With a small gasp at the majesty of the white wolf, Vesi gives him a small bow, burning with curiosity as to what kind of wolf this was, approaching so confidently and speaking the Common tongue!
Nature: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9
"Apologies, Howl-of-the-North-Wind. We were unaware that you claim this territory, and it was not our intention to trespass." The druid pauses, clearing their throat hesitantly. "Although, perhaps, we can reach some sort of understanding? Is there anything that we could help you with?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13
Howl-of-the-North-Wind growls. ”Hmph. At least you speak with the proper deference, unlike most of your kind. I accept your apology. I will grant you clemency this one time, but should be foolish enough to return, then I will devour you. Take my warning to the rest of your kind in the fort to the west.”
Russ looks a bit confused as to how to answer that one, "I'm not sure love is exactly what I'd call it? I mean there have been things that I've done for the good of the clan." He warbles a bit, "To ensure it's survival and all." Feeling the eyes from around the campfire he puts down a finger, "You know........ but I've never uh.. eaten a banana?"
Russ prepares to step up and put himself between the wolves and the party until Vesi takes the lead, they are an animal person most days so maybe they can barter their passage? Then of course it does work out and the wolf seems more than amiable to talk a little.
"I assure you, those in the fort to the west are not our kind kin. Those who serve the stag lord will soon find their false rule of these lands ended. In fact if there is any aid or information that you might be able to offer we'd be glad to see that you and your pack have sanctuary after we've overthrown the tyrant."
"Owlbear?! Oh my, I've never seen one of those, only heard the stories!" Vesi claps with excited enthusiasm before returning to the matter at hand.
"Well, Howl-of-the-North-Wind, you have given us your name, so it is only fair that we return the courtesy. I am Vesi, druid of the Green Faith. Thank you for forgiving us our trespass. I understand that you are protective of your territory, and I shall give warning to the others who are friendly to us to avoid it. It would help if you could tell us how far your territory extends?"
"Owlbears?! Those things are always ripping off arms! And they're deadly silent when they swoop down on you out of the trees too! Are they just in the fort? Or are they just... around?"
"What's a banana?"
"I only smelled one, and it was in the fort," the wolf says. "But there are more owlbears that roam the hills and dells. Keep a wary eye out, or their hoots will be the last thing you hear..."
He turns to Vesi. "My territory extends in all directions, as far as I can walk in a day. Stay out of here, and you will not face my ire."
He is effectively claiming this entire hex as his own.
Russ nods, "An owlbear kept by men?" He looks to Vesi, "Don't like the sound of that." afterwards thew tiny draconoid looks to Howl-of-the-North-Wind. "I hope we can put this information to good use, but I must ask how is it that a wolf like yourself came to possess the ability to speak? I've seen many wolves very old that haven't gained the capacity for it."
Hopefully that doesn't come up as an issue later but i think we can sacrifice one hex to keep the local wildlife happy
Howl-of-the-North-Wind huffs, a cloud of icy mist emerging from his mouth. "I am no mundane wolf. I am vinter ulv, descended from those touched by the magic of Thremyr, the First Jarl. He roamed the wastes in the Age of Darkness, shedding fragments of his hide and flesh. My ancient ancestors devoured the divine cast-offs, and so their power awakened."
Knaxshi nods along with the conversation, but he doesn't want to jinx it by saying the wrong thing.
He seems to be accepting Russ' lead.
We can leave it for now, and if it becomes a problem later we'll come back. And come back prepared to deal with cold.
Russ nods, "Yeah let's get going, we'll do our best to keep folk from trespassing in your lands Howl-of-the-North-Wind."
With the odd new bit of information about Blaze he's ready to continue on their path hopefully without further incident.
Heading west, you finally come upon the base of operations for the bandits in the Greenbelt. The Stag Lord's fort stands near the edge of the Tuskwater. A narrow path of hard-packed earth winds up the hillside approaching the fort—this path is 30 feet wide, 300 feet long, and provides no cover. The remaining hillside surrounding the fort is devoid of shrubbery save for isolated thorny vines, but a few large boulders could provide cover for a stealthy approach.
The palisade surrounding the fort is 15 feet high, consisting of vertical logs sharpened into spikes at the top. You can see three watchtowers rising up over the palisade. Each watchtower is 20 feet high, with a peaked roof arching another 10 feet above, and is surrounded by a two-foot-high wooden railing that grants those within the tower cover from outside attack. One bandit stands guard in each tower.
Staking out the place from a distance, you can see about a dozen different men moving about the fort over the course of the day. The guards standing watch keep a close eye on the path approaching the fort, but they pay less attention to the hillsides.
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Blaze's face scrunches up in dismay, but slowly reforms into something uncharacteristically serious. "Hells. Look, fighting people in a fort isn't that big a problem for me, but it is really good at stopping blades and bullets. And hugs. Or whatever Blue's gonna do." she rolls her eyes.
"But even if we were all good at that, then we're outnumbered what... three to one? At least? Assuming our various hangers-on don't want to all form up and charge straight into a throat-arrow? That sucks even without the fort."
"So. Time to listen to the Bandit Queen. We know when they leave they're gonna leave by the path. We know they've gotta leave to do banditry of their own. Or at least to hunt. Probably they're gonna send out four, maybe six at a time. That's who we kill first. And I mean slit-throats, check-for-breathing, poke-'em-in-the-eye-to-make-sure dead. We don't want them carrying tales back to the fort, or worse, to any other staggies we haven't found yet.
"If too many of them come out to play at once? Then we just try to steal the fort and fight them when they come home."
As she heads out of camp up to flee her impeding defeat though, there's a muted buzzing and then a sharp yelp. "Lamashtu's well-traveled taint!" Blaze clasps her hip. "That bee was the size of a stirge!"
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Vesi's eyes are shining. "Do you think that might work? Hugs, I mean. You know, I think I read somewhere that many of those who turned to a life of crime did so in the absence of parental affection..." The undine puts a thoughtful finger to their lips, nodding absently as Blaze outlines her plan.
"Wait, what? Slit their throats? Can't we... hit them over the head and tie them up? Valerie or Amiri could guard them. Right?" Vesi swallows nervously. "I just mean, you can't hug them if they're dead. I mean, you could, but that would be weird."
"Okay, but then after the tying up, what's the next step? Have someone toss on a mask and do a really big axe-shaped throat slitting? And spine?
"Or what, toss them in our non-jail for... how long? Give them a fine? Chop off a hand? Are we supposed to just find them jobs or something? 'Cause lemme tell you from experience - hiring a crew of bandits to guard your place is a great way to get robbed and stuff from the inside out. Probably won't matter anyways, I guarantee not a mother's son of them is expecting us to offer a bunch of outlaws and highwaymen quarter."
"I gotta agree with Blaze on this one. They have been terrorizing people and haven't been shy of killing. If we take prisoners, then we have to keep them under control for days to get them back to civilization. By that time the Stag Lord will likely notice. I expect he'll take out his anger on innocent folk."
he does look honestly conflicted about this. "I was involved with the wrong sort of people, but I got out before it got bad. I knew continuing would have meant death in combat or a hangman's noose."
"You are right, we should talk about this now, rather than later." Vesi blows out a very deep sigh. "I hear what you're saying, I do! But I also hear that both of you had, erm... less-than-lawful exploits at some point in the past - but look at you now! Should not everyone get a chance to make better choices?"
Getting warmed up to the topic, the undine continues. "And yes, we could find them jobs! Not as guards, that would be... perhaps unwise, but if we are building a new place here we will need people to do it! Farmers and blacksmiths and potters and bakers! Have them apprenticed and learn a trade they can use to earn an honest living. The really bad ones, the leaders and such... well, we could have them tried and executed, I suppose. No use to anyone if they rot in prison." They raise pleading eyes at the rest of the group. "But the others, those who haven't done any killing, why should they die for one mistake?"
"I hear you Blue, but... look, a pretty big difference is that Knaxy and I got out ahead of the noose. We made the choice to throw in our lot with Her Royal Baronyness Stabitha without having to do it with a sword to our throats, probably hers. And I'm all for people paying us ransoms not to die, but that works a lot better with groups and lords and things you expect to be around, or at least want to be around. If we do this right, they won't be."
Blaze gives a long shrug. "Look, you're right about the blacksmiths - if any of them know how to do that we should definitely keep them around 'cause it's hard and I don't want to learn to do it. Pottery might be fun though. And if any of them come up to us asking for a job and renouncing their bandit ways, we can figure that out then too."
She tilts her head quizzically as she stares at Vesi. "So you're really asking us not to kill these killers in case they'd be able to live a happy and fulfilling life growing soggy wheat in the newest River Kingdom?"
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"I guess... I guess that what I'm asking is to give them a chance. Not all of them might be killers. If they are..." Vesi looks aside, wringing their hands. "I suppose they should be punished, somehow?"
"So perhaps we should put the word out, first - that we are here to help these lands become more, more settled, and if anyone would come forward of their own free will to help us, past transgressions will be forgiven?" The undine's voice rises on an uncertain note at the end, as they look anxiously at Blaze and Kaxshi, the only ones who have expressed an opinion on the matter so far.
"If we accept surrenders from a raiding party, what do we do with them? We can't just let them go, because not all will be honest about turning over a new leaf. If we bring them back to the stockade, it will take time and the Stag Lord will use that. If you have a plan for this, we can talk."
Vesi's head drops in response, as if under the weight of all these difficult questions and choices. A bare foot toes the dirt, inadvertently disturbing an ant nest.
The undine gasps. "A party!" They look at everyone, beaming, as if this was the most obvious solution in the world. "You said earlier that the Stag Lord might take it out on innocent folk. And that he and his bandits have been terrorizing people."
They whip out the map of the Greenbelt that they've been doodling for the last couple of weeks. "It's because everyone here is so... alone! You have Oleg and Svetlana and their palisade - very defensible place, I might add - and then to reach the next closest decent person you have to walk for two days!" Vesi stabs the parchment to indicate Oleg and Svetlana's post, then Bokken's cabin. "Everyone is so scattered, so it makes it hard to protect them - and for them to protect themselves! But if we gathered them in one place for a few days, there's strength in numbers, and we can come back here to deal with the Stag Lord without worry." The undine raises the parchment-stabbing finger. "And! They can help guard any prisoners we take, or people who turn themselves in!"
Vesi beams again, now fully in planning mode. "We use Oleg and Svetlana's because it has space and a wall, announce a big fair with food and drink and music, where people can come trade and enjoy themselves for a few days. And we invite all the friends we've met since we've been exploring this area, since they will all need to live together in peace anyway, might as well start now!"
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"Blue- Blue- Bl- Vesi!"
Blaze waves her hand in front of their face.
"Look, that all sounds good and stuff, but we're not back at the manse. We don't have food and music to offer all these people, and if we don't show that we can handle the local Big Bandit, we don't really have safety to offer them either. And we can offer amnesty, but don't forget, if a bandit wanted amnesty, all she had to do was walk over to Restov and take it."
"There's a fight here that we've gotta win at some point if we're serious. I'm just trying to figure it so we're the ones who do actually win..."
Blaze reaches up and starts flicking her thumb off one horn. "This would be lots easier if you actually were stupid or weak... Okay, here's what I figure. We've got a few extra hands, anyone who gives in can be watched instead of bumped off. It can't be anyone who has their own big quest in case they get distracted, so not Linz, or Nok-Nok, or Ekundayo. Shouldn't be anyone who a bunch of bandits could make a better offer to, so not Spookybutt, or Hairy, or maybe even 'Miri? Especially 'cause if I'm not there she won't take it to me first. So that leaves Val or Glowboy, and I think I want the cynic to make sure they're sitting on their hands."
She stops looking at the different options up in the clouds where ideas live and returns her gaze to Vesi. "That good enough for now? Anyone who runs for it still has to be put down, but we can at least have Tall, Gorgeous, and Grumpy to hold onto anyone who cries Uncle."
"You can put on your fair once people think we'll actually be sticking around more than a moon's turn."
Russ listened to the group's back and forth quietly making his own contemplations. On one hand he didn't want to break Vesi's heart and tell her it was impossible to save any of them, they knew what they were getting into. The other told him that while Blaze and Knaxshi had a point Vesi's claims to at least offer amnesty weren't completely unfounded.
All his people would do was in service of the good of the whole, kobolds rarely had trouble makers who would actively steal from the entire clan who raised them. Humans and the other people of the world were different. They lived in small tight knit packs that didn't function like kobold 'society'. Yet in the unfair world where the weak banding together should make them stronger than much smaller groups of singularly powerful individuals, that is often not the case, but vice-versa.
"I want to believe that there are those who are redeemable in that fort." He states openly to take the floor. "But Vesi, even you have to understand that humans, elves, even dwarves. They don't all work towards the goal of harmony with one another. Kobolds are often easy, they work together just to survive. But men they work together to better their individual goals." The diminutive kobold gives a chuff since he hates making such a broad claim.
"I can only promise you that I will make an attempt to take as little life as they allow, I can't answer for Blaze or Knaxshi as they have their own convictions. Those that surrender will be spared, but tried for the crimes they have committed. That's simply the law of the land, those who are genuine in their sorrow may find normal lives and we can give them that chance. Those who are not, should be met with the Sworldlord's justice." Holding his head up high as if some tiny scaled knight he makes his promises to Vesi as well as the others.
Having come up with a rough plan, you find a secluded place to watch the road coming from and going to the Stag Lord's fort. For several days, you lie in wait, but no groups of bandits ride out from the keep. It seems that those who dwell within are content at remaining behind its walls.
Eventually, though, you hear the sound of hoofbeats coming up the road to the fort. A group of five bandits approaches, driving a wagon loaded with goods. Chief among these supplies are several large casks of alcohol. The bandits have yet to notice your hiding spot...
Vesi dips their head in acquiescence at Russ'Ruk's words; not the result they would have wished for, but it was an acceptable compromise for the time being.
"I can make lots of plants grow on the road so that it would be difficult for them to move," whispers Vesi to the others as they spot the approaching bandits. "Hopefully we're far enough from the fort that sounds of fighting won't draw their attention."
If the others agree, Vesi will cast Entangle on the road to try and slow down the bandits as we hit them from a distance. 120 feet range, 20-foot burst, DC 18 Reflex.
They are wearing studded leather armor and have swords and bows stowed at the moment. None of them appear to be spellcasters or obvious leaders.
Knaxshi: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (1) + 9 = 10
Russ'ruk: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (3) + 8 = 11
Vesi: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
Enemy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Despite your concealed position, your movements give you away before you can launch your ambush! The bandits cry out in surprise as they bring their horses to a halt. They quickly ready their bows and open fire! Both Blaze and Vesi take hits.
Composite Longbows: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 141d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 181d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 151d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 261d20 + 7 ⇒ (14) + 7 = 21
Random Targets: 1d4 ⇒ 11d4 ⇒ 4
Concealed: 1d20 ⇒ 141d20 ⇒ 15
Damage: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 31d8 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
3 damage to Blaze and 9 damage to Vesi. Everybody may act!
Having bith his sword and shield out before the ambush Russ wonders if perhaps his noisy form gave them away. Cursing he moved through the trees shield held up and takes cover behind the many trees along the way.
raise shield, move 25 then take cover
"Waitwaitwait! You need protection!" Before Russ'ruk can charge towards the bandits, Vesi sketches a quick rune of protection on his chest with a piece of bark. The warrior can feel his own skin tighten as it hardens. Then the undine crouches, raising their shield against the next volley of arrows.
"Owww!" Blaze presses a searing palm to her shoulder to stop the bleeding. "Hey why are you protecting him! He's got all the armor and stuff!"
Blaze hustles up on Russ's heels, sending a bounding ball of fire racing out ahead of her to hassle the bandits.
Fire: 3d6 + 2 ⇒ (6, 6, 1) + 2 = 15 Ref DC 19
Reflex: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
The lead bandit screams in agony as the flaming sphere engulfs him. He topples off of his horse, which screams as well and gallops away from the bandit's burning corpse! Knaxshi's gunshots go wide. Vesi protects Russ'ruk who moves in with shield raised.
But it is the ifrit that has drawn the bandits' ire. The four remaining foes dismount their horses and send them off to safety before raining arrows at Blaze! Three find their mark, stabbing into the sorceress.
Longbows: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 151d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 201d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 161d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 91d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 231d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 121d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 241d20 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
Damage: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 21d8 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 31d8 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
8 piercing damage to Blaze.
"Ack! Rrrrgl" Blaze dares a peek down at her body, and notices that all three arrows seem to have punched into her gear before getting to her. "Huh... that was lucky."
Fire flares along her arms once more, searing her wounds shut and burning away the arrows. "Only get the one chance though boys!"
Flaming Sphere: 3d6 + 2 ⇒ (6, 6, 6) + 2 = 20 DC 19 Ref
Elemental Toss: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (9) + 9 = 18
Fire: 1d8 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7
Heal: 1d8 ⇒ 5
Knaxshi reloads, staying behind his cover and shoots. Starting to get quite frustrated, he reloads again, shooting as soon as it's ready.
Reload, shoot, risky reload
attack: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (1) + 11 = 12
attack: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
damage: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7
Having moved within a much more reasonable distance Russ takes a deep breath and dips out from behind the tree, bobbing and weaving through the brush at breakneck pace towards the bandit gang only to jump at the last moment and attempt to strike one of the bowmen in the side of the head.
Bastard Sword: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (4) + 11 = 15
Slashing: 1d8 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5
Once he lands however he pulls his shield up to protect himself somewhat.
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"Because he almost got killed in the last fight!" is Vesi's reply to Blaze, but the undone is now reevaluating the situation. The last time they were dealing with one strong opponent engaging Russ at close range, while now there were multiple foes who all could shoot arrows at them. "Sorry, still getting the hang of this violence thing."
Vesi approaches the bandits a little, face screwed up in concentration as they raise their arms and then bring them down while stomping one foot hard. Strangely enough, the sound is a crack rather than a thump, and a miniscule lightning bolt arches between two bandits.
Casting Electric Arc, DC 18.
Reflex vs Sphere: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
Reflex vs Electric Arc: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 91d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
Electric Arc Damage: 2d4 + 4 ⇒ (1, 4) + 4 = 9
Blaze incinerates another bandit with her flaming sphere! She scorches another one with a smaller flame, then Vesi unleashes lightning! The wounded bandit goes down, while another is lightly injured. Russ'ruk charges in, barely managing to score a hit on the injured foe. Knaxshi fires again, his second shot finishing off the fourth bandit!
Only one bandit remains, and she wisely drops her weapon and raises her hands in surrender!
Vesi makes a sad and small sound as their spell drops one of the bandits. "Oh no! Oh no! I killed one! I- Oh no!" Sprinting past the surrendering woman, Vesi stumbles to their knees next to the fallen bandits, desperately trying to stem the life fleeing their bodies.
Casting Stabilize on them, starting with the one they dropped.
Blaze looks askance at Knaxshi. "Did you know they could even do that?""
She hustles after Vesi, but has no clue what to do when she gets there. "Are they... Is your magic gonna help them?"
She squats down for a closer look, shooting a hard glare at the last bandit if she do much as looks at her weapons or a horse.
Russ backs down for a moment as he sees the electrical jolt arc from behind. 'Blaze usually uses fire so who?' His answer is quick when Vesi rushes up to the group and drops to their knees.
He looks sharply at the remaining bandit. "Don't even think of running, mayhap there will be redemption for you yet."
Moving over to Vesi he places a hand on their shoulder as they work, "Easy Ves, easy it's going to be okay just.. do your thing and keep breathing. No good if you black out." He hopes that the not great encouraging words will help the druid in their work.
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"I was- I was- trying to scare them! I'm so sorry!" Vesi gingerly peels away a scorched scarf to feel for the man's pulse at his neck. "Come on, come on!"
The druid becomes a little less panicked as they feel the faint signs of life in the downed bandits. "A-alright. I think, I think they'll live." They sit on their heels looking up at the woman still with her hands in the air.
"Hello. Sorry about that, I was trying to be gentle. I don't want anyone to die, but you need to understand that what you are doing here cannot continue. I am telling you this with your well-being in mind," the undine's gaze flicks to their companions, then back to the woman. "We are empowered to stop bandits in this area by whatever means, and it's not looking good for you and your friends right now. But you still have a chance. Stop walking the path of lawlessness and banditry, as it will only end in your death. Submit to the people's judgement, pay your debts to the ones you have wronged, and you have a chance at making a good, honest living for yourself - here or elsewhere."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
"But know that our mercy is limited. Should we find you causing more problems, we will stop you from harming innocents with full force."he pats his gun.
intimidate: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20
God cop, meet bad cop.
Blaze snorts. "Of course you will; they're offering you a way better deal than you deserve."
"But hey, since there's still quite a lot of room to sweeten things up/make the scary ysoki-with-a-gun go away, what do you have to tell us about what all's guarding the fort? Trust me, telling some useful stories is a really important first step to making nice with the local constabulary."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (17) + 9 = 26
The woman tells you that the Stag Lord only allows a select few bandits to live in the fort with him: three lieutenants and seven other bandits. Additionally, two weeks ago, the bandits brought down an owlbear during a hunt. Rather than killing the creature for food, the Stag Lord took a liking to the strange beast and ordered the bandits to haul the monster back to the fort, where they have rigged up a pen to contain it.