Aibek looked to Ayreth, "Seems likely. While you check the crew, it might be best for the rest of us to ensure these attackers are restrained. Even if they're fighting because of someone else... with a tone of concern and lack of trust that they might not continue their attacks of their own will or to please whoever had been ordering them. Aibek looked to find rope on the ship to use...
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
Azri just smiled as she raised one hand and crackling necrotic energy appeared around it. "I'm pretty sure I can get them to talk." she said.
Mihara silently waved Azri forth, taking a seat and watching intently.
Though she pities the gillmen for toiling under another's control, the threat to her kin was not something she could tolerate.
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
Azri smiled as she bent down in front of the captives. "Your master isn't here right now. I am." she said. "But I am a reasonable person. If you choose to give us the information we want right now, without holding back, then I can promise you will be treated well and will very likely walk free someday, fed and healthy and able to resume a new life. But if you refuse..." Necrotic energy surged around her hand. "...Keep in mind that you attacked us, and I take that very personally. So if you keep quiet now, then we're going to take each of you and split you up. Then I will question each and every single one of you, one by one, and I am very good at telling when people are lying. If any of you refuse to talk or tell me something different than what the others did, all of you will share the punishment. So, are you going to tell me what I want to hear, or are you going to start making this hard on yourselves?"
Intimidate: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (16) + 15 = 31
"A word, if I may?" Mihara asks, taking the party aside where the gillmen cannot hear them. She leaves Honoka, along with some armed crew members, to watch over the prisoners.
"Perhaps if we offered them shelter from their foe? It's quite clear to me that these folks are acting under duress. Perhaps we might be able to make allies of them as well if we could see them released from their oppressor? What do you think?"
"I don't think we can make that offer in good faith. We have just sworn not to act against the merfolk or their enemies. Defense of ourselves or the city is one thing, but we can't actively violate the treaty."
Aibek stood quietly back as Azri attempted to get their captives to speak, shadows flickering in interest.
At the Gillman's words, Aibek nodded sympathetically. Maybe Aibek was reading far too much into what little had been seen of the Gillmen's lives, but as a once bound soldier, Aibek's heart ached with the familiarity.
Following Mihara, an eye on the Gillmen while doing so, Aibek had mixed feelings flicker at Mihara's suggestion. Aibek rubbed the marks on one hand, spoke quietly, "I would really like to do so, though Ayreth is correct and even under duress we know so little about them, but also...I do not think it would be that easy. I think...I think they are similar to how I was...when I was bound, there was no where in the shadows I would have been able to hide from my Archon, no safety anyone could give me, even at a great distance she could... As much as I would like to do so, I don't think we could offer that promise in good faith even without the treaties as I do not think we could adequately protect or release them...and even if we could, I doubt they would believe us. At times, I still wonder..." Unsure if there were even the words to explain how different having someone able to do what Aibek had seen done to the Gillmen could make someone. Aibek had come far, not all entirely of free choice, but whether true freedom was ever an option for the bound was something that haunted the shadow assassin just as much as the pull to return did at times.
Aibek approached the Gillmen, squatting down to their level, "I imagine being captured will have some unpleasant consequences as will those that fled, I know as well as you that the soldiers bear the burdens of failure no matter who else is involved that might be awarded if a success. What I or maybe one of the others add for you attacking her kin's ship is still up for negotiation. So... can you tell us why you were ordered to attack this ship and what answers they wanted to take that they could get from the crew that you and yours attempted to take by force?" It was possible they would not be able to do so, soldiers were not always informed of such things, but to Aibek, those were the most important. Their bindings, how they were never alone, was of strong interest, but a curiosity Aibek would push aside...
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 10 = 24
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14
It takes no real effort on Aibek's part to know these Gillmen are utterly terrified. After a moment, one spoke. "We don't know. We were told to bring back at least one captive from this ship, alive, so that the Master could understand the situation here in full. We don't know anything else. It is not our place."
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
Sense Motive (Is he BS'ing us?): 1d20 + 21 ⇒ (5) + 21 = 26
He seems to be completely honest.
He opens his mouth and his eyes widen in utter panic. Because he is not yours to kill. The voice echoes in all your minds for a moment before the Gillman's eyes bulge. He opens his mouth to say something but only a thin croack escapes, along with a small cloud of smoke. Fire is briefly seen down his throat before he collapses to one side, the remaining three Gillmen doing there best to get some distance.
You mistake a limb, a finger, for a being with will and agency. Even if you are able to take a limb from me, I am not some petty thing to even notice there loss. That they have failed means they must be made anew, stronger and more able to serve my purpose. There loss is not important, but they are not yours to take.
Aibek moved back a bit as the remaining Gillmen did, sorrow on the witchwolf's features. There was no point in regret in this - there was nothing here Aibek could do or have done - but it was still horrible to see someone used and consumed in such a way. Aibek tried to keep the fluttering of memories that were rising, while pausing to pull their collar further away from their neck.
After a few less than steady breaths and looking around in discomfort to the others, Aibek spoke again, eyes not looking at any Gillman, but assumed this 'Master' could hear anyways. "So, Master of these people, why did you send your people this unprepared to this particular ship and what information do you want to take?"
Mildly antagonistic, but if the Master wanted to talk, Aibek wanted to focus their thoughts on this Master and not on their minions. Aibek made no attempt to use these Gillmen to encourage further discussion. Experience told the shadow assassin that for those like this Master, it was best to pretend that these people weren't even here. At a long stretch best, they might forget them, at worst, this Master would start harming or killing them off in more gruesome ways to prove how little they were worth.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (9) + 10 = 19
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
Because I wished to know what my enemies had planned. What you discussed with them. How I can use this to thwart them. There was a sneer to the mental voice. I did not anticipate any would resist sirens song. A mild annoyance, and one that can be accounted for when I choose to try again.
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
"And yet for someone so disinterested in their own belongings, you seem to be giving this an awful lot of attention." Azri answered coldly. "But I think I understand enough of this situation now." They clearly needed to set a real example - one that all of these arrogant, selfish monsters would understand. And she knew who she wanted to use for that.
Curiosity. Amusement. Few dare try to challenge me. Fewer succeed. It does nothing to harm me to explain. One of the Gillmen jerked upright suddenly.
You wish to understand more? Then show me worth. Kill this one, with my blessing. It attacked your crew, your people. I took it from the sea because it was the lowest of the low, something already so broken it was easy to mold. It has done things that would make your mortal morals weep, long before I took its will. It deserves to die. So kill it.
Aibek glanced to Mihara. They had attacked her people so to Aibek she had the final say.
But the shadow assassin had to say, not even able to hold back a sneer, "Worth? How is doing such an act for free showing worth rather than us as fools dancing to your tune? Assassins and executioners get paid, typically at least partially up front. I wouldn't demean myself to do it free when I was bound to a possibly equally heartless Archon, and while others may wish to do so, I don't see why I would do so now."
"Only a fool would blame the horse for the charge of the rider." Mihara replies curtly. "Disgraceful."
"By your own claims, this man of the sea acted as your puppet. He moves and acts strictly by your will. You attacked my kin and my vessel, and now seek to play games with the lives of others. What is there to understand? You would profer yourself a master, and yet your acts are those of a pestilence. One does not barter with sickness, nor can one reason with a swarm of plague flies."
Mihara is attempting to play to what seems to be a significant ego by taunting them into revealing more to appear grandiose.
Bluff or Diplomacy: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (7) + 16 = 23 Not sure which one fits more, but the bonus is the same.
Weakness. Killing such as this is easy. Why would it cost money? What does money have to do with taking lives? The Gillman gasped as smoke rose from his throat. See? It costs nothing.
Yes, it is by my will that they attacked. And yes, I play games with these creatures - why should I not? At least this way I receive amusement. The second Gillman dropped to the deck, making a horrible sound in an attempt to breathe. You see me as some kind of natural disaster, a being that cannot be bargained with or reasoned with? Perhaps you have some inkling of what occurs here, then. I am the Ruler beneath these waves. It was my kind that created the Merfolk. That they defy me is an offence.
Aibek sadly shook their head, "Then how would such an easy act that you don't hold any value in prove anything about worth? This certainly doesn't show why we should tell you anything more..."
At the remark about creating the Merfolk, Aibek snorted disdainfully, turning to the others, "Some Shaes say the same of Kayals. For them, it's the corruption talking." with a tap to the temple. Even if this were some of ancient creature who could create such life, to Aibek that didn't mean they owned them in this way - such thinking was also a corruption, if a different kind.
Aibek moved to leave. There was nothing that could be done with the remaining Gillman and this heartless being, they were not worth the murders that they had already had them watch, Aibek had no wish to watch another. Checking the crew and getting back to Khalharum was the priority.
What is owned is what you have created, what you can take and what you can keep. All three shall apply to the Merfolk, once they are broken. The voice paused. Flee now if you wish, and spread word of my power. I shall take what I need soon enough.
Anyone else gonna taunt the Eldritch Abomination before leaving?
Anyone else gonna taunt the Eldritch Abomination before leaving?
Thanks, but no thanks, especially not after seeing how much guff Azri took for an Intimidate check. =)
The ship continues without any more words from the voice. Oddly, the two Gillmen weren't destroyed either. Although clearly terrified they were left on the deck. What exactly this meant in the long term...
The ship returned to Khalharum no longer under attack, with the skies once more blue and a gentle wind rather than a howling gale tearing through the streets. Still, the evidence of the attack was everywhere - many of the ruined buildings on the non-controlled islands had collapsed under the onslaught, without the magic of Nexus to protect them, and even in the streets of the city sand was piled to the sides or being carted away to be dumped. The damage that had been inflicted to the Towers themselves also stood in stark contrast to the white washed walls.
On the plus side, cheers greeted you all as you returned to the city. It was clear that the people believed that it was your efforts that had stopped the sandstorm, even if they were not clear on how the two were connected.
Bask in the glory of the adoration - and get a level up too.
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
Azri had made her point, too - and just stared into the ocean for a little while before the ship returned home. Azri wasted no time striding forward to encourage the cheers and help reassure the people. "And don't forget to store that sand! It might come in handy for any number of purposes!" she called to those moving it. "Sandbags, construction material, might be good for glass... this is Khalharum. When people give us presents, we use them to make our city better!"
Aibek had spent the remainder of the trip below deck. All the memories and emotions were best dealt with out of the light and out of the sight of others. The witchwolf found an out of the way storage area and paced and grumbled and growled and pressed their sharp nails into their palms a bit too hard. The shadows joined in as well, seeming to form more and more until it was almost like two people in a heated discussion pacing back and forth.
Feeling the boat come to stop again, Aibek took a few deep breaths and a few moments to try to get presentable again before heading up. Squinting in the light, Aibek was glad the storm was gone - not so much for that searing sun. The shadows pulled close, equally unsure about being out in light like this.
At first, moving onto the docks, the people move the piles of sand and the damage to the streets and homes near the dock was all Aibek could see and think about - how long it would take to repair, were there any preventative measures for possible future issues that could be taken, how long and what would it take for the people to forgive...
It took about that long for Aibek to realize the people were cheering. Speechless for a few moments, muddled thoughts that grew more confused as Azri spoke. On one hand, Aibek admired her confidence and composure especially with others, on the other - Aibek wasn't sure how she could spin sand in a desert or any of this as a gift -- or her usage of the word 'we' in this situation.
Aibek approached the crowd, still unsure about the cheers, but tried to reassure the people in the shadow archon's own way - asking people how they are, what they needed help with, their thoughts and feelings and listening carefully.
Aibek kept an eye out for Helm, though not entirely sure how to explain any of this to the young man, for Pelar, though not entirely sure how the blacksmith would react to Aibek finally making a decision on the old armor, and for anyone who looked to be struggling with the aftermath of these events. The shadows brought Aibek's attention to things from time to time, sometimes usefully and sometimes not so much.
Aibek made a mental note to talk to Nexus and other things soon, once the people had been cared for - and maybe afterwards, that walk Aibek had been planning. The shadow archon knew their shadows were nearly chomping at the bit for a long night stroll...
Perception: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
There was a certain amount of confusion as to the idea of storing sand - it was not a rare commodity out here, after all - but it made sense to make sandbags and store them in case they were ever needed as barricades, and there was plenty of room to do so.
Aibek was able to find the Dwarf blacksmith first, although it was only his massive shoulders that gave him away - as with many in the crowd he was keeping his face and head covered to protect from the dust, sand and sun.
Is Grimrod still in the city?
Ayreth wanders through the city for quite a while, helping when she can. She thinks about how they resolved the situation and if it was the correct one. There was a lot of appeal in the idea of retribution, but they chose a different path, mostly because of her. That made her feel responsible for any consequences that lay ahead. She wonders what Zhen would think. She was fairly certain that Grimrod thought diplomacy was just another name for a double-headed axe.
Thinking that they should make a good faith effort to warn the merfolk of their enemy's attempt on the ship, Ayreth plans to try contacting Lady Ominai in the Dream. But first, she goes to the Thirsty Dryad to let Aibek know what she is planning to do.
Ayreth, if you want to spot Aibek in the crowd and join in with talking to Pelar, that would be fine too. Aibek will probably head to the Thirsty Dryad way after, save talking with Helm for later unless he shows up in the crowd, and we could discuss plans on the walk there...
Aibek continued through the crowd, mostly listening while doing so, helping here and there. Once again, even though Aibek had originally chosen this type of attire specifically to deal with and blend into a hot weather environment, it took more than a few moments before a solid click in Aibek's thoughts of how much the witchwolf appeared just like so many of the people around at the moment. It brought up mixed feelings, but Aibek put them to the side, again, for now.
Once having reached the blacksmith, Aibek carefully patted the man on one of the wide shoulders to gently get his attention. With a cautious smile, Aibek asked about how Pelar was doing and anything he or anyone he knew needed help with or their thoughts in the aftermath of the magic-storm. Aibek was interested in the people's perspective and needs after the storm -- and the councilor imagined more than a few had gone to the blacksmith to discuss some of the damage, both for his skills and his personality.
As part of that, Aibek said, [b]"Hopefully the Inn won't need much of your services from this, Pelar...though when all this settles, I may bring that old armour in for those repairs. I think I figured out most of how it used to work, but...I...I think what I need it to do in the future can be handled with Darkleaf Cloth and Druchite. After that, I may have this one refit for someone else..."
Sounds good, let's do that.
Ayreth spots Aibek entering the smith's shop and waits for her outside, not wanting to intrude.
Aibek and Pelar are on the docks, in the crowd.
"Not much metal at the inn," the Dwarf chuckled. "Easier for the lady to just grow the wood together than for me to nail it down. As for the armour, aye, I can sort that for you. Darkleaf's uncommon but not too hard to fine. Druchite, though...not native to this plane. It'll take a bit of time to source enough for armour, but so long as you have the gold to pay I know a fellow who knows some Wayangs. I'll make sure the straps are easy enough to adjust, so it can be used for another."
|Azri, the Lich of Khalharum|
Azri seemed satisfied as she watched the sand start to get gathered up and bagged. Just making bags could occupy some people for a bit, and now the city would have a lot of them to deploy as needed for any useful purpose. She always liked seeing things get better, especially when she was still seething over the boat incident. For now, however, she was content to continue supervising.
Aibek smiled and waved over Ayreth on spotting her before returning to talk with Pelar, "Azerna is quite good at that, yes, but I'll check with her and some of the metal near the Inn just in case. This armour is doing fine for now so I'm happy to wait until the other can be properly dealt with first..."
Some of the shadows flickered a bit in way that could be read either as boredom or disagreement with what Aibek had said.
Aibek appeared to be ignoring them while continuing to talk, "I've dithered with and putting aside for this long enough after all, and balancing Darkleaf's lightness and flexibility with using enough Druchite to gain the benefit of its properties needs time and an expert's touch. Aibek said with a smile and gesture towards Pelar. Gold was always an issue the witchwolf considered carefully which is why - other than spending on the Inn and in line with other duties, Aibek rarely spent much and had been planning how to deal with this damaged armour properly since before having left Vakana. This plan was a recent major change, but it still felt right and worth waiting and paying.
Azri supervised the load of sand. Probably not the most likely use of her time, but it seemed to be going well.
Pelar nodded. "Never wise to let a poor craftsmen touch expensive materials. Drop the coin off at the smithy when you have time, I'll put the order on the next ship out."
Ayreth approaches, quietly waiting.
Aibek, is the odd behavior of the shadows observable by others?
It would be noticeable and odd to Ayreth that the shadows are no longer just either reflecting Aibek's feelings or expressing a multitude of emotions like the different shadows they are but appear to be expressing their own opinion in a singular manner. This would probably be noticeable to Mihara, Azri, Azerna, and others who have spent enough time around Aibek. Others, just having a shadow moving independently is odd enough that these differences may not be noticeable
"I appreciate that, hopefully I'll be able to swing around within the next few days..."
Ayreth gestures in greeting, and barely resists the urge to poke at the peculiar shadows. "No, thank you, I am just hoping for some of Councilor Aibek's time. Although, do you know of any repairs we might help accelerate?"
"If you have the magic, certainly. Nothing too serious by more than one door gave way to the sand, and a few roofs will need dealing with - we're rarely concerned about waterproofing them, and this flat style lets the waters pool in all the wrong places. Most of it can be fixed with some time and some materials. Which we have, mostly." The Dwarf shrugged. "Still, that Mending spell can sort a cracked roof faster than I can boil down tar for it."
Aibek smiled over to Ayreth with curiosity and concern before listening to Pelar.
After a few moments of thoughts, "Thank you for your time Pelar, I'll look into those and hopefully be around soon. Ayreth, would you like to talk while you and I check what could use mending? I'm happy to lend a hand or ear or make lists, but repair magic is not a gift of mine..."
The shadows made absolutely no attempt to resist their curiosity and poked Ayreth's feet. Aibek instantly responded by looking away with a trying-not-to-be-amused sigh.
Well now, that's impertinent! A small bit of Ayreth's seriousness is lifted as she tries to slyly jab back at the shadows with her lightning-clad foot.
As they walk through the city addressing some of the most damaged structures, Ayreth voices her concerns and quietly admires Aibek's nurturing of the community. "Indeed, I am still thinking about the negotiations with the merfolk. Mostly because they did not seem the least bit remorseful or any less likely to use this tactic again. I still believe we made the right decision to end hostilities, but it nags at me. On a related note, I was thinking that we should inform the merfolk of the attack from their enemy. I am planning to try to contact Lady Ominai in the Dream. But I wanted to let you know beforehand in case I encounter any... difficulties."
The shadows seemed quite entertained by Ayreth's response and played around her. After a few moments though, they were quickly distracted by other things. Aibek softly chucked watching the interaction.
Helping to clear things for mending and note down any other problems, Aibek nodded along while listened to Ayreth."It was a bit difficult to tell at times with the Sapiaquali-oths's Song what was posturing and what was serious and how they'll act in the future is anything but certain so I can understand that nagging feeling. With such powerful neighbours, I agree it's in Khalharum's best interest to attempt informative and friendly connections there. Your plan sounds good, I'm happy to be there when you make the attempt, just in case. My only plans for the evening was helping out Azerna and maybe some time for sewing or repairing the last of shadow fragments. I can either delay those after we swing past the Inn to check in on things and inform Azerna of what's happened, if you'd like to do it sooner, or I can come by after the Inn quiets down for the night if you think then would be a more likely time to find her in the Dream."
Aibek kept an eye out for anyone looking to be in difficulty or buildings looking less than stable.
Perception: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13
Having tended to the ship's docking and unloading, Mihara excuses herself and sees to the wellbeing of her kin at the town's dockside.
With that out of the way, she seeks her private quarters, specifically her study, where one the magical linked tomes sits, carefully hidden. Though she has been using it simply to exchanged pleasantries with family at home, this time, she has something more specific in mind.
"Kiromu, little brother dearest, I would like to ask a favor of you..."
Her little brother, a musician, was very appreciated of the elders of her clan. If one of her family would best be able to seek out any legends amongst them, it would be him.
"... and so, I would be quite curious to know if this Song is known to the Yao elders of the branch families. Your help is immensely appreciated. Please deliver my greetings to the family as well. I miss you all greatly."
"As you say, later is probably better. Wait, you can sew them?"
Aibek looked over in puzzlement for a moment before smiling, "I haven't really tried, but I was speaking of separate projects - I'm intending either to work on sewing or I'm going to work on healing the last of the shadow fragments. The repairs only works well if they wish to cooperate, if they don't - I have plenty of sewing to do.
Aibek considered for a moment before continuing, "When one of them is repaired and wishes to remain, it is sorta like sewing them into place with the others, like a single fiddly thread that changes the whole each time. I've gotten better at the opening and repairing, but less at predicting what they do once that's done. Azerna joked the other day they were acting like a pup, and more and more I think she may be right." Aibek shrugged.
The shadows moved this way and that in a meandering way around Aibek's feet. They didn't really seem to stay still unless someone started casting a spell or something else that caught their attention - then they seemed to very intently watch before going back to their unpredictable path.
"Oh, my mistake. They do seem rather playful. They weren't like that... before?" Ayreth is obliquely referencing Aibek's previous life.