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Vannellus looks interested when Novox engages in the fencing over words, and his eyes search Novox's face for clues as to just what exactly had been the wizard's role in the recent uproar. The former adventurer doesn't seem to believe Novox's bland claim to be concerned for the swimmers, but that doesn't bother the wizard.

More importantly, Vannellus does stop looking for the dinosaur when Novox dismisses it as a momentary conjuration.

"You got it mostly right." The man grunts, but adds, "It was a bit scrawny and underfed. The ones I saw looked more impressive. Right now isn't the time for stories however..."

Thyste pushes through the last few people before standing directly before Novox and Vannellus. Dye shuffles off to the side, like an insect avoiding a bright light.

Novox is forced to admit, even as he seizes up the old man, the paladin is an imposing sight. Ramrod straight, with broad shoulders and toned muscles. Steely gray eyes that seem to penetrate deep into a man's soul, and a lined face that has seen many winters....and many liars. The razor sharp sword in his hand doesn't hurt the effect either, flickering with a barely visible aura of power.

The paladin considers Novox for a long moment and then says, voice calm but probing, "You return, alive and well?"

The ball seems to be soothed by Fimdi's worshipful words, and the pulsing slows. However, it bobs somewhat when Zozli speaks and adds, voice clear, "You, the pale one. You are impertinent, in your thoughts. How curious. Do you not know the danger in which you place yourself?"

The two adventurers place their hands on the altar and are once again pierced with twin pans, one hot the other freezing cold.

Then, with a final pulse the ball rises from the floor higher and brightens. The light grows in intensity, sending out beams of brilliance brighter then the noonday sun. All shadows vanish before the sudden onslaught and the dark stones seem to glow with reflected radiance.

The pain of the altar fades as the avatar of a God speaks.

"Fimdi Mountainfury. The Nine Rods are being carried into the depths of the world. Even now the theif has passed through the great pit and finds herself in the strange world of the Underdark. They are moving quickly."

A short pause and then, "Zoldrun Carach-De'Sala. The Maw is dangerous and your question well asked. The gnolls throw many prisoners screaming into the pit yearly and few survive such a plunge. And yet, there is a way. The first one hundred feet of the Maw's walls are smooth, worn by wind and rain. Below this however, you will find a winding stair that leads down into the abyss. Dangerous but solid."

Then the light dims, and the ball sinks back to the floor. It hesitates there for a moment, as if considering the unlikely pair in front of itself. What does an avatar of Nethys himself make of a gnome sorcerer and a fecthling gunslinger? Whatever it decides, it keeps ti itself.

"Good luck." Is all it says, before adding, "Know that you are favored by the All-Seeing Eye."

With that the ball vanishes, plunging them into perfect darkness so deep, both of them are utterly blind. Then, after a heart stopping moment, they hear the grinding of the door. Dim light pours in as the passage back into the rest of the cave system reveals itself.

Rudabeh barks her order, and she can hear Ractus repeating it a heartbeat later, his deep voice echoing over the snarls of the dragon and the splashing of the swimming bandits. In reply the company lets off a ragged volley that would make any drill master wince. The shots are accurate enough, and Rudabeh watches a cloud of arrows, bolts and at least one javelin rise up and shatter across the monster's thick hide. But instead of a single heavy blow of iron and wood, it is a rattling rain with no unity. Granted, that wasn't a critical failure here but in a real battle....

Even as Rudabeh raises her own bow to follow suit, she notes Aurelia pointing toward the reptile. Her finger suddenly bursts into am aura sickly looking green. With a crackle the young woman flings it toward the raging beast.

Flame Drake Fort, DC 16: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15

The projectile of light hits the flame drake's glittering hide and instantly makes the beast scream in pain. From below Rudabeh can see the tough scales writhe and warp, as if being weathered by a thousands years of wind and rain. In a moment the seemingly impervious hide looks cracked and worn.

Taking it as a sign, Rudabeh sights her own shot and looses.

The arrows flies through the night air, silhouetted by the still blazing daylight spell. Arcing through the air, it almost looks frozen in place for a moment, an unmoving dot on a shifting tapestry of light. Then it slams into the drake, sinking deep into the beast's chest up the fletchings.

The drake's roar cuts off into a hacking, wet cough. It wheels overhead, spraying thick orange blood below, as well as spitting fire. The circling beast weaves in the air, desperately clawing at its punctured chest with a bubbling shriek. Without looking back at the seemingly victorious paladin and mercenaries, the mortally wounded creature starts to drift back downstream like a great vulture.

Do you send a finishing blow?

Rudabeh fills herself with a quick burst of healing divine power, feeling new skin cover the newest burns and her shoulder re-heal after Skard's reckless assault. The healing isn't as through as she'd like however, with the pain only pushed to the background, not banished.

As she heals, she looks around the burned and charred deck. Sailors run around, throwing buckets of sand or water onto the small fires while others throw the most flammable objects overboard. The pale patron of the vessel looks distressed at this, but grimly sets himself to the task of heaving cartons of grain and cloth into the dark water below.

Most of the bandits have fled, either below-decks in panic or having jumped into the river themselves. Already a few are stroking toward the shore in a total panic and rout. Rudabeh knew if it wasn't for her, they would each be killed and eaten by this drake in turn. Staying united and steadfast was their only defense now.

To her surprise Silvui is still upright at her side, although looking in extreme pain. Yes, 7 hit points!

With a dry groan, the man glances at the circling drake and then at the cool water below. Rudabeh can clearly see the struggle in the man's mind between staying in a fight he cannot win and a possible escape. Slowly, and with a dreary finality, he steps back from the gunwale and holds his sword in a defensive position. Pride, or something else, had won out over self preservation.

It is a free action if you want to push him in anyway, to save him

Rudabeh, key in hand, once again taps that divine power within her. Feeling it surge through her body she projects it out like a great unseen lance toward the drake. A flare of protective and calming power.

Drake Will Save: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (12) + 6 = 18

The spell hits the drake and for a moment the massive fiery reptile grows still. The vast wings spread out like a bat and it glides silently, passing above the vessel. Then it writhes, like a beast in chains, throws it's mighty head back and lets out a bellowing roar of rage. Whatever had drove it to attack before was forgotten. Now it was out for revenge.

'Well, you got its attention.' Teken says mildly. 'Flame drakes hate mind control.'

Rudabeh ignores this for the moment, dropping her greatsword to the deck. The weapon lands with a loud clang, and the sharp edge gouges out a series of nasty splinters in the weathered wood. The paladin draws out her longbow, while shouting for Ractus to organize any of the ranged fighters. Out of the corner of her eye she seems the crippled man hobbling among the fighters, shouting and in some cases pushing them into some semblance of order. What success he makes it hard to say, and Rudabeh wishes again for the well oiled mercenary companies of her youth.

Meanwhile the drake, driven to fury by Rudabeh's failed spell, dives the paladin. Like a falling gemstone it rushes toward her, red and gold shimmering in Aurelia's daylight spell. With a strange beauty Rudabeh watches possible death hurtle toward her.

'Rudabeh!' Teken shouts in her mind, and despite him saying it, she looks to the rear of the diving beast.

Tail Slap: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (7) + 6 = 13

With an adder's speed the barbed tail flicks toward her, swinging from the side. Rudabeh, forewarned, falls to one knee. In a strange parody of prayer, she kneels onto the hard wooden deck. The thick tail cuts through the air above her, missing her armored head by inches.

With a roar the drake doubles back, preparing to dive again.

Novox, looking a strange combination of imposing and disheveled, strides toward Vannellus and Dye. Around them the crowd shuffles and surges, slowly steadying as they realize there have been no deaths and the goldpebble is not returning to finish them all.

Dye gives Novox a glare at the harmless question and is about to say something hot when Vannellus lays a massive hand on the smaller man's shoulder. The hairy grip makes the swimmer buckle slighlty and he grows silent.

"Of course, Master Novox. In no small part to your own action." the former adventurer says, "Very brave, diving in there. More grit then I expected, to be honest." His dark eyes are searching, "Not many wizards willing to jump into danger, without knowing what they are getting into." The implication that perhaps Novox knew more of what lurked in the river then he was letting on, hangs in the air.

Then he adds, "And that flying creature. Was it a dinosaur?" he says the exotic word easily, and Novox realizes the well traveled men is probably one of the few in town who might know what Bill's other form was. Indeed even Novox only knows it from books and Bill's own melodramatic depictions.

"I fought some, in Kellid lands." The bulky man makes a show of looking around, "Where did it come from?"

Even as he poses this innocent question, Sir Thyste is pushing toward them through the crowd. The massive warbow is slung across the aged man's back, and his massive sword is drawn in his hands. Novox notes that the long blade gleams oddly in the pale moonlight, giving off a slight aura of it's own. Some sort of divine power, perhaps?

Shalina cuts away the webbing with a knife, making quick work of the tough silky strands. In a moment the boggart is pouring out of it, splashing onto the wet floor ungracefully. The toad-folk doesn't seem to mind much, and lays in the dirty water for awhile, like a rich man soaking in a hot tub. Slowly, the boggart rubs at their muscles, pushing life back into atrophied limbs.

Finally the big eyes look up and focus on Shalina. Grudgingly the prone figure says, "My name is Megus, the Swampseer of the Black Hollow tribe."

Gerrik, back turned but obviously eavesdropping stiffens and turns, "Swampseer? You? You can't be serious." His tone is shock growing to disdain. "They are a legend, made to scare my people."

Megus merely smiles mysteriously, 'Is that so, Gerrik Sharpeyes'

Gerrik jumps back as if stung. "How..."

Megus ignores him and turns back to Shalina, "You wish an alliance against the Chelish...what do you offer as security? What is your item of value to be given as pledge?"

Skard hits the deck of the merchant vessel with a loud thud, falling heavily on the smooth wooden planks. The heavy bastard sword clatters out of his slack grip, falling into a thickening puddle of blood around the inert form of the bandit leader. Dead or merely comatose? Even Rudabeh's trained eyes can't tell at a glance but it won't matter long. Rudabeh's blow opened a long, jagged wound into the man's spine. If he wasn't dead now, he would be in moment's unless someone healed him.

"It's a metal bolt, damn them." Silvui says, clutching at the crossbow quarrel buried in his thigh. 'Who uses a metal bolt?" he pauses, takes a deep breath then pulls out the dull bronze spike. Dropping the bloody thing to the deck he straightens, breathing slightly easier, but the blood flows freely.

Meanwhile, Rudabeh has already turned to deal with the circling kelpies. It is more of a massacre then a fight, with Rudabeh looming large over the crouching fey fully armored and wielding a sword nearly as big as her foes. The paladin cuts through this violent agents of chaos like a farmer scythes his wheat and with little more danger. Two swings of her sword leave two kelpies bleeding and on the edge of death. The rest, hissing now, break for the gunnels, heading back to the water.

Her mercenaries finally re-affix the gangplanks, and starts climbing over them. Meanwhile, on the merchant boat, the rest of the bandits take one look at Skard's prone, bloody form, and promptly drop their weapons. A cheer goes up from the 'captured' boatmen, and a few pick up the dropped bandit weapons. More then a few have the angry eyes of vengeance and Rudabeh is already moving to stop a counter massacre when she notes something out of the corner of her eye. Movement and light from the nearby wooded bank. What was it-

The trees explode in light as a roaring comet of flames surges toward the merchant vessel. Rudabeh's eyes reflexively blink, shielding her from the blinding corona as the object flies through the air. Squinting Rudabeh can see it is not a formless ball of mere light, but instead a beast wrapped in flame.

It is a dragon! A reptilian shape, with wide wings and two grasping clawed legs. The armored hide is bright red, shot with streaks of dazzling gold. A long tail ending in a barbed point trails after it, snapping to and fro.

'It is not a dragon.' Teken says calmly, clearly not effected by the nearly painful spike of adrenaline rushing through Rudabeh's body. 'Merely a flame drake, a petty brute from my own homeland. Violent and obsessed with violence. Barely intelligent.' A pause and then, 'They rarely work alone, be prepared for another.'

Flame Drake Initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25

Even as the unseen ifrit finishes speaking the dragon closes the gap over the river is soon flying right over the vessel. The drake is big but not monstrous, as Rudabeh's nerves settle slightly. More the size of a large horse, not of a large house as proper dragons are. Still, it looks quite capable.

With a roar it opens it's toothy maw and sends a ball of flame toward the merchant vessel.

Rudabeh Reflex, DC 16: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14
Silvui Reflex, DC 16: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11
Fireball!: 5d6 ⇒ (1, 6, 4, 4, 6) = 21

Both Silvui and Rudabeh are suddenly encased in a roiling world of fire and pain, and even the undine armor does little to combat the savage heat. The fire vanishes in a moment but the merchant vessel deck is utter chaos. Small fires have started everywhere, among the piled ropes and boxes, smoking dangerously. Men and women are screaming, many horribly burned, along with a few kelpies incinerated when their thin flesh was unable to stand the brutal attack.

Those unburned are moving, with the bandits trying to merely escape while the sailors try to rally and prevent the fire from spreading. At the same instant Rudabeh's mercenaries, to their credit, start pouring over to the merchant vessel, weapons raised.

"Orders?" Litta shouts, fitting an arrow to her bow. Her voice is nearly drowned out by the crackling of flames, the screams of injured men and the deep guttural roar of the flying beast overhead.

The dragon is about fifteen feet over head

The boggart coughs wetly, large mouth gasping for air. It glances up at Shalina is obvious confusion and disdain, "You ask why we hunt outsiders? Why we protect our land? You ask this even after witnessing the damage the Chelish have done?"

Turning, they glance at Gerrik and says, voice spitting, "Say you, scale-hide. Once your own people, as black and untrustworthy as they are, would have done the same. We were untied in that at least. Now? You side with one outsider against the other, trying to play them off. You will gain nothing and lose everything, scale-hide!"

Gerrik turns, his eyes mere slits. But instead of shouting, all he says is , "You should have let me kill it, Shalina." and stalks off, sloshing through the flood waters.

The boggart watches the lizard-folk leave then turns back to Shalina, face unreadable. "I know nothing of what happened here. The spiders captured me outside, some time ago. I would guess days. As for why I was here, my business is my own." Then the toad-like figure winces in pain at some injury and says, "Will you free me from this wrapping?"

It takes some searching among the dim, murky light but Novox finally finds one of the red stones, which is good for his breath is running short. Lungs burning, Novox looks up and wills himself back onto the bridge.

In a moment the wizard finds himself back on the stone and steel bridge over the river. Along with him is a sheet of muddy river water, which flows off him in a palpable wave, making everyone jump back.

The bridge is a jumble of people, some soaking wet, others not. Novox can see Dye and Vannellus standing next to each other, the wiry man also dripping river water. Everyone is shouting and pointing, either at the dark shape receding below or Novox himself. Thyste and Jireen are busying trying to restore order tot he crowd but it is slow going.

Down below, Novox can spot small boats gathering up the remaining swimmers. One of them, larger then the rest is clearly Hax, the broad shouldered man looking like a warrior among dwarves. In Novox's mind he can hear/feel Bill flying closer, despite being invisible, cursing the goldpebble roundly.

We are out of initiative. Please roll a perception check with your next post.

It takes more then a heavy blow, even from someone as strong and apparently savage as Skard to daze Rudabeh, and instantly the paladin is thinking how to counter attack. In her mind she can hear Finn's voice floating back. The mercenary had always said it was easy, when fighting someone strong and wild, to fall intot he trap of fighting the same way.

'Keep your head Had been Rudabeh's old teacher's watch words.

'Good advice.' Teken replies, obviously having detected the memory. 'I would like to meet her some day.'

Shaking both memory and armor out of her head, Rudabeh begins moving. With skill she feints a short swipe, inciting the bigger bandit to close. he does, clearly caught up in his own momentum and hopes of taking down the paladin in one overwhelming rush. His hopes are dashed when Rudabeh swings again, this time using her full reach and gaining those few inches.

he is Chaotic. Nice rolls!

Rudabeh is well trained with the blade, and knows an opening when she sees one. Her blow cut through the man's battered old mail like a knife through butter, opening him from shoulder to thigh in a bloody stripe down to the hard muscle. Blood sprays out, misting Rudabeh's burnished armor with red gore. The bandit howls in pain but his own instincts take over and he fends off Rudabeh's follow-up with his own sword, steel ringing on steel. Still, Rudabeh can see her own attack has caught him off guard and the man is very wounded. This fight might not last long....

Then she remembers the kelpies. Behind her she hears their sibilant chattering and half turns, sword held in guard.

The paladin's vision swims for a moment, the harsh light of the daylight spell fading, making her dizzy. Then it clears and to her surprises she sees, not an ugly horse-like fey intent on killing her, but a thin woman dangerously teetering near the edge of the boat. She was going to fall in! She was going to drown! Rudabeh had to save her.

Rudabeh Will Save: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (5) + 9 = 14

'Do not be a fool!' Teken's voice rings in her mind, hard and hot as freshly made steel. 'It is a trick!'

Like a dropped mirror, the illusion shatters and reveals nothing more then a glamoured kelpie.

Teken approves saying, 'Good. Now, slay all of these foul creatures.'

Before Rudabeh can move two of the fey launch themselves at her, claws against steel.

Attack, Flanked: 1d20 + 6 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 6 + 2 = 25
Attack, Flanked: 1d20 + 6 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 6 + 2 = 18
Damage: 1d6 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7

Attack, Flanked: 1d20 + 6 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 6 + 2 = 15
Attack, Flanked: 1d20 + 6 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 6 + 2 = 18

The silvered armor turns most of their attacks of course, the hardened metal too smooth, too strong for mere claws. Gezzerbial knew his trade well and was no stranger to the biting maws of hungry foes. Yet one manages to lever up a small plate and slash at Rudabeh's inner thigh, drawing blood. This seems to excite the fey, who yelp and howl in joy at being able to do something against this metal monstrosity they were fighting.

Just for narrative, I'm having the mercenaries go now

Then a bow twangs and Rudabeh sees a blur of an arrow fly from Litta's hand, straight into the eye of on the kelpies. The beast falls back into the water, dead before it hits the surface. The ranger's usually fair face is hard and pale, and her hands work with machine like precision, born of long training. In an instant another arrow is set and her green eyes searching targets.

Meanwhile the other mercenaries are less sure, clearly unused to working together. Some try to gather up the fallen gangplanks, other try to attack at range (no one with Litta's skill) or simply watch things play out. Ractus bellows orders but few listen.

Silvui simply jumps the gap and the slender Varisian is soon standing next to Rudabeh, sword at the ready. Through a dueler's grin he says, 'Enough work for two?"

Round 2

Skard, breathing hard, takes a few steps away from the now pair of foes. Stepping around one of his fellow bandits, he pulls a flask from a pocket and drinks it.

CMW: 2d8 + 2 ⇒ (6, 8) + 2 = 16

To her dismay, Rudabeh watches much of the damage she dealt heal in an instant, knitting up the deep cut. The gushing blood slows to a trickle, leaving behind a highwater mark of stained red.

The other bandits seem unwilling to close but the one between Rudabeh and Skard seems loyal and holds his spear up, taking a defensive posture. Behind, one bandit raises a crossbow and shoots it at Silvui.

Crossbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Damage: 1d10 + 1 ⇒ (9) + 1 = 10

The bolt catches the lightly armored man in the leg, and he nearly doubles over in a gasp of pain, as a fresh pool of blood begins to flow on deck.

"By Lady Luck's eyes, that hurts." The man grits out, holding the injury tightly.

The bandits seems to take some fresh encouragement from this, but still eye them warily. Rudabeh knows she needs to keep them undecided, because if they all rushed her at once....

Skard Initiative: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
Fey Initiative: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8

In her mind Teken remarks dryly, 'Alone, flanked on all sides by an unknown number of foes. Impressive.'

In an instant Rudabeh's armor slams shut, like a clamshell withdrawing into itself. The key's magic leaves her hand tingling warmly for a moment and then the effect fades. The sound of pounding feet, shouts and the strange squelching kelpies is dimmed for a moment, as her hearing adjusts to the closed helmet.

Indeed, as she listens, she can make out what the horse-like fey are saying to each other, voices sounding oddly like water being wrung out of a dirty rag.

"Flesh! Just as he promised!" One cries while another replies, "Down, down they go!"

But another, bigger then most says, "Ware! Biting steel and burning flames. Ware!"

Then her attention is taken away as Skard begins to move. The big half-orc moves faster then Rudabeh would have expected, coming at her like a blur. His sword swings high and clearly the former guard hopes to end this fight in one swift stroke.

Power Attack: 1d20 + 12 - 2 ⇒ (19) + 12 - 2 = 29

Critical Check: 1d20 + 12 - 2 ⇒ (8) + 12 - 2 = 18
Damage: 1d8 + 7 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 7 + 4 = 15

The sword lands with a crash on Rudabeh's shoulder with enough force to almost make her knees buckle. Gezzerbial's armor turns much of the force and the metal holds, but the sheer pressure is enough to let Rudabeh know her shoulder may have been dislocated or even cracked. At the least, she is going to have a horrible bruise.

Around, behind him,t he bandits look confused. A few are surprised by the appearance of the kelpies but most seem to have expected them. However, despite Skard's word, few rush forward to do battle. Clearly they were doing this to earn some coin and maybe a bit excitement. Suddenly being part of Skard's ego crusade was not what they signed up for.

However, at seeing Rudabeh alone and their leader winning for the moment, most begin stepping forward, weapons held out. They seem to be willing to reap the spoils if Rudabeh does poorly, if not actively help.

Your Company will go after your actions. Feel free to shout orders, they can hear you

Amazing, Novox just punched a giant snake in the family jewels

Novox's fist moves with magically enhanced speed and skill, ignoring the rushing currents and the shifting plates of armor. It hits the intended target forcefully, punching deep into the obviously tender tissues surrounding the orifice.

Even as the wizard retreats he can hear the goldpebble let out a angry hiss that fills the bone chilling water around him, as if Novox was trapped inside a very cold teapot. before he can make good his escape, the obviously enraged beast plunges a huge head below the water, intent on attacking whatever just sucker punched it.

Sickened Bite AOO: 1d20 + 12 - 2 ⇒ (18) + 12 - 2 = 28
Damage: 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12

The beast's jaws close on him, slicing open his fine clothes and his delicate flesh. Soon a shadow of red blood mingles with the muddy water and gold tinged aura of the goldpebble. Even as the pain lances through Novox, he can see bright gold venom lingering in the savage cuts on his shoulder and side.

Novox Fort Save: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8

?: 1d4 ⇒ 4

Novox has a nasty feeling the venom, while not painful, is going to cause trouble later.

Above, Bill savages the gold pebbles despite it's partial dive to attack Novox.

Novox glances around and spots Eslih swimming place, hands glowing with magic as she begins concentrating on some type of spell...

Meanwhile Hax continues to slice away at the goldpebble, although he does spare Novox an incredulous as if both surprised and amused Novox is down here mixing it up with his fists. That look turns to worry when the goldpebble promptly turns half of Novox's body to bloody mincemeat.

The atheist points toward the surface, obviously ordering Novox to head topside, out of danger.

Farther away the water elementals stop attacking and begin escorting swimmers away the fray, as well as helping them toward the turbulent surface.

?: 1d2 ⇒ 2

Another arrows flies off the bridge with pin point accuracy, heading for a momentary gap in the goldpebble's stony armor. It is an amazing shot, all the more so for being done in the dark. It also slices cleanly through Bill's reptile leg and pins him directly to the thrashing beast.

Damage,Smite: 1d8 + 14 ⇒ (3) + 14 = 17

And Bill is entangled

Then, deciding enough was enough, the goldpebble retreats from the battle, diving down and away from it's many attackers, farther downstream. Like a diving whale it throws itself into the water with a mighty splash, throwing back all of it's assailants (except Bill). With a deep roar it heads for the deepest channel of the river, hoping to get lost in the murky depths.

And yes, Novox watches, bemused, as a very angry Bill is dragged past him underwater, pinned to the huge snake

Her moral argument doesn't seem to mean much but the suggestion the boggart might know what monster is lurking these halls does make the lizardfolk nod. With a shrug he drops the stone into the ankle deep water and lets Shalina heal the forlorn looking figure.

Even as the healing magic flows out of Shalina's hands and into the still webbed boggart, the bard can't help but wonder if they are too late. The boggart was so cold and desiccated...

and then the limp figure in Shalina's arms coughed and blinked. The boggart's skin took on a more life-like sheen, and some of the worst cuts and scrapes healed over, with cracks vanishing. In a few moments the boggart merely looks ill and roughly treated, instead of dead.

There is a long moment of silence as the creature looks around, as if trying to gauge its bearings. Then slowly, in Polyglot says very clearly, "You are the one we hunted in the swamps. You survived? I thought you would have been lost by now, to either the invaders or the monsters of the wildlands."

Then one wide eye fixes on Gerrik and the boggart sighs painfully, "Ah, your guide. That explains it. So our old foes have allied with yet more outsiders....." The voice is sad yet controlled.

Teken agrees mentally saying, 'Of course.'

Although Rudabeh is focused entirely on Skard, she can't help but notice is use of Ractus's....nickname(?) causes a slight stir in the company. Among the younger or less experienced mercenaries, there is disbelief, confusion and more then a little concern. Litta, hands still on her bows, actually performs the cardinal sin of archers and looks around from her target, glancing back at Ractus. Aurelia looks confused and blinks, the light overhead faltering ever so slightly.

Thom and Ten-Fingers though merely grunt in acknowledgement or even with a hint of a grin. Draze, not having volunteered is far at the stern, face set in a hard grimace. Ractus himself seems unmoved but his eyes looks distant for a second.

Still all eyes turn back to Rudabeh as she casually strolls across the sturdy gangplank, flaming sword in hand. The wood underfoot creaks for a moment, and Rudabeh briefly considers how foolish she would look if the board broke and she was dumped int he dark river. Granted, a short swim held nod anger for her, but it might ruin the effect. Luckily the board seems to hold her weight easily, after then initial protest.

When the paladin hops onto the merchant boat with a rattle and slam, most of the bandits take an instinctive step backward. This time though, no one drops their weapons. But Rudabeh has no mind for them, at the moment, eyes locked on the rather imposing figure of Skard.

The soldier turned bandit seems to turn over Rudabeh's words in his mind, clearly debating how best to use this news to his advantage.

"Cauditanus?" he says bluntly, "Who?"

One of the bandits, a scrawny man who had dropped his blade, says, 'An artist, one of the best. He did some of the stauues-"

Skard cuts him off with a glare and then turns a smile on Rudabeh, "An artist in charge? And all the nobles gone? To the hells with joining him, maybe I prefer going back and setting up shop myself? With a new new mercenary company at my back?"

He looks over Rudabeh's company for a moment. Distracted by the bandit's maneuver, she almost misses the quick movement but Teken does not. 'Rudabeh!'

From his concealed pocket there is a audible crack, like a twig being snapped. Then many things happen at once.

In an instant the water around the merchant boat starts to churn and bubble, as if suddenly boiling. Rudabeh looks down and sees dark shapes emerging from the depths of the now turbulent river. Before she has time to react they break through the rippling surface, and start climbing up the sides of the boat. With a splash they knock the gangplanks into the water, although that seems more like an accident then purposeful tactic. Still, it leaves Rudabeh alone on the deck of an enemy ship.

The paladin stares at the creature climbing over the gunnels. Hideous humanoid creatures with slimy, transparent skin, webbed, humanoid hands and a snaggle-toothed, horse-like face. Rudabeh, no novice to maritime dangers knows these are kelpies, rather viscous fey who enjoy drowning and eating sailors.

Chaos breaks out on the mercenary barge as men and women reach for the fallen gangsplanks, and sailors try to right the rocking boat.

Roll Initiative!

I am very, very curious what your plans is. A caster going into a grapple? Has success gone to your head?

Novox swims with powerful strokes through the turbulent water, heading toward the writhing sea serpent like goldpebble. Huge scales flow past, like a moving mountainside, touched and gilted with glittering fool's gold. From deep within the beast, a hissing roar fills the water and seems to chill Novox's muscles.

Ignoring this danger sign, Novox pulls himself forward and actually grapples the huge creature, although it is more a matter of grabbing a horny scale and holding on tightly. Still, the wizard's grip is strong and he holds on despite the obvious turbulence.

Above Bill continues to savage everything he can reach, taking out his frustration at being bound by a mere human and forced to follow orders, all while trapped on this pathetic excuse for a Plane. He, an immortal creature made of the very firmament, bound to commands by a slightly improved ape? It would make anyone mad with bloodrage.

Meanwhile, below, Novox spots Eslih swim into view. The woman moves with an innate grace that makes Novox's stroke like a clumsy doggy-paddle. Indeed the lithe woman looks more like an otter then a human, dodging both turbulence and derbies with equal ease. She swims toward the struggling Hax and, with a silvery flourish, hands him a large knife. The gladiator hesitates for a moment, meets the fisherwoman's eyes, then takes the knife with a nod.

Both ignore Novox.

Knife in hand, Hax skillfully attacks the huge goldpebble, hacking at the beast with heavy blows. The blade seems sharp, and he soon has a new wound opening in the thick scales, and is surrounded by a halo of golden blood. Around him the other swimmers mostly back away, trying to escape the malestorm or at least reach the churning surface.

Novox can see the water elementals shifting this way and that, some attacking the swimmers, most attacking the goldpebble although their fists seems to make little impact on the river monster. The wizard can feel the connection between him and the summons, and he feels he could issue new orders if he wanted to.

On the bridge above, the great warbow sings again, launching a three foot long shaft of ash directly into the fight. The arrow sinks deep into the hide of the goldpebble missing Bill by mere inches and the devil can't help but feel the paladin may be cursing his aim.

Meanwhile the goldpebble writhes in rage, attacked on all side. What had seemed to be easy prey had turned out to be most troublesome and worst of all many of it's atatckers were out of sight and reach. Save one.

With snake-like speed the godlpebble rolled and then struck at the attacking dinosaur on it's back.

Bite: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (1) + 12 = 13

But the clever devil just has time to dodge away, avoiding the foot long teeth with only inches to spare.

You are up

While Rudabeh keeps her voice measured and mild, a few of the bandits flinch back as if insulted (or struck). Clearly the sight of a full plate paladin made think re-think the morality, or at least the wisdom of banditry. One or two even drop their weapons by instinct, the clatter of steel on wood very loud int he sudden silence. Black Thom, the dwarf just behind Rudabeh laughs harshly at this but Litta merely grips her bow tightly. A quick glance at their compatriots and the disarmed bandits quickly pick up their weapons again, obviously abashed.

'You do know how to make an entrance' Teken says approvingly. Rudabeh pays the ifrit no mind at the moment however, focusing on the bandit chief. She knew, from long experience, that the feeling of the leader would tell her if she was in for a fight or a talk.

Rudabeh Sense Motive: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23

The half-orcs dark, tanned face is hard to read but the burly man is certainly not cowed. Worried yes, and one hand seems to finger an unseen item in a greasy pocket in anxiety, but not scared. Rudabeh narrows her eyes, taking in his hard eyes, callused hands and wide stance. No, this was not a man scared easily. A heavy notched sword rests in his grip, looking well used.

His own eyes search Rudabeh in return, then sweep over the assembled mercenaries. They linger on a few and then he spots Ractus saying, "Ractus? Old Ractus Redfist? What are you doing with a woman like this? Saving bandits? Hardly your old line of work."

Ractus shrugs, a painful looking gesture from the crippled man. The elf's voice is clear and strong though when he shouts back over the water, "Put the blade down, Skard. The paladin means business."

Skard considers this and then says, evenly, 'Well, so do I."

He turns back to Rudabeh and says, "So, are we under arrest or something? You speaking for the new King, whoever he is?" Rudabeh notes a few bandits perk up, obviously eager for news.

Fimdi braces herself, squares her shoulders, then presses both of her hands on the altar again, shouting her question. It feels as if she is trying to hug a sizzling griddle, and the pain seems even more intense as both of her hands become afire with burning pain.

Meanwhile Zolzi grabs her musket and points it at the glowing altar.

When the voice speaks, it is not cool or amused but angry.

"You threaten me? You dare speak that way to Arcanotheign, avatar of Nethys himself?"

The open door slams shut with a bang loud enough to make Zolzi's and Fimdi's ear's ring. The floor quakes even harder, shaking grit and pebbles from the stone ceiling, while the air seems to crackle with energy. On the edge of sight, as if seen in a dream, a glowing ball of energy appears in the center of the room, shifting from black to white and back again.

A long moment passes and then tremors subside and the voice, now clearly coming from the divine ball of power and sounded calmer, "Can neither of you read? Both of you must place a hand on the later and ask your separate questions, at the same time. 'Always two'. Is it really so hard to understand?"

A short pause and then, "Although at this point, I am not sure you deserve an answer."

At the same moment both the gunslinger and sorcerer lay their hands on the glowing altar, both steeling themselves against the expected pain. ANd it does come.

Again, Fimdi feels as if she has thrust her hand into a glowing blacksmith forge, with searing heat instantly making her mind scream in panic. Grimly she holds on, spitting our her question between gritted teeth.

Zolzi meanwhile feels as if she has plunged her hand into a frozen pool. A freezing, creeping cold, sharper then any blade fills her muscles, making them shriek in outrage and pain. Reflexialy her entire body starts to shake at the shock of the sudden and total cold, and her breath escapes in a surprised breath.

Fimdi's word ring out and yet, again, nothing happens.

'Always two' The female voice says, sounding a bit annoyed for the first time. The altar's steady glow pulses once, a hint of red among the serene blue and the floor quakes ever so slightly.

Most wizards, or indeed, most magic users would be troubled at being underwater in a murky river while being grappled. Being entangled was a fear of many users of the arcane and divine both, a secret weakness they did not often acknowledge but all secretly feared.

However, such problems were the restrictions of distinctly lesser minds.

With barely a thought, Novox effortlessly teleports out of the mud creature's grip and heads for the shadowy outlines of the fellow (rival?) swimmer. As always the world blurs for a moment as Novox passes between dimensions, and then snaps back into sharp focus.

And the wizard finds himself in the middle of a chaotic, three dimensional battle. The dark water around him churns with turbulence, frothed to literal white foam. A strong current instantly upends the Chelish diabolist and spins him around. Colors whirl by like a child's kaleidoscope, and Novox's inner ear spins like a top. Around him he sees vague shapes that suggest struggling swimmers, battling water elementals and the huge, scaled goldpebble. There is a dull roar filling the water as the beast struggles with the water elementals and the few divers who are fighting back.

One of these is Hax, who is battering at the mighty beast with what looks like little more then a stick, picked up from the floating detritus of the river.

Not that Novox can see it, but above Bill dives the serpent like monster, tearing into it with talon and claw. The heavy scales are torn apart like a child unwrapping a present, and shimmering golden blood spills into the murky Tomarsulk river.

Consider the chaotic circumstances, I'll skip the other turns. You are close enough to Hax to try and communicate but your crappy swimming makes it difficult. Please make a concentration check on any spells you try.

Fimdi lays her small hand on the altar. Instantly pain shoots up her arm, lightning quick. The altar feels red-hot, as if Fimdi was pressing her hand against a cherry-red stove, stoked for hours. The pain was so intense she barely had time to asks her question before jerking back the seemingly melting appendage.

The gnome looks at her hand, afraid to find charred flesh but her skin is unharmed, not even slightly red, although it still aches with remembered pain.

The light on the altar pulses slightly but does nothing else, and the voice does not answer Fimdi's question.

There is a few rumbles of agreement or disagreement at her order to wait for negotiation. It certainly isn't unheard of (most spates like this do get talked down) but it does rob the attackers of the critical element of surprise. The right thing wasn't always the smart thing, but the stakes were fairly small here. No one standing on the dark, drifting barge though that any group of random bandits really posed a real challenge to a fully armed and prepared mercenary company.

Rudabeh just finishes her prayer as the barge ghosts next to the still and silent merchant ship. It is smaller then the barge, but otherwise similar. A flat bottom boat built for low water and cargo, not speed or fighting. The night is dark but Rudabeh's eyes can see figures clustered over the deck ahead, bunching into a few groups. No one seems to be looking their way. Had they really snuck up on the bandits?

At the last moment Ostend whistles an order, the barge ever so lightly thumps against the merchant vessel and gangplanks thud onto the other deck. Then, just as Rudabeh moves forward the scene flares into noon brilliance, bright enough to force curses from a dozen throats. Squinting int he harsh light Rudabeh glances back and spots Aurelia standing with arms outstretched, wreathed in bright daylight as if the Gods had made a robe of the sun. She is smiling broadly, clearly enjoying the sudden change in ambiance. Beside her Ractus looks a little surprised at the sheer intensity but shrugs.

Looking back at the merchant vessel, Rudabeh can plainly make out every detail now.

At one end, near the stern (and the gangplanks) is the gathered crew of the merchant vessel, around ten or so. Hard bitten river pilots and sailors, dressed in the usual work leathers and boots. Arms crossed and hats pushed low, they look more annoyed then terrified. Rudabeh guesses this is probably not their first bandit hold-up. Still, despite the outward bravado, Rudabeh knew very well that such a robbery could destroy an entire life of work. It might be a common price, but it could be a high one. Among the tanned and lined rivermen, Rudabeh also spots a taller youth who is dressed in landsman style and is clearly unsure of himself on deck. Despite this though, the others look to him for his reaction tot he sudden glaring light and arrival of Rudabeh's company. The patron perhaps?

No time for that now, as Rudabeh's white eyes shift to the bandits.

And bandits they are, in the classic sense. Dressed in the usual assortment of cast-offs, relics and mis-matched uniforms, most are armed with spears or clubs but a few wear swords. They are spread out, with a few watching the prisoners while others rifle through the crates and boxes on deck. While mostly human, Rudabeh sees the obvious leader is a half-orc. To the paladin's dismay she sees he is wearing an old Pitax uniform, confirming her fears that many of Irovetti's former bully boys have turned to banditry to make ends meet.

All eyes, merchant and bandit alike, turn to face Rudabeh however. her armor glitters like polished diamonds in the blazing light, cascading with literal rainbows in a few places. In her hand, her greatsword flares to life and the blade's incandescence is not dimmed by Aurelia's brilliance but instead enhanced, shining like a beacon.

For a moment, everyone is stunned into silence.

Gerrik growls, but hesitates. "Do you know boggarts? You can't trust them. The Chelish are bad but at least they have the excuse of being outsiders, from strange lands. The boggarts are our foes from days so remote you could not understand."

Tekk, not understanding this exchange in Polyglot says in Common, "Whatever you are debating, we need to do something if we are saving them. They look on death's door. I wonder how long they have been trapped in here. Days?" The paladin's voice is hard, but Shalina can see the compassion behind the weathered lines of his tanned face.

The Chelish, huddling nearby, looking around in terror, say, "Can't we just leave them and hurry on? What if whatever killed the spiders comes back?"

You don't anything about the necklace. Not much knowledge about boggarts is known outside the Sodden Lands since most humans just view them as brutal savages.

We will do Bill later, in the initiative order

Novox looked through the murky and muddy water, trying to figure out what was grabbing his leg. Was it a desperate swimmer, a river monster or....something else?

Peering down Novox isn't sure what it certainly isn't a person. The being clutching his leg is most assuredly made of mud and isn't an elemental. What was this odd thing? Some sort of minor conjuration? By who and why?

Whatever it was, the mud creature weighs as much as a stone and Novox feels himself lurching toward the river bottom, dragged down by the weight and determined efforts of the mud creature.

On the bridge Vannellus pushed forward and grabs Dye. "What's going on down there?!" The big man points to the still roiling water where the Goldpebble is still surging toward the swimmers. "Talk, man!" Somehow, in the confusion, the wand vanishes from sight....

"Something attacked me!" Dye says, looking miserable, dripping water onto the dark flagstones. "Something invisible started slamming be around, soon as I grabbed for the stone. Couldn't see well, the river is muddy. Turned into chaos! I went for the surface, then this bird...." he looks at Bill, in the form of a primordial dinosaur.

'Lizard thing attacked me and dropped me up here.." The skinny man looks back down on the dark water and jumps at the sight of the goldpebble, "By the Archfiend, what's that thing!"

"Trouble." Sir Thyste says grimly.

Below the goldpebble has reached the area where the swimmers dived and now full of angry water elementals. In moments the water's surface is a churning cauldron of attacks and counter attacks as the reptile battles the nearly invisible elementals. jets of water shoot dozens of feet into the air as watery fists slam on hardened scales. Among the churning turmoil, the other swimmers appear, sometimes having a chance to catch a breath, sometimes not. The crowd on the bridge gasps when they see a familiar face, and groan when it vanishes back below the frothing surface.

Suddenly, through the crowd, a young woman runs toward the rail, carrying a massive warbow in her hands. The gleaming yew weapon is so large, it looks ludicrous in the woman's grip. People part around her as she sprints up and hands the weapon to Thyste who nods. On her back she unslings the quiver and hands the paladin a long, red flecthed arrow.

Silently the paladin lifts the bow and hunches his muscles. With a smooth movement that spoke of endless hours of practice, the old man pulls back the warbow, old muscles barely trembling at the surely supreme effort. A moment of pause and then...instantly the arrow is sent whistling into the darkness, lost in the gloom. After a bare moment there is a loud hiss and roar from below, as the projectile hits its mark.

A cheer from the crowd.

Not that Novox knows or see any of this. All he knows is he has a very heavy weight on his leg and a cloud of disturbance off to his right where he thinks he saw a swimmer.

Ten-Fingers jumps as if burned when Rudabeh asks her directly but quickly recovers. Plastering a grin on her face the somewhat grubby woman says blandly, "Just informing Black Thom of the virtues of cooperative effort, ma'am. What else?"

The dwarf chuckles and finishes strapping on his black painted chain-mail.

When Rudabeh mentions this is a volunteer mission, there is a weird moment as everyone weighs the pros and cons. Some, like Litta and Silvui are obviously interested and intend to be in the first waves. Others though, notably Ten-Fingers seem to wish toh old back and perhaps only jump in after the fight is nearly won, in order to grab a share of the loot. And a few, like Draze shrug and turn their backs on the entire affair, clearly not caring about the fate of a few random merchants or fishermen. It is not the best way to start Company solidarity.

In her mind, Teken says, 'There is a saying in my homeland. "Do or do not, there is not try." You must enforce discipline now, or it will only get harder. Already they talk and laugh behind your back. Innocent, perhaps, and not a direct threat to your power but it will make enforcing your rule that much more difficult.'

Rudabeh's quick search finds the usual loose planks of wood to serve as gangplanks and more then a few fishing gaffs. Indeed, neatly hidden behind some dark crates she finds a boarding pike which makes her think Ostend is not one to be caught unprepared.

"Lights out." Ostend orders, voice hard. Instantly every lamp and light is doused on deck, plunging them all into midnight blackness. Aurelia whimpers slightly and Rudabeh wonders if the young girl is actually...afraid of the dark.

The barge drifts forward, silent and dark.

Any last minute prep work?

Shalina's mind is filled with image of squirming maggots or worse, a host of baby spiders as she cuts open bundle of tight spider-webbing. The webbing is surprisingly hard to cut, springy and tougher then it looked. She is about to give up (and perhaps spare herself the disgusting reveal of a swarm of writhing insects) when she managed to rip open the top portion.

A flat toad-like head appears and Shalina instantly recognizes it, although she has mostly only seen it at night or in battle. The face of a boggart, the toad people who have hunted and attacked her several times on her trip through the Sodden Lands. This particular specimen looks close to death. The usually shiny skin is dry and cracked, the eyes glazed and coated in scummy build-up. A wide mouth hangs openly slightly, with a swollen, dry looking tongue. A bright red necklace hangs around the wide neck, made out of dyed bone.

The creature does not react to being freed, but Shalina thinks they are still alive.

Gerrik hisses and says, "Boggart!" Without thinking, as if instinct, he reaches for a loose stone and approaches, clearly intend on bashing int he skull of the helpless toad-folk.


There are many exits, some looking more natural then others. None have doors. Seems the spiders (or just rot) has destroyed them all

Gerrik shakes his head, "Few animals use fire. It is often used by my people of course but this....maybe the Chelish?"

Shalina repeats his words to the two scared looking Chelish guards, but both shrug. "No idea. Can we get out of here?" One says, voice nervous.

Tekk grunts and offers, "Fire seems like the Chelish to me."

Shalina nods at Tekk but ignores the Chelish pleas to leave. Instead she ventures deeper into the room, heading for the dark bundles of webbing int he corner. She quickly finds they are...or were the spider's larder. Each of the bundles is a bag of bones and skin, some long rotten, of things captured by the spiders and later eaten. While most are animals, Shalina catches a glimpse of a few skulls that seem humanoid enough to make her gag anew.

The bard is about tot urn away when she sees one of the bundles, more tightly woven then the rest, give a small wriggle. Glancing back she sees it shift slightly again, as if something inside is moving.

Zolzi creeps forward, eyes peeled for danger. She sees very little of note in the room, the floor and walls being bare stone. The air is dry with the sense it has been unmoved by breath or wind for a very, very long time. The stone altar itself is very plain with lacking any ornamentation or carving, which is quite unlike the often ornate centers of worships in Katapesh. That said, there is no layer of dust or cobwebs here, none of the usual signs of decay. The goblets and plate on the altar, while plain, sparkle as if freshly polished.

The altar continues to very faintly glow, a dim but steady blue aura.

What crappy rolls

Connacht's fingers do the dance of reloading in a blur, long practice and dire need driving them. In a trice the gun is loading, just a bit heavier in his knowing hand. The druid raises it, sights along the steel barrel and squeezes the trigger.

The blast rings out, far louder then the crackling of fire or the moans of the wounded. It acts as a clarion call, seeming to stir the fighters out of their magically induced daze. All eyes turn to the aeon, wondering what this new weapon may do against the imposing being. If Connacht missed or the attack was somehow blocked....

It is close, far closer then Connacht would like. The bullet just manages to hit the aeon, clipping it in the shoulder. There is a weird metallic twang as the projectile buries itself in the impassive, metal-like flesh of the creature. There is a pause and then, everyone can see a tiny trickle of gold-like blood flow from the wound. It is small, but one thing is clear...the aeon can be wounded.

But it will not go down easily.

Derwyn misjudges the width of the leg and his bite does nothing except leave him growling. But the others in the burning village seem galvanized by Connacht's attack and many rush forward, weapons in hand.

The druid lets out a sigh of relief as he sees the axe wielding bandit dart off toward the aeon but before he can say anything the wizard materializes into sight beside Connacht.

"Leave it." The woman says, breathing quickly, eyes fixed not on the strange aeon but the path behind it. "Who knows what else the Boss might unleash. We have to get to the dig site and stop it there. Leave this beast for the others!"

Probably fine

Tekk's face sets when Shalina mentions the corpses of monsters. While running into trouble was likely, now it appeared certain.

"We aren't still going in there, are we?" One of the Chelish guards says, words cracking with obvious fear. His voice is louder then he intends, and it echoes off the rain slicked walls, vanishing off into the silent darkness. "You are crazy!"

Tekk slowly unsheathes his sword, the sound very loud over the dripping water. The massive weapon gleams dully but it casts enough light for Shalina to see the Chelish's pale faces grow anxious.

"You will come with us. You will follow our orders and you will fight if asked. Now, be quiet." The paladint urns his weathered face to Shalina, "Right behind you."

Gerrik merely grins in the darkness and follows.

The smell is even worse inside the spider nest, the noisome reek filling Shalina's nostrils and making her stomach churn. Steeling her gut, the bard begins to inspect the bodies. A few things become quickly apparent.

The first is, whatever killed these spiders did not do it gracefully. The wounds are excessive, with much of the damage seeming to be done after the beasts were already done. This was not a slaughter done for food by another animal on the hunt, but a bloody massacre done out of a desire to kill. Worse, she notes many burn and scorch marks, both on the savaged insect bodies as well as the webbing. Huge areas have been blackened and torched by some intense heat source. Sniffing, Shalina can just catch the scent of smoke over the reek of death and rot.

Ahead, tucked in the dark corners of the room, Shalina can see bundles of webbing, hiding whatever contents they contain. They seem undisturbed by whatever killed the spiders.

Do you investigate more?

Silvui frowns and says, "It is hardly unheard of, at least where I am from. What better time to negotiate rates when the merchant is at your mercy?"

The dark faced dwarf grunts in approval strongly enough that indicates that this practice is hardly unheard of to at least some in this group.

perception: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (11) + 10 = 21

The paladin notes, with some unease that Ten-Fingers, the quick handed woman from earlier, whispers a few words into the dwarf's ear.

When Rudabeh talks to Aurelia the young girl smiles, still half-hidden in her heavy robes to keep off the damp. "How much light do you want? And what is the signal?" A short pause and then, glancing over the dark water, "We are going to save people?" Her tone is hard to read, and face half-hidden by the thick robe.

Ractus's gaze sweeps the deck, instantly picking out those with bows and crossbows among the hustle. "You don't think the bandits will surrender instantly? Most thieves won't stand up and fight a paladin in full plate." The half-elf says with experience but then nods, "But you never know. I'm sure we have both fought madmen before, and it is best to be prepared."

Another nods, "I'll watch the back rank for you, of course." He moves away from the rail, trying (and failing) to hide the halt in his step.

Then Draze says, voice the usual smoky rasp, "This a volunteer mission?"

Shalina creeps forward, the only sound the sloshing of the disturbed water around her boots and the endless dripping from above. Tekk and the others hang back, weapons at the ready in case of a sudden attack.

Her glowing glaive throws strange shadows in the murk, making the uneven stones dance and the shallow water sparkle. Muscles tensed for the slightest sign of danger, she moves toward the open door.

She is nearly on top of the doorway when she sees it. Spiderwebs, great hanging shrouds more like tapestries then cobwebs, thick enough to tangle up a human. They hang limply, as damp as everything else in this humid subterranean world. For a long moment the bard pauses, watching water drip from the curtains of webbing, listening for any sounds inside that might betray the surely enormous weavers within. Nothing.

Carefully Shalina moves forward, expecting at any moment to be ambushed by a pair of poison ridden mandibles out of the darkness. The archaeologist's approach is only greeted by silence. Peeking around the lintel, she can see why.

The next room is larger then the one behind her, higher with a dry floor, vaulted ceilings being lost in the dark. Everything is covered in layers of thick sticky webbing, cascading down columns and swooping up in high arches. But her attention is drawn instead to the hulking shapes lying haphazardly across the floor, utterly still. The corpses of spiders, massive spiders larger then horses.

It is hard to see any details at this distance but all look mangled in some way, with legs ripped off or heads smashed in. Thick green ichor is splashed in many places, and webbing torn and slashed. Nothing moves within and the stench of rotting flesh hangs in the dank air.

I will apply those posts going forward

The Chelish look terrified but one manages to say, voice raised over the growing wind and rain, "Does it look like we want to get eaten? We'll fight to save ourselves."

Shalina leads them down the muddy path, which is quickly turning into a small stream, to a tumbled rocky entrance. It appears to be an old basement or vault doorway although the door is long gone, leaving only misshapen rusting hinges. Shalina checks for traps, sees none, and heads inside.

Steeping out of the rain is pleasant, but it isn't much drier inside the ruins. Water drips from the stone ceiling, filtered by the jumble of ruins that surely lie above. The drops are cold and send shivers when they land on Shalina's neck or nose.

The air is heavy with damp and must, and the smell of slow rot undisturbed for years. They seem to be standing in an old basement room, the ceiling low and arched, spaced with heavy pillars. It is pitch black down here, and oddly silent. The distant patter of the rain seems to die away after even only a few steps. The floor is stone but overlaid with seeped in mud and silt, washed in by a century worth of rainstorms and floods. Even now, Shalina can see water flowing down, as if following them.

Ahead, on the other side of the room, a empty doorway stands like a gaping maw.

Shalina Survival: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17

Shalina can see tracks in the muddy, grimy floor. Not human, or even humanoid....insects? Huge ones, bigger then a horse.

Gerrik sniffs the air and looks troubled. When he speaks his voice is hushed, carefully whispered to avoid echoing off the dank stony walls, "Something is wrong. I smell death ahead."

A buzz of excitement sweeps the assembled mercenaries at Rudabeh's words, and men and women lumber up from belowdecks. Arms and armor clatter around as people grab their tools of the trade, sometimes arguing over whose knife is whose. Clearly boundaries have not been established yet and a lack of official quartermaster hinders the rollout.

"Equal share of the loot?" Silvui says, stroking his chin, "We taking the stuff from the merchants too?"

Litta looks hard at Rudabeh, "I hope not!"{/b]

The ugly dwarf who almost volunteered to be the company cook shrugs armored shoulders and says, in a rough voice, [b]"Fair payment for their lives." A heavy, iron-handled axe sits easily in his callused hands.

Aurelia looks divided about joining up remains quiet, glancing from the gathered weapons and the barely visible ship.

Ractus looks surprised when Rudabeh asks him to help, as if shaken out of deep, dark thoughts.

"Oh...well, I am sure you can handle a few river bandits." He seems a bit distracted but does his best to stand up, shaking his head. He lowers his voice, "Not sure how much use I'll be in this sort of fight..."

Drzae, quiet as a mouse, watches them silently, clearly unnoticed by Ractus.

As if summoned by a magic spell, just as Shalina mentions the rain, it starts to fall. A cold shifting drizzle, that hangs like a misty veil in the air, softening the shadowy outlines in the dark. The muggy heat of the swamp is exchanged for a chilly damp that hints at more rain to come.

Tekk nods and says, "Want to keep the guards between us? Easiest way to keep them in line, but might make a fight tougher. We'll have this lot between us."

The two guards bristle at being considered little more then burdens, but say nothing directly.

Gerrik laughs when Shalina mentions enjoying the ruins and says, "You must have got along with Sivvek, he was always prying into such places." Shalina doesn't think the lizardfolk means this as a compliment.

They move forward, a slight breeze stirring the night plants into wet rustles. The ground climbs slightly, uneven and covered with plant growth, but still easier then the muddy tracts of the real swamp behind them. Finally, after passing through some low trees, Shalina can make out the heaped pile of ruins dead ahead, black against the midnight darkness. The air smells of wet stone and rotting plants and the slap of raindrops on stone grows louder.

It quickly becomes apparent there are two rough paths in the ruins. one goes over the tumbled ruins, open to rain and wind, passing between fallen boulders and watery pools while another heads under the ruins into shadow underground.

Ostend is silent for a moment when Rudabeh asks if he will bring the barge to the shore. Rudabeh recalls the half-elf making it very clear he was in charge of the watercraft and it was not a vessel of war. His eyes are twin pricks of light in the soft gloom, looking out toward the distressed ship.

Marsh says softly, "We could approach and bring us alongside. More direct and that way the bandit's can't slip away. Who knows if they are even on the shore, Rudabeh might miss them."

Ostend's frown is clearly visible to the paladin's darkvision blessed eyes. "That would put us at risk. Who knows what sort of bandits are out there? They very well might torch both ships at the first sign of trouble."

Marsh takes a breath and says, "Wouldn't you like it if someone risked something like that for us?"

Ostend grimace and says, weakly, "Yes, but I would understand if they wouldn't."

Ahead, the running lights suddenly wink out, as if swallowed by the night. A coarse curse echoes faintly over the water.

Ostend straightens, takes a long look at the barely visible wallowing merchant vessel and says, "We'll come along side. As Rudabeh says, they might simply flee at a show of strength."

Does that change your plans? You can of course, ask him to follow your original plan

The waters of the Tomarsulk River wrap around Novox like a cocoon, far colder then he expected, the bite of ice reminding the wizard of distant mountains and alpine snowfields. It is also darker then expected, the water an opaque veil around him. No wonder the divers were taking so long, even before the complications of battle, how could anyone find something as small as a stone?

Even his magic does little to lighten the gloom, as the Light spell flares like a shooting star. All it really reveals is swirls of black and brown mud, along with bits of floating debris. The current is strong, stronger then he expected and it takes considerable effort to a void being tumbled downstream like the branches, leaves and bits of rope around him.

But there, ahead. Were those outlines of other swimmers? Novox strained his eyes in the stinging gloom, trying to make out the shapes of Hax or the others. He pushed forward, trying to move toward them....

Novox Swim: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (9) - 1 = 8

In a moment the current has him, sweeping him downstream faster then the wizard wanted, his bright spell leaving a glowing wake as he is hurtled away from the bridge.


Bill swoops toward the struggling Dye, thrashing madly. behind him the looming bulk of the goldpebble looks more like rocks in the stream, water crashing against them yet unmoved. Ignoring it for the moment, the dinosaur moves to pick up the struggling man.

At the last moment the diver glances up and sees the stooping figure. He screams, flounders and points the wand at the flying imp with a panicking flourish.

Fireball!: 3d6 ⇒ (3, 2, 2) = 7

Bill Reflex: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28

A blossom of fire erupts from the wand, shooting at Bill with a crackling roar, dancing flames reflecting off the river' surface. Still, the partially drowning man has poor aim and Bill is able to dodge the worst of the of the fire, although the heat still sears some of his scales.

With a final lunge Bill closes the gap and seizes the man with strong claws, heaving him out of the water.

Nice. Moving on

Novox spots a shadow near him, a vague outline in the shifting, turbulent water. It is hard to make out as the river tosses him about, but it seems to be a fellow swimmer?

Then his attention is distracted as something grabs onto his leg!

Looking down, Novox can see a misshapen, mud-like creature, of vague humanoid shape emerging from the muddy streambed and seizing onto his leg. The grip is ugly but strong, and slowly begins to pull him down toward the black mud below. While this does slow Novox's headlong rush downriver, it also raises the unpleasant idea of being sucked into the riverbed, far from air.

You can't see anyone else at the moment so there turns all pass you by. So back to you.

That damage was a typo but it doesn't matter

Fimdi reels a bit from the heavy, muddy fist as it slams into her. The small gnome doesn't topple however, and instead stands straight, summoning arcane energy to both heal and attack. A swoop of glittering aura engulfs Fimdi for a moment, healing some of the smaller bruises and cuts, even as a trio of bright lights lash out, slamming into the elemental. They thunk into the torso of the creature with a wet sound, and the elemental roars.

Using the distraction Zolzi attacks from the side, driving her blade under the elemental's armpit up to the hilt. Inside she cruelly twists the blade, cutting at the unseen sinews holding the beast together. In a moment she feels something break, and the elemental simply...falls apart, falling to the muddy ground like a broken statue.

Then the mud vanishes and the chamber grows cool and dry again, like the caves outside. At the far end the simple altar grows faintly, as if dusted by fairy lights.

"If you wish to ask a question, simply touch the altar and speak." That same, cool female voice says, still unseen. "Or, if your nerve fails you, go back."

Behind them the wall parts, revealing a door back into the 'natural' caves of the mountain.

A sense of quiet amusement and anticipation hangs in the air.

Fimdi's magical missiles and Zolzi's rapier soon dispatch the icy elemental, which explodes in a blizzard of frost and snow, cold enough to take their breath away. In an instant however the air become thick and muggy as the mud returns, vanishing the ice in exchange for a sticky, sucking surface.

Out of the depths, the mud elemental re-appears, fist swinging now at Fimdi.

Slam: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
Damage: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26

Gerrik nods, opens his mouth then freezes. He holds up a clawed hand, barely visible in the darkness, his scaly head cocked as if listening. Shalina joins him and after a long pause, she hears it. A distant rumble of thunder, on the edge of hearing.

"The storm draws near." Gerrik says, then goes on, "Yes, the ground is drier here, from when humans built this fort long ago. They brought in shiploads of rock and wood to lay the foundations. We should be save from dangers such as pool and quicksand here."

"As for monsters, I would be surprised if we encountered none. Such ruins make excellent lairs in this land and the prospect of slaves as food? Powerful beasts may lurk in the fallen and sunken halls."

Gerrik shrugs, "Very well. I shall lead, follow closely."

The day is fading to twilight as Shalina, Tekk, Gerrik and the two Chelish guards venture forth, leaving the security of the orange grove behind.

Instantly Shalina sees the value of their guide. If it had been difficult crossing the swamps during the day, night travel was impossible. Deep pools appear at random, lurking below stands of floating plants and seeming stable bits of ground proved to be mere shadows. Even entire trees seemed to move around, floating in the morass, removing even the hope of using them as landmarks.

Shalina would have quickly come to grief without Gerrik. As for the lizardfolk he moves quickly and surely over the muddy terrain, never even seeming to doubt let alone question the path.

Time passes, although Shalina is unsure how much as the stars and Moon are hidden. All she knows is her legs are growing tired and her eyes strained from constantly trying to spot potholes and slick spots ahead. Behind her, even Tekk's usually solid step seems more uneven, fatigued from the harsh march over difficult terrain. As for the Chelish, they are doing little more them stumbling behind.

Finally, although the shadowy swamp looks identical to Shalina, Gerrik stops the group with a raised hand. "Ahead lies the ruins. From here the land will be solid and the trees firm."

Rudabeh finds a quiet place below to try attuning the silversheen armor again, somewhat regretting the fact she has to leave the pleasant rainy deck for the dank hold but it seemed like something best done in private. Grabbing another attunement rod and asking Teken for whatever assistance he could provide, the paladin tried again.

The undine achieves even less then her attempt in the morning. She can feel that warm, mud-like feeling on the edge of her mind but trying to seize it is like trying to grab a rising mist. It runs right through her fingers, like water running through a sieve. After a good hour of trying, she and Teken give up, with the armor-bound ifrit saying, 'It seems weaker then before. Perhaps it can only be attempted once a day? Magic is often bound by such rules.'

Then from the deck above Rudabeh hears Ostend's voice call out, slightly muffled by thick, wet wood, "Rudabeh, on deck!" His voice is stern but not alarmed, a call to action but not of immediate danger.

Assuming you go up?

Rudabeh hurries up the ladder, her heavy armor making the stairs creak and groan. She finds night has truly fallen now, a warm, velvet-like blackness cocooned the boat, only held at bay by a small fire at the stern where the black shapes of a few mercenaries can be seen. Above, the heavens are hide by a thick layer of dark clouds.

Still, a mere lack of light doesn't bother Rudabeh, whose eyes quickly adjust and allow her to nimbly pick her way over the ropes and crates of the deck to Ostend's side at the prow.

The half-elf silently points down river, into the darkness. Rudabeh, following the man's arm can see, fairly distant, a few points of colored lights. The lamps of another boat?

'Distress lights." A figure in the dark says and Rudabeh can see it is the woman that had been taking the depths earlier that day, whom seemed close to Ostend. 'Bandits, if I read them right.'

Ostend grunted softly int he gloom, then he turned toward Rudabeh, face unreadable, 'Do we go help?'

Last post before we leave, I promise

The lizardfolk glances at the threatening sky and says, unnecessarily, "Storm is coming, a big one. Will it work for us or against us?" Then he turns one turret-like eye on Shalina, "What about leaving your friend behind to watch them? Under guard, they may not stray?"

No one steps forward when Rudabeh dangles out the offer of cookie. Well, one stumpy looking dwarf does stand up but is quickly shouted down by the rest of the group in a mixture of fear and apprehension. Clearly the dark-faced dwarf inspired dread, at least in regards to cooking. Glancing around at the uproar the man shrugs, then sits back down.

The mercenaries grumble when it is clear there will be no cook on this trip. Days of dry rations and badly burnt fish looms large. Still, to their credit, the fighters rally nicely and tell a few tales of legendary cooks they have served with, both good and bad. Rudabeh quickly learned that perhaps they had dodged the nasty peril of being saddled with a poor chef.

The rest of the day passed in damp but pleasant fashion. The rain mostly held off, only drizzling down and then, seeming to wait for the moments Aurelia tried to brave the weather without the huge tarp-like robe. Around them the mercenaries took up the usual tasks of mending equipment, playing cards or smoking pipes. There seemed to be a higher proportion of smokers then usual and Rudabeh wondered where they got the rather expensive leaf.

In between the raindrops, Rudabeh did her best to keep up the comradrie and community mindset. This was not overly difficult for the paladin had years of experiance to drawn on, not only as a servant of Alseta but also from her lifetime of living in close confines on ships. Indeed, it had always struck the undine as odd that in the River Kingdoms the waterways and those who traveled them were considered the domain of Hanspur, not her own goddess. What represented a balanced community better then a well-run ship, dealing with the changes of weather and river?

The only cloud over the proceedings was Ractus who, while he did sit among the assembly, grew increasingly taciturn and morose. The elf did not share any stories with the group. In fact, when one or two people pushed him to tell a tale of his surely long and storied career of the blade, he rather angrily snapped at them. As the sun behind to dip behind the rows of trees, the mercenary captain left the loose group, and returned to staring silently at the passing bank.

The river was wider here, and slower. Beds of reeds and other water plants reached far out into the sluggish channel, fronds shivering every so slightly at the current. Herons and bitterns emerged in great numbers in the growing twilight, stalking silently among the plants. Some early bats appeared, frantically flapping wings silhouetted against the fading sky. The nightly chorus of frogs began, loud and strong around them.

Anything? Things will happen but wanted to give you a chance in case there was something on your t-do list

Zolzi smacks the muddy creature hard, causing clods of wet earth to rupture and spray across the floor. Seizing the chance, Zolzi slams her shoulder forward like an athlete going for a tackle. Her sudden mvoe seems to catch the blocky creature off guard and she catches it squarely in the chest, knocking it to the floor. It lets out a wet gurgle of surprise as it slams to the ground, arms thrashing.

Meanwhile, Fimdi summons another fire spell, sending out a gout of crackling flames from her hands.

Ice elemental Reflex: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18

The bulky creature manages to dodge the worst of the heat, and only one leg is partially melted by the surging fire.

Around them the ground is still to thick soupy mud. The fallen mud elemental says something in a strange, thick language and then...vanishes into the floor, as if subsumed by the muck. Zolzi is relieved to see her gun is still there, if soaked in wet mud.

Then the room re-freezes, and the gunslinger watches her gun become coated in a think but hard looking layer of ice.

The ice elemental roars and swings at the small Fimdi with a fist.

Slam: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
Damage: 1d6 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Damage, Cold: 1d4 ⇒ 1

The punch just misses the gnome's face, catching her on the shoulder with hard impact that also leaves a deep seated cold feeling in her bones.

Gerrik peers out at the darkening swamp, as the chorus of frogs and night birds begin in full force. The sky overhead is a turmoil of dark clouds and Shalina can feel the air cooling, promising rain and driving wind.

"You wish to leave them alone? With no guard?" Gerrik says, "It is hard to find such a place and will slow us, and even in the best protection they may wander off. I will not be help responsible if they die in our absence."

Novox tears his gaze away from the undulating shadow in the river to his fellow onlookers and tries to get a sense of the response.

Mostly it is chaos of course as townsfolk push both away and against the rail, toppling tables, tripping over tables and knocking over gaming stalls. The band has gone silent, and is busy trying to save their instruments against the surging crowds of people. Novox watches food get knocked and them ground to paste on hard stone flags of the bridge, a waste even more criminal considering the famine gripping much of war-torn Cheliax.

But not all is mere panic.

Thyste barks, "My bow!" toward his female apprentice. She leaps away, fleet as a deer in the woods, heading for the far side of the bridge. The paladin doesn't watch her rather impressive athletic display, instead watching the goldpebble below with hard eyes, shoulders tense but firm.

Vannellus looks oddly indecisive, alternating between looking at the struggling Dye and the swimming goldpebble, as well as casting an eye over the anxiety ridden crowd. One thick hand grasps the rail while another runs through his greasy, thinning hair, doubt obvious on his weathered face.

Decius, meanwhile looks entirely calm and collected. After taking in the snake, he actually glances to Novox with a knowing smile. "Can't say I am surprised. Can't swing a dead cat without hitting a monster in these parts." With that, he unhooks his cloak, which falls to the ground with a muffled whisper. Not waiting, he leaps up on the rail, preparing to jump.

But Eslih has already beaten him to it, the wiry woman having vaulted the rail, pausing only for one moment on the far side. Then, like the competitors she crouches into a dive and leaps toward the dark river, body arched like a jumping fish.

Ok! Initiative!

Novox: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
Thyste: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (15) + 3 = 18
Eslih: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (11) + 4 = 15
Vannellus: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (14) + 1 = 15
Swimmers: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 2 = 13
Goldpebble: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17
Water Elementals: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (20) + 1 = 21


Water Elementals

Round One
Below, Dye is slammed upward again by the roiling cauldron around him. The small man is throw clear of the water for a moment before slamming back down, face first, arms and legs jerking spasmodically. Under him the water churns and swirls, obviously with some great agitation.

Back on the bridge, Novox can see Thyste standing there, apparently waiting for his apprentice to return. For now, the wizard sees no sight of her or any bow.

In the river the goldpebble surges forward, clearly ignorant of the chaos on the bridge. As if racing the swooping Bill, it hurtles toward it's prey at top speed, throwing up a wake of white foam in the dark water. The snake reaches where Dye is, but doesn't quite have time to attack.

Ok, your turn. I'll have Bill go during/just after your turn. All fair?

Novox makes for an impressive figure, standing on the rail's edge, one hand clutching the cold iron, the other pointing dramatically into the churning river below. Beside him Bill flickers into full view, menacing and exotic in his dinosaur form. With a screech he plummets down toward the dark water, claws extended. Around the wizard people scream, shout or merely point in wonder at Novox seeming summons. The town notables however seems distracted and the wizard thinks no one noticed his arcane sleight of hand.

Ignoring Bill himself, Novox gazes down to see what he can make of the beast.

Novox Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (7) + 11 = 18

The shadowy shape below is shooting through the water at speed, outpacing even the swift current as it bears down on the still struggling Snoop. It moves with a serpentine rhythm, back and forth, just on a very large scale. Some sort of snake? Novox searches his mind for what sort of beast this may be, until his eyes catch a glimmer of gold off the back of the creature, as one armored bit of hide chances above the water. Gold?

Ah yes, a goldpebble.

A large aquatic snake, it had been created by wizard in ages past as in ill-fated mining attempt. The idea had been that the creatures would imbibe the minerals in water and then transfer them to their tough hides, creating an easy to harvest lode. The plan had backfired however when the snakes had grown large and violent, escaping their pens and entering the wild. Worst of all, the glitter was fool's gold and even a wild goldpebble yeiled nothing of value. Many an adventurer had risked life and limb only to be sorely disappointed.

The creature had been of interest to Novox, considering it was an attempt (however poorly conceived) to master nature for the use of man. Indeed, Novox had even given passing thought to re-doing it correctly, if ever give the chance. In his reading he had learned the snakes were formidable fighters, able to spit poisonous acid as well as chill the water around them.

This snake might not be easily defeated.

Indeed, even as the Chelish wizard ponders this, the creature raises a head out of the river. Water sheets off a heavy, snake-like head, and Novox can just make out two slitted eyes in the dark. It rears back like a cobra and then spits a glob of green liquid at the darting Bill.

Acid!: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (4) + 15 = 19

The flying reptile just dodges the secretion however, letting out a hiss that translate as curses worthy of an longshoreman in Novox's mind.

Anything you want to do here before I narrate the rest of the action?

The combination of food, stories and a social gathering quickly draw nearly all the mercenaries in, leaving only the hardened misanthropes alone on the deck or (for the most grudging of company) the dingy ship's hold below. The day, while still gray and misty, grows warmed and the promised rain seems to be held at bay.

Rudabeh's idea of telling stories seems to have been well chosen for the men and women gather around like moths to flame as she speaks. In many ways mercenaries live in a world of renown and tales, even if not always the noble deeds of glory. Most patrons would never have wanted to hear about past contracts or interesting events, indeed most people who hired mercenaries want to deal with the sellswords as much s possible. Rudabeh's open invitation grants her a newfound respect.

Her story goes over well, with people laughing at the right times or nodding at the usual difficulties over pay, jurisdiction and unrealistic expectations. However a few note Rudabeh was acting as an official of the law in her tale, which is different then most mercenaries experience. Still, a story involving bright blue milk can't go amiss and it is one Rudabeh has told many times, and has tuned to a fine art. Even a bard could barely have done any better and soon everyone is grinning.

When she invites others to speak there is a long pause, and for a moment Rudabeh worries she has overstepped. Then Silvui, whom had been laughing the most during Rudabeh's story jumps in and begins to tell of one of his own past adventures.

Rudabeh does not care overly much about the content of the story itself, having intended this to be more of a exercise of community building but still, the young Varisian has a way with words and the paladins soon finds herself wrapped up in his tale. The young man weaves a tale of his time as a guard at the Acadamae, one of the most elite magical colleges in the Inner Sea, during a magical contest. Rudabeh has a hard time buying what he says most of the time, telling of contests involving the champions dealing with fire breathing dragons, diving to the bottom of merfolk filled lakes and navigating shifting hedgemazes but the finale just makes the paladin snort. The contest trophy was bewitched so it transported the winner to a graveyard where he dueled an ancient family foe?

Still it was well told and there is an actual round of applause as Silvui wraps up his tale, and even does a little bow.

Next is a dour-looking female dwarf Rudabeh doesn't know, and the only mercenary whose armor comes close to matching the paladin's with heavy plates and a full helm. She introduces herself as Dis, from the city of Jaderhoff. Her neatly braided beard twitches as she tells her own tale, with perhaps less skill then Silvui but with great feeling and more then a passing description of the violence and tactics of battle. The woman spins a tale involving her time as a member of a caravan, hired to destroy a magical object by throwing it into a molten chamber, deep within the darklands. She mentions cities under siege, fighting orcs and robed creatures seemingly made of pure fear. Even here, in the full light of day, Rudabeh feels a thrill of fear when the heavy shouldered woman describes standing against these wraiths.

Whens he finishes there is no applause but instead a rippling of evaluation as men and women alike note that Dis is a formidable warrior.

Last but not least a bestial looking half-orc takes center stage, his scantily clad body covered in writhing clan tattoos, dancing over hard muscles and deep scars. He introduces himself as Umosk, his heavy jutting tusks grinding out the name. However, as he starts to tell the tale, his voice shifts from a guttural rasp to a deep but melodious timber, and kindles images of tribal skalds telling sags around roaring campfires. Umosk's tale is not s short one, and takes place in the distant Hold of Belkzen, among the savage orcs. He paints a picture of a war involving number of intriguing rival families, murder, incest and supposedly a dragon-rider killed by a bastard son who refuses the throne and gives it to a crippled relative. The story sounds far fetched what you know of orcs, but Umosk's bard like telling leaves no room for doubt.

Finally, as the last story winds down noon is here, and the fish long gone.

Anything else or should I narrate the rest of the day of community building?

I was wondering how much you made him strip. But yeah, he has clothes left behind, if you want.

yes, the ruins close to where the human slaves are being kept. The place you left the diver with the bends is about half a day journey behind you

gerrik hasn't said yet, he is probably trying to plot a mental map that drops off the guards and gets you to the ruins

Oh, yes. Sorry, I was busy figuring out Fimdi's damage. It hurt the mud elemental but it is still standing

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