Ardas' smile grew largest when Nikandros approached. "And finally, our favored son Nikandros. You endured so much at the hands of those who called themselves Erastilans yet you looked past that pain to become one of his champions. I don't seek to open old wounds, lad but I want everyone to know that the greatest among us can have humble origins. You have risen far past anything we mortal priests could have expected and done us, your race, and your home proud. We of Stag Reach salute you and name you Protector of Stag Reach."
The largest cheer of all erupts in Nikandros' name and then again in the name of all four great heroes.
After Ardas finishes speaking, Ophelia steps in front of him. "Now that the boring part is over, LET'S PARTY!" Several servants break out casks of ale and wine from Val's tavern and it appears that the remaining servants of the Castle have raided the larder as there are food dishes waiting for the heroes. "C'mon guys, I saved some of the best for you." Ardas and Ophelia wait for you at a table filled with simple and rustic fare cooked with excellent quality.
Anya still has her head ducked low as she fiddles with the ring on her finger. "Thank you, again," she says as she sits herself down at the table. "The food looks delicious." She means it, though the fare is simple, it is far more than she has been used to. Better than the rations she's been surviving on, and better than the slop she received back in...
She shut that thought down. No use dwelling when they were supposed to be celebrating.
"So, what now?" she asks Val. "Back to the inn for you?"
Val was quiet, touched by Ardas's reaction and awkward when sincere.
Val gave Nikandros a curious look. "Interesting past. And congratulations."
"Can I ask you for favors now that you are rich and powerful?" she joked.
Val ate slowly, savoring the food. "Party, finally! Some time to unwind" She only drank a little, though.
She looked at Anya, surprised at her question. "What? Silver, I promised to help you with your mission if you helped us save the city, and you did that." Val assumed what she supposed was an oath-swearing pose, hand over her heart. "So, I'm with you, Silver. Watcha need? One death only, though. That's all you can ask of a girl, yah?"
"Party's something I can agree to," Tarik muttered to himself in reference to Ophelia's proclamation.
He took a seat at the table with the others, quickly grabbing a heel of bread and taking a bite out of it.
"My thanks for the food and words," he said with an appreciative nod to Ardas and Ophelia. "You treat all visitors this good?"
"My thanks for the food and words," he said with an appreciative nod to Ardas and Ophelia. "You treat all visitors this good?"
"Only when they save cities," Ophelia said. "You want another party; you better stop another demon invasion."
"Don't start another demon invasion just so you can have another party," Ardas added hastily.
Anya tried not to laugh at that. And she thought were she had come from had been dull, but in fairness, it had other problems. This, at least, was quaint. "I've never sparred before - that is when you manly sort hit each other with fists or sticks, right? I'm sure it must been terribly interesting."
Val frowned. "This is it? No singing? Dancing? Kissing? How do you survive. Nicky?" After everything she'd been through, she could understand the lure of a quiet life, but it wasn't anything like what she'd known. She would be totally lost.
"Sparring can be fun, but you can wind up with bruises if the other player is better than you."
Nikandros leaned forward toward Anya, speaking rapidly. "No, you see, sparring is the best way to hone your body and mind to better serve Erastil and the communi..." he trailed off before sitting up suddenly.
"I guess you could just boil it down to hitting each other with sticks and stones and swords. But where would the fun in that be?"
Turning toward Val he shrugged. "Singing and dancing are fine I guess. Don't know about the kissing. Haven't really had much of a chance to focus on anything other than training."
I'm moving this along.
The night is long and filled with cheers. New friends are made, boastful stories are told, and much alcohol is consumed. The Heroes of Stagreach are toasted all night and no one of them pays for a drink. By the end of the night, all the heroes are led to the castle to sleep in the best accommodations in the city.
Welcome to Level 10!
**********************End of the Prologue*********************
Chapter 1: Whispers in the Dark
Good morning, Miss Silverhair. A voice from the corner spoke to her. It was polite and pleasant but with a dangerous edge. "I'm sure you have many questions but please allow me to assure you that I am not here to rob or harm you in anyway. I wanted to have a private conversation with a 'captive audience,' so to speak." The man chuckled at his own joke.
He was tall and slim with close cropped hair. Anya was almost certain she had seen him before but it was very difficult to tell and the man looked almost perfectly average with no real distinguishing features. His eyes and hair were a dull brown and his skin fair as is common in Navan. He bore no burns, cuts, scars, tattoos, or any other kind of identifying marks.
"I will remove the gag if you promise not to scream. I can reapply it before anyone will hear you, I promise."
Good morning, Miss Autumnchild. A voice from the corner spoke to her. It was almost bored as though speaking to a coworker. "I am not here to rob or harm you but I need to speak and you need to listen."
He was tall and slim with close cropped hair. Val was almost certain she had seen him before but it was very difficult to tell and the man looked almost perfectly average with no real distinguishing features. His eyes and hair were a dull brown and his skin fair as is common in Navan. He bore no burns, cuts, scars, tattoos, or any other kind of identifying marks.
"Do you promise not to scream if I take off the gag?"
Good morning, Mister Orc-blood. A voice from the corner spoke to her. It was steady and conciliatory like a father telling his children to go back to sleep because there are no monsters under the bed. "I am not here to rob or harm you and I will take the gag off if you promise to behave."
He was tall and slim with close cropped hair. Nikandros was almost certain he had seen him before but it was very difficult to tell and the man looked almost perfectly average with no real distinguishing features. His eyes and hair were a dull brown and his skin fair as is common in Navan. He bore no burns, cuts, scars, tattoos, or any other kind of identifying marks.
Good morning, Mister Blackhands. A voice from the corner spoke to her. It had an edge as though the man didn't want to be there. "I am not here to rob or harm you and I will take the gag off if you promise to shut up until I've said my piece."
He was tall and slim with close cropped hair. Tarik was almost certain he had seen him before but it was very difficult to tell and the man looked almost perfectly average with no real distinguishing features. His eyes and hair were a dull brown and his skin fair as is common in Navan. He bore no burns, cuts, scars, tattoos, or any other kind of identifying marks.
Everyone is on the Honor System to not look at the other spoilers. Everything will be made known to everyone eventually.
I'm just going to assume there's a few odd typos in my block unless Tarik has a malfunctioning gender bender belt on ...
Tarik struggled against his bonds, his hangover quickly forgotten over his latest predicament. Usually when he ended up like this, there was a comely lady pretending to be a Kuthite, not a no-one for lack of a better word.
Escaping seemed unlikely at this point and even then wriggling free would take time. At the present it seemed best to set his sails with the wind and play along with the intruder.
He gave the man a slow and deliberate nod.
Her arms hurt, which was really strange given that she had fallen asleep in what was probably the most comfortable bed she had ever been in. Granted, it wasn't the same as falling asleep in her husband's bed, but it was still rather nice. Still, her shoulders were tight and hurting, so she tried to lower them, only to find a strange resistance, holding her wrists flush against the headboard.
Her scream came out muffled, but the shock of it all snapped her to full alertness. She was bound and gagged, trapped in the bed with a strange man watching over her. Anya had to fight to swallow the panic that rolled through her as she tried to figure out who he was - and what he knew. She doubted his words, that he was not out to hurt her. Still, he held all the cards.
Unable to even take a deep breath to calm herself, Anya nodded curtly.
Are her feet bound as well, or is it just her hands?
Agent Baker pulled out two scrolls from somewhere on his person, Tarik couldn't follow the swift movements of his hands. "I have in my hand a carrot and a stick. This one," he said letting the scroll in his right hand hang loose. "is a royal writ of secrecy. This authorizes you as an agent of his majesty Emperor Laius Tavoularis. This would give you special protections and privileges but also mean that you must follow certain orders."
"The other scroll, and I would love to see you take it, is a deathmark. Navan, Syrissia, Highmountain, and the Elven Lands would be ordered to kill you on sight, bounty hunters would hound you for the rest of your life looking for the price on your head, and the only nation that would accept you in Caenar. The only problem is that Caenar wants to kill you too for taking their new toy. The choice is yours."
Sorry about the gender thing. Thought I had all the female pronouns out of there but missed the first one for you and Nikandros for good measure. Also put your things in spoiler tags until the party reunites.
No, her feet are not bound but he's not stupid enough to get within kicking distance.
Val groaned. She never had much to drink, as being drunk made you vulnerable in a world where no one could be trusted. She must have been feeling safer that she'd realized. She tried to bring down her hands but couldn't and had a moment of confusion.
Okay, Val. Inventory, think rationally. You're in your underwear, and someone has tied you to your bed.
What is he planning to do to me? What has he already done?
Val was utterly terror-struck and panicked, thrashing around and struggling. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't get free.
But she didn't scream. In the places she'd grown up, it just advertised weakness. It'd bring people, but not to help.
When the strange man's words finally sunk in, they weren't that comforting, but still they calmed her panic a touch.
He knows my last name. How does he know my last name? I never told the others who am I. And who is he? I'm sure I've seen him.
If he's from the Caenar, I am as good as dead... or worse. Well, death has to happen sometime... a miracle it wasn't before now
Val shifted towards the head of the bed and gathered herself so she could kick if the strange man made any aggressive move. Worse than useless, of course, it'd probably get her killed. But she'd gone through life clawing and kicking and if this was the end she'd prefer to go out the same way.
She turned her gaze to the stranger, and the gag muffled her affirmative.
The magic rose up in her as the man approached, though bound and gagged as she was it had to outlet. It just waited there, a pool threatening to overflow. As soon as the man removed the gag, Anya felt the magic surge up through her, and she opened her mouth and released a cone of pure power and ice.
From her mouth.
Since when could she do that?
Hehehe breathe weapon. Ice, cone. Reflex 24 for half damage
ICE BREATH OF DOOM: 10d6 ⇒ (6, 5, 2, 6, 6, 5, 6, 1, 3, 2) = 42
Everyone just take the max hp for your HD
The man dodge with almost supernatural speed despite the look of honest surprise on his face.
"Well now, that's the spirit! That's exactly what we need!" Laughing, he pulled out a scroll and unfurled it. "I am Agent Baker, Navan Royal Intelligence. This is a royal commission of his Majesty Laius Tavoularis. It would authorize you as one of his agents and give you powerful political protection against even Caenar. All you have to do for us is accept some, shall we say, off-the-books tasks that need your expertise. What say you?"
"My name is Agent Baker, Navan Royal Intelligence. We've been tracking your movements for quite some time. One of our agents in Caenar tipped off to the street rat with the powerful sword and the skill to use it. Combined with a lifetime of thievery and other skills acquired from the hard streets of Hellmouth would make you a perfect agent. Right as he got authorization to approach you, you went and disappeared. Quite curious. Why did you leave Caenar?"
"My name is Agent Baker, Navan Royal Intelligence. I am here on the authority of his Majesty Laius Tavoularis with an offer you should not refuse," he says unfurling a scroll with what Nik recognized as the royal seal of Navan. "Your position here as the champion of the church of the Great Hunter gives you much opportunity to do good. But I offer you something more. You can become an agent of our Empire and help us conquer the greatest evil in the world."
CMB check to burst out of rope bindings: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (15) + 16 = 31
Was using CMB based on this - http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2knwo?Rope-and-knots-and-stuff . Let me know if you want me to use a straight Str check instead
Anya let out a quick breath of relief. Thankfully, that burst of...whatever magic hadn't pissed off the man too much, though she was a little disappointed that he had managed to evade it. Even with her wrists tied above her head, she would have enjoyed seeing him freeze for his unnecessary measures.
So instead she simply frowned at him. "Forgive me, Baker, but you've given me absolutely no reason to trust you." She wriggled her wrists above her head to emphasis her point. "A civilized man - a decent man - would have simply approached me, not tied me to a bed where I cannot have equal standing. If you wish me to consider your offer, release me and allow me to read that scroll."
"My thanks for the offers Agent. Really makes a man feel wanted, you know? But before I go grabbing anything, can you humor me and answer a pair of questions? Firstly, why you're bothering with the fool's offer to begin with and secondly, why you seem to have such a low opinion of me. I like to think I'm an agreeable man after all, saved a city just now you know," He replied, giving Baker his most winning smile.
"It's that strength we need in the coming fight. You are free to inspect the scroll as you wish."
It began with a glorified throat-clearing as it establishes the power of the Emperor and the many once-nations he now owns. It then singled out "Anya Silverhair" as being under the total protection of the Emperor in life and death until rescind by the Emperor or his successors. It then listed some of the nasty means of punishment and execution that would await those who would capture, imprison, kill, or otherwise harm Anya.
It began with a glorified throat-clearing as it established the power of the Emperor and the many once-nations he now owns. It then singled out Tarik Blackhands as an eternal agent of the Empire of Navan until the Emperor should choose to rescind his protection. It then listed some of the nasty means of punishment and execution that would await those who would capture, imprison, kill, or otherwise harm Tarik.
"I see this is not so much a recruitment as it is a conscription." Anya leaned her head back against her pillow, wondering what she could do. Bound like this, it would be difficult to use her magic. But she would not let herself forced into this again - she nearly had to bide her time before she could slip away. "Fine, then, it seems you have me unable to refuse your request. I am yours to command."
Bluff: 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (13) + 20 = 33
Sense Motive on whatever response he gives.
Sense: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (6) + 16 = 22
Val laughed. "Better question, why not leave Caenar? What's there in Caenar for anyone except the wizards? I may be a street rat, but nobody said I can't be a street rat outside the worst nation in the world. I have some standards, you know." That was true, but also not why she had left Caenar. Interesting to see if Agent Baker picks up on it.
"Perfect agent is stretching it a bit, but I can more than handle myself. What do you want from me, Agent Baker? Intelligence probably just needed some someone expendable for some suicide mission.
We need you and your new friends to go where we cannot and fight the enemies hiding in the shadows where we cannot reach them."
We need assets with these skills who can go beyond the borders of Navan. We can offer training, support, funding, and, most importantly, protection for you and your sister. We can hide her and her family here so perfectly that no Wizard can find her and provide a life of wealth and comfort. What say you?"
"Well, you know how to flatter me" Val said, grudgingly pleased. Agent Baker was just trying to get her to do what he wanted, but it still felt good to know others respected her.
Horror went through Val as when the agent mentioned her sister. They know about Joan! How? Damn it all, if they know than Caeanar probably knows. But I haven't been near her home months... dammit! If he knows, others know too, so killing him won't work.
Val was furious with herself as she listened to the agent's offer. Somewhere along the way she'd made a mistake that had tipped people of to Joan, and it grated at her that she didn't know where. Mistakes that only concerned her didn't matter; she had long ago accepted her death. But Joan deserved better than to have her life cut short because of her big sister, and Val had promised her mother she would protect Joan.
"That's a very generous offer" Val said to Baker, being honest for once. Safety and luxury for her sister were more than she or her mother had ever dared hope for, even after they'd agreed Val would enter 'the trade' so Joan wouldn't have to. "But the problem is I don't trust you. So set her up in comfort in Syrissia and you have a deal." Otherwise Joan would be a glorified hostage, however comfortable she might be and Val did not want to be under the thumb of Navan intelligence forever. The Emperor of Navan got big by crushing nations and conquering people just like the wizards did. She did not use Joan's name; if the Empire didn't already know, she wasn't going to tell them.
"You can't beat the wizards. No one can. But if you want to try, I'll take your money. I'm as good as anyone you can find, and if anyone can give you a shot, I can." she finished, as prideful as she could be under the circumstances. And I want revenge on the wizards, but you don't have to know that, Agent Baker. "So, if you still want to make the deal... well, I can't shake on it like this, so you'll just have to take my word. Oh, and I promised silver I'd help her out, so that comes first. Word of honor and all. Deal?"