-Di cannot be dispersed, even such a small part needed a host...and I do not know for sure, but I believe Shu-Ak’eh-Di knew that you and I were destined to meet big brother.
Yes...I am certain now, that I too carry a small part of his essence in me.
And I think he knows it too now, he calls me brother you know...
And that is how I came to have those memories, *I* wasn't there, but HE was..."
Last post for a bit. Need to get ready for work.
Maddok listens in silence. If he'd heard this story a year ago, he would have ignored it as foolishness but anything was possible these days. He takes a deep breath of resignation.
"So we are brothers in more than spirit it seems", the big Shoanti says in understanding.
"What else has he said to you? Have you had any trouble 'controlling' his urges?"
"Not as such, when he is around I feel like I could allow my anger to come forth, sort of like you sometimes do, only lesser.
I also feel like I am slowly unlocking powers...powers that must come from him.
Let me show you."
Derek reaches out, lightly touches Maddok and allows a small amount of the new power he feels to come forth.
Touch of rage, +3 Morale bonus on attack rolls, Damage Rolls and Will saves for one round.
"And I think more power is to come..."
Then, Derek gets a glint in his eye and smiles a slow wry smile.
"And I suspect the fact that I sometimes get these images born out of...strong emotions from you is a result of this bond."
Let's see what he makes of that.
"By the way, we two should talk to lady Yahirma when we get a chance; I have something I would like both of your help with."
Maddok gasps as the surge of raw power flows through him. His muscles surge with strength and his instincts bristle. He longs to have his hammer in hand... and then it passes.
"There is no doubt that is Shu-Ak’eh-Di's power."
The Shoanti was conflicted. On one hand he was happy to have another to share this burden with - especially one as kind and honorable as his little brother. On the other, he'd never have wished this fate on another.
Maddok considers Derek's conclusion and nods in agreement.
"Yes, we should talk to Yahirma. She will have some insight into what to make of this."
With Derek in tow, Maddok heads back to the shrine's common area. Spotting Yahirma, putting the finishing touches on another one of her projects the Shoanti and his little brother approach.
"Yahirma, I-we-", Maddok stumbles on his words, possibly for the first time.
"The rite you performed binding us as brothers - is there any way Shu-Ak’eh-Di could have become a part of that somehow?"
Maddok goes on to explain Derek's visions and new abilities.
Tapping a finger against her lips in thought, Yahirma listens intently to Maddok's retelling of the dream. She pulls out a sheet of paper partway through and scribbles down a few notes.
"If one were to parse the ritual's words—and pardon my imperfect understanding of the Shoanti language—you swear to walk the land as brothers. I don't think that Shoanti has a special form of nouns to describe two or three objects by the same word, just plural and singular. Shu-Ak'Eh-Di may have partaken in the oath or been sworn into it inadvertently," Yahirma speculates before pulling out her charcoal set.
"You may recall the patterns that you chose when I painted you for Delvehaven," she continues while sketching out the Uonaw Kogoli symbol, an adapted Glyph of the Open Road. "In fact, Maddok, you claimed it as your own for...'fearless exploration and love of the unknown.' That both you and Derek chose the same symbol certainly aided in your connection, but the latent symbolism may have seeped into deeper caverns in the realm of souls and spirits." Using the charcoal, Yahirma illustrates two humanoid shapes connected by faint, wispy trails of powdered carbon. She then draws the familiar outline of a horned creature around one of the men and adds the Uonaw Kogoli tattoos upon the one man's chest while tracing the Ingir upon the other's face. "That the spirits walk their own trails is understood, and for most human souls, these trails are unseen but real constructs that they wander aimlessly, much as a seed may be blown by the wind. When particular channels are forged between two auras, such as I did for you, the souls may walk familiar routes and know both destinations with instinctive familiarity. It is the same way in which you may be able to sense each other's emotions when nearby."
With this she traces a few more light lines from the assumed figure of Maddok to the horned outline. "Maddok has long had this connection to Shu-Ak'Eh-Di. They know each other well and can establish a very close bond with little preparation." She then traces a few lines from the horned outline to the other figure—Derek. "If truly the three of you are bound together when the intention was for two, then perhaps there is a less trodden pathway between Derek and the Shoanti totem. If the trail is faint, then dreams may be the most reasonable means of connecting the two spirits. 'Fearless exploration and a love of the unknown' may in fact have opened everyone to walking these spirit paths. In the case of Derek's Ingir pattern, he may have invited Shu-Ak'eh-Di to...visit.
"The ritual did offer a degree of interpretation to the resident spirits of Westcrown, and by caprice or foresight they may have crafted the link between you with Shu-Ak'Eh-Di in mind," she says while slipping between the stream-of-consciousness of academic curiosity and the structured response of a counselor. "The spirit did not react negatively towards Derek, which suggests that any gifts you have now were freely given.
"That is good," she assures the two, "as performing spiritual reparations is tricky business.
"What most intrigues me is your dream about past events, Derek. Seeing another's memories is not a common talent, and wearing another's memories is even more rare. That you saw as you did suggests either a prophetic vision or a spiritual force such as a fey or outsider sharing a moment of great importance." Furrowing her brow and smiling slightly, Yahirma adds, "Not unlike a haunted room that reveals its most deeply held emotions and most deeply carved memories."
Perhaps even a hint that Shu-Ak'Eh-Di seeks a partner in exacting revenge against the Shoanti that exiled him...one who is unknown but not unwelcome...
Placing the charcoal upon her sketches before she stains her hand any more, Yahirma looks to Derek and asks, "What is most important is what you wish done about these dreams and manifestations. If it something you are open to exploring, then we can let it run its course with an eye for any dangerous signs. If you wish it stopped, I can do what I can to rework the spiritual connections. Failing that, I can think of at least one who might have some power over what dreams are allowed to bother you at night."
She pulls out the same wand used in the bonding ritual and adds, "My powers are at your disposal."
I still have a fair number of charges on the wand of divination, so we can use that to glean more information.
Derek once bound as a brother by an oath before the spirits was now bound by their mutual connection to his ancient Shoanti war spirit. Maddok traced the figure representing himself in the sketch finding his thoughts drawn to the figure's horns. Memories of screams and blood came to the surface of his mind.
"You believe the powers that come with this connection are truly freely given? You do not believe he will make an effort to use little brother's body as a vessel as he's done with me?" the Shoanti asks with the pang of guilt.
Maddok hesitated. Shu-Ak'Eh-Di was difficult, even impossible, to understand at times but he was never deceptive. No, it was not in the spirit's nature anymore than it was in Maddok's.
"If that is the case, it would be worthwhile to watch these growing powers closely but otherwise let this unintended connection run its course. We could use more of the Beast's strength and it would bring me some comfort knowing there is someone that Shu-Ak'Eh-Di communicates with when he is in control. I know nothing frightens you little brother, but can you bear this?"
I think we're good to return to Walcourt whenever you are Are. We can finish this up in flextime.
I'm just enjoying this awesome roleplaying!
As dawn breaks over Westcrown, the palladium parrot returns. Chigitchi's shining wings reflect the emerging sunlight as the bird sails the last few feet before landing in front of Maddok. Stray leaves and strands of spider webbing cling to the bird in places. A piece of greenish, almost plant-like, parchment is attached to one leg.
It's so good to read your words! The Mother tells me I've been here ten days, and I've seen nothing but the inside of a tree for all that time. She dares not let me go outside until the ritual is complete. If her realm has been attacked again, she has told me nothing of it.
The first days were the worst, when the Mother spent so much time away on her quest to retrieve the necessary herbs and other ingredients for the ritual. I was left with no company but my own thoughts for what seemed like unending stretches of time. And those thoughts grew dark. I wondered if she would ever return, and if the inside of this tree was to be my tomb. I thought I would never see your face again.
I remember nothing of the first days after she began the ritual. The first thing I remember is a feeling of waking from a deep sleep. I could feel my soul connecting to my body.. Did she tear my soul free, and then reattach it? I don't know.
This ritual.. It has left the Mother weakened. I dare not ask her, but I think she siphons her own life force into me to drive out the curse of undeath.
I'm weak still, but I grow stronger every day. She says there are only a few days left now before I can return to the world. I'm glad to hear of your progress. I once hoped to be with you to witness his demise, but I now believe I will be there to celebrate your victory. Be careful.. Don't underestimate his power as I did.
My eyes fill with tears as I write this - I didn't even know if they could, anymore. I can't wait to see you again, Maddok.. You are my Reason to Live!
Arael wakes early, perhaps woken by the many conversations taking place during the night, but worry is plainly written on his haggard face. After a quick nod to each of you, he begins looking around the shrine, both inside and out, as if searching for signs of something. When he finally begins cooking an early breakfast, he seems even more worried.
As he places the food on the table, he finally breaks his silence. "Have you see any of the other Gardeners this morning?" Without really waiting for an answer, he goes on. "They left to go on their patrol as usual, only an hour before you returned last evening. Always before some of them have come back here, well before midnight, to let me know everything went well, but.. noone came."
He looks down, fidgeting with his spoon and barely touching his soup. "You all looked like you needed the rest.. I didn't want to add to your burdens with groundless worrying. But now.." His eyes shine with despair when he looks up again. "I can never forgive myself if my meddling and encouragement has led to.. to.." The priest is unable to finish the sentence.
Later, just as the group readies to leave, there's a subdued knock on the shrine's front doors. Arael quickly makes his way there to open it, and a disheveled Rizzardo enters with a tear-stricken Amaya in tow. Rizzardo flinches back from his master's eyes, turning away, while Amaya nearly knocks Derek over as she rushes to embrace him.
After several moments, Rizzardo takes a knee in front of Maddok, looking down at his feet while speaking in a monotone voice. "I have brought shame upon you, master." He struggles with his emotions, finally losing the battle as he looks up with anguished eyes and screams in anger and rage. "I COULDN'T STAND AGAINST THAT CREATURE! I. COULDN'T. STAND. AGAINST. IT."
Amaya's voice, muffled by her face being buried in Derek's shirt, adds some reason to his outburst. "We have had some success against the shadowbeasts, and we thought they might soon begin working together against us, but.. Not like this!" She pulls back from the embrace, wiping her face. "One of those hounds fled from us, and we ran after it. But it was a trick. The hound led us to a creature surrounded by shadow, crafted by shadow. It was much too strong. Ermolos and Sclavi, they fell before they could even come close enough to strike. Rizzardo closed on it, but it laughed in the face of his attacks. It swatted him away while its wounds healed themselves."
The young actress looks at Yahirma with glistening eyes. "Tarvi, she.. She seemed to know what it was. Perhaps that was why.." She pauses, attempting to compose herself. "The creature left the rest of us for dead, or for the hound to frighten away, but it took her. It took her in its grasp and flew away." Tears begin flowing again. "Fiosa and I, we.. we fled the hound, while Tarvi was carried away! When we mustered the courage to return and see to our friends, the hound lay slain at Rizzardo's feet. We spent the rest of the night carrying the wounded home and treating their wounds.." Her voice trails away.
A few hours later, Yahirma receives a short message in her mind.
"This is difficult without my trusted staff. You have chosen an interesting field of study, Yahirma of the Mauxi Mwangi. I am now in Rahadoum."
Yahirma recognizes the sender as Sandor the Strange, and instinctively knows that she can send a similar return message (25 words or less).
"Let me see some of your wounds from this unidentified shadowbeast." Xerath will try to determine what kinds of injuries it can inflict if possible.
Heal Take 10
10 + 21 = 31
Maddok clutches the note to his heart. After a moment of thought, reflecting on the words held within, he resolves to not send another message until the deed is done and the Lord of Shadows is no more. Whispering the phrase to return Chigitchi to being just a simple trinket again, Maddok stows the metallic avian safely for future use.
As the group breaks their fast and Arael breaks his troubling news, Maddok shakes his head in willful disbelief. The less veteran Gardeners had trained hard and had completed several successful hunts by now. No variety of the common shadowbeasts hunting Westcrowns streets would pose too great a threat for their combined talents and strengths.
The big Shoanti's heart sinks in his chest when the front door to the safehouse opens and a wounded Rizzardo and Amaya stumble in.
Maddok grips his apprentice by the shoulders and stands him up.
"Take heart, and know you did well. To live and get this news to us and to have saved so many - how many others could have accomplished such a task? And no apprentice of mine would consider himself shamed after doing so."
"Did Tarvi say what or who the creature was before it captured her? Did you see which direction it flew?"
For a moment Maddok worries about Vahnwynne but certainly she would be safe in the distance Hagwood with the powerful Mother of Flies watching over her.
Before the gardeners arrive:
"It's all very surreal isn't it?" Derek says with a laugh, "But I do not think we need to worry, as far as I can tell, this is an intrusion true, but not an attempt to control, change or destroy.
I believe I'll see it as gifts freely given, and dare I say it, much needed."
Smiling slightly, Derek raises his arm and flexes his biceps, noting the very obvious difference between his own tight, sinewy acrobatics physique and Maddoks enormous slabs of corded muscles.
"With the weapon you are making for me big brother, as well as my new training, Yahirmas work and Shu-Ak’eh-Di gits, I feel like I may do some more good in the future.
Cayden Caelian knows I've allowed my contribution to slip," here he holds up a hand to stop any protests, "No, don't correct me, I know what I've been doing. I've allowed my grief to become a too great burden to control.
But I believe I'm better now, I'm coming to terms with things and..." for a moment a very cold look passes over his face, like a chill winters gale, "I now got someone that will pay for what was done...Maglin..."
"Anyway, there is something else I would like both your help with."
Reaching into his clothes, Derek produces the Morrowfall and places it on the table.
"We are seeking to reunite the Ahol, and in the process neutralize the power of the darker half.
If my memory serves well, we then intend to destroy it, to make sure it will no longer be used for evil."
Slowly stroking a finger along the contours of the Morrowfall, he sighs sadly.
"But here is my thought, we should gather up the pieces and make something out of it. Such power does not just vanish; some of it may remain in what is left."
Derek points at Maddok "I want your help in forging something new from them big brother, two halves made into one," here he instead points at Yahirma, " and your help m'lady Yahirma to coax out the remaining powers from it."
After the gardeners arrive:
Dereks first concern is to comfort Amaya, stroking her hair as he holds her tightly, kissing her forehead and mumbling reassuringly at her, even if she may not be fully listening at the moment.
Is this my fault too? I helped them become what they are; I trained Amaya, found teachers from any of the others. Heck, *I'M* The one who told Arael that they SHOULD be trained...
Grief begins to bubble up inside his soul, but is suddenly pushed aside, replaced by resolve and understanding.
When he begins to speak, there is no doubt left in his heart and he speaks with absolute conviction.
"You did well, all of you. Did you not go out to make this city a better place? Did you not take upon yourself this duty to protect those that cannot?
Aye it was a trap, but if you had not walked into it, do you think an ordinary citizen would have lasted anytime at all?
Just by being there you saved lives, and you didn't die did you? None died," he holds up a hand to stop any protests, "Tarvi was taken, not killed, she lives yet, and that means she can be rescued.
The enemy made a mistake, they challenged us directly, and they took one of our own, seeking to mock us.
But now, now we know, now we will act, and we will not act with despair, nor we will we surrender.
We will dust ourselves off, and then we will move forward with determination, courage and conviction.
I WILL save Tarvi, I WILL destroy the one responsible, and I WILL succeed, no other outcome is acceptable.
And I KNOW I will not go alone."
That morning, before the Gardeners' return
After getting a bit of sleep, Yahirma rolls up her hammock and heads back to the common area. There she unrolls the canvas completely and begins polishing and preparing a few gifts. Arael's announcement dampens her mood, though, and she sets aside the trinkets to try her best to reassure him that things will turn out well. "We taught them not just how to fight but also how to show discretion. If they had to go to ground, then they are likely hiding out until it is safe."
It seems these gifts will have to wait.
After the Gardeners' return
Yahirma nods to herself, saddened but resolute in hearing the news from the front lines. She knows well enough the impact of oratory to not interrupt Derek's speech, but afterwards she adds, "There were never any intentions of going alone, and you can count on having me along. A young assistant is not so easily captured and kept as that. The Lord of Shadows, I believe, has seen his last night."
The words of Derek and Maddok have the intended effect, as both Rizzardo and Amaya receive reassurance that everything may turn out fine in the end. Worry for their friend still shows in their eyes, accompanied by dark thoughts. Will the same thing happen to Tarvi as to Maddok's companion?
A calmer Rizzardo is able to wring some more information out of his brain. "She said something strange through the whisper-link. A shadow lord, but not the Lord of Shadows. I don't know what she meant." He thinks for a moment. "It flew north-east, I think. Towards the islands of the nobles."
Xerath determines that the wounds seem to come from different weapons. Some look like they were inflicted by claws, others by some sort of blunt weapon. And some by the lashes of a whip.
The recounted information points towards the creature having been an Outsider known as a Nihiloi. Hailing from the Plane of Shadow, nihilois are often referred to as "shadow lords".
A nihiloi can see in darkness of all kinds, and its wounds heal quickly as long as it remains within a dimly lit (or darker) area. It flies, and maneuvers well in the air.
It can attack with claws and with the slams of its shadowy tendrils, which can also grab hold of foes.
A nihiloi can unleash more tendrils in an umbral haze surrounding it, whipping at any who come close.
As above, plus: A nihiloi can stretch its tendrils, using them to slam foes at distances up to 20 ft away.
Whenever a nihiloi is aware of an imminent attack, it warps and shifts its shadowy body to avoid it, granting it the effect of concealment.
A nihiloi can detect thoughts in others, and communicate telepathically with those nearby. It can also create deeper darkness.
As above, plus: A nihiloi is immune to cold.
While in an area that's dimly lit (or darker), a nihiloi can mold and craft the shadows to produce a wide variety of effects, as by a shadow evocation.
"Looks like claws marks, some blunt force trama, and welts from a whip. What creature does this?"
Knowledge the planes: 1d20 + 17 ⇒ (8) + 17 = 25
"A Nihiloi. They are creatures from the plane of shadows, capable of moulding their bodies as they are essentially shadows made living.
In areas of dim light they heal fast, can fly and form tendrils to slam, whip and grapple.
They are often referred to as "shadow lords" hence Shadow lord but not lord of shadows."
Derek looks at the others.
"What? I may not look it, but I'm quite a scholar you know."