|Mello of Blades|
In truth, the Stolen Lands belong to no one, and are stolen from no one. Many have tried to claim them, but the abandoned ruins that dot the swath of wilderness stand as testaments to the difficulty of ruling these savage lands. They have remained wild with a fierce tenacity, a haven for monsters and criminals and dangerous secrets, and as such have posed a menace to their neighboring nations as long as anyone can remember.
Yet these times of relative calm in the Stolen Lands are coming to an end. Spurred to action in part by an increase in aggression among the bandits and barbarians of the Stolen Lands and by building political tensions to the north, the swordlords of Restov have sent agents and colonists into the disputed region to explore and settle and, if need be, conquer. The establishment of four new puppet kingdoms, all beholden to Restov’s swordlords and the rest of Rostland, would not only bring freedom from banditry and raids along Rostland’s southern border, but also the resources and clout needed to make a play for a higher station in Brevoy’s complicated political scene. If all goes well, the just return of the Stolen Lands to Brevic control could well give Rostland the footing it needs to challenge the Surtova hold on the crown.
Oleg’s trading post is surrounded by a wooden palisade that stands 10 feet high. At each corner of the palisade are 20-footsquare watchtowers, each armed with a run-down catapult left over from the site’s original use as a border fort. There’s one entrance through the palisade—a 30-foot-wide wooden gate. As you approach the gate, it shudders open to you, implying that your arrival was expected.
You are welcome (encouraged, rather) to roleplay your travel to this point to get to know each other. If you choose not to roleplay the travel, a quiet trip will be assumed for your character, and your fellow charter members will know little more than your name and the fact that you've been commissioned to work together on this charter.
There had been hardly a handshake before Godwin and the others were ushered off down the rarely-ridden trail to Oleg's trading post. It seemed like arriving safely and timely was important, especially considering that a group had been sent ahead by the swordlords to clear any possible trouble from the road. Once the outpost they had left was out of sight, he relaxed some and decided to enjoy the ride. He was, of course, perched firmly atop his dark steed, Anselm.
There didn't seem to be too much worry to stay alert, so he figured he'd learn about his new compatriots on this charter. In particular, the elf astride another equine arrested his intrigue. What's an elf like you got his hand in this mess for?" he blurted out, unable to withhold his curiosity. He hadn't seen too many elves growing up, especially not up this close. They were always a bit of a mystery, and this one had to either be especially crazed or especially bored to be carrying out this expedition. He couldn't imagine why anyone would be out here unless they didn't have anything better back at home. Realizing his rudeness, he added, Sorry, I'm Godwin, and this is Anselm." He patted the horse for extra assurance. Hopefully he hadn't offended the elf; they always seemed like the uptight type just by looking at them.
The human's loud outburst seemed to shake the elf out of a long reverie on the back of his chestnut-colored mare, his thoughts clearly far from the dusty trail upon which the small group traveled. Naralesh collected himself with a smile for a few moments before he spoke, responding in perfect Taldane, without even a hint of what might be considered an elven accent. "There's no apologies needed between us, Godwin. My name's Naralesh, my steed is Susan, and this," he said, indicating the white-furred fox which lay snoozing across his shoulders, "is my companion Nora." He looked ahead down the trail, to where their destination, Oleg's walled trading post, was just barely coming into view of his elven eyesight. "I imagine I'm here for much the same reasons each of you are," he said. "I'm a citizen of Brevoy, and hopefully my skills should be of use on the frontier." The unmistakable spell-component pouch at his waist seems to indicate what skills he had referred to, though the beautiful hilt of an unmistakably elvish sword protruded from the sheath at his waist, and the delicate shortbow slung across his back indicated he was comfortable with more than just slinging spells.
Never much of a rider, Talia had always preferred the enclosed, if bumpy, ride of a stagecoach. Alas, there had been no time to properly outfit an expedition. Word came to Talia's mother that there were Surtova thugs in Restov looking for the young woman, and Talia's abscondment in the night was rushed and ill-planned.
Sighing, the young woman stretches in her saddle, trying to tame the twinge in her back, and sets her jaw in a glum expression. No hot meals or warm baths in my future, I'd wager.
Her ears perking up as the knight and the elf start talking, Talia spurs her horse forward, drawing up to the two. Looking them both over, the young noble thinks, "They seem a competent bunch. I'd not mess with either, that's for sure!"
Smiling her warmest, most inviting smile, Talia addresses her companions. "Naralsh, Godwin, it is nice to meet you. I'm Talia Khavortorov, of House Khavorotorov, and this is my horse, Noleski. I'm pretty good in social situations, have written a fairly well-recieved play - in Restov anyway. I also have some minor magical ability..." The young woman reaches unconsciously to her side, patting a coiled whip inset with nasty blades. "Oh, and I've trained all my life in the dueling style popular with my house, but I'm afraid I've never been in a real fight."
Pausing for a moment, clearly uncomfortable with her inexperience, the playwright decides to change the subject. "Godwin, I must ask how you came about that armor. It is quite interesting! I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it!"
Naralesh bows as best one can while still in the saddle, and respectfully replies, "Well met, my lady. What play, if I may be so bold as to ask? I've traveled to Restov frequently the last few years, and I've made it out to the playhouse on occasion." He settles back in his saddle as he thinks back to the past five years since his wife's death, and the times he would visit the city simply to see another lively face.
Gavriil pulled up the rear of the group, not because of any tactical advantage, he wasn't a militant after all. No, he pulled up the rear because he was the only person out of the rag-tag team of explorers who didn't have enough brains to buy a horse before leaving. It was all well to him, though. He knew they were useful, but had never really liked horses. He saw them as dumb animals that would just as soon as kick you as help you move things.
So, he contented himself to bringing up the rear to stay out to the beasts of burden's way. He whistled a small tune to pass the time as the others seemed content to get to know each other. He laughed out loud at the knight's blunder towards the elf and again at the elf's answer. 'My skills should be of use on the frontier,' please tell me that they didn't stick me with a bunch of people who are only doing this for "duty", he thought. He'd mostly been on the wrong side of men who worked only because it was their duty, and they usually were the ones without a lick of common sense.
He looked over to his final companion and smirked. [i]This might not be a total waste of time, he thought and moved forward to walk next to the woman. "As I live an breathe. Talia Khavortorov! I saw the The Tender Heart in Restov! and it was fantastic!" In truth it bored him to sleep. He didn't get any of it and didn't understand why people were so upset over a stupid play. The only reason he even went to go see it was that it got him out of the rain.
Bluff: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
Naralesh almost choked, hearing the name of the play. The Tender Heart? he thought to himself, falling silent. He'd heard of the uproar the play had caused in New Stetven. Perhaps that explains what a pampered noblewoman is doing on a dangerous excursion into bandit territory. He stroked Nora's head as the fox awoke, stretching on her perch upon his shoulders before leaping down to settle before him on the saddle.
"Well-met, Naralesh, Talia!" Godwin had never been privileged enough to attend any plays, and was not cultured in the finer fancies of that side of life. That's not to say he wasn't absolutely intrigued by the topic, he just didn't want to make a fool of himself by trying to hold a conversation over something he was ignorant of. Ignoring the discussion of plays and nobility, he settled to answer Talia's question.
"Some foreign merchants came through town one day selling some odd goods such as this one," he said, giving his armor a tap. "I'd been saving up to treat myself, and what's an aspirant knight without his armor?" He grinned as he said this, but stopped as he continued. "There are cultures that I was meant to experience that I could not. I forge my own path to them now." He was, of course, referring to his denied nobility as well as his lost Tian heritage. This armor and those merchants were all he had ever been able to experience of his absent mother's culture.
Ha! That's pretty funny, Gavriil! Indeed, attendance did seem to increase drastically on rainy days, for some reason :) I'm not going to roll a sense motive - Talia has no reason to suspect you're lying, and she's probably pretty full of herself, at least when it comes to her dramatic skills...
Talia blushes a little at Naralesh's question. Probably shouldn't have mentioned the play, girl. You don't know any of these people's politics. She's silent for a beat, trying to figure out where the elf would stand, if at all, regarding the politics of Brevic noble houses. Surely everyone has an opinion about the coming civil war...
Before Talia can answer Naralesh, Gavriil answers for her. Her pale cheeks blushing even more red, Talia smiles, obviously enjoying the flattery. "Why thank yoooouuuuuu, sir! You are obviously a man of distinguished taste! What is your name and what do you do, that we should find ourselves so lucky to be journeying with you? I imagine you have a particular skill set as impressive as Naralesh and Godwin here..."
Turning to Godwin, Talia addresses the young man with another question. "So you are a squire? A newly minted knight?"
"Hah, what flattery! If only I had such luck," Godwin mused. 'Did she really think me a fledged knight?' he wondered. It was certainly exciting to think so. 'Perhaps this means I really can be some day.' Waving off her praise, he added, As I said, I'm forging my own path. It's why I'm here, after all." He knew it was a stretch to think he could achieve his rightful place through these means, but it was the only chance he had.
Gavriil smiled at the bard's blushing cheeks as she thanked him for the compliment. Well, I'll have at least somebody on my side as long as I keep hitting her with flattery he thought. There was no reason to believe that they would all even stick together for long, but it was still nice to have a friend with the group while they were together.
Without missing a beat, Gavriil flashes another smile at Talia and responds saying, "I'm Gavriil. I do protection services for merchants on the Sellen." he lowers his hand to the pommel of his rapier to emphasize the point. It wasn't a complete lie either. He did do protection for merchants on the Sellen. He just left out the fact that most of those merchants were smugglers. He smirked remembering that the lady had said she dueled. "I also dabble in fencing a little from time to time. Maybe we could spare sometime."
He turned to Godwin and said, "So you're a bit more lie a knight errant, eh?"
Talia smiles and looks ahead, down the trail. "Of course, Gavriil. I always like to practice my skills. I'm happy to practice with you any time you like. No blood or death involved of course."
Talia's practice dueling would be strictly non-lethal.
"Aye, though I'd not consider myself as such a romantic. There was a funny little word that those merchants used when I was telling them what I was planning with this armor and horse. 'Ronin', I think they called it. When I asked what it meant, they said it was a term from their homeland to describe a knightly soul with no lord but himself to serve." It was certainly an intriguing notion, to be one's own master in this society that craved status and power. It was simple and honest, and Godwin liked the sound of that.
Naralesh sat in silence, fading into the background as the others talked. It was an elvish trait, sitting back and watching the bustling activity of the younger races, but it was one he had avoided for many years. Nora looked up at him as they rode, placing a single paw on his hand and meeting his gaze. He sighed and shook his head gently at her, remaining in the cloud of his thoughts until the group had finally arrived at Oleg's. Naralesh's steed trotted in first, ready after the long day's travel for the chance for rest.
Of course it will be non-lethal.
Gavriil nodded in response to Talia, "Well, of course! I'd rather not be left a bloody pulp."
He turned to Godwin again and said, "I guess that means you're Ronin, unless, of course you count the men who sent you on this little mission."
After that, he pulled out a apple from his backpack and started to chomp it down as he walked with his new co-workers, enjoying the sights on the way to Oleg's trading post.
Talia spends the rest of the time talking, engaging each member of the group in conversation at various points. She tries to keep the conversation off of herself, but when the talk comes back to the theater or the arts, she can't help but go on about the finer points of such subjects at great length, to the probably dismay of Gavrill. When Oleg's comes into view, the young woman drops her horse back a bit, putting the ronin between herself and the trading post, and then approaches with the others, looking around for signs of anything being afoot.
perception: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15
|Mello of Blades|
As you enter, you can hear the sounds of hammering coming from atop the building just to the right of the entrance. Looking up, you see a gruff, stout man working on the roof, who could presumably be Oleg himself. Your attention is arrested forward, however, as a fair woman with wisps of blonde hair escaping from her bandana approaches you.
"Welcome, travelers, to our little trading post!" she says with warm smile on her face. She seems quite excited to see you here. "Come, come, I've prepared a stew for you all, and uncorked our finest wine! You must be hungry from your trek; come, sit, eat, let's talk! I am Svetlana, by the way, Oleg's wife." Realizing that she's getting a bit ahead of herself, she adds, "Oh, but you may stable your horses over yonder, first." She points to the large building on her left. "Unfortunately we can't spare the storage for free, I'm sure you understand. For just 2 silver each per night, you can dock your horses in those stables. Our stable lad will fix them right up with food and water, and even give them a good brushing! No worries, they will be in the kindest of hands. I'll start bowling out the stew now, hurry along or it will get cold!" As quickly as she had come, she turned on her heel and was already pouring bowls of soup and setting them on the table.
Talia grins and waves at the sight of the gruff man working on the roof, and distracted, barely registers Svetlana's approach until the fair woman starts talking. Scarcely able to get a word in before Svetlana turns on her heel, Talia yells as the woman retreats towards the fire pit, "Two silver for the stables? How much for the room?"
What a lovely reception! Even in this out of the way location, with service like this - a warm greeting at the door and hot stew on arrival, I'm sure they do a good business. Dismounting and leading Noleski over to the stable boy, Talia leaves two silver and another four copper with the young lad, "For your time."
Looking again to the man on the roof, Talia shades her eyes to get a better look at him. "Hello, Oleg! Fine place you have here! Repairing some storm damage?"
Naralesh smiled at the warm greeting, feeling welcomed by her tone and amused by her rush. He dismounted and led his horse over to the stables, looking around him at the high wooden walls and formidable defenses for such a small place. I wonder how frequently their defenses are tested, he wondered.
Perception - Do the walls look battle-damaged?: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Nora leaped down from the saddle as he pays the stablehand, trotting alongside him as he made his way inside. He greeted her with a friendly smile as he entered. "Many thanks for the warm welcome, Svetlana. I am Naralesh, and it is my great pleasure to be here."
Gavriil continued to smile and nod in all the right places while listening to Talia on the way to Oleg's trading post. But in truth he wasn't really listening. She was a nice girl, good looking too (guess that comes with the theater territory, though) but she went on and on about that crap! How one person could continue to talk about the finest points of the same grueling topic for hours was beyond him. By the time the fort was in view, Gavriil knew the differences between Dramatic and Comedic styles, and all the silly nuances that made up the two, PLUS histories of their greatest writers. The razor on his belt was starting to look very good to him. Maybe suicide would end the suffering?
At long last the fort rose into view. Once they approached the gate and entered, Gavriil smiled and waved to the man on the roof. He nodded to Svetlana and follows her inside, eager to finally get off his feet for the day. "Thank you for bringing us in and providing this for us. I'm Gavriil. This all looks wonderful." He sat down at the table, eager to start eating and let the wine flow. Maybe if he drank enough he'd lose some of the trivia he inadvertently picked up that day...
Godwin kept quiet for most of the rest of the ride to Oleg's. The conversation topics were way above his head, and he wasn't one to make a fool of himself.
Once there and greeted by Svetlana, he accepted the offer of stabling, taking Anselm over to the stable boy and handing him the two silver. Refusing the urge to discuss horse care with the boy after the long trek of higher conversation, he joined the rest with Svetlana at the table. He nodded in agreeance as the others thanked her for her hospitality, not wanting to reiterate the obvious. He was pretty hungry after the ride, and was very much looking forward to this meal.
|Mello of Blades|
Oleg does not return the wave, nor respond to Talia's inquiry. Finding a good stopping point in his work, he climbs down to join his wife and the others at the table. "Welcome," he says gruffly, seeming only half-sincere. He studies each of you while his wife speaks. Oleg begins eating quietly as soon as he gets his bowl.
Svetlana cheerily finishes the dining preparations and sits at the table with everyone. "Eat up!" she says excitedly. "We haven't had such esteemed guests in a while, so I made sure to use my finest ingredients!" She seems quite proud of this, and waits for everyone else to take a sip before starting on the stew herself. "I'm so glad that Restov has finally sent some aid to us, we've been asking for them to do so for months! It's very brave and kind of you all to come here just to protect our little trading post," she says. You don't recall ever being briefed on such a mission, but Svetlana seems eager that this is why you have come here.
Naralesh's face showed little indication of his thoughts, though he thought amusedly to himself, No wonder they were so specific that we visit here first. He nodded to Svetlana as the others ate. "What's the latest on the threats you're facing? I'm afraid our patrons weren't very forthcoming with the details."
|Mello of Blades|
Svetlana's cheers lessens visibly at Naralesh's words. "They didn't tell you? We've been facing bandit trouble for months now..."
Oleg slams his fist on the table and stands up, cursing loudly. "Gods damn it all! They're just here scouting for Restov's expansion! I'll not have it, I tell you, I won't!" As he goes to storm out, Svetlana puts out her hand to him, stopping him before he can leave.
"Don't go, they don't seem opposed to helping us, even if it's not why they're here. Calm down and give it a a chance, hun. It's not like we have any other options..." Svetlana pleaded. Seeing the pleading look in his wife's eyes, Oleg takes a deep breath and begrudgingly sits back down.
Relieved, Svetlana begins explaining to you the following:
Since then, the bandits have returned twice more, each time within an hour of sunrise on the first day of the month. The Levetons have learned to have their “taxes” ready and hand them over quickly—the bandits usually seem eager to return to their camp somewhere in the Greenbelt, which makes Svetlana think their camp is about a day’s ride away.
The first time the bandits visited, there were a dozen of them—10 lower-ranking thugs led by a cloaked man armed with a bow, and a woman who carried two small hatchets. The woman did the majority of the talking on that first trip, and her black sense of humor and the way she smiled when she spoke of what fate would await Svetlana if the Levetons didn’t comply frightened Svetlana all the more. The woman also seemed to be particularly sharp and observant, whereas the man seemed to be a bit more crude and foolish. This, plus the fact that the woman quite nearly lopped off Oleg’s right hand with one of her hatchets in a cruel bit of mockery, convinced the Levetons that she was the most dangerous of the bandits. As it was, the woman took Svetlana’s wedding ring right off her hand and tossed it to one of her men as payment for “not shortening Oleg’s reach.”
On the second and third visit, only the crude hooded man accompanied the bandits. The second visit, he came with only six other men, while on the third he only came with four. The Levetons suspect that the bandits have let down their guard and think the owners of the trading post are completely cowed. Hopefully, when they visit tomorrow they’ll be even fewer in number, and hopefully the scary woman with the hatchets won’t be with them.
At first Talia smiles, amazed that her reputation has preceded itself, as Svetlana uses the term "esteemed guest". When it becomes apparent that Svetlana isn't talking about her play writing skills, Talia tries to hide her disappointment, a disappointment which soon turns to anger as the Levetons' tale gets more specific. Frowning, and looking down at her hands fidgeting on the well-worn wood table, next to Svetlana's delicious bowl of homemade soup, Talia can't help but feel a little shameful at her hubris.
Pale cheeks reddening again, this time with anger, the noblewoman digs into her pack as Svetlana finishes her story. Sliding her copy of the charter across the table to Svetlana, Talia looks at both her and Oleg with a steady, serious stare. "Mrs. Leveton, we greatly appreciate your hospitality tonight. Although we didn't receive any information about this problem you're having, as you can see we do have a charter giving us express permission to rid these lands of bandit activity - and please note, that the penalty of bandit activity is execution by sword or rope. I cannot speak for my companions, but I for one will be happy to meet with these men."
"And Gavriil, I suppose you're going to get to see my dueling technique in the morning."
Our reputation may not precede us yet, but it will soon...
Naralesh muses on what he's heard. Five bandits, on the last visit... we could take five bandits, couldn't we? Even better, if there's fewer of them. The others seem competent enough in a fight, and I could conjure something with my spells to assist for at least a short time... He nods in agreement with Talia's words. "The Swordlords may not have paid your troubles heed, but we shall. We've been sent to map these lands and make them safe. Bandits running unchecked, preying on traders, is no measure of safety."
Gavriil began stuffing his face before the others even had a chance to sit down. He hadn't eaten a good meal and so long! In between mouthfuls of food he said, "This... is... delicious!!!" He continued to down spoonfuls of stew while only half listening to the others while they talked. It wasn't until they started talking about defending the trading post that his ears perked up. He began half listening and his spoonfuls of food began to go slower and slower towards his face until finally he sat with his mouth open and the spoon halfway to his mouth.
THOSE BASTARDS!!! he thought, They didn't want to spare any more guards to help these people out so they sent us to do it for them while only getting paid for the one job! While still furious, Gavriil had to admit the genius of the Swordlords' plan. It was also probably why they had specified going to Oleg's little hole-in-the-wall first! He would have to have a talk with his employers next time he saw them.
He slowly put the spoon back in the bowl, suddenly loosing his appetite, and listened to the others reassure Mr. and Mrs. Leveton that we would do anything we could to help out. He looked around at his fellow companions with a frown. He knew he could maybe win against bandits if the fight wasn't a fair one, but he wasn't so sure about the elf and the actress. Yes, the elf claimed to be a magician, but Gavriil never put much stock in magic. And yes, the actress claimed to be a duelist, but Gavriil wondered if the only people she had ever fought were people her parents hired for her, in which case they probably lost on purpose. Even he hadn't really fought anyone before! Yes, he'd been in scraps, but that was only long enough to confuse the guards until he could run away! He was no soldier. The only person in the group he actually put stock in was their knight. Was one knight really enough to take on five cold-blooded killers?
Finally he peeped up, "We're no guards, but we'd be glad to help out after you've gone out of your way to provide this for us. That being said, I feel we may need a plan." He looked to each of his new companions and said, "Any ideas?"
|Mello of Blades|
"So, the rumors and my suspicions were true," Oleg mutters to himself, but audibly. "Still, if you'll help, I can't say no. I have no love for Restov, but if they've given you the authority to take care of such things on your expedition, then I'll take it. You're welcome to use any supplies or buildings we have here in order to take care of them, feel free to look around. Personally, I suggest you hide out in the stables or the guest house to ambush them while they load up our furs. Svetlana will stay inside, and I'll comply with them long enough for you to strike. Of course, I'm no fighter, so we're at your mercy if you have a better plan. I'd very much like to hang those bandits off the south palisade as a warning once it's all said and done, though!"
Talia scowls a little at Oleg's condemnation of Restov, but bites her tongue, offering only a question instead. "Could hanging them off the side of your palisade be seen more as a provocation than a deterrent? Plus, are you going to drive away business with corpses hanging from your walls? After a few days the smell alone would surely be horrendous, let along the visual you're going to give your customers."
Turning to the others, Talia puts down her spoon, and dabbing her mouth with a napkin, turns her head slightly so as not to be rude. "Personally, I'd like to try and reason with them. I imagine it won't work, but perhaps they can be convinced to work off their debt to the Levetons in return for their lives? I do think Oleg's suggestion to hide when they first arrive is a good one. Oleg, I assume that they ride horses or bring carts and donkeys with them to take away your goods? We don't want them turning on their steeds and running at the first sight of armed strangers."
Who are Oleg's customers? Trappers bringing furs? Travelers heading into the Stolen Lands?
"I'm in favor of an ambush. Get them off their mounts, surrounded, preferably with weapons undrawn, before they know we're fighting back. If there'll be a surrender, that's how it'll happen." The elf continues to eat at his leisurely pace, as though taking the talk of bandits and strategy completely in stride. "They'll run if they can. I imagine Godwin and Anselm can catch one, if they get away. We're out of luck if they scatter, though."
Gavriil smiles at Oleg's response. He might not like them very much, but the trader was willing to give them a hand. His eyes shot to Talia when she voiced her concerns about hanging the bodies. "I think seeing them strung up would be a good deterrent. That is, if they go unrepentant. If they surrender we should ship them back to Restov, let them sort them out. It's not really our place to judge them."
He nodded at Naralesh's suggestion, "Ambush would be best for us, I think, especially if they actually do come at full strength." He gave a wolfish grin when Naralesh said they'd run. Of course they'd run if they were getting their arses handed to them, so would Gavriil. There was no point in honor if you were dead.
"What if we make it so they couldn't escape?" he asked, a plan starting to formulate in his head. "If that wagon out there still moves we can hitch one of the horses to it and move it to the side of the stables. Bandits come in, we move the wagon in front of the gate, bang! instant trap. Though, we should probably have someone between the bandits and the main building so they don't try to harm our fine hosts if they panic."
Godwin sat listening in silence for most of the meal, nodding in agreeance that their help was needed here. At the talk of ambushes and traps, however, he began to frown heavily at his comrades, and especially at Oleg. "An ambush just won't do," he said plainly, as if that was that. "It makes sense tactically, I agree, but is this really how we plan to operate? With underhanded tactics and no gall to face a threat directly? It makes us no better than those scoundrels, in my opinion. I suggest we face them head on. It's important that we make a name for ourselves as stout defenders of the peace in these lands; not just another ragtag gang that jumps people when it's opportune. I know they're bandits, and they're surely deserving of such a fate, but what service would we do beyond their elimination by jumping them in this way?"
He crossed his arms and made eye contact with each of them, to reassure that he was very serious about this. "If you can't abide by that, then at least let Miss Talia and I try to confront them first."
As Gavriil mentions the wagon and cutting off the bandits, Talia smiles and nods excitedly. "Yes! This is a good idea. The bandits come in, see Godwin and I - perhaps we act as if we are getting ready to leave or we are just finishing breakfast or something - Gavrill hides in the back of the cart - as the bandits approach us, thinking we are easy marks, we offer them terms of surrender while Gavrill gets to the horse and pulls the cart to block their escape."
"If they refuse surrender, Naralesh, from hiding - a rooftop or behind another building - drops a summons on them and fires his bow while the rest of us mop up. I don't think these common criminals will suspect that they are no match for a couple of us, even if we're armed. And our presence should be distracting enough that they don't pay too much attention to the hitched cart by the stables."
"Thoughts? Criticisms? Concerns?"
Naralesh leans forward. "Confronting them is fine, so long as they're off-guard when so challenged. Don't allow them to see us until they're vulnerable - then Godwin and Talia reveal themselves, catching them unprepared to fight. That'll make a surrender all the more likely." He looks at each of the others in turn, measuring their responsiveness to his suggestions. "If they know Oleg and Svetalana aren't alone, they might change their plans. Best to catch them in the act, and they might realize their position is compromised."
I can settle for that," Godwin resolves. It was fine to confront the bandits in the moment, but charging out from the shadows for a sneak attack was not his schtick. Secretly, he was relieved to have Naralesh's hidden support, but focused instead on his own role in this operation. "After they have entered, Talia and I will approach them calmly. If they resist, we will attempt to subdue them. If they attack... Well, it'll be an execution by lance rather than sword; I hope the Swordlords don't mind."
"I am fine with this plan, also. Hopefully they can be convinced of the error of their ways."
That evening, Talia barely sleeps, at first too eager with anticipation at the coming fight to drift off to sleep. As the night wears on, the young woman's thoughts turn to apprehension. What if my training fails me? What if my companions are not as skilled as they appear, or if these bandits are more than just common thugs? What if the gods' fickle ways blow the winds in our disfavor?
About an hour before the dawn, Talia rises and after donning her armor, the noblewoman wearily makes her way to the outbuilding north of the entrance to Oleg's, and leaving the door cracked, looks out onto the courtyard awaiting the arrival of her first real fight, or so she suspects, palms sweaty and heart hammering away in her chest.
I'm going to go ahead and move Talia to the outbuilding, but I'm happy to stage our ambush from wherever you all want to.
Naralesh takes an opportunity between dinner and nightfall to discuss the specifics of his spells with the others. In particular, he asks Godwin about his combat plans. "I imagine you plan to fight astride Anselm tomorrow. I can prepare magic which will double your size and grant you great strength, but you would become far too heavy to ride a normal-sized steed. Unless you would rather battle on foot, I can commit my energies to other spells when preparing for the fight."
Mopping up her stew with a fine crusty roll, Talia pauses from her meal to add to Naralesh's discussion. "I've got some minor skill with magic. I can put our enemies to sleep, or slicken the ground the walk on. I'll be sure to do one if combat breaks out. The Khavortorov dueling style necessitates putting some distance between the duelist and her foes - I'll be working from behind Godwin or Gavriil if possible."
If it comes to combat I'll probably open with sleep, then satire (-1 attack and damage, and to saves vs. enchantments and fear), then disarm or trip with the whip.
Gavriil's glare could have shot daggers through Godwin. Apparently, not quite as smart as I thought he was, he thought, but bit his tongue. The Leveton's were probably already at their wits end relying on them instead of real guards, they didn't need to see them bicker as well. He would just bide his time and talk to Godwin alone when he had the chance.
He turned to Naralesh and said, "I agree, they might get antsy if they see people other than our hosts here. You two should remain hidden until they are loading up the goods to confront them. They'll be completely off guard." He smirked as he remembered a time when the police had rushed in to a warehouse where he and a few others had been unloading less-than-legal cargo. You would have thought that everyone in the warehouse had been caught kissing their sister with the way they acted.
Gavriil kept quiet when the others turned their attention to spells. He had nothing to add in this department. The arcane arts were well above his head.
"I had planned to ride Anselm, but your offer intrigues me, Naralesh. There's not much room for a charge in this fort, and I've admittedly never brought him into a real combat before. I'll have him pull the cart in the way of the gate, since there's no chance he'll spook if things go awry.
As the day closes, Godwin says his goodnights to Anselm and his new comrades and goes to sleep, dreaming of what excitement and terror may await them the next day. It did not disturb him; he was excited to prove himself.
|Mello of Blades|
The bandits arrive as scheduled, approaching from the south on horseback about an hour after sunrise. The gate opens to them, and four bandits enter with six horses. They arrogantly ride in and begin making crude comments about Svetlana and threats against Oleg while they begin loading their horses. One bandit, seemingly the one leading this operation, stands back and lets the other three do the work while he threatens Oleg.
Naralesh waits out of sight on one of the building's rooftops, waiting to hear Talia or Godwin challenge the outlaws. He rehearses the complex words to the cumbersome transmutation spell he discussed last night, repeating them over and over in his head. It's one of the longer incantations he knows, and he realizes that he will have to stay out of sight as much as possible to avoid making himself a very obvious target if the bandits come prepared.
Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Talia looks to Godwin. Hope he's as tough as he looks.
Stepping through the doorway and clutching her whip in one hand, Talia raises her voice, using her stage training to project it from her diaphragm outwards, with strength and force. Despite her nerves, her voice comes out strong and assured.
"These are desperate times for desperate men. Life isn't easy here in the hinterlands, but shaking down good men and women is not the answer. You've not left with those goods, so in there's no harm done - yet. Know this: I am Talia Khavortorov of house Khavortorov, and I have a writ with me allowing allowing for the punishment of banditry - by sword or rope. Surrender now, and we'll work out a way to pay off your debts. However, if one more item goes into those sacks, you'll pay for them with your lives. And we'll hang you from the walls of this trading post as a warning to others. Your families will never know what became of you - only us, and the buzzards picking at your eyes and skin will know your of sad, pointless lives. Submit and live or fight and die - your fate is in your hands!"
Cracking her whip as a point of emphasis, the sound echoing around the compound, Talia looks out at the men, hoping that the bandits will throw down their weapons and parley.
intimidate: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Gavriil sat in the back of the wagon waiting for the bandits to show themselves. You just had to open your big mouth and suggest the wagon, didn't you? he thought, Now you're sitting in the back of a wagon bored out of your mind. He passed the time by counting his money and cleaning his sword like his instructor had shown him.
After what seemed like an eternity he heard the gates open up and the bandits slip inside, cocky as anything. He slipped into the driver's seat and waited to hear the others. Once he heard Talia start talking, he flicked the reins and moved the wagon into place. Here goes nothing, he thought as he emerged from the side of the stables to stop in front of the gate. Once stopped, he stood up on the wagon and drew his sword, trying to look as intimidating as possible.
Godwin stepped out from the door behind Talia, only to see both her and Gavriil with weapons drawn already. He had hoped a peaceful diplomacy would have been in order, but he supposed intimidation tactics were likely more effective when dealing with bandits. Seeing no reason not to draw his own weapon at this point, he reaches back and unhooks his long lance, drawing it steady with both hands. Talia's words were rather mighty, and he felt no need to add to them. Only his presence was needed to reinforce her claim at this point.
'I do not wish to kill a man today, he thought, but if innocent lives are against the weight of bandits', then I will do what I must.
Naralesh elected to remain hidden for the moment. He briefly considered casting his spell on Godwin now - but decided to wait, not even certain the warrior had revealed himself yet. Best to wait for their response before making myself an attractive target, he thought. Besides, they're likely to surrender. They're surrounded, and Talia sounded like she really meant business. He clutched his shortbow tightly in his left hand, keeping his right free in preparation for the complex gestures necessary to summon his magic.
|Mello of Blades|
The three bandits loading the horses had looks on their faces as if they'd been caught kissing their mothers when Talia stepped out to challenge them. Hearing the carriage pull up, they turned to see it blocking their escape, with Gavriil on board. No sooner could they look back at Talia did they see Godwin already present and ready for a fight, and that Oleg had already fled. The panicked bandits began to whisper frantically between themselves, but the one leading them seemed unmoved. Shortly, he spoke up.
Take the feisty girl, kill the rest. We've got them outnumbered. She'll fetch a hefty ransom from the noble house, and if not... Well, there are other uses for such a pretty songbird." His grin was as filthy as his intentions, and with that he signaled to attack.
Talia: Initiative: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (13) + 1 = 14
Gavriil: Initiative: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (14) + 3 = 17
Godwin: Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Naralesh: Initiative: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Bandit 1: Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
Bandit 2: Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
Bandit 3: Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Bandit Lead: Initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18
(22+22+8+18)/4 = 17.5
Then: Everyone else in any order
Ranged Flatfooted Touch Attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 20
The flask shatters onto Godwin's armor, erupting him in flames that spit across to those directly around him.
Fire Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 5
Talia and the horse adjacent each take 1 point of fire splash damage. Godwin will take another 1d6 fire damage next turn unless it is put out.
At their leader's command, the other three bandits take up arms and rush at Godwin and Talia.
The first one steps forward and swings at Godwin with his shortsword.
Bandit 1 Flatfooted Melee Attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 20
Bandit 1 Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
The second follows suit, seeing the sturdy knight as the strongest threat.
Bandit 2 Flatfooted Melee Attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
Bandit 2 Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 1 = 6
Seeing Godwin drop, the third bandit rushes to subdue Talia.
Bandit 3 Flatfooted Melee Attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (13) + 2 = 15
Bandit 3 Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
Blast it all! They got the drop on us! Naralesh clenched his teeth, standing and seeing the damage that'd been done. He rose to his feet, deciding that with Godwin down, his spells, better used for distraction and disuption, wouldn't serve as well as an actual assault might. Drawing forth an arrow from his quiver, he took careful aim at the leader's back. This disgusting filth should be put down, he thinks as the arrow flies free.
Shortbow at the Leader (+1 for High Ground): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23
Confirmation: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 5
Extra Crit Damage if a 10 Confirms vs. Flat-Footed: 2d6 ⇒ (1, 2) = 3