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The next few days pass uneventfully, the group seeing little other tha the occasional wild animal. Whatever bandits this area is meant to harbor clearly are nonexistent or wise enough not to test the party as it moves with direction and purpose once more.
On the third night as you make camp you check your bearings and believe that you are not far from your destination perhaps able to make it as soon as by next night fall.
Any last day prept before heading into town?
If they weren't already crazy cultists I would say the staring might drive them mad.
The men seem to take the point and offer no complaints when the party packs up camp the following day leaving minimal supplies and the two Skinsaw cultists tied to a tree.
The day promises to be cooler and somewhat dark in the wood but hopefully relatively clear of further threats. Away we go?
GM Fiat - This isn't worth the time it has taken ;p
It is clear soon what is going on. The last few survivors of the Judge's Skinsaw Cult ultimately sought revenge on the party, hopeful that in doing so they would instill some positive fortune for their remaining members.
While the Judge's direct contact with Xanesha was kept hidden from the cult these members had come to understand that the might have a cell out in the wilds in the direction the group was heading. (Not realizing that Xanesha's sister was in fact running her own cell and it wasn't necessarily an ally of the Magnimar cell. ) A few coins later in the hands of unscrupulous mercs and the party is being ambushed in the woods...
Assuming a fast camp setup you can squeeze in enough time to see everyone isn't fatigued and gets enough rest.
The night passes "quietly" with the cultists becoming increasingly unnerved by Pinnocchio especially after long bouts of him not moving only to have him shift, angle or otherwise remind them of his very real livingness.
Once the group is situated the cultists seem eager for any other interaction than with the living toy.
You have your original "friend" and an older more grizzled man with a darker complexion who is the "leader" let me know who you start with or what not.
All evidence suggests that absent magical compulsion these guys are pretty hardy stock but sorta dopey. Based on what you know up until now they are part of the same group that Vidar lit on fire in the mill...I mean that Kithian killed...I mean that you all thwarted. They talk some but you know enough about these guys fanaticism that unless the magic users can loosen tongues you probably won't get much for exactly the reasons Cam is thinking of (Afterlife, secrets, etc.) but may be able to secure some basic info.
The next twenty minutes or so feature some small grumbling from the mercenary guards (a third on is revealed to have basically slept through the entire proceedings) as the mercenaries surrender mostly mundane weapons save for an enchanted hand axe (+1) and a potion of spider climb. The wizard's spellbook and pouches are turned over to Vidar as the mercenaries pack their camp and allow their items to be searched with Jutmerlum never far away to ensure compliance.
The cultists are stacked like cordwood to the side as the party takes over the camping spot. The half-orc archer bids the party well with a vague assurance to try to catch up in the future. With torches struck the mercenaries parade off into the forest, leaving the party with a pair of prisoners.
Camillo gets a withering stare from the captive, his friendliness now long replaced with a certain zealous distaste for the party.
The wizard mercenary for his part. Continues to keep his hands easily seen and leans out towards the darkness, Like I said, no hard feelings. You'll not see me or mine again...
The wizard considers the small "halfling" and shrugs, I don't know much about Ragathiel but I know a bad job when I see it. My men attacked because that was the job. Coin in hand, its what mercenaries do. Its only in the last day or so I come to realize this isn't a standard grudge, leaders killed by an opposing gang, but rather the work or a right crazy type of fool. The wizard pushes the man at his feet with his boot.
We have no weapons trained upon you. I'm sure I will perish before I finish a magical flourish. I assume you have no interest in slaughter here, oh noble knight and I know when I am had. This fellow at my feet knows all that I know and more. Take the crazy one and let my remaining men return to the city to eat, drink, whore and do work for coin another day.
Sorry folks, family drama never ends...
There is a shuffling sound and a bit more chaos as the voice of the "boss" calls from the tent, Put the bows down.
The two guards warily do so as they eye the paladin. The tent flap then whips open as a bound body is thrown from the tent with a grunt, proceeded by a man with long slick backed black hair and a sharp v shaped beard. His robes and number of pouches mark him as a wizard.
The man stands in the colder night air and pushes his hair back as he sighs, How about you take the fanatic here. I go home with the losses stated and profits posted and we call it a day?
The guards startle at the sudden appearance of the small armored ploracle but seems to consider the words with actual concern.
One tilts his head to a tent and says, Boss?
There is a brief pause and then you can hear the words, Tell them I will be out to discuss terms. There is a sudden sharp bark of protest, presumably from a third voice that seems quickly shushed by the telltale sounds of fist on flesh...
One of the guards offers a hesitatnt smirk, Er uh...just a moment.
Any actions before the boss comes out of the tent?
Still struggling to be light on hi toes Kithia circles around the other side. Regardless the guards seem to settle content that the noise around them is fauna and not some greater threat. Now the party is positioned much like a pincer with the bulk of the group center and the half-orcs off to either side...
Give me another stealth roll Kithian.
hmm?: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14
hmm?: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25
Framed in the light the more narrow of the two can be seen lifting a finger in the direction of the deer and hitting the arm or the other sentinel. Jutmerlum's movements are quiet as he moves one direction...
With prisoner in tow the group opts to push on into the forest, the light fading fast. It takes a few hours to traverse the woods but even with a new'y noncompliant cultist in tow the group notes a fire off in the distance. Approaching within 200 feet the party manages to shield itself from detection save Kithian who seems unconcerned both with where he is going or what he is looking for.
Sudden hushed exchanges at the campsite causes the group to pause as they note at least two people at the fire looking out into the darkness in their general direction. While two multi-person tents frame the forest behind the sentinels. For now the group is undetected but the guards are looking in earnest...
Relk's in charge yeah...I mean after the Mistress died. He said we needed to avenge her as supplication for her sister to accept us. I don't know if you can negotiate with him...he has strong feelings about all this. As for leaving some of you alive...well....it seems so mean now but....it was because we thought we could get information from you. Using empathy and what not. Get you to talk...
The cultist turned "friend" clearly winces at this last point, his magical attunement to fondness making him feel regret at thoughts of harming you...
The group settles uneasily, watches taken with the extra edge of knowing that apparently beyond bandits there may be other more targeted interests stalking the woods.
The night passes and though the man stirs it appears he may have moved from unconsciousness to sleep as he does not come to until the early morning as Vidar is overlooking his spellbook in preparation for the day.
Its the familiar, Enok, who notices first, the loud bird deciding to heckle the prisoner by pecking at the ground around his splayed legs.
Sincerest apologies, I got a new promotion that also came with moving offices and computers and what not so my access to tech has been severly limited as my crappy home laptop has decided to play "turn off without notice and always require to be plugged in". But I'm moved, set up, and adapting so I should be more present.
Kithian and Jut search the bodies as the group reconvenes. Kithian notes the presence of a jeweled dagger of some fine cratfsmanship and a pair of nicely made swords, bows and armor. (MW s. swords, MW Composite S bows at 14 strength and MW studded leather) while the third warrior seems to be dressd more in a mix of tanned hides and carrying a solid oak cudgel. He has the look of a druid.
Bewtween the mercenaries you find 6 days of rations, 25 gp in assorted coins, 500 gp in assorted jewels and a small leather bound portfolio which contains rough descriptions of Vidar, Camillo, Sayniek and Kithian along with some hand written notes relating to the groups apparent destination and potential travel routes.
Jutmerlum notes that they are all three mercenaries from a relatively small company based out of Magnimar called the "Redbolts" and each wears a stylized crimson and bronze bolt charm on a neckale. Jutmerlum knows them to be a low costing option for low moral types.
Man you guys are no fun...
Jut pauses in his approach, knocks, draws and loose. Yells erupt from the treetops as arrows pincushion a camouflaged attacker and he falls to the ground. Jut yells from the ground warning the camp of danger and Vidar responds by lighting the treetops on fire in a cacophony of sound and light. Two more yells end as flaming bodies meet the ground...
All seems quiet.
Out of initiative.
Sorry folks, the parade of random crap never ends
The smoke begins to dissipate in earnest and reveals little in the way of foes. Pinnochio and Cam continue to hustle back while the camp party whispers and searches. Jutmerlum approaches between the two groups...
At a wider angle to the camp party Jutmerlum notices the barely noticeable; 3 figures dressed in camouflage have taken to the tops of the trees using the smoke and chaos as distraction. Clearly they are lying in wait for everyone to return to camp. They seemed to have noticed the orcish archer but not that he has noticed them...
Jutmerlum finally gets close enough that in the distance (about 120 feet or so) the fighter can see the smoke billowing from the campsite as well as the slow movmements of his new comrades as they seem to be contending with something on the other side of the smoke.
Pinnchio and Cam work their way back towards the camp, the bard moving a bit slower than normal having to contend with the adult person over his shoulder.
Meanwhile the camp group shifts uneasily and tries to listen and look for targets but even as the smoke starts to gain a modicum of transparency, there is no obvious movement or noise to orient against...
Group is up.
I am going to assume Kithian clears the area of effect to the opposite side of the camp along with Vidar and Sayniek. Cam, your search and throwing the guy on your shoulder will take this upcoming round to accomplish...
The main camp scatters and then reform on the other edge of the smoke outside of the area of the entangle. In chaos Vidar casts his spell of haste on the paladin and barbarian. There is only quiet as the smokes stick hisses and sputter pouring out the last of its alchemical smoke. The haze hangs over the camp obscuring sight and little in the way of sounds offers any idea of what might come next.
Jut continues to run through the woods while Cam takes a quick survey of the downed cultist. Noting nothing of consequence and eager to move on, the bard hefts the unconscious cultist up and over his shoulders so he can move as swiftly as he can.
Pinnochio and campsite players are up. The smoke takes up two ten foot cubes side by side so the entangled area is a bit bigger.
So for my forest friends, you are in the area of effect of an Entangle spell. Do the casters want to try to move after they cast? Otherwise its new checks after the bad guys initiative to become grabbed. Kithian roll strength, if you hit DC 14 you are free and have a standard action to play with.
Jut will take three rounds or so at a run to get back within target acquisition distance, this is round one.
Pinnochio and Cam pummel at the laughing and writhing cultist. He continues to laugh through the beating but is still concious...Just a couple more points...
Kithian Ref: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
Off in the distance the second figure drops to the ground screaming and undulating in a way that seems practically uncontrollable. Cam knows the spell well and proceeds to sprint towards the downed archer, clearly attempting to work at binding them.
Meanwhile a small bit of chaos erupts at the campsite as various foliage bursts alive and attempts to entangle the resident wizard, barbarian and oradin. Sayniek and Vidar are nimble footed enough to escape immediate issue but Kithian is quickly bound up. To make matters worse a pair of smoke sticks are thrown at the group quickly generating smoke that obscures the campsite though offering a momentary glimpse of three adventuring types before the smoke cuts off line of sight.
[ooc]Group is up. Actions in order as you post...
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