The Jewel of the East (Inactive)

Game Master Nikolaus de'Shade

Solo adventure in the sands of Qadira.

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The Sphinx glowers at Usmond from high above, although the sharp eyed inquisitor can make out a hint of fear in its eye. "Fine!" It spits, "Take the girl and leave! Do not return to my land!" With mighty wing beats, kicking up a cloud of sand around Usmond, it circles higher and higher until it is merely a shadow against the darkening sky.

Ha, I lived!

Usmond lets out a roar of triumph as the creature soars out of sight. Raising his sword he shouts, "To Gorum!" and then he reaches down and smacks Etmek on the shoulder, "Well done. Our arms were strong today."

Still, it was no time to waste, he turned and moved to catch up with the fleeing men (and woman). A smile touched his usually tough face, even here in this strange land, Gorum was with him.

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You hit A LOT harder than it expected :)

The kaleen's head-long flight has slowed to a controlled canter by the time Usmond catches up, Taresh is at the front - marshaling the riders and restoring the discipline that temporarily went out the window in the face of the Sphinx's attack. Khanimah rides in the middle of the group, avoiding Usmond's eye.

Eventually the group settles in the lee of a large sand-dune, for want of a better place to camp. Before making any food the kaleen see to their horses and then lead a bruised stallion into the centre of the group - the horses flanks are covered in blood. Ben-Harel moves into the middle with his scimitar drawn and stands by the horses head.

"We mourn our brother Grandel, lost to the sphinx. He rode at the rear to defend his kaleen and his bravery was great. May he ride eternally in Sarenrae's light!"

So saying he cuts the horse's throat in one swift motion and the animal collapses into the sand. Each member of the kaleen steps forward in turn, murmuring a prayer over the dying animal and dipping a finger in the blood. As they turn away each draws a symbol on their cheek in the blood.

Khanimah, standing next to Usmond, murmurs: "They take the blood to pass on the strength of the horse, the letter to remind them of their comrade. In the tribes we always send the horse with their rider so that they are not alone, I didn't know the custom still lingered beyond the desert."

Ben-Harel steps back, his fingers red and looks to Usmond. He and Khanimah are now the only ones who have not participated.

Rolled well and Usmond is good at hitting with swords and scaring them.

When Ben-Harel mentions Sarenrae, Usmond adds, in his deep voice, 'And may Gorum's arm shield him until he has found his place at her side. He has earned it today." He was a inquisitor of Gorum, after all.

When it is his turn he steps forward, and leans over the horse. He says a brief prayer to Gorum for the beast. It served a warrior, and in many ways was braver then a man who at least understands the terrors of this world.

He dips his thick fingers into the blood and does his best to make the same symbol on his cheek. Usmond had been in many forces and had seen many strange rites. There had been tribes in Mwangi that had eaten fallen comrades. This was nothing that unusual. Yet, anyway.

Part of him does regret the loss of the horse however. It was a resource gone to waste and his own, unsentimental God did not approve of such wastage. Still, now was not the time.

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After the funeral the kaleen go about their business quietly and the night is a subdued one.

The next day, by unspoken consensus, everyone is up early and you push on through the desert. Many hours later, just after the worst of the day a shimmering mirage appears in the distance. Trees, thirty to forty feet tall rise majestically from the sands. As you approach it becomes apparent that this is no mirage.

The Great Oasis is vast and extremely busy. All around you see tents, horse corals and the signs of semi-permanent settlement. The sight of sunlight glinting off blue water is almost too much to bear and all the horses pick up the pace slightly, heading straight into the water to drink their fill.

It is only after the kaleen emerges that Usmond sees how the tribes are giving his men a wide berth. Only one group appears to paying him any attention and they are as sand-swept as his own, lead by a tall dark man and a woman who both bear an uncanny resemblance to Khaminah.

Usmond sees everyone giving them a wide breth, which seems understandable. Even among hardened desert tribesmen, a party of armed soldiers is nothing to interfere with. Or perhaps they were being snubbed?

In any case he spots the tall, dark man and the woman. Clearly they were Khanminah's tribe, whom she was trying to escape. Now the time for diplomacy had come. part of Usmond wished he was still fighting the Sphinx...

The big inquisitor heads toward the two figures, and bows a respectful distance away.

'Greetings. I am Usmond Sigdum, Captain of Auxiliaries in the Satrapian Guard." the fancy words seems thin out here, in the wild desert. "I am taking a troop across these lands. Several days ago a woman came to us, Khaminah. She expressed a desire to travel with us. I allowed it for now, as the desert is no place for a lone woman. Would she be your kin?"

Usmond cursed himself for not knowing a proper honorific for the man. Local tribesmen could be the worst foes in such brutal terrain. A mistake here could cost him dearly.

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The man returns the bow, although his is shallow and almost perfunctory. As he bows Usmond notes the two curved scimitars protruding from above his shoulders. However it is not he that responds to Usmond but the woman.

"I understand this Captain." The woman spoke, in the heavy accent that seems to characterise desert-speaker's common. "Your keeping my daughter safe if appreciated, and for it we will allow you to keep the horses she bought. The tribe has no quarrel with you." Yet her voice seems to imply. "After her betrayal of her tribe my daughter does not deserve them. However now we have arrived it is time for her to put aside this foolish preoccupation and return to her tribe and her duty."

For much of this conversation her gaze is focused on Usmond's left, where Khaminah is standing. The young woman looks more and more mutinous as the speech goes on. The talk of losing her horses sets her face like granite and Usmond has spent enough time with her to see the explosion building...

Usmond takes this in. He could leave it here of course, accept the fine gift and leave Khaminah to the mercies of her tribe. It would be the smart move, the wise move. The girl's rage would be tribe's problem...

Usmond sighed inwardly and went on, "Perhaps the girl is foolish. Maybe it is possible we could come to some arrangement? She begged to run away with me, to defy you. I would never agree to that, but is there any way her wishes and yours could coincide?"

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The tall woman shakes her head firmly. "She is the heir to the tribe. There are no other wishes that come before that responsibility. She has been willful since she was young and some," She glances at the man beside her, "have permitted her to remain that way. I should have broken her in like a young mare years ago. It is the law of the desert - the duty to tribe comes first. Especially if one expects to lead."

"I am not a horse!" Khaminah bellows at her mother, the explosion Usmond could sense rising to the fore. "I am a human being, and not one carved from desert rock like you desiccated cow! I have a heart and I choose to follow it, not to be stuck in a loveless marriage ruling a tribe which I hate! I am not you mother! Tomaso and I have a true love, one that will binds our hearts together, and you will not keep us apart!"

She throws her hands up in the air and marches off, towards where the kaleen are pitching their tents for the night. The tribe leader shrugs and leaves without another word. Only the man remains behind and, once his wife has disappeared amongst the oasis crowds, he steps forward. "Salaam alikum Captain. May I speak to you, man to man?" His common is accented but much more fluent than his wife's and his manners seem impeccable.

I'd like to cast Detect Alignment on the man

Usmond bows slightly, 'Of course. We are, in a sense, your guests here." He hesitates then ventures, 'Do you perhaps have a solution in mind, a compromise perhaps? I must admit, of all the mythical dangers of the desert, I did not expect to encounter a headstrong girl."

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He comes up, faintly, as good.

"Women are the greatest dangers in any realm. The desert is no exception." The man grin, showing a flash of teeth in his dark skin, and gestures towards the edge of the oasis. "If you will walk with me Captain? There is no combat allowed within the Oasis, and if my wife should see me with you it is better that she assumes I have challenged you to combat."

The pair walk in silence until they leave the main oasis and the desert stretches out in front of them, before the man speaks again. "My daughter has too much of her mother in her - she is headstrong and willful and desires to see the world. I do not truly believe that she is in love with this boy, it is an infatuation of youth. But the chance to defy her mother and to carve her own path, that makes him irresistible." He smiles again at Usmond. "If you are blessed with daughters of your own then you will understand. Never-the-less, peace must be maintained in the tribe. Tell me, has my daughter served you well thus far? Would she make a fair soldier under your command?"

Usmond pauses, thrown by the last question. He is taken so much by surprise, he actually thinks outloud, a rarity for the big man.

"A solider? I...had not thought of that. She is brave and cunning enough, she helped save us from an angry Sphinx out in the desert." For a long moment he shakes his head, "An independent spirit combined with strong desires make a bad solider."

Usmond frowns, 'Why do you ask? You want me to recruit her?"

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"She would not be the first of our tribe to leave for a spell in the military." The man replies. "Both my wife and I did so in our younger days. It could serve many purposes if you were to do so - she escapes our life and has a chance to see the world, and I believe I can persuade my wife that she would return, calmer and more mature to take up the leadership of our tribe. She did much the same thing after all..." He looks seriously at Usmond. "I ask as a favor, but do not compromise yourself or your orders for me and mine. I know of military disicple - the Satrapian Guard do not always take kindly to initiative. However should you except, I would consider myself personally in your debt."

He bows once more and awaits Usmond's response.

For the first time Usmond actually considers it. Adding a new solider on the march was hardly unheard of and gaining strength was usually good. Khaminah was brave enough, and had learned to survive in a bleak environment. And he would earn a favor...

"I am heading toward the Saffeh horse fair, following my orders.?" Usmond says suddenly,"Could you perhaps, provide a guide to hurry our passage? One who could help us avoid the dangers? We have already lost one to the sands."

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"It can be done." The man nods and offers his hand. "We have an accord then. My daughter joins you troop and in return I give you a guide to the Saffeh horse fair?" The inflection at the end of his sentence makes it a question, giving Usmond a chance to back out if he wants it.

For a moment Usmond considers asking his men about the deal. Then he shakes his head. This was a choice for a leader, not a matter for voting.

The inquisitor sticks out a scarred hand, taking the desert man's weathered grip. "It is a pact then. May we both honor it, I swear by Gorum himself."

I'm going to regret this...

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"And I by the light of Sarenrae." The man responds, matching Usmond's grip with a firm one of his own.

"You'd best return to your men my friend. I will leave you to tell my daughter of the situation. I have to deal with my wife afterall!" With another flash of teeth in his sun-darkened face he leaves.

Upon returning to the Oasis proper Usmond finds Taresh has organised the kaleen as expertly as he would expect. Small cook-fires blaze and many of the kaleen are brushing their horses or relaxing by the fires. Khaminah is doing her best to wear a hole in the desert, pacing back and forth in front of the fire nearest to the oasis. When Usmond looms among the gathering gloom she hurries over to him and breathes in relief when she sees him uninjured. Then fear flashes across her face.

"My father! You didn't hurt him did you?"

'Hurt him?" Usmond says gravely as if considering it, "I didn't try it. Do you think I should have offered to cross blades? I have a feeling he would have been more potent then one would expect..."

Then he comes out of this and looks at Khaminah, "No, we made a deal, about you." Usmond says this bluntly, to show his is in control. Then he raises his voice for all to hear

"Your father has agreed to give you to this troop, as a solider." Usmond grunts, 'I have agreed to this, not out of your need, but the need of my men. Your father has agreed to give us a trustworthy guide, to lead us to the Saffeh horse fair."

He takes a step toward the smaller woman, towering over her, 'I trust you will not make me regret this. You will not be a full member of this troop, not yet. You have proven brave and trustworthy so far, but not tested as a soldier. I will treat you no different then any other untested solider in my command." He adds a rough edge to his voice, "Your free spirit may be an asset but do not expect me to be as indulgent as your father or believe this deal shows I am soft to female's complaints. Believe me when I say this. If you endanger my men or my mission, I will kill you myself. Do not expect special treatment."

he turns to Taresh and judges the man's emotions.

Sense Motive: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (16) + 15 = 31

Unless on the edge of open revolt

Usmond says to his second in command, "You have a new soldier here. Break her in. Be fair but hard, discover her weaknesses and strengths. The desert is harsh, so we do not have time to coddle." he nods to the woman, "She knows this as well as anyone. Push her."

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Khaminah nods, seeming eager, and Taresh accepts the order with equamity. He takes Khaminah by the arm and leads her off into the camp, leaving Usmond alone with his thoughts.

The next morning Usmond is going about his business when Khaminah's father and mother enter the camp - both dressed for travel. As before the mother opens the conversation.

"Captain - I have come to formally accept the terms of my daughters service. Bring her back safely through the sands." The formality done she speaks in a tone that resembles actual humanity. "I would speak with my daughter... please."

As his wife leaves the husband grins widely at you. "I had to talk for most of the night - but she is convinced. Khaminah will see the world after-all. And it will be good to tred the far sands again." He looks at Usmond with a twinkle in his eye. "Yes, my punishment for this arrangement is to serve as your guide to the horse fair." His grin suggests that he does not consider this much of a punishment. "My name is Kerim Bey, Captain. It will be my honour to ride with you."

"No, the honor is mine." Usmond says simply. Her turns to Taresh and says, 'Form up the company. We leave shortly."

Usmond turns to Kerim, "This Oasis is a meeting place, yes? Are they are traders here? I find myself short on supplies and was wondering if was proper to do such commerce here."

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"Many from the desert arrive here Captain." Kerim replies. "My people love to barter - you will find what you wish for I am sure, but do not pay the first price. It will be too high."

Treat the Oasis as a village for purchasing terms. Most mundane equipment will be available, and a sprinkling of magic. You after anything in particular?

Mundane equipment. A survival kit or some type probably. A minor magic item or two, if they have any. A crossbow would be nice, but that doesn't strike me as a desert weapon. If you'd rather, I'd be perfectly fine getting magic items via plunder or 'dungeons'.

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Magic Items: 2d4 ⇒ (1, 4) = 5
Any mundane items you want you can find for base price, although they don't necessarily look exactly as you would expect. (chitin armor plates rather than metal, that sort of thing).

With Kerim's help Usmond comes upon a trader with a large ramshackle hut. The wizened man has a small table outside with only a few items on it. "He lives here, and has done for many years." Kerim commments. "Anything of magic in the oasis passes through his hands."

Detect Magic and Spellcraft to work out effects or you could just ask... Also Appraise for some sense of value

Item 1: A rod of polished wood, it has a prominent sun carved at one end. Spellcraft DC16
Item 2: Another wand, this one metal with etchings of insects. Spellcraft DC16
Item 3: A pair of scarred and worn armbands which have clearly seen rough use, and are constructed out of coarse leather and fastened with thick leather straps. Spellcraft DC18
Item 4: A leather purse which contains two rolls of bandages, which a remarkably clean and soft to the touch. Spellcraft DC16
Item 5: A long, thin and flexible cotton cord, loosely knotted. Spellcraft DC16

In the shadows of the mans hut another small gleam of magic catches Usmond's eye.

If only I had Spellcraft..

Usmond bows to the wizened old man, respectfully. It would not do to lose face to Kerim, who surely was watching his every move.

I'll make a list of mundane stuff, not too much, and throw it in OOC. Are sunrods considering 'mundane'?

'Greetings, father." Usmond says politely to the trader, "What do you have to sale for a solider?" he waves his hands over the table.

Perception on Hut Magic: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (12) + 14 = 26

Sense motive on old man: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (16) + 15 = 31

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"For a soldier, hmm...." The old man croaks, in passable common, laced with Qadiran words that Usmond can just about recognise. "I have armbands to help a man fight his opponent, a belt to let you leap like a gazelle. I have wands to heal you and make you soar through the air. I have bandages of healing also." He catches Usmond's gaze into his hut. "Yes. I have also something for those in love - to ensnare the mind and enchant the senses... What tempts you Great Sir?"

Usmond dismissed the love potion. While he was no stranger to pleasures of the flesh, he doubted he'd have need of it on a brutal march through the burning sands.

Instead he points to the armbands, 'You say they help a man fight. How? And at what cost?"

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"They make your grip mighty young man." The old shopkeeper grins, showing crooked teeth. "Once your prey is in your grasp they will find it most difficult to escape! As to cost - a mere 700 gold pieces for a warrior such as yourself."

Kerim leans in. "He will be cheating you. If you want them you must barter with him. It is a way of life for these people!"

Usmond nods at Kerim. He had never been skilled at such bartring but he knew it was the lifeblood to such traders.

He peers at the armbands, 'Seven hundred?" The mercenary acts outraged, "Why not simply rob me and be done with it? These are barely worth 500 and that is only because I am a weary and foolish traveler."

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"You are a strong man, well armed and travelling with many men." The old man counters, "you have rank and command. I am simply a poor and humble merchant trying to make a living. I will part with them for 600 gold pieces, although my sons will beat me and my daughters tear their hair at their father's foolishness!"

'550 and only because I feel generous to you." Usmond says, then gesture toward the supposed healing wand, "And how much for this? You say he can heal a man after being hurt? Are you charging outrageous prices for this as well?"

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"I will part with them both for 90 pieces of Taldan platinum." The old man says, his sharp eyes belying the facade he has been using as a bargaining tool. He holds out a flask to Usmond. "An accord Captain?"

"He offers you a fair price Captain." Kerim Bey says from behind Usmond. "If you choose to accept then take a drink and the bargain is done."

The rest of the supply purchasing is dealt with easily and Usmond returns to find the Kaleen saddled and ready to ride.

The next two days are simple enough, sun, sweat, riding, eating, more sweating, more riding, more sun. Having Kerim along is a welcome change. The man is excellent company and tells some wonderful stories around the campfire which has the whole kaleen hanging on his words. Guard duty becomes a matter of some contention as no-one wishes to miss Kerim's stories.

It is as the sun shines from the highest vaults of the heavens that trouble finally catches up with Usmond. As his men plod through the desert a horde of undulating figures ride over the sand dunes half a mile ahead and bear down on the kaleen.

Usmond's men swing into the saddle, forming into tight ranks as Taresh looks to Usmond. "Orders Captain?"

Mass Combat time - if you choose to take it.
Kaleen: HP6, DV:11, OM:+3. (Masterwork Weapons, Mounts, Ranged Weapons)

Usmond stares at the oncoming attackers, mentally analyzing them.

Perception: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (12) + 14 = 26

Are they well supplied, confident, and such

'Bandits?" he asks Kerim and Tarseh together, getting his own horse under him properly. "Will fight to the death or merely until we make the cost too high? I assume bribery is not an option?"

Usmond hates the idea of losing men in a pointless skirmish but bandits tend to be hard to negotiate with.

I've never used the Mass Combat rules before. Got any advice?

Waiting on you, if not clear

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The attackers are largely hidden by the dust cloud being kicked up by the camels that the majority of the group seem to ride. They are a large group, at least as large as your kaleen - maybe twice the size but the dust makes an accurate count difficult.

Usmond makes out flashes of metal from scimitars and shields, but cannot see any ranged weapons in the group.

"We should fire Captain." Taresh suggests urgently as Kerim replies more calmly, "Not unless you can make them talk Captain. Strike at them first and they might come to terms." He draws a thick bow made of a black material that Usmond does not recognise and nocks an arrow.

Clear? :)

Ok, So what phase is this? Tactics or Ranged? Obviously not melee!

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Right at the start - tactics. You have a well trained military unit, they don't need as much time as the others would.

Usmond nods, "Fire at will but keep a few of the better archers back, we will need them if they close. I find even the most hardened fighters tend to lose hearts if they are shot at close range."

With this Usmond moves himself to be at the front, to take the on coming charge head on.

'Form up." he barks, but of course his men are already falling into place. While this is no formal battle, alignment is important.

Tactic- Sniper Support

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The kaleen respond superbly to Usmond's orders, wheeling almost as one, and cantering away from the onrushing horde - at Taresh's call they turn in their saddles and loose a volley of arrows, momentarily blotting out the sun as they do so.

Roll your ranged and melee attacks! I'll fluff the battle up and do their response based on how well you roll! :D

What is my armies Offense Modifier? Sorry for all the questions but better to get them out of the way now, and then we can use these rules later

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+3, its in my post about 6 back :) I think I put all the relevant stats in there!

Melee Attack!: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6

Ranged Attack: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10

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As the bandits come whooping through the sand, the sky clouds over and huge columns of sand begin to rise between the kaleen and the bandits. With their vision clouded and wind rising the kaleen loose their arrows but the sandstorm makes in unlikely that any serious damage is done.

"Swords!" Taresh, Ben-Ali and Usmond all roar simultaneously as the first bandits appear from the sand.

Bandits: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4

The unsuing melee is is ferocious, confusing and indecisive. The bandits are obviously used to fighting in sand-storms, but they are disorganised and the military training of the kaleen keeps them from any serious damage. Unfortunately they can't do much damage in response as bandits come and go from the sand.

After a few minutes of swirling melee the bandits pull back and the kaleen regroups. Apart from a few cuts and bruises there are no injuries, but only one bandit lies dead on the sand. Taresh looks to Usmond, "Should we take the fight to them Captain?"

Usmond's brutal face breaks into a savage grin. "Of course. Gorum would allow no other choice."

Turning to face the men, "Charge!"

Melee: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18

And the hulking inquisitor throws into himself into battle, personally leading the charge.

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The kaleen plunges into the sand and burst through it to find that the sandstorm is remarkably localised. Beyond it, under the baking sun the bandits are regrouping as two or three men yell and wave swords at them.

In their disorganisation the kaleen falls on them like thunder. Closely packed with Usmond in the lead the kaleen cleaves through the bandits, shattering their morale in a matter of moments. It takes perhaps two minutes before the bandits scatter and flee in all directions, leaving at least thirty bodies dead on the ground.

Kerim spurs his horse and pursues a particular bandit, one of the leaders and it is impressive to watch as his great black horse eats up the ground between them. Kerim wheels in front of the bandit and speaks to him. Whatever he says is persuasive as the man drops his scimitar and meekly turns to follow Kerim back to the kaleen.

"This is their ryeshka Captain," Kerim calls as he rides back in. "I have promised him water and his freedom in exchange for information." The man dismounts and stands sullenly, glaring at Usmond from under dark brows.

"Ask your questions, wetlander!" He spits in Qadiran, which Usmond more-or-less understands by now.

Usmond nodded as the bandits broke under the charge and fled. Such was the way of bandits, quick to attack and quick to flee. The salvo of arrows alone probably would have dispatched them except for the sandstorm.

Usmond mutters to Kerim, 'Would it offend you or custom to teach this man some manners in how to speak to a Captain of Auxiliaries in the Satrapian guard?"

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"It will not offend me Captain." Kerim replies, "How you go about questioning him is your business."

Usmond nods respectfully to his guide then, without further ado, punchs the bandit in the face.

Unarmed Punch: 1d20 + 5 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 + 5 = 26
Non lethal damage: 1d3 ⇒ 2

'You insult me?" Usmond says, voice hard as iron, "You, a dirty bandit of the desert? Who, seeing travelers, fall on them and try to kill my men? In other places, I'd have your skin cut off in ribbons for the vultures and bury you neck deep in the sand."

Growling Usmond adds, 'And you do not even have the honor to stand and fight."

Curious for his reaction

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The man reels from the blow before straightening and spitting a gobbet of blood out to one side. "I am no bandit! I am a soldier of the Glorious...!" He catches himself and visibly cuts off his next words.

"I have honour! It is the man that threatens to break his word and strikes an unarmed man that lacks honour!"

DC15 Sense Motive:
His posture is straight and rigid, much like a soldier on the parade ground.

Oh my gosh, this was plot not random encounter?

Usmond pauses, 'Not a bandit?" he says speculatively to himself. He eyes the man.

Sense Motive: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (4) + 15 = 19

Usmond's frown deepens, "I gave you no word. I fought you openly under the sky and defeated you."

But the former mercenary's mind is already moving on, "But come now, let us drop the fiction. You are no bandit. Not only do your words betray you, but your stance, your bearing. A true bandit would already be begging for his life, cowering in fear."

Rubbing his scarred and sunburned chin, Usmond goes on, 'But you offered no challenge, raised no banner. Who or what do you fight for? If you tell me, I will uphold the truce my guide has offered. If you prove difficult, well, you are a soldier. You know what is possible."

Intimidate: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (8) + 16 = 24

I love Usmond for some reason

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Surprise! :)

The man meets Usmond's gaze, but is the first to look away. "Our mission was to kill you and your troops. Make it seem like a Taldan ambush - their troops this deep in the desert would be provocation like no other. Then we would have war, and glorious victory." He strikes his chest in the classic gesture of military triumph before meeting Usmond's gaze once more - frankly this time.

"My honor will let me say no more. Either fight me or let me go - it is your choice. My commander is dead." He gestures to one of the 'bandit' bodies that your men are gathering. "I simply ask that you fight me rather than execute me. I am no traitor - I do not deserve a traitor's death."

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