An Uncommon Want

Game Master Mowque

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The armed men shout at her but Awenasa is too fast and too large to stop. One of them manages to snag her ankle but she kicks free easily, jumping up nearly the whole first flight in one smooth motion. She ignores the gasps and shouts from the watching crowd and vaults though an open window.

She enters a hellish world of smoke, fire and heat. Sweat springs from her skin as the wall of intense temperature flows over her like a duststorm. Even for a child of the Land that Breathes, it takes her breath away for a moment. Smoke stings her eyes but she forces them open, trying to get her bearings. The crackling snap of burning wood fills her ears and, worse, the creaking sag of shifting timbers. The tavern is crumbling under the assault of the greedy fires.

The room she is in is not on fire, not yet, although the floor is hot under her feet. Trails of smoke trickle up through knotholes and gaps in the walls, hinting at the inferno below. It pools along the ceiling, a thick haze of noxious fumes.

The door out to the main hall is open, with more smoke filling it yet still no flames...yet. She cocks an ear, trying to drown out the roaring inferno below. She isn't exactly sure where she is in realtion to the room she wants. Could she hear anything?

Awenasa perception: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (19) + 13 = 32

There! A thin human voice calling for help, coming from the left-hand turn into the hallway. Someone was still alive anyway, and her heart lightens at the sound. But then she hears something else. An oddly distorted laugh coming from downstairs, deep and booming yet someone mixed with the crackling swirling flames. What on Golarion could that be? Probably nothing good.....

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

It is only years of training on how to master her physical body that keeps Awenasa inside the burning building once she enters. Any normal person would have jumped back out the window but she was not normal. All her life she had been trained to run towards danger and take the risk for others so that they would remain safe. She hopes that Moranna will indeed stay safe while she finds this holy man.

She makes her breathing shallower so that she wouldn't breathe in so much smoke and then she closes her eyes and strains her ears to detect any sign of life. Her relief when she hears someone calling for help is immense and she wastes no time moving towards the hallway.

But then something happens that the Shoanti did not expect, another voice sounds from downstairs. The laugh causes goosebumps to form on Awenasa's skin and a chill runs down her spine, despite the heat. The smoke thickens and she fights the urge to double-over coughing. This is enough to remind her that she could not be wasting any time thinking about what lurked below, she needs to find the person who is trapped and get them both outside again.

She keeps her hand on the wall as she turns left into the hallway, not wanting to lose her bearings. The creaking of the wood as the building burns keeps Awenasa vigilant as she purposefully moves forward towards where she hears the voice calling for help. She risks calling out figuring that whatever may be below knew she was already there, "Hello? Keep talking so can find."

Hand on the wall is clever, I was going to roll for being disorientated

As Awenasa moves into the smoky hallway, she realizes the human voice on her level is not calling for help. She had merely assumed it based non the rather dire circumstance of being trapped in a burning building. The voice is...chanting? No, praying. A strong male voice raised to the heavens, although Awenasa does not recognize the words. It is not Common or Shoanti, or the musical language of the Wanderers. Just how many blasted languages did these lowlanders have?

When Awenasa calls out, the praying voice stops for a long moment. Then, in obvious surprised Common, "Hello? Who is still here?" Their is an odd mixture of hope and surprise in the tone. Clearly they had not expected a rescue.

The voice does help her find his room quickly however, which is good as the smoke is building up in the hallway. Thick billows of it are now emerging from every crack and crevice in the rapidly heating floor. Glancing down the hallway, to her dismay, she can see the blurred outlines of dancing flames. The fire has reached this level and is growing fast.

The door to the room is closed but Awenasa makes short work of that. With a single powerful kick she crumbles the wooden barrier like paper. To her surprise a waft of cold air greets her, as if she had walked into a deep cave in summer time. Inside the bedroom has no smoke and no fire, just the cool air.

In the center of the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor is a middle-aged man wearing light blue robes open at the neck, revealing rather impressive muscles for his age. His eyes are clear and bright, wide in surprise.

"And who are you?" he asks, still sitting. "And what are you? You wouldn't happen to be Shoanti, would you?" His face lights up, like a child finding the right type of butterfly for their collection.

Meanwhile, around them, the fire rages. Heat pours in through the now open door, quickly vanquishing the odd cool zone. Smoke billows in, making Awenasa's eyes start to tear up. A shudder passes through the whole building, like a tree in a stiff breeze.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa is very focused until she kicks down the door. Everything after that moment is filled with incomprehension. First, she experiences cold air upon entering the room which is unnatural. Then she sees a man just sitting on the floor waiting to die who asks her unimportant questions in the face of perishing in a burning building. She is thrown off enough that she manages to grunt her name, "Awenasa" before getting to the pressing matter at hand, their survival.

She shakes her head in disbelief. "What doing?!?" she asked incredulously. "No sit! Come!" She takes a couple steps into the room and glances out the window as she passes. She quickly assesses that she could make the jump down but she has her doubts about the man. Surely he wouldn't be sitting there praying if he could have safely escaped, right?

Awenasa practically hauls him to his feet and begins to drag him along behind her. She looks out into the hallway and knows that they don't have much time because the flames are spreading. Their best bet is to get back to the room she had entered. She retraces her steps with one hand sliding along the wall and one hand firmly holding onto the man.

I don't want to get too far ahead so I'll leave it here.

The cross-legged man rises to his feet easily, with some manner of grace. At the very least, he seems unlikely to trip over his own feet. He brushes some dust off his robes while answering, "I was communing since I certainty about to perish. I assumed no one would be foolish enough to attempt a rescue."

He glances around at the rapidly heating room, "I should have known better when Iro-Shu cooled the room. Clearly my God had plans for me. Namely, you."

Awenasa doesn't have time for this babble. She grabs his hand and starts pulling him back through the open door and into the smoking hallway. Below the sounds of fire and flame are growing, the crackling transforming into a guttural roar. The floor sears her boots as they cross the wood, the planking steaming, nearly ready to ignite from sheer heat.

Passive fire damage: 1d6 ⇒ 5

The strange man follows closely behind, squinting in the smoke. They are almost at the room to freedom when he stops short and points at the floor, "I believe we are no longer alone."

And, to Awenasa's horror, the floor is dissolving into ash and dust. A swirling cloud rises out of the floorboards...but no. The floor is not falling, the cloud of ash is rising and taking on a human form. Or part of one. A floating hear and torso with long, spindly arms reaching out. It is like a ghost out of an old wives tale, fit to scare children to bed. But this was no story, but an all too real creature of shadow and smoke. Dark flames lurk inside the billowing, robe like shape of the beast.

Then a bizarre crack of darkness splits on the shadowy head and a dry desiccated voice is heard.

"Fire!" It hisses, barely audible over the growling inferno below. "Still it burns, always burns! Ever burning, ever melting..." And with that it wafts toward Awenasa, arms outstretched.

'I believe it intends to do us harm, Awenasa." The odd blue-robed mans says conversationally, as if they weren't trapped in a smoking hallway with a smoke ghost while the building burned around them.

Awenasa Iniative: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (17) + 3 = 20
GHOST: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (11) + 4 = 15

The ghost is quick but Awenasa is quicker.

You are up, the ghost is ten feet away, between you and the door to the room you jumped in. The fire is getting worse downstairs.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa does her best to tune out the constant words flowing from behind her and is successful for the most part. It is when he stops talking and points that the Shoanti actually pays attention.

Her stomach drops along with what appears to be the floor. Realization that the floor isn't disappearing doesn't change the fact that her stomach remains on the floor below. A chill runs down her spine as the creature speaks and she recognizes it as the voice she had heard before, sadly it hadn't been a figment of her imagination. But Awenasa wasn't one to roll over or give up. Her eyes flick towards the door to the room that they need to get to for their escape. If she could just push this being backwards then maybe the holy man could still escape.

Without regard for the soundness of the floor beneath her or for her own well-being, Awenasa takes a few steps down the hall as she gathers her ki. She then explodes towards the creature with her leg outstretched, her entire weight focused at its torso.

bullrush: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (7) + 11 = 18

As a child Awenasa had always wondered why people in stories always ran from the ghosts and goblins, only to be gobbled up as they panicked. Why didn't anyone fight the monsters? Well, she was about to find out.

Awenasa gathered that strange force that lived in her bones, that aura that made her a potent warrior. Hardened her limbs, strengthened her muscles and cleared her mind. She moved forward and, at the last moment, exploded like a runner out of starting blocks, and threw her foot toward the creature. Behind her she hears the robed man exclaims, "How marvelous."

Her foot makes contact with the floating apparition, her ki magically enhancing her blows. This thing might be able to float through walls but it can't dodge Awenasa's blows.

But it is stronger then it seems. It twists in the air like a child's kite, dissipating the force of her kick. Ashes swirl and choke in Awenasa's throat, dry as desert dust. The ghost is unmoved and settles back down, fire curling in the dark face.

"The fire...join us!" The ghost chokes out, and reaches with one arm toward the Shoanti monk.

Touch Attack: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (18) + 11 = 29

Awenasa Fort Save: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (5) + 7 = 12

You have got to be kidding me.

Fire Damage: 2d6 ⇒ (5, 4) = 9
Con Damage: 1d8 ⇒ 4

Take 9 points of fire damage and subtract 4 from your Con score.

Constitution: Damage to your Constitution score causes you to take penalties on your Fortitude saving throws. In addition, multiply your total Hit Dice by this penalty and subtract that amount from your current and total hit points. Lost hit points are restored when the damage to your Constitution is healed. A character with a Constitution score of 0 is dead.

The ghost's touch burns like a blazing brand, searing the skin on her forearm where it grips with iron strength. Along with the blazing fire, Awenasa feels a great sucking force there, as if the dry ashen ghost is drawing all of the water out of her body. Her sweat dries up, her tongue cleaves to the roof of her mouth, even her eyes feel red and dry. It is as if she just spent a day walking the high plains without water, in the bright sun. She feels weak and worn. What was this thing?

It draws back, hissing, "Join the flames...death.."

Then, to her surprise, the blue robed man steps forward. Looking at him with suddenly crusted and pained eyes, he still seems casual and unconcerned, like fighting eldritch undead were just another day.

"Curious." Then he glances skyward, and hunches forward. Smoke wreathes around him as he sets his shoulders and suddenly brings his hands together in a loud clap. As his palms meet there is a resounding clap, like that of a distant thunder. A flare of white light leaps from his hand and soon encases him in a globe of light. The light ruses outward, catching both Awenasa and the ashen ghost.

Channel Energy: 2d6 ⇒ (2, 6) = 8

The ghost recoils, raising the hands as if to ward off the glowing divine light. It hisses, smoke curling back in anger and fear. But to Awenasa the light is a healing balm, soothing the savage burns and removing the worst of the pain. The strange 'dryness' however, remains.

Heal 8 points. Ghost is damaged slightly but not very much. More surprise then anything else. Looking pretty bleak here.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa gasps when the ghost touches her. She was used to injuries drawing blood or breaking bones but what the ghost does to her is something she has never experienced before. The tired and drained feeling that she is experiencing causes the ghost's words to sound very inviting.

Would death really be that bad? She could rejoin her sister and the worries of this life would evaporate. For a moment, Awenasa seriously considers the ghost's invitation.

But the moment quickly passes because at her core, Awenasa is a fighter and as Shoanti she knows that the path is never easy. Having failed at pushing the ghost back, the warrior decides to try to grapple the apparition and physically move it out of the way. Even though her endurance seems to be waning, she is relieved that her strength and agility still seem to be there when she focuses on her body and her muscles. Reaching out suddenly like a striking viper, Awenasa wraps her arms around the angry spirit in an iron grasp.

improved grapple: 1d20 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 11 + 2 = 16

Having the ghost in a death grip, Awenasa plans to move the two of them very slowly down the hallway. The Shoanti is fixated on the door that she had come through. If she can only clear the way for her and the odd lowlander, they may just get out of this inferno alive.

It says under Grapple that you can move half your move while you're grappling someone so I assume that that is enough to get them to the room that they need. That is her plan. I'm sure you'll tell me if I'm mistaken :)

At first, it is like trying to grab hot smoke above a campfire. The ghost writhes in midair, strange ashen robes billowing like a cloud, shrieking like a wild animal. It's form is hot and dry, parched as any desert on the Plateau of Awenasa's birth.

But the Shoanti is not to be denied. Somehow she manages to wrestle the floating creature, dragging it down toward the ground. Wrapping her arms around it, she wonders if this is what Eivind felt like when he wrestled the Lighting Boar? Surely he felt more in control and less like someone trying to tame a unbroken horse?

Beside her the strange blue-robed lowlander lets out another clap of bright energy, and a surge of energy fills her limbs.

Channel: 2d6 ⇒ (6, 5) = 11

Heal 11 points. Nice roll, lowlander

Again the ghost shakes as the white light sears it, putting holes in the tattered robes. The undead creature struggles mightily, trying to break free of Awenasa's grip. She holds on tight, worrying that if the thing slips free, she might never catch it again.

Cinderghost Break grapple: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (5) + 10 = 15

Awenasa's iron grip holds, hands belted around the thing's waist. ANd then the Shoanti sets her shoulders and begins to half-drag, half-push the fiery undead down the hallway. The creature fights her every step of the way, screaming and thrashing but Awenasa lowers her head like a man moving a cart and heaves.

Underfoot the hot floor starts to give way as supporting timbers fall away. The entire building sways and creaks, flames sprouting up around her. In a few moments this is all going to be fire and smoke....

There! She has pushed back the flailing undead past the door, and she sees the window is still clear! Behind her the lowlander peaks in and says, "Ah, this is our exit route, I hope? Shall you go first or I?"

It is your turn, so you can disengage and 'run' out the window if you'd like

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa gets a small moment of respite as the lowlander once again causes a surge of energy to refresh her body. In a way, it reminds her of walking into his room and feeling cool air after being surrounded by scorching heat.

She doesn't celebrate her minor victory of grappling the creature of smoke and ash because she knows that the real work begins as she moves it down the hallway. It is agonizingly slow as the ghost fights against her hold with each step. As the fire spreads, she wonders if her struggle was even worth it. Were they going to burn before she could get them far enough?

Her whole body feels like it's on fire. Between the oppressive heat bearing down on her to leave her parched and the strain of her muscles screaming out in exhaustion, she is unsure of how much more she can take. And then she sees it, the door. Her portal to safety is within reach.

"Go!" Awenasa grunts, "I follow." She almost doesn't recognize her own voice with the heat having dried it out. She sounds like she has aged sixty years. She jerks her head towards the window, "Out window. Go on roof. Me help down."

As soon as the blue-robed lowlander disappears out the window, Awenasa pushes the ghost away from her. She spins and runs for the window before diving outside, almost crashing into the man.

Awenasa wastes no time because she is unsure whether the ghost will follow them or is somehow trapped inside. "Do what me do." She grabs the edge of the roof and lowers herself down before dropping the rest of the way onto the ground. She then turns and watches for the man, ready to catch him should he fall.

Awenasa is still grappling with the undead horror of ash and flame when the lowlander slips past her. He seems reluctant to leave her alone however and merely hovers on the roof, near the window. As soon as he is clear however, Awenasa does he best to throw the ghost backward and then turns, leaping through the window. She only barely manages to avoid smacking into the gawking lowlander.

She leads the way down, hurtling down the wooden roof. Around them the flames are gushing out of nearly every window now, and bits of the roof have fallen in. Thick smoke fills the air around them, making them both cough and spit. Thankfully enough thick roof beams remain to act as gangways for both of them as they rush for the edge. Awenasa catches the outer gutter like a gymnast and easily reaches the ground, only having to slightly bend her knees. The cobbles feel delightfully cool under her feet.

She glances up and sees the lowlander doing his best to follow. he is painfully slow. The man crouches down, trying to find a good handhold, even as the fire races around him. The entire roof and wall totter this way and that, beams coming loose. Awenasa worries it might all fall before he gets down.

Finally the man gets a good grip and lowers himself down...and is soon hanging in mid-air, dangling like a spider. Awenasa curses and is about to jump up, when the lowlander simply drops like a bag of bricks, half landing into Awenasa's arms, half landing on her.

As they struggle to their feet, the tavern trembles and with a sudden rush collapses in on itself. Walls tumble, huge plumes of flames leap into the sky and columns of smoke reach for the heavens. A wave of heat rolls over them, and makes Awenasa dizzy. They stumble out of range of burning embers, escaping the cloud.

The lowlander turns away fromt he blazing majesty of the fire toward Awenasa.

"My apologies, Awenasa. I did not introduce myself." The man bows and, now outside without the constant fear of death, Awenasa notes his skin is darker then most of the other lowlanders she has seen, more like the Wanderers then the somewhat more pale people of Melfesh or the villages.

"I am Thakarmal Kameshmukhere." He says with liquid grace that makes Awenasa tongue feel even more dried and useless. The man smiles, "You may call me Thak, if you wish. Many in this part of the world have difficulty with my full name. I will take no offense."

Just as he finishes three of the armed men who were letting the building burn job up, with the older man in the lead. What had the tavern owner said his name was. Anson, that's right. Awenasa grits her teeth, ready for confrontation. The m an hadn't let her enter the burning building and she doubted a Shoanti would be treated lightly. Where was Moranna...

Anson opens his mouth but Thak smoothly steps between them, his blue robes smudged with soot and burned in a few places.

"Ah, excellent! You would be a Watch captain, I presume?"

Anson pauses, trying to size up the stranger, tearing his angry gaze away from Awenasa, "Um, yes. Now who are-"

"Good, good!" The lowlander man says, all smiles and teeth. "First of all, I wish to congratulate you on your timely arrival. Due to your brave cordon the rest of the town was saved." He claps the stunned man on the shoulder, "I am sure Governor Hemmus will approve."

For the first time Anson focuses entirely on Thak. "Governor...Hemmus?" he says, fear in his voice. "You know the Governor?"

Thak grins, "Of course! I am a traveler, a rich noble from my homeland. I met with the fine Governor days ago, when I entered the city. Very nice chap, sets an excellent table but I am sure you knew that."

'Er...yes." Anson says, now looking doubtful. It was one thing to bully a helpless tavern owner or a Shoanti nobody. But a friend of the Ulfen governor was clearly another matter. The spear holding man shakes himself and says, "Good, just checking on you. Glad to see you safe, sir. All men, let's go check on the others." And they head off at a trot.

Thank watches them go, a self satisfied smirk on his face.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa shudders as the tavern crumbles to the ground moments after their exit. She wonders if the ghost would still be present in the smouldering rubble. She keeps a watchful eye for its escape until the lowlander's voice cuts through, drawing her attention away from the ruins.

At first she thinks that he has sneezed due to the smoke and ash but then she realizes that he is introducing himself. He must have seen her perplexed look at his complicated name and welcomes the shortened version. She tries it out, "Thak," but she clearly looks distracted as she searches behind the crowd of onlookers to try and find the stool that Moranna is supposed to be sitting on. "We find Moranna. She told me to save you."

But before she can take a step, she sees the lazy men who were ready to condemn Thak to death storming towards them. She glares at their approach and she finds herself settling into a defensive stance as she subtly shifts her weight. She desperately looks around for Moranna hoping that she would intervene since she had done such a good job at the gate but she can't catch sight of the woman which causes her stomach to twist with dread. Surely the spirits wouldn't be so cruel as to allow something bad to happen to Moranna on the zoralo's first watch, would they?

As Awenasa's fight or flight instinct is about to kick in, surprisingly Thak steps in front of her and begins to speak to the guard captain like they were good friends. She stares at the back of his head and listens carefully to his words. She bristles as he suggests that the cordon that nearly caused his death was a good idea to save the rest of the city.

She takes a step backwards as he mentions being friends with the governor. That meant that he was friends with an Ulfen. She is immediately on guard and suspicious of his motives. She is relieved that his words diffuse the situation and cause the so-called guards to leave. However, his self-satisfied smirk is met by a frown from Awenasa. Her voice is slightly accusing as she says, "You friends with Ulfen. Is why you ask if me Shoanti?" She shakes her head disappointedly. "Come. We find Moranna. She sees you good, that me save. Then you go."

Thak's smile deepens as he says, "Ah, but you misunderstand me, friend Awenasa. I am not a friend of the Ulfen governor. In fact I have never met the man. I simply guessed our overly aggressive guardsmen would street clear of anyone involved in high circles." he laid a finger alongside his nose. He walked easily at Awenasa's side, doing his best to keep up with her long strides.

"I agree it is somewhat distasteful to use such unwholesome methods but we are both strangers in this land. We should not shirk from such unsavory methods, if we must, to defend ourselves and minimize our varied difficulties. Still, it does grieve me to lie so, to a local official especially to cover such a gallant act as saving my life."

[ooc] No idea how much of that Awenasa will really understand[ooc]

"As for asking your background, well...I will get to that in time. I possibly have a proposal for you."

They find Moranna still seated on her stool, idlily shuffling a pack of card. She stands up when Awenasa and Thak approach, eyeing the stranger curiously. Thak strikes a florid bow in a exotic style and says, "Ah, Mistress of the Road and Ways. It is a pleasure to meet you." Then he adds something else in rough but apparently serviceable Wanderer.

Moranna replies back, obviously surprised. They converse for a bit between themselves before Thak turns to Awenasa and bows, "Forgive me, friend Awenasa. I know it is not well to talk in a language not all present understand, but I thought this may be a worthy exception. I explained to your friend here that I know her tounge and that I have traveled with Wanderer caravans in the past. They are most lively and enjoyable ways to travel. She also said you travel with them, on some quest of your own, which she did not, rightly, share."

Thak glances at Moranna who smiles mysteriously. Just how much Common did Moranna know anyway?

Thank went on, "I have proposal for you, Awenasa. You have just saved my life from a certain and rather unpleasant death. While I do not fear meeting the Enlightened One, I do not desire it quite yet. So this leaves me greatly in your debt, so I wish to repay it. I too will ask to travel with the Caravan, hopefully using my prior experience as proof of useful service. While we travel, I can instruct you in proper Common." For the very first time, the easy, genial man looks a bit abashed and shy.

"I am a student of languages and you would find me an excellent teacher. It is small exchange for a life, but perhaps better learning the language of these lands would be useful for your task?"

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa is only half listening to Thak as he natters by her side. It is bad enough that she feels like there are weights tied to each of her ankles but the constant words flowing from his mouth makes her head hurt and frazzles her nerves a little. Not a friend of the Ulfen...lied...maybe he feels bad about it...she finds it very hard to follow everything, Proposal?!? Her face looks horrified, He didn't mean marriage, did he?

She calms somewhat when she finally lays eyes on Moranna, sitting on the stool where she left her. Awenasa lets out a sigh of relief, partly that her charge is safe and partly because she can rest. Had the air always been this thin? She feels exhausted.

As Moranna and Thak converse in Wanderer the Shoanti takes the opportunity to close her eyes, listen to the musical language, and focus on her breathing.

Thak brings up the subject of his proposal again and Awenasa steals herself to appear impassive, ready to say no, when he starts talking about debts and teaching. To say that she is relieved is an understatement. She doesn't even notice his brief commentary on her language skills nor would she have taken offense if she had. She looks from Thak, to Moranna, and back at Thak before shrugging. "If Phuro lets Thak travel with clan then me can learn. But me first zoralo, then learn."

"Excellent." Thak says, "Now, more importantly," He turns to Moranna and goes on, "My friend here was hurt rescuing me. There was some undead creature in the burning building and I believe it hurt her more then the few burns you can see. I would pay for any expense, of course, except I am shy of money. I an repay in labor."

Moranna takes all this in and, Awenasa can see Thak's tide of words has much the same effect on the fortune-teller as on herself. Bewilderment. Still she makes a gesture at the mention of the undead, some superstitious ward against such evil. She digs in a pack and hands Awenasa a healing potion. "Drink. Worthy drink or zoralo." Then she narrows her eyes, "Deeper hurt?"

Thak nods, "Some effect of the ghost's touch, I perceive. Damage of the soul. I have some skill in healing, I may be able to help tomorrow, after a night's meditation."

Moranna nods absently, still looking Awenasa over. "Come, we leave now. Fire ruin market and you hurt. Back to camp. You," she addresses this last to Thak, "Come, Phuro judge."

Ok, anything else? Good job, being heroic

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa had been expecting to go back to camp and lick her wounds on her own. Sure if she'd been back in the quah, before the death of her sister, the quah's healers would quickly bind her wounds so that she'd be back in fighting form sooner than later. However, she had assumed that she was on her own for her well-being away from the Plateau.

Completely taken by surprise, the Shoanti holds out her hand to take the offered drink. She quickly downs the liquid before anyone can change their mind. "Thank you. Burns feel better."

She is reluctant to admit that what the ghost did to her went deeper than the burns. However, Thak has no such qualms and she glances at him as if she's been betrayed. It is like he's announcing her weakness to the world. What if her clan decides she is unworthy to be zoralo because of it? She feels like grunting in frustration because life had been so much simpler on the least it had been before Makayda died.

The Shoanti looks shocked at Thak's offer. She did not expect any lowlander to be so selfless. She watches him carefully, trying to figure him out.

Awenasa nods sharply when Moranna suggests they go back to camp. "Sound good. Camp good." Considering how spent she feels, being back at camp would be less wearing on her than the city.

Nothing more for her. She's happy to go back. Better to quit while you're ahead and all that :)

The trip back tot he campsite is uneventful, which Awenasa is happy about. She has had quite enough adventures for one day. The city, the people, Thak and was quite enough to make her head spin. It was only as they were at the city gate that something happened that caught her attention.

On the inside of the large wooden wall t at encompassed the town, a single paved road ran, the only real stone road Awenasa had seen in Melfish. She guessed it served the wall in times of war (if these fat lowlanders ever had war). But what intrigued her was a gang of men working on the road, tearing up old stones and replacing it with new heavy pavers. It was not the stone that caught her eye, although such roads were a marvel to her. It was the men.

They were in chains.

At her glance, Moranna shrugged, "Slaves." Thak too seems undisturbed by this news, barely noticing the sweating men laboring in the heat.

Slaves. Awenasa knew the concept of course. The Shoanti had men and women captured in raids from other quah. Such things were natural and a normal part of life. They were treated as servants, but still people. Indeed, many became proud members of the families that they served, with most becoming full fledged quah members. They were not treated any worse then anyone else, given full meals and respect. No one, no matter how disrespected, wore chains.

These men were thin and dirty, wearing clothes little better then rags. Their eyes were bloodshot and looked down at the dusty ground. Many bore the marks of the whip or rod on their backs, visible as they tottered under heavy loads of stone and gravel. These lowlanders were a strange people, and cruel.

To Awenasa's surprise she finds Perey standing watch on the edge of the campsite, nestled under a massive tree, looking even smaller then usual. Her fellow Shoanti waves and explains he is on guard duty. At her eyebrow he goes on to say other Wanderer clans like to play tricks and pranks on each other, when they are camped close like this.

Awenasa wonders to herself just how serious these pranks are. Worthy of a zoralo?

Moranna and Thak head into the camp, leaving Awenasa alone with Perey. He grows serious when he notices her burns.

"What happened!? is the city that dangerous?" His voice is filled with concern, mixed with envy. Clearly he was looking forward to going into the city as well. His clear Shoanti is a relief after all the Common she had endured that day. He grasp of the lowlander tongue was getting better but it was still tiring for her. "Who was the stranger? He didn't look like a Wanderer."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

It is sobering for Awenasa, having observed how lowlanders treated slaves. It is just another thing the Shoanti can add to her list of things that had been twisted into some sort of perverted reality here in the lowlands. She shakes her head slightly as if trying to erase the image from her mind. She tells herself sternly that she can never forget how cruel lowlanders can be because if she does then she may wind up like those men. It is then that she notices the dull ache at the base of her skull and her mouth feels like someone had stuffed it full of cotton. She needs to get back to camp and drink a barrel of water.

Yes, Awenasa is surprised to see Perey on the edge of the camp but what surprises her more is that her spirit feels lighter when she sees him. Could it be that she actually missed him? Or did she just miss something familiar?

She is quite proud of herself that she manages to suppress and laugh and only quirks an eyebrow as Perey shares that he's on guard duty. Then she frowns with concern, "What kind of tricks?"

The Shoanti barely notices that Moranna and Thak continue on without her as she stops to interrogate Perey about these so-called tricks. But the tables are turned on her as her traveling companion starts asking about her burns. She had almost forgotten about her burns thanks to Moranna's drink but she still feels fatigued and a bit like a shell of herself.

She waves off his concern and gratefully takes the opportunity to speak her own language, relishing in how little effort it took. "The city was stranger than it was dangerous. People here are odd. Everything was fine until one of the taverns caught on fire but instead of helping to put the fire out, the so-called guards set up a barrier and wouldn't let anyone help put it out! Meanwhile, I overheard one of the travellers staying at the inn say that he thought there was still someone inside that didn't make it out." She throws her arms out in exasperation, "But the watchmen didn't care! Thankfully Moranna must have sensed something because she told me to go in and save the 'holy man'. So I did. I launched myself through a second floor window, found the man, and eventually got him to safety. However, first I had to get us past some sort of ghost that was intent on having me join them eternally in ash and flame." She fell quiet as she wrestled with what had happened to her when the ghost had touched her, "When it touched me, I felt like it sucked all the water out of me. I still don't feel like myself."

She looks off in the direction that Moranna and Thak disappeared, "That stranger is the holy man that I saved. He's going to ask for permission to travel with us. His name is very long and complicated but he said that I could call him Thak."

She fixes Perey with a concerned gaze, "I don't expect you to stay away from Melfish but promise me that you'll be careful when you go and that you won't ever let yourself be alone."

Finally, finally, Perey does something that Awenasa near cries over. he reaches around and, from behind a tree root, pulls out a bucket of water. He struggles to lift it, sloshing it slightly and just the sight of the liquid slopping over the rim makes her shiver.

He grins, "I grabbed it this morning. They got it for the horses but I thought standing guard was hit work, so I took it." He offers it, with some effort, to Awenasa.

They sit and talk about the city, Perey peppering her with questions. Around them the air is warm but not unpleasant, scented with the resin of the massive trees. The needles create a soft enough bed and, as the adrenaline wears off, Awenasa almost finds herself nodding off. Her muscles relax and the water does its work.

The sun is starting to set when, much to surprise, figures emerge from the camp. It is not Moranna, Herja or even Thank however but...Bescia. Awenasa had not encountered the gold-toothed man over the last few days, and had not missed him. Clearly he had been working hard to avoid her, and she had done nothing to stop him. She did not have to like him to uphold her oaths to protect him. At his side is Calo, the stubborn fighter who challenged her entry into the clan.

Right now the man smiles an oily smile, "Ah, just who I needed. I am going into the city and I need some protection. Calo is coming along, but someone else would be most welcome."

The other Wanderer waves this away, " I have to meet some people at the docks and you know how that is. Not a nice part of town." he adds for. "Will you come with us? Or perhaps the city is too much for you? I heard you had a trying day."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa gratefully takes the pail from Perey and immediately brings it to her lips, spilling it down her front as she greedily drinks. It still amazes her that water is so plentiful and readily available here. She gulps water until her stomach hurts but after feeling dessicated, it is a good kind of hurt.

She settles back and lets the sun dry her clothes as she rests and chats with Perey. She finds it peaceful and finally begins to relax and her blinks get longer and longer.

When two figures start to approach, Awenasa is immediately on alert as she doesn't immediately recognize their silhouettes. Finally making out Bescia sharpens her senses even more. Whatever he wanted, the Shoanti didn't think it would be good. This is only tempered a little by seeing Calo in tow. From what she had gathered, Calo was a respectable man so if he was with Bescia then it shouldn't be completely shady, could it?

She eyes the men warily and doesn't have to wait long for Bescia to voice his reason for seeking her out. She is surprised that he wants her to join because he obviously knows about what had happened to her in Melfish.

Duty and stubbornness wars against the physical fatigue she still feels. After what she had experienced in the city, she understands that the city is a dangerous place and it makes sense that Bescia would need her. Plus, she was zoralo to the whole clan and not just the ones she liked. Him insinuating that she is too beaten or weak to fulfill her duty seals her decision. Getting to her feet she says, "Me fine. If need zoralo, I come."

How many hps did she get back from Moranna's potion? I know she's still down the Con damage but I was wondering how many of the current 49 hps she got back

healing: 2d6 ⇒ (1, 2) = 3

Ouch. Not very much. That sucks.

Perey narrows his eyes first at Bescia and then at Awenasa. Dropping back into Shoanti he says, "Are you sure? I don't trust him, Awenasa."

Bescia snorts and says, 'That isn't very polite, talking when others can't understand. Run off, little man. I hear your musical friend pines for your company." He makes a shooing motion. Perey, looking angry and worried heads back to the campsite.

Which leaves her alone with Bescia and Calo. Awenasa gets to her feet, mentally getting ready for trouble. She knows Besica is not trusthworthy and probably has some trick or slight up his sleeve. She hopes that the presence of Calo, who has been honorable so far, will keep things from getting too dangerous. Perhaps Bescia simply wants to mock Awenasa's gawking in a city? She can only hope it is so petty.

She falls into step behind Besica and besides Calo as they leave the campsite and head for the road. The setting sun turns the sky to orange fire above their heads, outlining the towering tree line with exquisite clarity, each branch and needle a razor shard of pure blackness. Awenasa is used to the rhythm of night and day but having such looming shapes makes her feel uncomfortable.

The road underfoot is dusty and warm from the day's sun, like a rock in the high plateau. It is empty of traffic now, save for a few other Wanderers heading back to their campsite. They keep their distance and none of them wave or call out in the growing gloom. Awenasa wonders why and if Besica is well known among the other of his people.

By the time they reach the city gates, it is deep dusk, the sky turning to deep purple. Bats and night birds are out in full force, swooping silently above her head chasing the seemingly endless biting insects. The clouds of bugs, which have vexed Awenasa ever seen descending to these lowlands, seem worse then ever. Was it the lake? Or just the abundance of human prey?

The gates are shut for the night and Awenasa wonders how they will get it. Bescia leaves them behind and approaches alone. In the dark Calo says in Common, "The city is closed for the night. Besica will pay a guard to let us in. Very common, it is the best part of being a guard. Extra money."

In short order Bescia returns and leads them not back to the main gates but along the rough wall until they reach a small, normal sized door of rough, heavy wood. The gold toothed man knocks twice, pauses and knocks again. Quickly the door opens, an empty void to the city on the other side.

"Quickly now." Besica says and then strides through. Figuring it is an unlikely trap, Awenasa follows. After a moment of darkness she finds herself inside the walls, standing on the roughly cobbled street behind the wall. The stones are clean and raw looking. Apparently she had stepped onto the section the slaves had re-done that morning.

Without pause Bescia hurries on, leaving the wall behind. In short order Awenasa is lost in a tangle of low, brooding buildings on all sides. Unlike the day, the streets are dark and quiet, and Awenasa doesn't seen a single other soul about. Are people allowed to move around t night or was that against some rule? Just how dangerous was this little jaunt?

after a few more turnings they come to a crossroads where they halt. Bescia turns to Calo and shrugs, "Off you go then?"

Calo hesitates, looks from Bescia to Awenasa and back. "Are you sure?" the wrestler finally says, his face nothing more like a dim outline in the darkness.

"It'll be fine."Bescia said easily, waving a dimly seen hand. "I'll take good care of her. Now hurry on, she's waiting."

Calo wavers for one more moment then darts off into the dark. Bescia laughs and says, "He has a lady friend in Melfish. Tries to see her every night if we are here. Poor lad, doesn't know his friend has lots of other boyfriends too." His laugh again, his voice rather cruel.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa looks at Perey and responds in Shoanti, "I don't either. But I protect everyone in the clan and not just the ones I like." Then she quickly adds, "You should tell someone who I'm with, just in case I don't come back. I wouldn't put it past him to have me killed while I'm weakened."

She turns to look Bescia in the eye, "Sorry, old habit. We go."

As she walks behind Bescia and sees the reactions of other Wanderers to their group, she wonders if the lack of friendliness is because of him or because of her. She finds it curious that not many seemed to hold Bescia in high regard yet he had the ear of the Phuro.

Nothing surprises the Shoanti about their trip into the city and the deception involved, after all it wasn't much different than her experience with Moranna with paying off guards, until Bescia halts their procession.

Awenasa's insides clench as Bescia dismisses Calo, and worse yet, Calo seems in agreement. She had thought that Calo was honourable. Why would he have warned her about Bescia only to leave her alone with the man in a strange city at night? She frowns, Calo would never have survived as a Shoanti warrior. One did not abandon their duty or leave others vulnerable for a roll in the sheets. As he disappears into the dark, Awenasa's glare mixed with a look of betrayal is the only thing that follows him. Further proof that lowlanders cannot be trusted as they wear honour like a mask that they take off or put on as it suits them.

Her hands ball into fists at her side and she takes a few angry, deep breaths and forces herself to relax her hands. The malicious manner in which Bescia speaks of Calo turns her stomach. Again, she wonders why the Phuro listens to a man who is clearly toxic to those around him.

Calo leaving changes how Awenasa sees this excursion. The sooner this meeting finishes, the sooner she can get to a less hostile environment. Awenasa grunts, "You have meeting. We go. Lead."

Bescia grins, "Touchy. Is that how you talked to Moranna this morning?" The man seems in oddly good spirits which merely puts Awenasa on her guard more. Anything that made this man happy was reason to be concerned. Still, she could hardly just abandon him here. Not only would that break her oath of zoralo....where would she go? She would be alone, in the city at night. At best she could maybe find the wall but what then? Ask politely to be escorted out? Impossible. She was stuck here and every step felt more like entering a trap that she couldn't escape.

As they headed deeper into the city, the buildings got smaller and more jammed together. The street changed from rough wood planks to wet sticky mud that clung to her boots. The reeking scent of mildew and stale water grew more intense, the air feeling heavy with moisture. Somehow the biting insects got even worse. They were nearing the lake, if she had her guess.

Finally they came to a narrow alley between two long, low warehouses with swaybacked roofs. The place stank of dead fish and human waste, the ground littered with scum-covered puddles that she could barely make out in the gloom. The moon was overhead but blocked by the looming buildings. It was like being in a rank, disgusting cave.

Awenasa heard voices from ahead...and then behind. Without thinking, without taking a moment she broke the most important rule, the one her teachers had pounded into her. She took her eyes off her enemy. Awenasa glanced behind toward the voices and saw a few shadowy figures.

Then loud footsteps ahead, and her gaze snapped back to the front. Just in time to see Bescia running at top speed out of the alley. In a moment he was gone rounding a corner. She was about to follow, confident her long strides could make up the distance.

When three men stepped into the narrow entrance to the alleyway. All were wearing dirty, stained leather that she could smell even over the putrid filth of the alley. The one in the middle was a little larger, carrying a heavy club in his hand.

"Bescia was right, she is a big one." His voice was cracked and brutal, with a strange accent Awenasa did not recognize. Not someone from Melfish, she guessed.

Behind her, three more men sealed the exit to the alley, wearing the same raggy clothes.

'She'll fetch a good price for the pits though." The leader said, voice idle, and then he said, "Are you really a Shoanti? I'd ask if you'd come quietly, but I know you folks never do. Fight to the end, the lot of you. " He raised his voices to the others, "Take a care lads, she won't go down easy. But once we tie her up, food and water will tame her."

And then started to close in, warily approaching her from both sides.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa is getting wound tighter and tighter, feeling tenser and tenser as she followed Bescia into what most certainly is a trap. No one is that cheerful when going for a meeting requiring a guard. He should be more somber and alert. Everything about this feels wrong. But what choice does she have? What choice did she have? Could she have said no to Bescia? If Calo hadn't been with him initially, she probably would have. The Shoanti mentally kicks herself for daring to trust a lowlander.

When the trap springs, Awenasa is not surprised but she is disappointed. Until the moment that Bescia runs away and the men appear, part of her hopes that she was wrong about the greasy-little man. With the three men stepping into the alley, the warrior is still confident that even in her weakened state that she can handle herself. However, she is less certain as three more appear. Yes, they were no Shoanti warriors but men like this would not fight honourably and she could not fight off all six at once. She wonders if she should be flattered at the number of men that Bescia feels would be sufficient to incapacitate her because obviously he feels she's worth six men. And then her mind wonders in that moment of the uncertainty of her safety, would anyone miss her? Would anyone even care if she disappeared? Her abilities may be missed but she didn't think anyone would actually care if she disappeared.

The man's voice with the accent snaps her out of her head but she doesn't respond. Why would she? There was no reasoning with these types of lowlanders. Pits? Images of the chained slaves flash through her mind and anger quickly replaces her self-pity. He is right. She would not go quietly and she would not go down easily. But she also fights wisely and six against one was not smart. And Herja's warning about not killing lowlanders is always in the back of her mind. If guards were alerted, she highly doubts that they would listen to her. Better to get away if at all possible. In that moment, it became her focus to make it back to camp and see the look on Bescia and Calo's faces when she arrives safely back before she smacks those looks off their faces.

Her eyes narrow and her body tenses. She contemplates turning and jumping over the three men behind her and running but quickly dismisses it. They probably knew the twists and turns of the streets better than she did and that was too much of a risk in a chase that she would find a dead end and be captured anyways. The easiest way of escape would be up and then try to run as the crow flies towards the wall. She'd figure out the wall if and when she actually got there.

She crouches for a matter of seconds, her hand hovering over the ground causing pebbles at the side of the alley to vibrate as she gathers her ki before she shoots upwards. Her right foot hits the side of the building pushing her towards the other building that her left foot pushes off launching her up the side of the building until she lands on the roof. To those below, she looks like she climbs some sort of invisible ladder which the men below can't possibly hope to follow.

acrobatics/jump, High Jump: 1d20 + 13 + 20 ⇒ (16) + 13 + 20 = 49

As soon as she lands, Awenasa is off and running in the direction that she had come with Bescia, making a beeline for the city wall.

She'll try to keep to the roof if possible until she is out of this part of the city that is more warren-like. Her plan for the wall is to use Empty Body to move through the wall - the spell says you can move half speed in your ethereal form

I understand that there's no guarantee that the roofs will hold her but I figure it's her best bet to remaining uncaptured

The men watched, slack jawed as Awenasa leaps a clean twenty feet in the air, feet barely brushing the sodden walls of the old warehouse.

'Well, I'll be damned.." the leader says, voice awed but then he recovers quickly, "Come on lads, after her! She'll be worth a fortune!"

Meanwhile Awenasa has vaulted up onto the warehouse roof, feeling the old shingles shift under her weight. A few come loose even as she steadies herself, which doesn't bode well. Clearly they were in disrepair which made sense. One did not spring slaver traps in the good parts of town. Still, she had no time to go slow, she had to run.

Rotten Roof? Low is good, plus one for being large: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5

Her imposing size, almost always an advantage, betrays her. As she darts down the creaking roof, her foot suddenly punches through the old wood, as if she had been walking on a rotten snowbank. Before she can react an entire section gives way with a loud crash and clatter of slate. She tumbles downward into utter blackness.

Acrobatics: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (18) + 13 = 31

She gets her feet under her however, twisting in midair like a cat. Whatever else happened, she'd at least be standing. Or so she thought.

Without warning she hits not stone or wood or even mud, but water. She plunges feet first into some unknown liquid with a great splash, and she goes deep enough to cover her head. For a moment she is lost underwater, but not alone. Something slimy presses against her on all sides. Old stories of sea monsters and creeping beasts fills her mind. On reflex though she swims up, her head breaking the surface. As she breathes, she understands.

She has fallen in a great wooden vat The huge tub is filled with tiny fish, packed as tightly as possible. The stench of salty brine and old fish fills her nostrils completely and she almost throws up. The entire warehouse is full of such vats, arranged in rows.

Even as she takes this in, one of the doors to the room opens, and the slavers start pouring in. 'There is she is, lads. I told you she'd fall! She isn't magic, but come on, quick." They rush into the room, clubs held high.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa loves how it feels when her ki courses through her body enabling her to jump. It always felt like she was flying, or at least what she thought it would feel like to fly. But her momentary flight to freedom is cut short when the roof gives way and she begins to fall. A string of Shoanti curses follows her down as she falls and splashes into a new, fresh hell.

Her insides twist in momentary panic as she feels she is not alone in the water and she's never been in so much water before. She uses her muscles to pull her way towards air. As soon as she breaches, she gasps in air. Even though the smell is putrid, it is some of the sweetest air she has ever breathed. She makes her way to the edge of the vat and throws a leg over to get back onto solid ground.

The Shoanti is used to assessing foreign territory quickly and making snap decisions about which way to go. It was often the difference between surviving and not when part of a raiding party. She glances around the large building and quickly dismisses the big doors on either end since they look difficult to open quickly. In keeping away from her would-be captors streaming in one door, her only option is a side door on the opposite wall. She begins to move, trusting in her speed and survivor's instinct to keep ahead of her six pursuers. However, she takes a moment to make sure that all six of her pursuers actually enter the warehouse. The last thing she needs is to have a few circle around outside and try to cut her off.

Heading for the side door

She emerges from the vat not only soaked to the bone but also coated with a fine layer of fish oil. It reeks, totally overwhelming every other scent. It clings to her hair, inside her ears and even films over her eyelids. Worse she finds herself sliding when she hits the floor at a sprint. Awenasa only narrows avoids sliding into one of the other vats as she makes her way for the door. Her normal speed is reduced by the slime, and the slavers make up ground behind her.

Awenasa throws herself toward the door, hoping it is unlocked. It isn't. That is clear from five paces away. So Awenasa lowers her shoulder and rams into it as full speed, hoping her mass and strength can knock it down.

Str. Check, with momentum, DC 13: 1d20 + 4 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 4 + 1 = 12

There is an almighty crash as the Shoanti slams into the door at full speed, shoulder first. But, with luck that seems to haunt her, the rest of the building might be decrepit and rotting away the door is made of solid oak. She bounces off, as a sharp pain rips through her shoulder.

Awenasa turns and sees the slavers have caught her in a rough ring, clubs at the ready. Her back is to the locked door, still tightly latched. The slavers are wary but still eager. For all her stunts, none of them have been harmed yet.

The leader grins, "Fancy footwork, darling. This is the end of the line. Now, give up or you'll wish you had when you are spitting up your teeth."

They are about ten feet away, circled around you

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa gasps as she unexpectedly bounces off the locked door and the familiar shooting pain through her shoulder suggests she dislocated it. Luckily it had happened a couple times in the past that the Shoanti knew what to do.

Grasping her own arm, she grunts as she pulls her shoulder joint back into its socket. Her eyes are full of rage and hate as she watches her would-be captors warily. She practically spat, "No give up. Die first."

Knowing she needs a few breaths to regroup, she settles into a defensive stance and watches for what the six men would do, knowing she wouldn't have to wait long.

Going full defensive

The slavers are surprised when Awenasa merely stands still, clearly having expected a violent charge of flying leap. They hang back for a moment, sizing her up. But Awenasa doesn't seem them, for she is not just standing still.

She is no longer standing in a rotting warehouse in a strange city, covered with fish oil, staring down hateful, greedy eyes. Instead she is young and clean, standing under a rising moon, taking lungfuls of the dry air of her homeland. Alongside her, Makayda stands among the tiny night flowers that dot the landscape, spilling over rock and gravel. Together they go through the ancient katas and fighting stances, all the lessons their teachers have trained into them.

Knees bent, to better balance. Weight on the balls of their feet, to improve reaction time. Hands wide, ready to grasp or deflect. Eyes wide, pulse quickened, sense tuned.

Awenasa opens her eyes, calm again.

The first thug ventures in, swinging wildly with his club, aiming at her head.

Club: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10

Awenasa effortlessly slaps it aside and follows up with her a closed fist.

Punch: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (19) + 12 = 31
Damage: 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13

Fort Save: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (13) + 4 = 17

The blow hits him in the temple with the force of a sledgehammer. His eyes glaze over and the thug falls noisily to the floor, club clattering away.

Everyone else takes an involuntary step back. Still the leader eyes his fallen comrade and the greed, if anything, increases. "Come on lads, she's only one woman. Imagine the price we can get for her. The fighting pits love a woman, and if she can hit like that..."

The rest waver and then begin to approach and Awenasa watches them, stomach twisting. She is good, far better then these lowlanders. But five is too many. Eventually they would rush in, overwhelm and drag her to the floor kicking and punching. But one thing was clear. She would fight till she was dead or they were. No cages for Awenasa Windkeeper.

And then a small noise cuts through the battle. A latch opening.

The door begin Awenasa swings open to reveal Perey, Thak and Herja. They stare at the slavers, who stare back, surprise evident on all faces. A long moment of silence fills the air until, finally, Perey says in his high pitched, almost boy's voice, "Back off! She's with us!"

He, incourgsouly , has a lyre in his hands. Perey strums it once, the melodious sound very out of place with the mildewed, dingy warehouse. Yet it heartens Awenasa, lifting her spirits.

You gain +2 to all attack and damage rolls

Thak lifts his voice and says something in an unknown language, somehow melting along with the music. Awenasa's muscles burn with vigor and power, and she feels stronger and faster.

[ooc] make that +4[/dice]

Then Herja shouts over the music with his rough Common, "Go, slaver. Or die."

The head slaver seems to consider this, glancing at the visibly enhanced Awenasa with growing concern. It was one thing to subdue an isolated stranger in a dark alley. It was quite another to fight a whole squad of obviously magically inclined others.

The slaver slowly nods, lets out a breath then turns as sprints away as fast as possible. The other slavers pause for a second in surprise then following suit, taking to their heels. The sound of their retreat echoes off the old wooden walls until it vanishes into the dank emptiness.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

An overwhelming sense of peace washes over Awenasa as she finds herself beside Makayda under the moonlight. She looks over at her sister in surprise at first but then just smiles and falls into step with the current kata. The Shoanti feels happy and has but one thought, I guess the spirits have chosen death for me, for that is the only explanation she can fathom at such a vision.

But then her eyes opened to find herself back in the warehouse but the sense of peace and happiness remained. She smiles just as the first thug charges. He must have mistook her smile for an invitation but Awenasa makes him regret his choice with a solid punch to the head.

He goes down hard and she shifts her stance waiting for the next one to come. And then she hears the latch and she can't help but think, What fresh hell is this?

As she turns to face the new threat, she is completely stunned by what she sees, maybe even more so than the slavers.

She almost sags in relief at seeing not only familiar faces but faces of those she would consider friendly. How on Golarion did they find me?

She quickly composes herself and faces the slavers, putting herself between them and the others. She could feel new energy flowing through her body courtesy of Perey and Thak and she flexes for good effect as she feels renewed vigor and hope at being able to trounce the five remaining men.

However, when they turn tail and run she is relieved. She would have happily fought to protect the others but there was no ignoring the fact that she was still hurt and fatigued.

She turns to her saviours with questions in her eyes but all she manages to get out is her initial thought, "How?"

"You are not the most subtle creature the Gods ever created, Awenasa." Thak says, most of the words going right over Awenasa's head.

Perey interjects, "We followed the noise, Awenasa. When Besica took you away, I went and found Herja. We hurried after you, I thought it was a trap."

"I voluntarily added myself to the company," Thak said easily, "In consideration of the considerable debt I owe you."

"Herja talked us past the guards as a side door, promised a good price on some beads or something. We knew Bescia would take you to the docks so we just wandered around, waiting to hear the ruckus. We doubted you'd go down without a fight. "

Herja peers inside the stinking warehouse, sniffs and then says, "You stink." After a long moment he notices the hole in the roof and nods, "We heard the fall."

Perey rushes on, "We were just about to come in here when the door nearly exploded. We all jumped back, worried about what was inside. Was that you?"

Snorting the reek of fish out of his nose Herja said, "Let's go. We should not be here. Besides...Bescia." And there was a fiery light in his eyes, and his hands made balled fists at his side.

Awenasa was not the only one who had a score to settle with the gold toothed man.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa looks at each of the three men before her and gave a heartfelt, "Thank you. Thanks for find and thanks for want to find."

She slips back into Shoanti even though she is unsure if Thak will understand, "I had my doubts as well but thought it was okay until Calo left us. Then I knew for sure that Bescia was up to no good. I just never thought that he'd go so far." Awenasa gives Perey a small smile, "You know me well, Perey. But I tried to get away, not fight. Either way, I guess I make noise." She looks at Herja, "I did my best not to kill any lowlanders so I tried to run." She motions at the ceiling, "But the roof had other ideas."

The Shoanti nods at Perey and rolls her shoulder with a wince, "I tried to break down the door and dislocated my shoulder for my trouble. The stupid roof couldn't hold but the locked door did. It would have been my downfall if you hadn't found me."

She got quiet before practically whispering, "At one moment, I thought I was dead because I saw Makayda. But now, I think the spirits were just lending me strength until you all arrived."

As Awenasa nods in agreement with Herja about leaving her eyes harden at the mention of Bescia. "I want to see the look on his face when I get back to camp and I want to hear what lie he has to tell about it." She moves towards the door, "But you'll have to lead. I got turned around once we got closer to the docks."

Herja looks confused, "Of course we find you. You are part of Clan Stair of Stars. Family to us and honored zoralo. Blood of our blood."

Slipping into Shoanti was so much easier although it becomes apparent Thak can't follow any of it.

Herja nods slowly to her words adding, "I am surprised by Bescia as well. I expected a trick, an insult, maybe even a minor fight. But selling you into this slavery? He as much to answer for."

Perey looks solemn when Awenasa mentions Makayda and says, voice even lower, "The spirits watch over us, that is what the elders always said. Maybe it really was her...."

They all leave the warehouse, back into the dark tangle of Meflish's docks. They wander a bit, with Herja leading the way although it becomes clear he does not know the city well. Still, he has a general idea and such a large group is not given any trouble by the usual collection of footpads and criminals. They see very few people at all as they make their way back toward the wall.

When they finally reach it, Herja leads them down the cobbled road that circles the city quickly. "Fast. We should not be seen. We are not to be here."

Thankfully they find a door without being spotted first. At the door is yet another guard, with the same unshaven, dirty air as the rest of Melfish. He eyes Herja and says sourly, "You took too long. I'm doubling my price or I'll turn you in."

Then his eyes widen when he spots Awenasa emerge from the darkness, like some kind of subterranean monster. Her eyes are bright, blood on her hands and covered in glittering oil. The guard stumbles back, probably remembering every story of Shoanti spirits haunting the lowlands, hungry for his blood. Without another word he yelps and runs off into the darkness shouting, "Ghost, ghost!"

Herja grins but says, "Let's go!"

And they escape into the true blackness of the countryside, leaving the city and all its corruption, smells and greed behind.

As they tramp down the dusty travel road leading out of the city Herja speaks in Common, "It is good we found you and the slavers. Otherwise it would have been your word against Bescia. Now, we have witnesses, no one will doubt us. "

Finally they enter the grove of huge trees, which seem like columns of midnight against the starry sky. Following Herja they creep toward the campsite, Awenasa wondering why they are going so slow. She needs to kill Besica, take a bath and then sleep. Why are they sneaking.

Just at the edge of firelight, Heja motions them silently to stop and hide behind a massive tree trunk. Beyond it the Wanderer caravan is strung out, circled just like she left it. A large fire is going in the middle and most are gathered around it. Then Awenasa hears a voice, a hated, oily voice. Besica.

"I saw her fall," He said, voice mock tragic, "She fell trying to defend me. She shouted at me to run, but I didn't want to. Finally though, when I saw her blood, I ran away."

A murmur from the crowd and one voice said, "She was a strong fighter. How did they beat her?"

Besica was quick, "They had heavy clubs and nets. I think they were slavers." A grumble of anger through the crowd. The Wanderers had few issues with breaking the law but most disliked slavery and no Wanderer would deal in that unwholesome trade. Or at least so they thought.

"She was very brave," Besica went on, "And fought till the end. A worthy zorola. I am sorry I doubted her. But I think we must leave Melfish and quickly. The guard may have questions and my face was seen."

Herja shakes his head and whispers, "Clever. He would have got away with it....go, go out and show yourself Awenasa." A pause and then he adds, 'Do not strike him....yet. Let us do this right."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa allows herself a small smile at Herja's summation of her place within the clan. She didn't realize how much she needed that reassurance until he said the words. She had been feeling isolated and not necessarily part of the clan. To know that she would be missed raised her spirits.

Awenasa is always affected by the memory of her sister but she is surprised that it isn't just sadness and regret this time. The thought that she was watching over her and helping where she could gave her hope. "I hope so, Perey, I hope it was Makayda."

The Shoanti is exhausted from the events of the day, both physically and emotionally, but she is eager to get out of Melfish and so she has no problem keeping up with the other three as they move through the streets.

Her heart skips a beat as the guard starts to give them trouble but returns Herja's grin as the guard runs off at the sight of her. "Good that Melfish not protected by Shoanti."

Awenasa is so grateful to get out of the city and back into a more natural environment. It is still foreign to her with all the trees and other plants but she finds it comforting after the filth and stench of the city. And speaking of stench, being out of the city made Awenasa realize how disgusting she smelled and felt after falling into the fish vats. She wanted this business with Bescia over quickly so that she could bathe.

Her brow creases slightly as Herja speaks of witnesses and doubt. She thanks the spirits for once again watching over her because there was no way she would have been believed if it was her word against Bescia's. Her confusion increases as they sneak back towards camp. What was Herja expecting? And then she hears it, the voice that would always trigger rage within Awenasa.

With every lie she hears, Awenasa seethes quietly with her knuckles white from clenching her hands into fists. She looks sharply at Herja as he tells her to show herself but not strike Bescia. She holds onto the word 'yet' like a mother bird protects her eggs. She nods and begins to make her way slowly forward into the light.

Only her years of disciplined training keeps Awenasa from running across the clearing and beating Bescia senseless. She keeps reminding herself that she can trust Herja and that she is just supposed to show herself.

There is blazing anger and then there is anger that is cold. The glare that Awenasa fixes Bescia with as she comes into view is so intense that it could freeze water. She can hear murmurings as people recognize her form as she appears but her glare is fixed on Bescia. She wonders how deep a hole he would dig for himself thinking that it would just be his word against hers. Maybe that's what Herja was waiting for.

With great effort to control the rage inside of her all she says is, "Not dead."

Every eye in the campsite turns to Awenasa, her still gleaming and oiled body shining golden in the firelight as if she was some glowing angel or spirit. To her surprise it seems that every person in the Clan was present, including the Phuro, sitting in her usual chair near the fire, wrapped in blankets despite the night being quite warm. Indeed it would be easy to mistake the ancient woman for a sickly child, bundled up against the night breeze.

She also spots Calo there, hovering on the edge of the fire light. His face is dark and downcast, hands limp at his sides. When Awenasa steps into the firelight however his face fills with hope and surprise, more then she thinks she deserves frankly. It is like a man reprieved from execution.

But Awenasa has eyes only for Besica's face. How would the slimy man react to his plan in ruins? Instead of nothing but his story, here was Awenasa not only alive and talking, but angry and quite capable of literally pulling him limb from limb? Worse, Perey, Thak and Herja emerge from the shadows as well, although lacking oil, they seem dim and faint compared to the Shoanti.

Emotions flicker across Besica's face, almost too fast to see. Surprise, shock and rage are what she expects and she relishes it but is replaced by joy?

"Awenasa!" he shouts, grinning broadly, "You escaped!" He turns to the crowd, "A worthy zoralo! I clearly underestimated you."

The clan lets out a cheer at the returned warrior, many leaping to their feet. Bescia goes on, "You shamed me with my cowardice, but I thought you were lost...."

"But, we saw the slavers!" Perey breaks in, confused.

"Of course!" Besica says smoothly, still smiling. 'As I said, we were attacked. I am not sure why you were following us, but it is good you did so! It was very brave and I am sure she needed you. Thank the stars you were there is help her escape."

More cheers and a few start to call for food and music. Clearly a celebration is needed!

Awenasa glances at Herja and his face is dark and full of doubt. Surely...not? Besica wasn't about to get away with this, was he?

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

If Awenasa is indeed a member of the clan as Herja says then this was not acceptable. One did not try to harm another member of the clan without consequences. Her face darkens even more as she realizes that her own logic prevents her from killing Bescia...yet...yet She clung to her small sliver of hope.

"No! No food, no music."

She points her finger accusingly at Bescia, "You no speak more. Only lie! You led me to trap with six men...six! In my quah, you don't harm other people of quah. I think clan same." She looked pleadingly at the Phuro, "Elders listen. Elders decide."

Awenasa's loud shouts bring silence back over the gathered assembly, the celebration dying before it was even born. Everyone looks at her with shock and surprise and then at Besica. Doubt and confusion reign as everyone slowly settles back down into family groups or circles of friends. The fire crackles, a log popping loudly in the sudden stillness.

"A serious claim." The Phuro says, voice weak and faint.

Besica shakes his head but his smile has changed to a mixture of frustration and a hint of anger. "Awenasa, I know we have not been friends. I admit, I distrusted adding a newcomer to our clan, an outsider. But that doesn't mean...." He glances at the crowd, arms outstretched, "A trap? This is insulting!" His voice raises slightly, "Are you naming me a liar, Awenasa? In front of my own family? "

Then he seems to calm, shaking his head again, "No, I don't think that is what you mean. At least I hope not. It was dark, and one of the first times ever in a city. You barely even speak the language. You were scared. It is ok to admit it, Awenasa, no one here will think less of you. It wasn't a trap, just bad luck. Not seeing it come does not mean you failed, it is no stain on your honor. Don't make excuses and certainly don't lash out at me."

The Shoanti did not have actors or traveling troupes but Awenasa knew what a play was. Many winter nights in her quah had been spent with people acting out bits from their favorite stories, with her friends and family playing the roles of gods, monsters and warriors. It was considered great fun but Awenasa noticed some were better then others.

Bescia's performance was better then anything she had ever seen. His lies were so fluid, his reactions so real....a seed of doubt even grew in her own mind. Had it just been fear and confusion? Had the slavers really just been bad luck? Was Bescia merely a coward? She glanced at Herja and even his face was frozen in a mask of uncertainty. Was Bescia right?

Even the Phuro's face is hard to read and she says, "Such accusations are seriously made. Perhaps it is best.."

Then Thak stepped forward and his smile washed away her doubts.

"I am Thakarmal Kameshmukhere." he says easily in Common and then stops, as if suddenly thinking of something. "Forgive me, but perhaps Bescia has a point. Language may be a bit of an issue for Awenasa. After all, it is hardly fair if a witness is unable to discuss things fully." With a smile he turns to Awenasa, "May I grant you the ability to speak Wanderer? The spell lasts for a day or so, but it might ease things."

When she assents, the reddish skinned man steps over and lightly places a hand on her shoulder. There is a warm tingle that seems to oddly transform into a buzz in her ears. It only lasts a moment and then he says, "How is that?"

She can understand his words and yet, somehow, she knows it isn't Common or Shoanti. It isn't magically translating in midair but, somehow, she just...knows it. As if she walked into a field of flowers and, suddenly, knew all their names and types despite never learning it. Magic. "Just speak normally, Awenasa. Just think of doing it in this language and it will happen, without any work. That should help."

Then Thank turns again to the crowd, still speaking in the musical, liquid tones of the Wanderers.

"Now then. It seems we have a dispute, a serious one. Perhaps I speaking out of turn but..." he glances to the Phuro who gestures for him to go on.

"I imagine such a serious charge cannot be swept under the rug and ignored. Accusing someone of the clan in such a trap is...well, as Bescia so wisely said, an insult." Thak's voice is modulated and calm, as smooth as Bescia's had been.

"Awenasa, so imbued with your new command of the Wanderer language. Do you maintain your story? That Bescia willingly led you into a trap and knowingly attempted to sell you into slavery. Do you have any evidence? Anything apart from your word, as vaunted as it is?"

Besica bridles at this by the crowd is now hanging on Thak's every word, looking from him to Awenasa, like someone watching a boxing match.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Frustration coupled with doubt causes Awenasa to begin to despair. She is insulted that anyone would suggest that she isn't telling the truth but how does she convince them that she understands more than she can relay.

She looks at Thak gratefully as he steps forward to offer her a lifeline of sorts. She eagerly takes it.

Awenasa tries a few words and tries not to overthink the process. "I think whatever you did worked because I feel slightly different but not in a bad way."

Thak gives a small, satisfied nod before turning back to the crowd. She listens carefully to his words and the phrasing. Her stomach drops a bit because she didn't have any evidence in hand. Would these people be willing to hear her out?

Awenasa looks around at everyone in the clan before choosing her words carefully. "First of all, I understand more than I can say in Common so I do not believe I misunderstood what I heard. Nor was I afraid as I am a Shoanti warrior and have experienced much in my short life."

"That being said, what evidence would be sufficient if my word is not? I know what I heard. The leader of the six men who attacked me said, 'Bescia was right, she is a big one.' Does another person count as evidence? I'm sure we can find him if we go back to Melfish in the morning. He mentioned fighting pits so we can start there. Herja, Thak, and Perey saw the men who attacked me so they also know what they look like. Unfortunately, Bescia sent Calo away beforehand so that there wasn't another witness from the clan from before the attack."

"I will maintain my understanding of what happened." She looked at Thak, "You used magic to allow me to speak a language I do not know. Can magic also be used to know if someone is telling the truth?"

Thak grins at Awenasa and says, in a low voice no one else can hear, "That spell works better then I thought. I really must learn Shoanti."

Then he turns back to the crowd, "I think Awenasa speaks right to the heart of things. We all know such magic exists and I happen to wield such powers."

Bescia's face is less smooth now, it reminds Awenasa of the hunted look a stag has when it knows a mountain lion has its scent.

"See here, outsider." he says gruffly, "You are clearly her friend. Now maybe it is natural for you to take her side but who knows if you can be trusted-"

Thak's smile vanished and is replaced by cold iron as he thunders, "Do not question me, Wanderer. I am a servant of Iro-Shu and his divine will is not to be mocked or made a show of. It is not to be mocked or doubted. Your Phuro knows who I am and how my words are to be judged." He glances at the old woman who nods. She is looking at Bescia very hard now, her eyes narrowed.

The gold toothed man licks his lips and falls into silence. Thak takes a step forward his voice hard, any trace of his usual friendliness vanished.

"Well, Besica, will you submit to a truth telling spell? Awenasa would, I imagine." Behind him Awenasa gives a firm nod.

Besica hesitates and in that spilt second is doomed. For a single moment the careful act is pulled away, the mask peeled off, revealing the fear and anger beneath.

Thak laughs without mirth. "As I thought. We rest our case, the man is a liar." He flips his hand dismissively toward Besica and turns away, back toward Awenasa.

A long moment of silence fills the space which the Phuro fills, her quiet voice carrying quite clearly, "Well, Besica. Do you have anything to add to that? I think an innocent man would submit to such a spell. It seems a simple way to clear up a misunderstanding, if that is still your view."

Besica is silent, his eyes now searching the crowd, looking for a way out. He finds none.

"Then you are proclaimed guilty by your silence." Another voice says, that of the old man, the Phuro's advisor. 'And a terrible crime it is. Not only to deal with slavers but to sell one of our own, blood of our blood, a zoralo to is....we do not even have a word for such a crime."

The old man stands up and adds, "We only have one punishment worthy of such a transgression. Justice by pain. You will endure pain by the family you betrayed, as much as they see fit. Either that, or exile. Which will it be Bescia, pain or the outsiders? Honor or cowardice?"


The Wanderer man shrugs and turns tot he crowd, "Who will carry out the punishment?"

"I will." Herja says and steps forward into the glowing firelight. He has a horsehide whip in his hands, and a look of vengeance in his eye. "This man has shamed our clan and our people. I will claim the right to punish."

"No, I will!" Another voice says as Calo steps into the light.His hands are tight fists at his side, his face a mixture of rage and agony. His eyes....his eyes flash with murder. Besica is a dead man if the wrestler is chosen. Calo's voice is a broken wreak as he shouts, 'This man has shamed me and taken my own honor. I claim the right!"

"No, I think I will." The new voice is female and very old. The Phruo steps out of her small chair and takes a careful aged step forward. "I think I will."

Besica looks at the elderly woman with shock and surprise but seems rooted to the spot. His eyes widen and sweat starts to spring on his forehead. The man's mouth opens but all that comes is a ragged croak.

"I am just an old woman, Besica. Surely you do not fear me." The Phuro says staring right at him. "What could I possibly do?"

A moment of silence and then she says, voice idle, "Or perhaps you are wiser then I guessed Bescia. Perhaps you know that while these men can take your body or even your life, I alone can take your soul." The last word is said with a harsh finality that makes the hairs on Awenasa's neck rise. It is like hearing the rocks themselves proclaim a judgement.

'I will summon the ancestor spirits, Besica. They will haunt your mind and fill your body with undead fire. Your spirit will scream, Besica and every moment will feel like an eternity. A broken shambling ruin begging to die. That is what you will be Besica. Nothing. Less the nothing." A moment as Besica is forced to stare at her old, milky eyes that promise a torture beyond all knowledge.

"Boo!" She shouts and Besica turns and runs blindly into the darkness, screaming at the top of his lungs. The crowd parts around him and he is soon lost among the trees, raving like a madman.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa leans slightly forward, her eyes hungry for justice because for the first time she sees cracks forming in Bescia's act as Thak supports her idea of using magic to sort everything out.

She flinches back as Thak thunders as Bescia. She blinks a few times thinking her mind was playing tricks on her, Did he just grow in size? Or is it his presence that seemed to grow because of the power he wields?

The Shoanti's glare is fixed on Bescia's face, waiting like everyone else to hear what he has to say. His silence is deafening as it seals his fate and she can see the moment that his false face crumbles away to reveal his true self. How was he able to hide his nature from his family for so long? Or did he hate her so much that he was willing to take such a risk?

Awenasa listens to the judgment pronounced on Bescia. She feels vindicated and a sense of relief. Her new family would know that her word is true. She waits with the rest in silence and her insides twist as Bescia implies that she has no family present to carry out his punishment. For a moment she thinks that he's going to get away without punishment. But then the most amazing thing happens, voices begin to speak up on her behalf.

Having seen the look on Herja's face back at the warehouse where they rescued her from the slavers, Awenasa understands him stepping forward. Her head snaps sharply to look over at Calo when he steps forward. Her eyes narrow as she tries to figure out his motive. Did he actually want to punish Bescia or was this another trick to be chosen to dole out the beating and then barely hit his friend? Could it be that Bescia had used Calo as well? Bescia's words about Calo after he had left them sure didn't sound friendly.

sense motive on Calo: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (16) + 13 = 29

Awenasa actually gasps when she hears the Phuro's voice speak. She never thought that the Phuro would carry out the sentence herself. In that moment, the Shoanti's respect for the Phuro increases. A good leader always does what needs to be done, even when it's hard.

She watches transfixed as the Phuro describes Bescia's fate and the Shoanti almost feels sorry for the man. When she shouts, Awenasa jumps.

She watches with mixed feelings as Bescia runs off into the darkness, clearly in distress. Most of her wanted to see him physically punished in a most severe way. Seeing someone take a pound of flesh from Bescia may make her feel satisfied but it would have been too quick a punishment for Bescia. Exile will be lasting pain for Bescia. Knowing that you can never go home and that you don't belong anywhere can be quite demoralizing and torturous. Awenasa knows exactly what lies ahead for Bescia except he has no purpose and no direction which makes it worse. At least she had a reason for becoming an exile from her people.

Awenasa looks around at the clan and says, "Thank you doesn't seem sufficient and I feel like I should be apologizing. I never wanted to cause a rift in the family but I couldn't let his actions go unacknowledged and unpunished. Many thanks for listening to me and for believing me."

"Now, is there somewhere that I can bathe?"

Calo is not hard to read, despite the bad lighting and general commotion about Besica's flight. The man is angry, ashamed and despairing. When things start to settle down he slips away, lost in the large pine trees that surround the campsite. Herja leads Awenasa to a small pool so she can, finally, wash off the clinging, reeking fish oil.

The Wanderer horseman gives her privacy, and Awenasa is alone for the first time in a while. The pool is quiet and cool, the surface coated with a thin layer of floating pine needles. The air is rich and thick, so unlike her home. How had she found herself here, among these strange people?

To her relief the fish oil comes off without too much scrubbing and soon she even has the residue out of her air and from behind her ears. Soon she is back on land, putting on a set of clean clothes Herja left on a flat rock. Then she hears a tentative footprint from behind. Her mind flashes with images of hungry predators or of a vengeful Besica, perhaps regaining his nerve.

A lifetime of training causes her to whirl, wet hair whipping like a war banner. But instead of a lion she faces...Calo.

The man looks slumped, defeated, nothing like the proud fighter she had known these last few days. It is as if someone had dug around in his heart with a rusty dagger.

'Awenasa." he says, voice old and slow. "I do not come for forgiveness. I abandoned my honor when I abandoned you. I am not worthy of remaining in the clan. I wanted to see you and....." he trails off then shrugs, meeting her eyes, "I am going to leave the clan. I cannot stay, not with what I have done, what I left Besica to do. His shame is my shame. His crime, my crime."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa watches Calo disappear into the trees with her answer that Bescia had indeed used the wrestler. Even the most honourable warrior can falter when following the wrong leader. But she doesn't have time to contemplate such things as her bath takes priority in her mind. When her nose isn't constantly assaulted by foul smells she would be able to think better.

The Shoanti relishes the solitude in the pool. She is continually amazed at how much water just sits around here in the lowlands. She finds that she has trouble floating so she doesn't venture too deeply.

When she feels more like herself, she reluctantly drags herself out of the pool and gets dressed.

The noise of someone approaching behind her shatters the peace and calm she had been feeling moments before. She acts quickly to challenge her would-be attacker and stops short in surprise as she locks eyes with Calo.

Self-righteousness blooms in her chest until the man starts to speak. He sounds so wounded, so broken. She remembers her previous thought about even the most honourable warrior faltering. She was even certain that many in her quah would think she faltered. Her anger evaporates.

In a tired voice she asks, "Did you know what Bescia was planning when you left us? If not, and I don't think you did, there is no reason for this clan to lose another family member."

Calo shakes his head, "I did not know, but I should have. I knew he was up to tricks...although I never would have guessed..." The wrestler takes a step closer, and the distant moonlight fades off his face. All is black.

"Failing to act when you should, is also failure. Surely it is the same among your own people? If you know danger is about and you sleep on your watch. What would you say if I had slipped off when a lion entered the caravan? No, it is beyond forgiving."

He glances at the pool and then back other, "You will do well in this land, I think. You are brave and strong, all that I am not. Perhaps The Great Dreamer has summoned you to replace me, to mend that broken part of our clan. Fitting, if so."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Awenasa is extremely grateful to Thak for gifting her with the language of the Wanderers, even if it was only for a day. She couldn't help thinking how badly this conversation may have gone otherwise.

"And I did not know about the ambush that ultimately killed my sister, but I should have. I knew the Ulfen tricks but I didn't expect the attack to be so intense. Every protector will doubt themselves at some time when their family suffers because of their actions. It's not really a good reason to run away." Her own words sound hypocritical to her ears but at the same time, she had been asked to leave for a greater purpose and not because Makayda had died. Although sometimes it was hard to separate the two.

"Again, slipping off while knowing the lion is there or just having the bad luck of slipping off while the lion arrives are two different things." She sighs, "When you left me alone with Bescia, admittedly I did think you were abandoning your duty. But after experiencing Bescia's talent at lying, I understand the decision you made and I no longer fault you for it. More importantly, you hurt the clan more by leaving than you do by staying. I was never meant to replace you. I have my own path that may not always align with your clan's. They will need you to protect them when the time goes for us to part ways."

She reaches out and pats his arm awkwardly, "You don't give yourself enough credit. You were brave when you warned me about Bescia. If you hadn't, things would have gone much differently for me today. I would have been captured and ended up in slavery. You can't trust what you're feeling. Emotions lie. At least wait a few weeks before making a final decision so that you are making that decision with your head and not your heart."

"Maybe." Is all that Calo says, voice contemplative. He glances at the dark water with an odd, longing look. Then he shrugs and, without another word, vanishes into the dark, pillar like trees. Awenasa has no idea what the man intends to do, but feels she did her best. She is no clan elder, to order or bind with oaths.

The next day dawns bright but overcast with thin clouds, making the sky look like the inside of an egg shell. The Stair of Stars Clan gathers up, clearly eager to leave the environs of Melfish after the turmoil of yesterday. Awenasa can clearly tell that while few feel much sympathy for Besica, the casting out of a clan member is a very rare and distressing event. The Wanderers take their special status as a people apart very seriously, and to have someone transgress such lines....troubling. This is not hard for her to understand. Shoanti sometimes exiled quah members for various misdeeds, but never in her lifetime.

She might, ironically, be the closest thing to an exile in many years. That thought darkened her mind as the caravans were gathered together. Oxen were manhandled into position, tents struck, wheels greased and fires put out. In short time the entire clan is ready to move. Perey, as usual, is not with her, preferring to sit with his musical friends. Herja is busy overseeing the horses so Awenasa feels alone and mostly forgotten on the edge of the bustling camp. She does not see Calo but with everything abuzz, it is hard to say if he is really missing or just not visable.

Thak strolls up, face clean and freshly washed. His robes gleam in the pearly dawn light and he smiles. "Ah, friend Awenasa. How does this morning find you?" A short pause and then, "What would you say, once we are on the road, to begin our language lessons?"

Over his shoulder she suddenly spots Calo, the formidable wrestler appearing carrying a crate of live chickens. Seeing he remained makes Awenasa happy, and she hopes he is considering her advice.

Thak stands patiently, clearly waiting for an answer.

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

As Calo disappears into the dark, Awenasa's voice follows him, "Speak with Mother Moon. She will guide you." I hope. The Shoanti stands alone in the quiet wondering what the next day would bring.

The next day begins with the activity of the clan breaking camp. The zoralo paces the perimeter of the clan's camp like an agitated animal as she keeps an eye on everyone. She can tell that the family is feeling unsettled but they continue with the familiarity of breaking camp. They are happy to have something to keep their bodies busy while their minds whirl with the implications of what happened the previous night.

Even though she doesn't realize at first, Awenasa is so preoccupied with looking for Calo that she barely notices Thak as he comes up beside her. "Good." She catches sight of Calo and visibly relaxes. She has no idea how much his absence bothers her until she spots him. She is relieved that he is at least thinking about things rather than just reacting. It's then that she sees Thak waiting expectantly but his question never registered for her. With his spell allowing her to speak Wanderer ended, she goes back to her less eloquent Common, "Sorry, can repeat?"

When Thak patiently repeats his question, she nods in answer. "Duty as zoralo first. If clan no need, we do lessons."

Time for lessons is easier to come by then Awenasa might have guessed.

The next few days pass in relative calm as the caravan of Wanderers rumbles along well kept dirt roads. They always head south, rolling through slowly rising hills dotted with grass with low trees huddling in the valleys. The air is drier with a eastern wind but to Awenasa it still feels far too damp and humid. Still, it does mean her sweat actually wicks away like it is supposed to.

On their right, to the west majestic mountains rise in the sky. The sheer cliffs of gray and brown, tipped with silver spikes of icy white are the tallest heights Awenasa had ever seen. Every day they grow larger, more defined against the blue sky but her companions assure her the road merely skirts the mountains, it does not go through them. Despite their beauty and grandeur however, it is oddly unsettling to have them constantly looming over the horozion.

Still, at least the endless trees are gone.

The road winds past small towns that seem dedicated to ranching, which is entirely novel to Awenasa. These villages seem little more the afterthoughts and waystations for travelers, as most of the locals live out in the plains and fields with their cattle. The caravan passes through quickly, apparently not interested in much business here. Still, each stop lasts a few days to rest, resupply and do a little trade (her new family seems incapable of interacting with others without trying to earn a little coin or favor). These lowlanders seems very interested in horses and while Herja's herd is rather small, he quickly makes a network of trades and barters that not only leave the Wanderer man smiling, but with more horses then when he started.

Awenasa has no idea how this is possible.

But her mind is kept busy with Thak's lessons, which proves to be more of a process then she suspected. Awenasa has learned many things over her life, often at the hand of teachers. How to track animals, how to predict the weather, how to read a man's body in a fight. This had been pounded into her by quah elders, often with the back of a hand as help. Education was matter of obedience and rote, with survival of the quah was the main goal. While it could be fun, Makayda had always been gifted at that, education was normally a matter of responsibility. She was taught these things to help the quah as a whole, and to act as a teacher for the next generation.

Thak approached things entirely differently. The foreign man seemed to think learning was like a puzzle or maybe a good meal. Something to be leisurely explored and enjoyed for it's own sake. He was constantly looking at the bigger picture, seeking context for things. He simply didn't want to know what the Shoanti word for 'fire' was, he wanted to know why it was that word and what it had in common with other words. While this was entirely bizarre to Awenasa, she noted it did make lessons more interesting.

She found her own Common improving rapidly, even after only a week or so. His main teaching method was to make her talk, constantly, and then correct her. It wasn't easy for Awenasa to keep up a pointless stream of prattle but it seemed to work, so she humored the man. It was satisfying however, to seem her own improvement and so she grew to look forward to the hours pacing alongside the wagon, trying to repeat Thak's poems and wordplay.

So yeah, your Common is better. How much better is up to you, but image a week or education by a very skilled teacher as well as constant exposure.

One morning however, when the caravan breaks camp in an isolated field, Herja comes over, his face grave.

"No language lessons today, Awenasa." he says, "Look ahead." The lean Wanderer points ahead, where the road, like a broken backed snake, winds through low stony hills. "This is a bad place for bandits, always has been. We have seen signs over the last miles that makes us think it is active. We will probably have trouble over the next few days."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

As the mountains appear during their journey, Awenasa realizes that she much prefers looking down at the world from the height of the Plateau than she did being at the base of the mountains looking up. The jagged wall of rock has a way of making her feel hemmed in which puts her slightly on edge. At least they didn't go through the mountains because that would definitely be a choke point should anyone wish harm on the clan.

The open plains and fields are more comforting to Awenasa in that they are the closest thing she has found to resembling her home on the Plateau. Sure it is more lush than home but the openness and sizes of the settlements are more like what she was used to.

However, what surprises Awenasa the most are her lessons. At first she does what she can to avoid them and finds reasons to be busy elsewhere but Thak proves to be most dogged in his pursuit of his pupil. Finally she runs out of excuses and resolves herself to her studies. She had been expecting the lessons to be onerous and unenjoyable and is pleasantly surprised that this isn't the case. Even though she would never admit it, she begins to look forward to her language lessons and is encouraged when she sees obvious improvement in her Common. She doesn't understand all the meanings of the poems Thak has her recite but her pronunciation definitely gets better.

I really like that she is able to teach Thak some Shoanti as well. I think that's a nice touch.

Awenasa is immediately on guard as Herja approaches. His face speaks volumes to the experienced warrior and she instantly changes gears from student to zoralo. Her words are slow as she concentrates on using Common instead of slipping back into Shoanti, "Do you want me to scout? Maybe we can surprise them first or learn how many there are."

Herja inclines his head at her improved Common but says, "A bit overly bold, don't you think? I mean, the bandits live here. I know a Shoanti warrior can blend into the rocks and pass without even casting a shadow but still, I doubt you'll be able to surprise them. Besides, I don't like the idea of you going alone and getting in trouble. That just might make things worse, if we had to ransom you."

Calo approaches, stepping around a guttering breakfast campfire. Awenasa has not seen much of the wrestler in the past weeks, the man clearly having his own issues to work through. The Shoanti are a reserved, inward-focused people so frankly, Awenasa is just surprised more Wanderer's don't act this way. Today though his face is serious, all business.

"Expecting trouble?" He asks and Herja nods, filling the strong young man in what they had been discussing.

He looks at Awenasa, "I will say, most times we simply pay the bandits off." Seeing her shocked face he grins, "Come on, don't the Shoanti do the same thing? Pay tribute or something if they cross into another clan's territory? Herja has told me stories."

This isn't entirely untrue, but no Shoanti would ever ever frame that as 'paying someone off'. It was a gesture of respect and a common sense way to avoid ritualized violence. Lowlanders would never understand.

"But the last town, we overheard that the bandits have been riled up lately. New headman in town or something. Might be less open to bribery, might want to make a name for himself. Bad timing for us." Calo frowns at the low, stony hills which looks quite forbidding and perfect for ambushes along narrow, rocky trails.

"What do you think Awenasa? Will they attack us head on, or from the rear? Or both, although I doubt they have such numbers unless things really have changed since our last passage."

Shoanti Unchained Monk/8 | HP 58/72; Non-lethal 18pts | Init +3 | AC19/F15/T16 | F+8 R+9 W+5 | Perc +14 SM +13 | Stunning Fist 8/8 | Ki Pool 8/8 | Active Conditions: None

Understanding dawns on Awenasa's face as Herja mentions that the bandits actually live in the area. Her face then darkens as she realizes her rash words. "I should know better. Zoralo not leave the clan unprotected. It is not good for clan protector to risk capture or ransom. Thank you for making me understand better."

The Shoanti bristles a bit as Calo suggests her people would pay anyone off but she quietly processed and wondered exactly how her people were portrayed in other people's stories. Not that she thought Herja would ever paint the Shoanti in a bad light but how did others interpret what they heard?

"Did anyone hear why bandits are riled up? Is the new boss just trying to prove themself to the others or is there a different reason? I would think making money for bandits would be better than fighting."

Awenasa looks mildly surprised that her opinion is asked for. She still isn't used to being one of the ones that made decisions about tactics. "If bandits well-trained they don't need large numbers to attack. First, I would block the road. Second, use half of the bandits to draw any fighters to the front. Then, half of the bandits attack the rear and take hostages to force any fighters to stop."

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