Ilsa looks carefully at Kalem. This was the first time she had directly taken control of a creature's mind. But something seemed strange--Kalem was one of her best friends, the one in the group that she related to the most for some reason.
She looks at Kalem and addresses him slowly.
"These are not to be harmed," she says, gesturing at the rest of the group and the slaves. "But if anything tries to hurt us, you protect us. Okay? Oh, and I'll get you some other food. Let's not eat that."
Kalem had no idea what she was saying. His intellect had been stripped away entirely, leaving naught but the most basic of instincts. He knew who his enemies were, and his friends, that was it. But for her spell, her talking to him would be about as useful as talking to a camel. As it was, he had to do as she said. His intellect and will were no more, the combination of the enchantments leaving him with as much free will as a zombie. It would be fair to have said that Kalem had ceased to exist in any meaningful way.
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Malen watched the bloodrager with pity as Ilsa bound his mind with her strange magic. He surely hoped that Pharasma would grant his request on the morrow and enable the priest to heal the man's intellect. To exist like that...well, he supposed what was left of Kalem didn't know any better.
With that, the priest sighed and went about the task of rounding up the slavers' bodies, dragging them into a pile once they were stripped of valuables. He sat cross-legged in front of the corpses, closing his eyes as he prayed for their souls to make a speedy journey to the Boneyard and to the Lady of Graves' judgment. The young man didn't implore for any outcome, only that the journey be safe so that the final home of these souls could be determined.
Once done with that task, the priest prepared for the group to camp. There was a nice rock outcropping nearby, hopefully it would offer some shelter from the elements. Malen was more than willing to assist the former slaves in any way he could, though he made it a point to not insist. These people had just been slaves, and he didn't want to make them recoil with what seemed a command.
Better we arrive during the day. We also have a Wand of Sending that we can use to let Halman know that we were successful and that we need some of his close allies to help us bring all these ex-slaves into town without raising a ruckus.
"I hope we can rely on that as little as possible." Bashiel eyes Ilsa and Kalem grimly "For as much as its needed right now, stealing his will like that..."
He shakes his head but doesn't comment further. Instead, he busies himself with setting up a makeshift camp for the whole group - aiding Malen's efforts. He checks the ex-slaves over for wounds and heals anyone who needs it with lay on hands. Once everyone is situated, he takes out the Wand of Sending from the group's stash and wanders over to Malen. "Do you think we could send word ahead? It might be a good way to ensure we don't hit trouble on returning to Kaer Maga."
Malen eyed the wand as Bashiel offered it to him, studying it for a moment before nodding. "I believe I can contact that Halman fellow with this. Just let him know we liberated the slaves and shall arrive at Kaer Maga tomorrow. Perhaps let them know to meet us just outside the city to organize the passage of these folks?" The priest gestured behind him to the liberated people.
Zamanda helps with the preparations to camp, conjuring two carriages with the rock outcropping as a third wall to keep everyone together and as safe as possible. It also allowed for some extra pillows and blankets that could be conjured as part of the comfort of the carriages themselves.
She advises the group that she can make three carriages tomorrow, which will carry all but one of them back to the city. She can make her own way.
Ilsa raises an eyebrow at Bashiel.
I'm not in the mood to be lectured.
"Do you have a problem with my powers? You have your skills--I have mine. Do you think it's better to let him tear through all the slaves? Or us? He's trying to eat this corpse, for crying out loud."
Ilsa wasn't in the best mood.
I have enough problems reconciling with the darkness in me--let alone others pointing it out. My powers control the mind--deal with it!
Sighing, she says "Never mind--let's just let Halman know what we did and try to arrange a secret place to meet."
Given that Kalem was under Ilsa’s domination, he mirrored her emotions. He knew friend from foe...but now only in relation to what Ilsa felt. When she snapped at Bashiel his eyes turned to the Paladin, narrowing dangerously. If she gave the command his hands would become claws and he would...she calmed down, and thus so did he. The tiefling remained crouched at her feet, looking around protectively like a guard dog.
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Maybe Ilsa can get you a familiar feat if that restoring you to full player status doesn't work out. :)
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Don’t tempt me! Building characters is a lot of fun, and we are at a great level for trying things out. But alas, I think that I’d rather keep the cuddly good-boi bloodrager
With Kalem under Ilsa’s control, you settle in for the night along with the slaves. You send word to Halman before going to bed and he sends back saying he and some of his people will be in place for when you arrive back at Kaer Maga.
The slaves, for their part, seem to have resigned themselves to being in close proximity to Kalem. His docile behavior from Ilsa’s spell seems to have calmed their nerves for now.
I’ll wait to give Malen a chance to heal Kalem the next morning before moving us further forward. Feel free to continue rp’ing in the meantime.
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Malen wasn't quite sure what Ilsa had done to Kalem with her mind manipulation, but whatever it happened to be was better than the savage that the bloodrager had become. For his part, being relatively unfamiliar with the rest of the group beyond the tempestuous Zamanda, the priest hoped the others knew the strange, dark-haired woman well. It seemed that the tiefling was completely and utterly under her thumb, and the cleric didn't fool himself in the slightest into thinking he could withstand their onslaught for long should Ilsa have a change of heart. Therefore, the young man kept his silence. Ensuring their companion acted reasonably until he could be cured seemed better than some of the dark things the priest imagined the mesmerist could perform.
The next morning, Malen rose early, though not before the sun started creeping over the horizon (those Sarenrae fanatics were irritating in the morning). The priest glanced over at the sleeping Kalem, brow furrowing in worry before he calmed himself. Pharasma would decide the man's fate, and Malen surrender himself to Her will. The cleric remained stationary on the ground, meditating for quite some time before he felt the exquisite divine energy begin to fill him that signified that the Lady of Graves smiled upon his request for a sliver of her divine power and had bestowed it upon him.
He made his way over to the bloodrager, letting out a pent-up breath before reaching down, his holy symbol clasped tightly in his other hand as he implored Pharasma to wash away the strange magic ravaging Kalem's mind. The priest felt a rush of energy sweep through him, a divine force more potent than any he had felt before, the power causing the air to ripple around his hand for the briefest of moments before it sank into the tiefling. Malen backed up a step, head cocked to the side, wondering if he would see a return of the cunning intelligence that had resided in the man's eyes or if they would forever retain their dull vapidity.
Kalem woke, blinking in bleary eyed confusion. He looked at Malen with a bemused expression.
”Where...where are we? Eugh, my mouth tastes of copper. Weren’t we fighting the slavers?” He got to his feet and stretched his weary muscles. ”Did they take me down? The last thing I remember is fighting some of their hired muscle, and they didn’t seem like they were anything special.”
"No, but their spellcasters were wielding some incredible magic. You took a Feeblemind like a champ. Didn't embarrass yourself too much. But I think you might've mentally scarred the folks we rescued for life." He looks visibly relieved to have Kalem restored to sanity. "Without Malen's goddess, you would be stuck that way for a while. Not sure where we'd find a respectable cleric in Kaer Maga to cast the same for you." He grins at Malen before clapping the priest on the back.
"Thankfully, the folks we rescued are all in reasonable shape. And barring one that fled, the slavers are all dead. So all we're left with is getting all these folks back into Halman's nurturing arms."
(Channel Spirit for Champion; I'll hold off on selecting a skill for Spirit Ridden until we have an idea of whether we're traveling more today.)
Zamanda Caster Level Check: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (2) + 10 = 12
Zamanda Caster Level Check: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (9) + 10 = 19
With Kalem’s sanity restored, you set out for Kaer Maga. Zamanda conjures her carriages and manages to make one that can fit an extra person.
Shortly after noon, you arrive at Kaer Maga, its massive walls looming before you. Halman and a couple of his men stand near a small entrance, barely noticeable if not for him waving at you as you arrive.
Over the course of a couple hours, the Freemen help you and the slaves get safely into the city and back to the Bottoms. There, you find Belor as you had left him, though he does appear to be slightly less lean than the last time you saw him.
Once the slaves are all being tended to by Caydenite clerics, Halman ushers you into the common room where you first spoke to him. The half-orc Hesona is there as well.
After taking a seat and offering you the same, he says, “Thank you for freeing those men and women. You have done the world a great service, though I know some don’t think the same. You freed more than we’re normally able to free in three months' time, so please do not think that what you’ve done is a small thing.
“Now I must ask if you retrieved the former slaves’ writs of ownership. We need to see who might be after them and have a chance to verify they are who they say they are. Most slavers in disguise would have revealed themselves by now, but there have been one or two exceptions when we defeated their allies so swiftly that they decided it would be better to remain in the disguise. So… do you have the papers? And if there’s anything I can do for you now, please do not hesitate to tell me.”
Zamanda is a little wary of them asking for the papers, though she tries to stifle her doubt since they have proved authentic thus far.
I already checked all of the papers against the slaves. Two of them were unaccounted for in the paperwork, but they were Varisians, picked up later. All of them are clearly slaves and have the scars and signs of mistreatment to prove it. Surely you don't do this with all slaves. Belor there had no paperwork.
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Ilsa has mixed feelings as Kalem comes to himself. She was glad to have him back. He always did have her back, and she could relate to him most easily in the group. But she worried that she might have--tainted--him somehow.
Did he feel the presence I can feel, just behind my mind? Did he hear its dark voice? Did I--LIKE--the control too much?
"Welcome back, big guy," she says with a half smile.
Kalem smiled with embarrassment. ”Feeblemind? Well I’m glad you all could tell the difference so that the curse could be removed.” He joked, hiding his unease at what happened. Part of him wanted to ask exactly what he did. Ilsa seemed unnerved, and that was a bad sign. He knew that she dealt with terrors of the like that even he didn’t know. If what he did had gotten to her, then obviously Bashiel was sheltering him. All of that made him hesitate to ask. Sometimes no knowing was a blessing. ”Thank you all for looking out for me. Most people I ran with before who would have left me without a second thought. Good to know there’s at least one place where we don’t need to watch our backs.”
Halman offers you a weak smile. “I understand your concern, but we do, in fact, look at all the paperwork when available, and Belor is not actually under our care, we've just been temporarily looking after him for you. Hesona here will write down the details, then we will burn the writs afterwards. You can be here to watch, if you’d like. If we’re to maintain the little slice of freedom we’ve forged for ourselves, we cannot afford to cut corners. I hope you understand.”
Halman waits to see if you’ll hand him the writs.
Bashiel crosses his arms. He doesn't quite share Zamanda's wariness, but forces himself to think about the possibility of Halman's group not having the best of intentions - as well as how this might be an elaborate trick. After conferring mentally with his ancestors while the others are talking, he asks "Well, I'm not going to deny you the papers unless the others feel its not wise. But I do have to wonder how reliable this plan of yours is. Surely any enterprising slaver in disguise would get papers written up for themselves if they wanted to infiltrate your slice of freedom? Nor do I understand why you need to write down the details if this is just to confirm their identities."
After talking, he gives Malen a sidelong glance. The priest definitely seems the best judge of character in their merry band, so his take will probably give the sharpest insight.
Ilsa seems distracted as they discuss the writs.
Something--seems off. Controlling Kalem gave me insight into his mind, into his own darkness. He has come a long way, but there are demons there, too. Now I sense a part of that with me.
A peal of sinister laughter forces her to change the subject.
Whispering to Bashiel, she says "Just hand them over--this isn't our priority right now. We need to move on, and this is as good of an assurance as we'll get."
Malen mentally thanked his Goddess as intelligence returned to Kalem's eyes, remaining silent as Bashiel explained the situation to the tiefling. When the paladin finished, the priest pointedly said, "All the praise belongs to Pharasma, friends. I am just Her vessel." Still, the cleric cannot push down the feeling of pride that the Lady of Graves has trusted him to wield such potent blessings in Her name.
Feeling that the situation now was a 100% success with Kalem back in the fold, Malen was in good spirits when they reached the rendezvous point with the Freemen, happy to coordinate their arrival in the city with the men. This was a strange city, but the cleric was pretty sure these folks had good intentions in this chaotic place.
The priest could understand Halman's concerns with his slave-freeing operation being infiltrated by a slaver agent, though he did try to gauge the man's posture and tone just to make sure there were deeper undertones or perhaps information the man was leaving out.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 27 ⇒ (1) + 27 = 28 Geez...
If everything checked out, the priest would hold up a hand to forestall Bashiel's and Zamanda's objections. "My friends, let us observe these men burning the writs. Having a list of possible enemies and a list of all their people should they need to gather doesn't seem too much a burden."
Zamanda comes up with a hopefully non-confrontational solution and hands out the slave papers to the individual slaves that they were for, allowing them the choice of whether to hand them over or not. She assumes they probably will, since they came here for help, but it just doesn't seem like something that someone else should decide.
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Kalem said nothing. It was obvious to him that these men were building an army for another shot at their rebellion, and likely had outside sources supplying the funding. In other words, it was a conflict that didn’t concern them. But if the others slept better for playing their games, let them.
What bothered him though was that whenever he tried to think about what happened when he was enchanted, all that came to mind was a ghoulish figure with claws, reaching out to him. And that didn’t make sense. Whenever he saw his ancestor it was always a winged figure. So what was this? It reminded him of Ilsa when her claws were out, but it was Malen who had cured him. It was a question he found much more pressing than the writs of former slaves and current pawns.
Malen doesn’t sense any ulterior motives in Halman’s request. It just seems that the man is determined to do whatever it takes to maintain the Bottoms’ freedom.
Halman frowns as Zamanda hands the writs to the former slaves, but they all soon hand them to Halman upon hearing his reasoning. After having Hesona record the details, he burns the writs in your presence. Nothing remains but ashes.
Once it’s done, Halman says, “You can stay the night if you don’t want to head out at this point, since it’s about midday. But I understand if you want to leave now.”
Bashiel nods, satisfied "I for one would be happy to get moving. But how about you Zamanda? Need another day or two?" IIRC, you've got another day or two before your armor is done?
If he gets a chance, he heads over to Belor to ask the shoanti how things have been in the Bottoms over the last few days, and what his impressions of the Freemen are.
We can stay the night at this guild or not, but we do have to stay in town a couple of more days until my armor is finished, ... sorry. I guess I'd rather stay at the inn, but it isn't a huge preference. ... Do you think any of the rest of these former slaves are Shoanti? We could take more than one person back with us if there are others that miss their homeland.
A darkness remains settled over Ilsa, but she agrees with Bashiel. "This has been a good thing we have done, but we have more important things to accomplish right now. Let us rest another day or so and then be on our way."
Malen was also anxious to be on their way. Helping those former slaves was all fine and everything, but did little to assist Korvosa. He wished them the best, but he had no desire to be a freedom fighter or remain in Kaer Maga. He supposed he WAS a freedom fighter, to a certain extent, as he had thrown in against the tyrannical queen, but his was a more limited fight with a certain outcome, one way or another. These folks would fight against slavers in perpetuity.
The priest let the others speak for him, as his opinion mirrored theirs. Traveling with extra folks might hinder their progress, but the cleric suspected that even in a weakened state the Shoanti would outpace outlanders. In the meantime, Malen would take the next day or two to commune with Pharasma and explore the new possibilities She had opened to him.
My vote is inn, and I don't have any other plans, but am fine with another sidequest if anyone else has interest.
Nope, nothing else for me except for some OOC minor purchases before we leave. Trying to brainstorm if I need anything else other than a locked gauntlet to avoid getting disarmed...
Inn sounds good.
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Agreed, I'm eager to start meeting some Shoanti and learning about this whole Kazavon thing.
The Inn sounds fine to me, and traveling as soon as our upgrades are ready certainly seems like a plan.
You take your leave in Halman and the other Freemen to spend your last few days in the city in the inn you first stayed in. Once Zamanda’s upgrades are finished, you head northeast from Kaer Maga, into the Cinderlands.
Zamanda, give me another will save. Everyone (including Zamanda) give me a perception and a survival check.
Heading straight for the Kallow Mounds, I assume? Are you just relying on Belor for navigation or doing anything yourselves?
If there is any kind of map of the Cinderlands available in Kaer Maga, Zamanda would like to buy one before they leave.
Will Save: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (19) + 11 = 30
Perception: 1d20 + 23 ⇒ (13) + 23 = 36
If Zamanda detects that someone is scrying on her again, she signals everyone to stand still and not to talk so as to not give them extra information.
Survival: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20 (plus 5 if it involves tracking, but I am guessing not)
If the road/ground is good enough for a stretch we can always conjure a carriage for part of the journey.
In the remaining days of waiting, Ilsa's nightmares intensified. She could see undead crawling from mounds like ants, and a mysterious figure with ghoulish claws calling them forth. She could sense this being just behind her, and feel the stench of its breath on her neck.
Awakening in a cold sweat, Ilsa is eager to get on their way. Though the delay for the gear and equipment was certainly needed, she felt a growing urgency.
"Let's be on our way."
perception: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (18) + 15 = 33
survival: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (3) - 2 = 1
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (10) + 11 = 21
Untrained Survival: 1d10 ⇒ 4
For his part, Kalem was glad to leave the city behind him. It was unfamiliar, corrupt, and had too much politics that didn’t concern him. Put together, and it was a good thing that they were once again on their own path. Having one queen out for his head was enough for him, without getting involved in the problems of others.
Bashiel's minor purchases: Weapon cord, extra silk rope, grappling arrows, locked gauntlet, whistle, and earplugs.
Though he's pleased that the group was able to make a small impact on the slave trade in Kaer Maga, Bashiel is sharply aware of time ticking away. There's no quite telling what the Queen is up to back in Korvosa without expending some of their limited magical tools. But every day that's spent in wait is another one where she might be destroying the lives of Korvosans to suit her own ends. By the time Zamanda's armor is ready, Bashiel is more than ready to go.
Once on the road, he looks to Belor to help guide the group.
Perception: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (8) + 15 = 23
Survival: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (5) + 0 = 5
I assume we're not yet in heat-stroke central? Do we have a sense how many days of travel it'll be (either from Zamanda or Belor) before we get to an area where we need environmental protection?
Zamanda, you can buy a partial map, though it’s quality may be dubious as it wouldn’t be made by a Shoanti. Part of the area is on a map in the info slides. More might be revealed later.
Zamanda notices that someone is attempting to scry on her again, but it seems her mental fortitude is once again able to reply the unknown person’s efforts.
Additionally, Ilsa and Zamanda spot a grisly sight not long after leaving Kaer Maga. Jammed between two stones a little ways off from the main road is sharp wooden pole upon which a rotting head of a Shonati man is mounted. Bright red crossbow bolts have been driven into each of the head’s eyes. The aged condition of the head implies that whoever is responsible for this display is long gone from the area.
You recognize that the totem was left behind by the Cinderlander - a mysterious figure who has stalked the Cinderlands for many years. He never attacks large groups but targets only lone Shoanti hunters, using a “strange screaming crossbow.” There are many legends about the Cinderlander and why he hunts the Shoanti.
Belor grimaces at the sight and says, “I don’t know who did this, but the crossbow bolts in the eyes is likely a threat that this person has been robbed of the ability to find his way to the afterlife. No Shoanti I know of would do this, but it would seem whoever did is at least somewhat familiar with Shoanti beliefs.”
You find some faded tracks in the dry ground, but it’s hard to reach any conclusions from them.
Bashiel, the lower Cinderlands are not as hot as the higher Cinderlands. Since the Kallow Mounds are in the southern parts, you won’t yet need protection. However, you are likely to be quite uncomfortable in heavy armor and dark clothes. Due to the terrain, you’re likely at least three days out from your current destination.
Zamanda, you can conjure a carriage if you’d like, but Belor will advise you that it will probably only be usable for half a day at the most.
I'll take the partial map, and no carriage for now then. Might revisit when we get closer to a camp, because I assume we will want to be obvious so we don't get killed on sight.
Zamanda takes down the head, and asks Belor if burying the head is appropriate, or if there is anything else they can do to honor the remains. She also privately determines to shoot the Cinderlander if she sees him, although she doesn't say it out loud so that her bow doesn't hear her.
(She prestidigitates herself clean after any contact with the partial corpse.)
Whoops, I must have been too tired this morning, clicking on everything, because I honestly didn't even register that part was in a spoiler. I can't make that roll even with a 20, so please retract that part of my post. I apologize, and I will try to be more careful.
If you can't make the roll, I doubt anyone else in the group can.
Ilsa looks at the head on the pole with detachment. Where previously she likely would have averted her gaze, she didn't now. She wondered if everyone else could see thousands of tiny black spiders pouring out of its eyes.
I doubt it--that part is just for me.
"Someone is sending a message, though I doubt it's for us. Let's carry on."
”Revenge killing? Territorial dispute? Whatever it is, I agree. It doesn’t concern us.” Kalem said, while he inspected it. It wasn’t every day that you came across something so gruesome.
Zamanda still takes down and buries the head... or disposes of it another way if Belor has a suggestion.
Malen grimaced as the group came upon the grisly sight. Not necessarily at the death of the Shoanti man, but at the callous way his remains had been displayed. No matter their affinity or disposition in life, all mortal shells deserved a proper sendoff for the spirits residing within. To put on such a display was to disrespect the process of dying itself, turning it into something other than the passing on to the next phase of a soul's journey.
As Zamanda started to concern herself with burying the remains of the Shoanti man, Malen helped, uttering a prayer that the man's soul could find its way to the Boneyard to await Pharasma's judgment and his eternal reward. The priest agreed with Ilsa and Kalem, the message that was being sent was beyond the party's concern, but the cleric would at least ensure the poor man got a decent burial and a brief prayer.
"I don't like that someone keeps spying on us, or at least trying to with serious persistence. Someone working for the queen, or?" Bashiel shrugs and eyes the sky as if he'll be able to spot an invisible scrying sensor hanging out.
At the head on the pike, Bashiel nods gravely at Belor's explanation "Someone with a reason to hate Shoanti. Someone from Kaer Maga maybe? There's not a lot to go on here, but if we were able to track the culprit down, that might help us get off on the right foot with the Skoan Quah."
Don't have survival to attempt tracking, but from the wording of Zek's post, it doesn't sound like it would have been possible anyway. Any interest in using divination or other spells to do so? Or do we want to beeline the Shoanti first and come back later to track this culprit down?