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Kane nods. I have a plan to that effect, though I suspect you will not like it. We need to set a trap for the cultists. We will require the aid of a settler family, to serve as bait. The other settlers in the area must be temporarily driven off. The cultists will have no choice but to set upon the remaining inhabited farm, if they are looking for subjects to sacrifice. And then ... we shall have them.
Looking at Matthias, Kane says steadily: The wood elves will defend their lands, but cannot be counted upon to help once we leave the woods. All we can count upon is your numbers, Shiang, and myself.
Sure, Matthias, use the earlier roll. Let's defy those dice Gods!
Anyone with a sense motive roll of 20+:
Kane appears to be telling the truth - or is a very accomplished liar.
Diplomacy roll success! Kane studies Nijena for a moment, before nodding his head. We should combine our efforts, yes. Doing so will allow us to cover more ground, giving us a better chance at these cultists. Kane shakes his head. I should have suspected, from the very beginning, that Sander would be tied into demonic powers. Drow are corrupt to the core; Sander claimed to be an exile, and an apostate from Lolth. He was truthful on both points. He was indeed exiled from his city, but for the forbidden worship of a demon lord - Orcus. Ammus, too, is corrupted by demons. He passed himself off as a worshipper of Talos, when in fact he is another slave of Orcus.
I know they had at least three more allies, humans, I believe - one is a dark priest, and the other, an anti-Paladin. All members of the cult are covered in tattoos. Before our parting ways they boasted of having agents deployed elsewhere in the region, and of infiltrating bandit groups, for the purpose of clandestinely gathering subjects for sacrifice.
Upon their breaking with Shiang and myself, I slew one of their number - a warrior woman named Marta - but the others escaped my grasp. They now prey upon the very settlers I once challenged. The irony of my situation has not escaped me.
At our last meeting, they were successful in summoning something with their ritual - a demon of some sort - which fled before Shiang, my sylvan brothers, and myself descended upon them. It flew off towards Port Kir - I do not know its purpose.
Kane smiles grimly at Hezar. The code of the hunter needs no excuses, archer. I gave everyone of them a choice - walk away, defiling the woodlands no more, or defeat me in combat, thus proving their worthiness. That is the way of nature - constantly testing one's worthiness to survive. They failed, and I continue.
Kane takes a sip of tea. As for the druids you venerate - they were they very ones that showed me the harm the settlers were doing, that pointed me in their direction. They only hired you to kill me once I broke with their orders and opted to hunt the demon worshippers instead. Yes, your benign, tree-loving friends would still have me attacking farms and slaying settlers. My speaking publicly about their duplicitous natures is what prompted them to try and silence me. Kane smiles as the effect of his words sinks in.
Your druid friends have been lying to you.
My code of honour is the code of nature, lad. The strong thrive, so long as they are tested. The weak are cast aside, killed. Does the Otter bemoan nature's will as the Wolf's jaws close over his throat? Some are born predators, and others, prey. I gave these farmers, and their mercenary guards, the chance to prove they were stronger. I gave them the chance to prove that they could master the wild forest. They failed. But they had a chance - more than these cultists gave them. I do not ask you to understand. For most of you have the smell of civilization upon you - civilization that stymies the strong, shields the weak. Our codes will bring us into conflict.
Right to business, I see. Very well. Yes, Matthias Valbrand, I have killed farmers - settlers, if you'd rather. They were warned not to fell the ancient trees for their own purposes, but they did. They were warned to leave, but failed to listen. I made sure they were armed, then I felled them, each and every one. The children, of course, are not involved in their parents' misdeeds so they were spared. Kane takes a sip of hot tea here, seeming to relish the taste.
You may wonder at my actions. I have long worked with the church of Silvanus to protect the wild nature here in the forest. My actions against the farmers were at their behest of the green church. Yes, the very church that now disavows me, that sent you to kill me, ordered the deaths of those people.
Kane seems pensive for a moment. I was one of several parties brought in for this task. Myself and Shiang - whom I love and trust above all others - agreed to work with two other mercenaries hired by the druids. That was a grave error, for those mercenaries had plans of their own for the settlers. Rather than kill them or chase them away, they captured them, sacrificed them to the foul demon lord to whom they belong. While I am no friend of the settlers, I abhor the corruption of demons - coming upon the handiwork of my erstwhile allies shook me to the core of my being. I have declared truce upon the settlers whilst I attempt to hunt down the demon worshippers.
Everyone seems tense at your party's arrival - eyes are narrowed, hands are on weapons - but no overt signs of impending violence. You also note that two of the nearby trees look odd - vaugely human, almost. You could swear they are watching you!
A deep, resonant voice responds from within the tent. Enter, then, and let us parley, warriors.
The tent is dark, lit by a central fire, the smoke dispersed through a lattice in the roof. A large man sits, cross legged, on a mat on the floor. Heavily muscled and broad, he has long black hair drawn back into a braid, and a thick, well-tended black beard. His eyes, dark and grey, watch you intently while betraying nothing of his own intentions. Weapons sit close at hand, but Kane makes no move towards them. He gestures instead to a tray, upon which is a tea service, a large metal pot taking up the central place, steam coming from its spout.
Help yourselves, and we shall talk.
We shall take you to Kane, then. He is a friend of the tribe, and does not have the stench of demons upon him. Follow me.
You are led, in silence, north about a mile, deeper into the woods. The air grows cooler, wetter; the trees here are tall, thick, and old, and the light of day grows more remote as the canopy of leaves closes in around you.
You come, after a time, to a small clearing, where several tents have been pitched. Wood elves, several centaurs and other fey creatures watch as you enter the clearing. The wood elven woman speaks:
These are guests, brothers and sisters. Remain wary, however, and keep your weapons close at hand!
Your wood elf guide points to a large yurt near the centre of the camp. That is Kane's tent, and his man's as well. Announce yourselves at the aperture, and Kane will decide if he will see you or not.
The centaur speaks, his voice deep and resonant. Kane is no demon worshipper! He has stood against the human settlers, with their fire and their axes, and they malign his name! I shall not allow you to do the same!
Peace, Batarus, and let us spill no blood here today, lest it be in great need. The wood elf woman says this, her hand raised. If you wish to speak with Kane, you may accompany us to our base camp north of here. Be aware, though - he stands with our tribe, and with the inhabitants of the deep wood. Come with words, but do not think we shall tolerate your violence within our territory!
You see noting untoward, save curiosity, in the wood elf woman. You do note at least six archers in close proximity, however, hidden in the trees and foliage around.
The wood elf woman and the horse/man hybrid (nature DC 10 to identify) exchange glances for a moment. Demon worshippers, you say? she says quietly, slowly walking around Janiries, her small hand slowly trailing around the elven rogue's waist. We have had humans on our sacred ground just days ago. We chased them off, as we always do. Perhaps your demon worshippers are to the south, in the humans land, rather than ours?
The elven woman nods to Hezar.
It is good to hear our tongue, even from a human. Kane speaks thusly to us - I did not know many more of your race did. It is a pleasure to hear.
There is silence for a moment after Janiries speaks; a silence broken by the call of some unknown bird. The figures at the periphery of your vision seem to fade away, though your attention is drawn to the two figures who approach.
One is a short, slender, beautiful wood elf woman, her skin copper in colour and her hair black as night. Clad in darkly tanned leather armour, any exposed skin shows black and green paint. She carries a longbow, but without any arrow at the ready, and is gird with a shortsword.
The other is a tall, heavily muscled male, though his bottom half is that of a large, strong horse. Black haired and brown skinned, his bearded face is noble, yet his eyes watch you all closely. He carries a large, thickly limbed longbow and has an arrow nocked.
The wood elf woman steps forward, less than two feet from Janiries, appraising her before speaking. Your words play gladly upon my ears, noble sister. But this is the deep forest, the hunting grounds and sacred land of the CopperBough tribe. We have had far too many interlopers in our lands, of late. Are you leader of this group of humans and .... looking at Kevkas ..other creatures?
In response to Hezar, a deep, masculine voice calls out, in Sylvan:
We saw your fire, human! You are not welcome here. Turn back!
Your diplomatic overtures fail to upgrade your foes' opinion of you!
A more melodious, feminine voice answers Davin in elvish, though the words are no less menacing:
How do we know you are not of the same group that marauded through our forest just two nights ago, human? You all look alike to us - our archers are ready for you this time!
No change in disposition as a result of your roll.
Please finalize who gets what equipment and update you sheets as needed - that's information I need on an ongoing basis.
Very well, then; the bodies of the dead are placed upon a pyre. The brooding atmosphere of the woods warns against the felling of living wood, so much time is spent gathering the dead and fallen to provide sufficient fuel. The woods around you go silent - utterly so - as the fire is started and a pillar of smoke rises into the air.
Your trip to the elven mound, though only just over half a mile, seems to take forever. The trees almost seem to close up in front of you; sign you had passed minutes before appears before you again.
Nature DC 20:
The woods here are alive, and the power of the fey seems strong. Your fire has aroused the anger lingering in these woods.
Perception DC 20:
You can almost catch the glimpse of forms - humanoid and otherwise - in the distance. Following your group, keeping pace, but never closing quite close enough to be sure....
@ Hezar: There are definitely tracks all over the site - some human, some not - but aside from fresh tracks that (upon examination) turn out to be from Davin's group, no new tracks appear on the ground in this area.
The medallion is a mind sentinel medallion.
The scroll contains the 2nd level wizard spell knock (CL 3rd)
The scimitar is a +1 flaming scimitar.
Everyone is also due an xp reward of 967, including Davin, even though he wasn't around for the disarming of the trap. I BELIEVE that should take everyone to 6968 xp.... unless my calculations are wrong.
The ring is a ring of spell knowledge I
The flail is a +1 Courageous flail
I had forgotten about the scimitar, medallion and scroll! Anyone want to take a crack at them?
@ Janiries - the Drow is not particularily well-equipped, wearing only rags. Scrawny and emaciated, it had likely been a slave of the Mind Flayer for some time.
Devin's companions were fairly well-equipped - mostly with masterwork weapons and armour.
If the bodies are being relieved of their valuables there is enough equipment for three masterwork weapons and three masterwork sets of armour - you may choose what you find within those parameters.
Two pouches of coins are also found, totaling 51 gp, 12 sp.
@ Janiries - the DC for disabling the traps so you can examine the crushed bodies is 20. You should be of sufficient skill to take 10 on the check and still succeed.
The equipment on the crushed bodies is generally also mangled and unusuable; however, a few items of note are found. A coinpurse with 65 gp and two small amethysts are found; as is a most interesting silver and bronze ring.
Perception DC 22:
A little farther back you find a flail of exceptional quality, still clutched in the hand of a skeletal dwarf in ruined plate mail.
XP awards are on the way as well - just need to calculate them when I get home.
The unnatural hooded being stands still for a moment, its eyes narrowed and unblinking, saying nothing. Then the voice in your heads returns. Very well. We will withdraw for the moment asss a ssshow of good faith. When we return, do not be here, or you ssshall find that faith tesssted.
The mind flayer and the two remaining Duergar withdraw to the northwest. As it is leaving, the voice in your minds speaks one final time. I have ssseen your thoughtsss, and while you are no alliesss of oursss I would warn you nonethelesss. We have no love for thossse beyond the pale, in particular the chaosss and filth of demonsss. Do not be ssso quick to trussst one who ssso obviousssly hidesss their true intentionsss. Choossse your alliesss more carefully!
With those cryptic last words, the unnatural creature and its slaves disappear into the shadows.
Okay, so order of action here before we return to the initiative order...
Kevkas casts protection from Evil on Nijena; her new will save frees her from the suggestion planted by the Mind Flayer.
Hezar raises his bow to attack; that triggers the Mind Flayers' held action.
Mind Blast, 60' cone, will DC 20 to resist - the cone will catch Janiries, Kevkas, Davin and Hezar in its area of effect.
Kevkas: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Kevkas, Janiries, Hezar and Davin all have the stunned condition for 3d4 ⇒ (1, 3, 3) = 7 rounds.
I do not wisssh to fight! Leave thisss placcce!
Group #4 is up next - Matthias is the only active character in that group at present.
Words of wisdom! That's my default campaign setting, time and again.
The figure stands still a moment longer, silently, regarding Hezar. The question asked by the young ranger hangs heavily in the air for a moment. Then slowly, it draws it's hood back. Very well, let usss all reveal our true naturesss.
The face that is revealed is so alien, so WRONG, that reality itself seems to bend around the creature as it's hood is thrown back. Jet black, squinting eyes are set forward on a sickly purple, overly large head; instead of a mouth and nose, long suckered tentacles squirm down to the creatures' chest. It still takes no action, merely regarding you with curiosity.
Dungeoneering Knowledge check DC 20 to identify:
A Mind Flayer! An ancient, evil race that lives in the Underdark, these coldly logical beings have warred for millennia against the Drow and the other races beneath the surface of Faerun. They have a wide range of strange powers that make them deadly foes. They can control minds and enslave their enemies, turning them against their foes.
At this point it's just an option I wanted to float, checking for reactions. I don't want there to be any hard feelings if someone chooses not to go with a new class, or if there aren't any clear choices for them.
Nijena, for example: there aren't any new classes in the ACG that combine Monk and Sorcerer, so there's really nothing that fits your existing concept.
I don't want my players to ever feel they've been treated unfairly. At the same time, the upcoming book does present new classes that might fit your character concept more closely, or which you might just enjoy playing more. So, dunno, just wanted to offer the possibility.
OMG I had a lovely post up here in gameplay yesterday and now it's gone. What the heck??? Arrgh. Blah :-(
The robed figure remains still, though the sibilant voice echoes in your minds. Thessse onesss entered our domain without our leave. We were merely defending ourssselvesss. We grant you leave to depart unmolesssted... we know you ssseek another, would you not wisssh to faccce him at full ssstrength?
Just a quick question for everyone - with the impending release of the ACG in August, would any of you be interested in recreating your character as one of the new classes? As appropriate, of course - I couldn't see Janiries as a Skald, but perhaps a slayer or a swashbuckler? Would Kevkas or Matthias better suit your concept as a warpriest?
Anyway, just testing the waters here. If any of you was dying to play one of the new classes I'm sure we could work something out.
Janiries rapier pierces the Drows' throat, dropping him instantly. As the hooded figure requested parley the drow and the duergar seemed to freeze in place; Janiries' blow was thus a coup de gras on the Drow.
I never liked him anyway. The hooded figure refolds its arms under its robes. Mussst we continue? Isss the urge for violenccce now sssated? Once again you hear the figures' voice slithering through your minds.
Actions for Tranche #3.....
The drow seems stunned by the ferocity of Janiries' attack - it takes a five foot step backwards and casts a spell (DC 16 spellcraft to identify):
Damage: 2d4 + 2 ⇒ (4, 4) + 2 = 10
The two magical bolts cut into the lovely elven Rogue but she remains standing, undaunted!
The hooded figure raises a hand from beneath it's robe - mauve in colour, long and slender, the hand is raised, palm outwards. Let usss ssstop fighting, You hear it's voice in your mind, but cannot see it speaking or otherwise moving. and let usss parley. Let usss reassson together. I do not wissssh to sssee my property further damaged nor do I have any quarrel with you.
Hooded figure holds it's action until offensive action is taken.
Thanks for posting the map link, Hezar! It's also on the campaign info tab for everyone's convenience!
Tranche order reminder:
Actions for Tranche 2...
Hezar puts both arrows into the newly revealed Gray Dwarf - one strikes it in the flank, and the other in the shoulder, though neither are enough to drop the sickly looking creature!
Kevkas' gigantic sword misses its target by inches, as the little dwarf shows admirable reflexes!
Tranche #3 is up next - the Drow and the hooded figure!
Quite right, my apologies Davin, Matthias never got the chance to enlarge you and even if he had, it takes a round to come into effect.
I'll reverse the damage due to that fact, with one caveat - I also forgot to add the Duergar's +2 to his attack from striking while invisible. The resulting 23 would indeed have been a hit. But since I forgot, not going to apply it in this case.
Tranche #1 - Duergar C....
Silently, and without fanfare, another Gray Dwarf appears behind the newcomer Davin, stabbing at the warriors' back with a short sword:
Attack: 1d20 + 5 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 5 + 2 = 21 - +2 flanking bonus
Aiming for a Kidney, the Duergar stabs with all it's might - a quick, intuitive turn at the hip saves Davin from certain death, and the vicious strike bites only into flesh, missing anything vital!
Davin takes 18 hp damage.
Tranche #2 - Nijena, Hezar, Kevkas - up next!
Actions for Tranche #5....
Will save vs Mind Flayer control1d20 + 5 ⇒ (2) + 5 = 7
Duergar B howls in fury, and goes into a frothing rage! (free action to enter Barbarian rage). He then lashes out at Davin with his oversized Dwarven waraxe!
Attack: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7
The Gray Dwarfs attack goes wide, however, missing Davin's head by over a foot.
Tranche #1 - Duergar A and C - up next!
Actions for Tranche #4....
Matthias grabs Nijena in a bearhug to prevent her from leaving. (success vs CMD of 18). Nijena seems herself and is aware of the trapped stones, but seems determined to enjoy the lush natural forest outside.
Filled with hatred at the sight of her ancestral foe, Janiries lunges forward and attempts to run the Drow through, but anger overtakes skill and her blow goes just a little wide.
Davin's blow, however, strikes true, cutting into the now-enlarged Gray Dwarfs' leg, causing it to howl in pain!
Tranche #5 - Duergar B - up next!
1d20 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4 Drow will save vs Mind Flayer due to damage
The Drow takes a five foot step back and then casts a spell at the ferocious Kevkas:
Spellcraft to ID DC 16
The spell - a sickly yellow ray - strikes Kevkas but does no damage. Instead, Kev feels an alarming weakness steal over him...
Strength damage: 1d6 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
Kevkas shakes off the worst of the effects, but still feels depleted! Kev suffers -3 Str for 3 rounds.
You hear a calm, soothing voice in your mind. Why don't you go take a walk in the lovely woods outside? Your friends are brave and strong, and have things in hand here. Enjoy yourself in the beauty of nature while they mop up down here....
Nijena will save vs suggestion DC 18: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
Nijena turns around and begins to walk away from the fight, smiling contentedly to herself.
Tranche #4 - Matthias, Janiries and Davin are up next!
Okay so tranche #2:
Hezar buries an arrow in the Drow's shoulder, causing him to grunt but otherwise showing no reaction.
Kevkas makes the ground tremble as he rushes forward and brings his massive greatsword down on the Duergar warrior.
crit damage: 3d6 + 8 ⇒ (2, 6, 5) + 8 = 21
Kev's mighty blow bites deep into the gray dwarves' neck, sending him to the halls of his ancestors!
Nijena casts a spell at the hooded figure....
Spell resistance: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5
Nijena's spell seems to melt around the hooded being, like wax from a candle, bending around it and leaving it utterly unaffected!
Tranche #3 - Drow and the Hooded Figure - are up next!
Duergar A, now over seven feet tall, trots five feet forward and strikes with all his force at the newcomer with its oversized warhammer:
Power Attack: 1d20 + 6 + 1 - 1 - 1 ⇒ (2) + 6 + 1 - 1 - 1 = 7
Davin easily avoids the clumsy swing, however!
Duergar C ...... unknown.
Tranche 2 is up! Nijena, Hezar, Kevkas. Remember, with this system you can post in any order within your tranche. First come first served!
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, then: the two Gray Dwarves both double in size before your eyes, and the Drow casts a spell targeting himself (DC 16 to identify).
Remaining initiative rolls:
Kevkas: 1d20 ⇒ 16
Round One coming up - first to go - the Duergar!