SKT - Follow The Cleric

Truth in the Dark
Scenario 12

< …bear with me, I was too busy roleplaying to take notes for half of this… >

9 Marpenoth 1486

It is a few hours walk outside Waterdeep to Atarah’s family estate – an small villa with a courtyard amongst vineyards, orchards, and kitchen gardens – a working farm. Atarah is on edge, but has reunited with her Sabretooth mount on the way. Only Aliza, the paladin from Nightstone, comes out to greet them. She says Atarah’s family has gone somewhere to be safe, and that Atarah would know how to contact them. Aliza and a few others have been hired on to watch the estate while the family is away.

Titan and Korotir take a walk through the grounds and the house to check for evidence that anything’s gone wrong, finding several portraits of Atarah as a kid with which to tease her with. She had pigtails.

After assuring themselves the villa is more-or-less secure, and so is Atarah’s family, the group heads out to a long-overdue meeting with the Snail in Daggerford. They double check with Voldrick Firehammer, who has not yet managed to acquire transportation and says he’ll find them when he’s ready to go.

It’s five days travel south to Daggerford.

14 Marpenoth 1486

The party arrives, late in the afternoon of the 14th.

< encounters Kella Darkhope and a smitten but unrepentant Xolkin outside the gates >

Entering the town, the party sets out to find the Inn of their contacts, the sister of Orin the Bard from Goldenfields. Titan attempts to fish for information by posing as “Greenleaf Hilldweller” and fails to convince the innkeeper of his identity, doubly so when his actual name is blurted out.

Lily Hardcheese, the proprietor, is more forthcoming when the Natalia explains they’ve been asked by Orin to come help. She explains the Inn isn’t enough to keep them and they’ve been getting into the side business of small loans to help their neighbors, but the Snail is competing (0% interest!) and driving away that source of income as well. Lily and her husband ask the party to get him to stop, while Tranled tries to convince the Hardcheeses to let him see their books so he can help make the Inn (and the loan business) more profitable. They’re dubious.

Korotir, already eager to mete out justice to The Snail for his role in Korotir’s exile, leads the way. The Snail has rooms in the Shining River tavern, but thugs outside the door refuse to let them in until the Snail is ready to see them. There’s a long discussion – making the thugs uncomfortable – about whether or not to just break down the door or not to get to the man.

Finally, about an hour after sunset, they are let inside. A tall half-elf at the bar starts to demand they leave their weapons, but stops and waves them through after one of the thugs murmurs to him. The Snail’s office is at the end of a long hallway of numbered doors, with… theatrical noises of appreciation coming from behind them. The room is barely big enough to hold the seven of them, six Snail Guards, and the Snail himself behind a sturdy desk.

The Snail is a halfling as well, and speaks with an infuriatingly slow and measured cadence (“Did he go to the William Shatner School of Elocution?”). He seems disturbingly well-informed about them and half-threatens a number of things if they don’t hear him out, including that if he dies, a “Legendary Beast” is under contract to go after them in return. Tranled starts out really animated and gets successively meeker after Snail informs him of his (new) Probationary Zhentarim status.

“Well, so long as we’ve got all our cards on the table, then —” Atarah casts Zone of Truth, blanketing the room. A number of party members who she thought ought to be able to withstand it don’t, and vice versa. The Snail himself willingly submits to the spell.

The Snail has information that will be helpful to all of them, and he offers pieces of it willingly.

Including:

The real name of the guard who framed Korotir for letting the assassins get through on the night leading to his exile. Said guard, a fellow named Bit, he’s arranged to be here, at the Shining River, this very evening. Korotir stomps out to deal with the man (who, coitus interruptus, pisses himself at the sight of the angry half-orc). Bit is tossed out a window and scarred across the brow the same way Korotir is.

The town and address which is the source of the bounty on Atarah’s family (Noanar’s Hold, 7th Days, 2 bells past midnight). She is given a sending stone and told Snail will follow up on the information and give her more leads, but if she goes, he will lose his information source. Atarah grudgingly agrees.

The location of an orc warband threatening Envar’s people; the Ardeep Elves.

The location and deed to a keep and town that is part of Natalia’s inheritance, previously kept from her.

The rest of the information, The Snail says, he will gladly give them to foster better relations between the party and the Zhentarim, should they complete a small task for him: clear a local mine of a Fire Giant and its goblinoid pests that have infested it. He will also stop competing with the Hardcheeses loan business. The Zhentarim, he explains, are primarily providers of mercenary forces. They’ve been contracted to clear the mine, and he wants the party to fulfill it. Also, it’s a gold mine. The party agrees.

Lily Hardcheese puts the party up for the night, after another attempt by Tranled (still subdued but getting back his usual enthusiasm) to get a look at their books. Titan acquires a donkey with which to carry their anticipated haul of loot back from the mine. He also secretly buries his Amulet of Asmodeus.

15th Marpenoth 1486

An urchin arrives before dawn bearing a gift from the Snail, with the tag: “To a Prosperous Relationship.” It is heavy ornate brass bottle, smoking from around the cork. Some experimentation proves it to be an Eversmoking Bottle – a magical artifact.

The party heads out to the mine site. Envar and Titan do some quick scouting, and the party plans their attack. Natalia will impersonate a dragon-in-human-form via Thaumaturgy to draw the Giant away from his Ogre and Hobgoblin attendants, and the rest of the party will attack.

This goes great until the Giant slides down further into the pits and starts flinging Ogres and Hobgoblins at the rest of the party. The Eversmoking Bottle is employed to good effect to slow down a group coming up the ramp, Atarah attempts to compel duel on the Fire Giant who somehow cannot land a blow on her (but vice versa, as he’s out of her strike range), and Envar proves who really is the best with a bow, downing creature after creature with punishing shots.

Annoyed that she can’t get a hit out of the giant, Atarah breaks the Compel and wounds a nearby Ogre, and then the Giant gets a scarily close hit on Korotir. With more of her friends taking hits, Atarah decides to parkour off an Ogre and leap at the Giant. Envar gets in three more shots, allowing Atarah to be the final straw.

When she withdraws her sword from the Giant’s eye socket a few moments later, it is glowing with divine fire. The rest of the Giant’s minions are cut down or flee, the goblins in the pit rest (having been worked to near death by the Giant) and the party heals.

Now to divvy up the loot…

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Don't Split the Party
Scenario 11

8 Marpenoth 1486

Continuing the conversation, Leonon tells Envar that, if he wanted, they could probably restore his good name if he wanted to return home. Envar doubts that, and switches to speaking in Elvish, which no one else besides Natalia can follow. Envar might have omitted some details in his retelling… seems he lost his temper and tried to kill the town favorite. Leonon suggests they wait a decade or so for it to cool off.

Atarah has left at some early point during the conversation, mentioning she needed to go check in with the other paladins at the Halls of Justice, and that she’d send word if she anything went wrong.

<…>Tranled, having been given information by one of his subcontracted urchins, tries to slip away to check out reports of a giant in the city. Korotir and Titan, being suspicious, don’t let him go alone even when he claims it’s for a privy visit. Envar confronts him on his shifty ways when they return, and Tranled confesses the information and the giant in the area. The party (minus Atarah) troops out to go see the Giant by way of the Halls of Justice in order to get their missing paladin.

The giant, however, happens to be between them and the Halls of Justice, so they meet him first. Titan decides he must be at eye-level to the giant for this confrontation and badgers Tranled for more pixie dust. Tranled declines of course – he still has one dose and further ones are going to cost. Titan, exasperated, says “Fine!” yanks out a small pouch and sprinkles it on himself. It’s… not pixie dust. It’s pepper. Titan goes back to the Inn to recover.

The giant, attracted by the screaming, asks “Are you alright? Is there something wrong with your friend?”

City guard run up behind him, yelling, “Don’t change the subject! Giants aren’t allowed in Waterdeep!”

The giant, whose name is Harshnag, is a member of Force Grey, an adventuring party known for their collateral damage (“Oh good, someone worse than us.”). The party asks if he knows about the strife among the giants – oh. He knows. He’s been hunting down his evil kin, he’s only back in Waterdeep to resupply. Waterdeep is his home. Envar persuades the guard to leave Harshnag alone.

The party says goodbye and good luck to Harshnag and go on to the Hall of Justice. Atarah is not there. She left a while ago and went north into the noble districts.

Meanwhile…

Atarah doubled back to the Cuvelier mansion after visiting with the Hall of Justice and checking in (and finding Natalia’s messenger bird, somehow). She’s been in and out of the house her whole life, Merden gave her her first sword lessons, and something feels off. Atarah is not subtle about it either.

She manages to catch Merden, the Master at Arms, alone in the stables and demands to know what’s going on. He doesn’t answer for awhile, tending to his horse, and Atarah pitches in to help.

Finally, after she threatens to use her paladin tricks on him (and he reminds her he knew her when she was in nappies), he tells her that it does seem like Lady Cuvelier has two faces, depending on who gives her the news about Natalia. Especially when it’s Kastris, Frederick and Lady Cuvelier together.

There’s also been a lot more determinedly-anonymous people coming round the estate, always minor business types with various necessary financial transactions, since the new Unmasked Lord came into power (Laeral Silverhand).

Merden asks, before she leaves, if she was seen coming in. Atarah doubts it but says she wasn’t exactly making sure she wasn’t being followed. He says she should start doing that.

Atarah leaves and decides to find an alleyway she can surprise any followers out of. This goes badly for her. She’s shot with crossbow bolts and paralyzed by poison. “The Left Hand will be happy to see you.”

When Atarah wakes, she is chained to a pole and stripped of armor and weapons. She is quite pissed and spits in her captor’s face, casts Light on her chains in order to be as obnoxiously visible as possible. He threatens her with more crossbows, aimed at her from the other side of the curtains partitioning her cell.

“You’re useful to us alive… but only as long as you talk. Tell us where your family is, and you’ll stay alive. Refuse, and we start taking fingers.”

“Go ask my Dad.” “Your father is dead.” “Hah! Right. Go ask him, assholes.”

They start taking fingers, slowly. Atarah swears and threatens and carries on until the air is blue.

Meanwhile…

The rest of the party has gone back to the Cuvelier estate; Natalia knowing her friend well and guessing at her direction. Luckily Natalia is also far more observant than Atarah and spots the paladin’s boot prints in the mud of the road and leads the party along until they also find the place where Atarah took a half-dozen crossbow bolts.

Korotir knows the scent of Aasimar blood well and can track her from the scene of the attack; the path leads the party across the city back into the seedy sections of town and a dilapidated warehouse. Atarah’s yelling and carrying on becomes very obvious.

Korotir roars and breaks down the front door, leaving Envar perfect shots to take out two of the three guards visible in the room. Korotir rushes the third and kills him, but not before taking a crossbow bolt to the gut. Natalia steps through calmly with a Guardian of Faith hovering at her side. Tranled has ducked around the side to catch any escapees, finds two by the time he gets there and burns them to a crisp.

“Stop! I have a knife to this girl’s throat and I will kill her if you come any closer,” yells the leader from behind the cloth. And there is one at her back with a knife, the other holding her sword to her eye.

“Korotir! There’s two in here, one behind me and one in front—”

“I will kill her—”

“Don’t kill the one with my sword!”

“He’s all yours, Atarah.” Korotir yanks the curtains down and shield-bashes the one behind her, flinging him across the room. Envar fires simultaneously and drops the leader to the ground, along with Atarah’s sword.

Freed from the chains, Atarah picks up her sword and kicks the leader over. Natalia said something really great here that I didn’t write down and Atarah ignores in favor of being cruel. She stabs the leader in the shoulder, pinning him to the ground and demands to know who sent them.

“The Left Hand!” “Who in the Left Hand?” “I don’t know! – It’s just business!” “Where were you supposed to take me to get your money?”

“Why should I tell you? I’m dead anyways!” Envar twists the arrowhead and Atarah leans on the sword. “Daggerford! Supposed to go to Daggerford!”

“Requiescat in pace.” And Atarah rips her sword out with a twist, laying open the man’s artery. He dies in seconds. Atarah has flashbacks to her nightmares.

The last remaining bounty hunter (Torn Black), being held prone under Korotir’s shield, is let free with a strict warning to tell his friends not to touch any of the Auraests, or they will end up the same. They find out from him the bounty hunters received a tip from around the Cuvelier estate that Atarah was nearby. He agrees and flees.

Tranled saunters in, dramatic hood flip, to mention that there might be a fire and the guard might be coming and they should all leave. Atarah is tersely grim, even after Natalia is able to reattach her finger and her gear is collected.

Voldrick catches up with them as they’re leaving the district to inform them that the Lords Alliance won’t work with dragons and that he’s still looking for mounts. He might have a lead in the form of an ex-cultist in Goldenfields with a vulture mount. The party will check in again with him later.

It’s decided to check with Naxine’s mage friend Chasleth on the way out of the city to see Atarah’s family. It’s late now, eight or nine in the evening, but Mages keep weird hours. It is known.

Chasleth, the mage, has a silver dragon friend, a young wyrmling named Izorel. They discuss options for dragons to work against the Giants. There’s an ancient dragon named Old Gnawbone who lives in the Cryptgarden Forest; he collects scrying balls and would know a lot about the current situation, could advise. But he doesn’t want treasure: he wants to not be bored. There’s lots of stories about Gnawbone, and a cult that worships him, so he probably won’t kill them outright. Probably.

Chasleth hands everyone potions of Poison Resistance just in case.

As late as it is, and given how far it is of a walk to Atarah’s home, the party goes back to the Inn for the night, to rest and collect Titan (“I regret everything!”). Tranled discovers more names on the list the Bounty Hunters had in addition to Atarah; one of them is a flower merchant in the Noble’s district.

9 Marpenoth 1486

They check on the flower seller on the way out of town. He’s definitely dead, was killed three days ago and the trail is cold. They move out of the city, north to Atarah’s family home….

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Deals with a Devil
Scenario 10

1 Marpenoth 1486

Before the company leaves Goldenfields, a letter is delivered to Korotir by the urchin messenger service. It is from Tranled, speaking of a contact in Daggerford, a member of the Zhentarim, who can give the party good information and will be useful to them. Unfortunately, as this highly-spoken-of individual is the Snail, who Korotir intends to exact revenge for engineering the situation which ended in his exile before, the letter does not endear Tranled to the party as much as he’d perhaps hoped it would. The letter also informs the party about the Left Hand and their intentions. “My [Tranled’s] fate and Atarah’s are entwined.” Atarah is baffled.

There is ten days of travel to Waterdeep, during which nothing noteworthy occurs. Natalia is distracted by concern for her mother. Titan starts out loudly singing the praises of places he knows in Waterdeep (during which time Envar finds excuses to be as far away as possible; scouting and hunting), but gets quieter and quieter the closer they get. At some point, Natalia has told Atarah about the other letters from Lady Cuvelier and their distinct personality shifts.

7 Marpenoth 1486

It is late afternoon when the party finally arrives at the southern gates of Waterdeep. As they approach, guards are signaling to each other and the portcullis closes, locking the party outside. Tense discussion ensues, and the Guard Captain tells the party they have orders to not let the party inside as they are “troublemakers” and there’s been too many suspicious deaths of city leaders while the party is around. Guards are not swayed by the argument that uh, the party lives here? Still not allowed in; at least until the Giant Crisis is resolved. Natalia sends off her messenger bird to the Lords’ Alliance to straighten things out, but it is shot down.

While they are arguing, an urchin on a card-bedecked tricycle arrives and hands Atarah a note. It’s from Tranled. He says if the party wants to get into Waterdeep, follow Jason (this being the name of the kid). Tranled has made arrangements to smuggle them inside via cargo ship. The party is suspicious but need to get inside and so go along with the plan – Titan is incensed that he, also, came up with this brilliant plan, first.

Jason leads them to his treehouse (which is quite epic, with bridges and multiple ‘stories’). From here on, they must be much stealthier, and are forced to leave Rivka, Atarah’s mount, and the cart behind at the treehouse. The party improvises a stretcher for the petrified Voldrick and together troop down to the water’s edge. There’s a longboat there, crewed by a short, surly bald man. The party loads in, with Korotir, Envar, and Atarah on high alert around Natalia. Titan immediately notices the bald man has a poisoned dagger in his boot, and starts asking where, hypothetically, one would acquire… herbal remedies.

The bald man is unhelpful (“The bottom of the ocean.”) and in retaliation, Titan dives for the dagger, holds it aloft and announces its status to the group. A fight nearly breaks out while the girls faceapalm and try to calm things down. Eventually everyone relents and the longboat begins its trip out into the bay.

The longboat draws close to a large cargo ship and is drawn aboard. Envar is recognized by one of the crewmembers – an elf from his home named Leonan. They have a brief discussion in elvish but break it off to continue later, as the ship must go and the party must be hidden before they leave.

The party is shown down to the holds and a small space behind a false bulkhead wall. Voldrick the statue is stashed nearby with sailcloth over him as disguise. Titan blusters and won’t go into the space, decides he needs to be outside in order to keep watch and finds a place in the beams. Korotir rifles through nearby crates to try and help find a hiding place for Titan, finds bottles of port instead and takes a few. When the sailors come down to nail them into the hiding spot, Titan bribes him into finding another spot for him to hide. As the final boards are nailed down, the light vanishes and Atarah quietly freaks out, casting light on her rock and holding it tight in her fist.

It is twilight when the ship arrives in port and the party is freed. The sailors warn them; “Stay on the East side of the city if you want to avoid the guards.”

There is a cloaked figure standing at the bottom of the gangplank speaking to the captain. Notes and small sacks are exchanged. The figure dramatically throws his hood back. It’s Tranled.

<…>There’s lots of tense, accusatory ‘discussion’ about how trustworthy Tranled really is, which is finally ended when the question is asked of Tranled, “Isn’t the Left Hand part of the Zhentarim?”

Tranled seethes, the only real emotion the party has ever seen him display, and snarls, “The Left Hand killed my family.” Discussion ends there.

The first order of business in the city is to get Voldrick de-petrified. Titan and Tranled happen to know a guy… a cleric named Saul. Saul lives in the seedy part of town and he’s not terribly pleased to see any of them. But he is able to restore Voldrick… for 500 gold. Tranled offers a wizard’s tome in trade, and the rest of the party chips in the remainder. Saul does the ritual and Voldrick is restored.

He is confused by his surroundings and asks if the rest of his companions are there. He has to get back to Mithril Hall; he has information that the Lord of the Fire Giants is planning to raid the city, break into the Great Forge and steal the fire elemental Majeira which powers it. If the fire elemental is stolen, it could wreak havoc and the drow would invade Mithril Hall again. Would the party go with him?

<…>The party escorts him to the Lords’ Alliance headquarters and agrees to go with him to Mithril Hall, but they have business to take care of in Waterdeep (and… maybe Daggerford first). Voldrick at least arranges to take the ban off them, so they no longer have to hide going about the city. The party will meet with Voldrik again tomorrow.

Rooms are acquired for the night nearby.

8 Marpenoth 1486

They go to check on Lady Cuvelier first thing in the morning; Envar and Titan go ahead to scout and see if anything looks off. Nothing does; normal Noble household. Titan, on investigating rooftop hiding spaces, discovers the perfect place to jump off and performs a Leap of Faith. He is now doubly committed to finding a way to fly. More pixie dust!

They head inside, everyone but Tranled and Envar, who, not being part of the original contracted group, wait somewhere nearby. Tranled tries to convince Envar to play Gwent with him. The household butler and secretary meet them, and the Master at Arms, Merden, asks they divest of weapons. Atarah bluffs that as a Paladin, she’s required to keep her weapons at all times, but will peace-tie her sword. Korotir claims to be a paladin also but has to give up all his weapons. He can keep the shield.

Lady Crystal is planning another Ball, and thus is very busy. The party is kept waiting in the parlor for twenty minutes, but finally escorted upstairs. There is a bit of a kerfluffle when the Lady refuses to acknowledge Natalia’s questions about the letters and Korotir and Atarah stand to block her exit. Natalia and her mother get a private conversation eventually, but she refuses to even look at the letters and gives a lot of vague answers.

Outside, the secretary is upset with the party for upsetting the Lady, and tells off Atarah and Natalia. “You should have known better.” “…you had plenty of time. You knew we were coming.”

The party reunites and starts heading towards the mage tower. On the way, Envar and Tranled are offered the opportunity to be contracted as Titan and Korotir are, to guard Natalia. Tranled prefers to be a free agent. <…> They run into Envar’s friend again on the way, and head back to the Inn/Tavern where their rooms are to get drinks with the elf, Leonon.

Over drinks, the party learns a bit of Envar’s story. He was out on patrol with the town favorite, who started an unnecessary fight with gnolls which got their team (except for Envar and the favorite) killed. On reporting, the favorite blamed Envar for starting the conflict and he was exiled. Leonon sympathizes. He’s been sailing up and down the coast on his ship (which Envar is welcome to join them, it’s the “Maiden’s Wings”). There’s been many reports of Frost Giants in giant ships further north. There’s a short explanation of the Ordening, summarized: “Gods are always messing things up.”

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Dawn of the Dead
Two Enter, One Leaves

Battle had anointed the hulking half orc in a swathe of claret red gore. A savage visage growling, with equally savage words.

“You need not die, only kneel.”

The incensed humans’ face convulsed into a mural of disgruntled barking and howling, his words as waves against the cliff , finding only the deaf ears of a gnarled grey mass, the half-orc that stood, staunchly opposed to him.

The spittle and froth, spilling from captains mouth conveyed what his word’s could not.
The gaunt grey Half-Orc understood him perfectly.

He had chosen,
he had chosen death.

The dull grey eyes of the half-orc offered no insight to his fractured state, his muscles knotted, the laboured breathing of his chest, his senses deafened and drowned out by the constant, thunderous pounding of blood through his veins. An unyielding heart, the rhythm, the pulse, the hammer, the anvil.


The flail bristles, willing puppet to it’s master, woken with life, it announces it’s hunger with the rattle of the chain, a sinister flourish that signals a cacophony of violence.

Both fighters, drained and fatigued, ogre clubs, giant kin, spears, arrows, blade broken bone, pilfered lung, all roads have led here.

Atop this wall, under the judgement of the dawn.

A duel. Strog, Captain of Goldenfield, empowered by pride, fervour and hate, brings scimitar against Korotir, Half-Orc of the Ulgen tribe, the exile of Goldenfield, who hauls flail and shield and the great weight, of righteous grudge.

The humanoid forms clash in a relentless melee, impacting and smashing into one another. Silhouetted armoured shapes, veritable walls of steel and flesh atop the city wall. Heavy and sudden they lunge at one another, both as fast, both as vicious. Mauling beasts tearing blood and flesh from one another. Paying one another wounding favours.

In the steel maelstrom Korotir’s shield sends Strog toppling but there is no ground to be taken, no forward line. There is only here. Blood and stone for a bed as he hits the floor.


The air stinks with blood
And to inhale is to taste, to drink of death,
so thick is the crimson fog that paints the two, marking them as members of a fatalistic cabal.

Strog knows this as well as the half-orc and demands his body obey. He cannot fault, muscles burn and wane as instincts flay them with the desire to survive. No sooner does he hit the floor is he back to his feet his scimitar flying, baying to drink of the muddled blood of the creature he so despises.

The whirling, desperate strike finds purchase, the blade cutting and gorging into the chain-mail of his enemy, digging deep and ripping inward. The wound wrenches forth an agonized grunt from the red soaked half-orc.

The half-orc who is deafened again, entombed with the sole company of his flagging heart, it’s hollow drumming, harbinger of the coming end. Time dwindles, begins its entropic crawl. The taste of crisp air betrays him, the memories of the great blue maw, the endless skies of the north. The quiet the tranquility.


But that place is far away and this is here.

Atop this wall under the judgement of the dawn.

Dreams of tranquility are shattered and sundered with a heavy crack, a guttural chortle. The flail sways almost as if it muses, a smiling face rendered black and red, chunks of steel and flesh smeared across it’s lips.

Strogs stomach lies open, the waterfall of blood and bile painted by the rising Sun.

If violence can take,deplete and drown a man it is dominance that fills the form, a goblet running over, a font of rage and refusal.

Korotir fuelled by the eternal fires of conquest sends his flail and shield rattling to the floor, lumbering swaying, adrenaline and agony coalesce to propel him forward like broken marionette.

There remains a grudge to be buried.

Tight is the hand that wraps around Strog’s throat. Taut is the arm that raises him into the air. Hot is the sun that gives it’s gaze and victorious is the warrior that discards the broken body of his foe,
to be fallen,
forgotten.


On the precipice of death there is a clarity.

Atarah, battle sister,young, righteous and honourable. In arms against all odds no other more fitting in the shield wall.

Titan, equal parts wretched and wild, vicious and swift of wit, an honesty of violence that you can take to the grave.

Envar, stoic, efficient, ruthlessly dependable. A true soldier, a guardian.

Natalia, bloodied and broken herself, yet still a serene , a guiding light, to be followed unto the dark .

Family.

We are adventures and this is what we do.

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Duel of the Fates
Scenario 9

25 Eleint 1486
Dawn

Titan ducks and weaves through the streets of Goldenfields, but the Captain and his men know this town, and catch up with Titan in an alleyway. They think they have him cornered. “You broke into my jail, halfling, you’re going down too!”

“No lunk like you can capture the great Titan!” Titan parkoured onto the rooftops, yelling, “Eat my dust, Strog! …Ihatethistown!” Strog and the guards follow from below, and now they have dogs. Titan decides the best thing to do is sprinkle himself with Pixie Dust. Aaand… he flies away. But not before gifting the guards with some dust of their own; ground spicy peppers. Titan is the spice fairy.

Titan scouts the city, spotting more Large Humanoid Shapes in the south of town. He also finds the party by virtue of the fact that Natalia’s spiritual guardians are still there and very glowy. “Hello friends, it is I! I have gained in power and can now fly!”

There are looks exchanged. Korotir wonders how hard he got hit. Titan does eventually tell them about the other Large Humanoid figures south, and leads the party to them (still flying, very smug).

It’s two Hill Giants, who have somehow gotten inside the walls and are fighting a small guard force, ripping out chunks of the wall and flinging them. One guard runs past the party (“Run for your lives!”) but Korotir grabs him by the scruff and shakes some courage into him. Envar maintains range and starts firing arrows, Titan flits behind the giants and starts flinging axes, and Korotir and Atarah advance together to attack the right-hand giant. Natalia stays back near Envar. Atarah gets annoyed at the fact the rapier she borrowed is too light and can’t hit for anything; switches to the heavier scimitar and starts actually connecting. Natalia calls down sacred flame. The RH Giant, very injured, turns to run but is cut down by Envar’s arrows.

The LH giant swats at Atarah, but Titan gets a rope wrapped around his knees Hoth ATAT style; the LH Giant falls. Titan gloats but is over shadowed by Captain Strog and his men, who have arrived just in time to take credit, alerted by the double-toned watchtower bells. The party (and Strog) take advantage of the downed state of the Giant to finish him off. The giant rolls over, nearly squashing Natalia and Strog, but as Natalia’s guardians close in, the Giant begins sobbing and surrenders.

Everyone backs off. Korotir declares the giant his prisoner after checking on Natalia and ties his hands. Atarah heals Natalia, and Titan badgers Strog into admitting that it was actually Titan who tripped the Giant. Korotir wrenches Strog’s long sword out of the giant and hands it to Atarah (“Don’t give that back to him.” “No way, man.”) who trades for the scimitar.

There’s things being flung at the walls from outside; Envar goes to check it out while the rest of the group interrogate their new prisoner. The giant’s name is Ogh, and he was sent by Queen Guh to get her all the food, so she will be bigger than all the other giants.

Envar returns with reports of an army outside the walls, just outside of bow range: Many other giants, ogres with trebuchets, bugbears, and so many goblins. The party tells Ogh to go tell the others to piss off; Atarah holds his ‘leash’ while Titan translates. Titan gets hit by a spike-armored goblin thrown by an ogre goblin-hucker – some of those ogres have perfect aim. But eventually, between Natalia, Titan, and Ogh, they convince the army to leave.

Strog starts arguing with Korotir over… everything… to the point of Challenge. “Come on. Let’s settle this now, you and me.” “Bring it.” (Paraphrased).

Dawn breaks.

The duel is set for the top of the city wall. No interference from anyone, no potions, no magic, just weapons (Strog has the scimitar; Atarah still has his longsword. Korotir has his flail and shield). Envar climbs to a good spot to shoot if necessary. Both Korotir and Strog are still very beat up from all the fighting that night.

They act simultaneously – both charging at each other. Strog gets in a good hit but so does Korotir, and Korotir forces the Captain down. The Captain struggles up and Korotir lets him. Strog gets in a last blow, the scimitar slashing and getting stuck in Korotir’s side. Korotir drops his flail and shield and grabs Strog by the collar, hoisting him up over the edge of the wall, facing the forest. He rips the Captain’s insignia from his uniform and throws him into the mist beyond. “I’m the Captain, now.”

There is silence as Korotir descends the wall. “I’m your Captain now!”

“Ah, he was an asshole anyways,” says one of the guards. Xellin, the lieutenant. Korotir remembers him as being “a good guy” from his time in Goldenfields. “He was supposed to start preparing the city against further Giant attacks and never did, and look what happened.”

Huzzah for Captain Korotir! Envar hands him a potion, which he just holds as he gives out new orders. Ogh gives Korotir his loot bag after Korotir arranges food for him. They were supposed to be gifts for Queen Guh (who is mean, lives in the forest, and Ogh can’t find where; that’s what the bugbears were for). Atarah gives him Strog’s Thunderblade (“Pretty sure this should be yours now, too.”)

Titan finally has a giant friend to protect him, and vice versa. Envar pesters Korotir into drinking the healing potion. The other giant (“Aw, Lob. Lob was Ogh’s friend.”) had a loot bag, which is investigated. It contains a petrified dwarf from Mithril Hall, Voldrick Firehammer. He’s well-known.

Titan flies off to go retrieve his loot from the wheatfield, but the Pixie Dust wears off and he goes plummeting to the ground. Envar stabilizes him and everyone regroups at the Nightfurrows Inn for healing and rest.

26 Eleint 1486

Errands!

Natalia sends her Raven messenger to the Lords’ Alliance in Waterdeep, requesting the aid of a magic-user who can reverse the petrification on Voldrick.

The party goes and gets their loot appraised and sold for coin, which is divided. Titan goes back later by himself, tells a really bad lie about how he got this gold thing from his dead fallen aunt, baffles the appraiser, who tells him it is a holy symbol of Asmodeus. “So… you’re saying… A paladin would be obligated to be mean to a person with this symbol?” “Well, yes, but — really you ought to get that melted down! It’s going to complicate your life!”

Natalia receives a message from her mother, forwarded from Nightstone. The tone is decidedly different from the last message she received from her mother. Lady Cuvellier tells Natalia she’s sorry about Velrosa but to remember it wasn’t Natalia’s fault. Natalia is suspicious.

The party decides to stay until HighHarvestTide, five days away. Over the course of the week, various villagers approach them about things they could do or places they could go.

Miros gives them a map of the area and tells them about a friend of his up in Womford, who runs the Staghorned Flagon , says he’s a former adventurer and may have leftover gear the party would find interesting.

Naxine declares that these Giant attacks are only the beginning. She’s been doing research and based on that, thinks that dragons should be recruited to help put the Giants back in order. Giants and Dragons are ancient enemies. She gives Natalia a stone for message-sending, says she has a friend in Waterdeep (Chasleth, a mage, Natalia & Atarah are familiar with his Tower if not him) who is an expert on dragons.

Over that conversation, Envar and Titan bicker about height, and Titan is very offended when called short.

Lifferlas says the elven druid who awakened him several hundred years ago, Airglas, has fought Giants before and might know something to help. She was headed to the Shadowtop Cathedral, but that was decades ago. Regardless, there’s an Ent there named Tirlang who would know where Airglas is.

Orin approaches Titan separately and promises to write a rousing heroic ballad of Titan if the rogue will visit his sister’s family in Daggerford and help them with the loanshark problems they’ve been having. A fellow called Snail (Korotir is interested).

Atarah retrieves her repaired sword from the blacksmith. There was rejoicing.

Natalia receives another letter from her mother, this one in the same nasty sort of tone as the first, which tells her to stay out of Waterdeep, because everywhere she goes the town’s leaders die. (True, but very unfair.) She does not share with the party.

It is decided to go to Waterdeep to find someone to de-petrify Voldrick, check in with Chasleth, and go get their promised pay from Natalia’s mother (and also, not incidentally, check on her because those letters are worrying). During the discussions on how best to transport the stone dwarf (not Ogh, because Waterdeep is too likely to shoot first and ask questions later), Atarah remembers something from her communion with her deity over the last few days that could help. She goes outside and spends ten minutes to summon a celestial spirit to aid her as a mount. It appears as a sabertoothed tiger as large as a warhorse, and Atarah was not expecting that.

Time for the HighHarvestTide Festival.

(Note: Tranled is yet unaccounted for by the end of the scenario but work with the GM/Josiah on what happened in that time)

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Letters home

25 Eleint 1486
Lady Natalia Cuvelier to Lady Crystal Cuvelier, with warmest regards;

Your recent letter requiring me to stay in Nightstone was received and I have acted accordingly. I understand well your position, although I must protest that the Lady in question was beyond even my ability to heal well before I approached her. Nevertheless, I have taken control of Nightstone and begun securing it. As you are no doubt aware, this will be an expensive business. Guards will need to be paid and there is much to be repaired. Giants cause a great deal of structural damage. If you could see your way to sending funds or builders to aid the effort I am sure Nightstone would continue to be in debt to house Cuvelier.

The travelling party you sent me with has grown, and when asked by some locals in Nightstone to carry word to Goldenfields of all that happened (as some recently deceased villagers had family there) I agreed. I hope to continue good communications between Nightstone and Goldenfields. Of note is a small altercation with the Lords’ Alliance. I have handled it, but should they approach you I did feel it worth mentioning. It seems they were investigating an issue I was looking into at the same time (the giant attacks, I assume you have heard? It is more widespread than Nightstone alone!) and our paths crossed. We spoke along the way to a cloud giant uninvolved in the current troubles hoping for information and the Lords’ Alliance chose to send agents at that moment, rather disruptively. I believe the misunderstanding to be under control, but do of course feel free to send them back toward me if they question you.

On the matter of Goldenfields: there was an attack while I was here, which I am looking into. Of course, the guards you have sent with me have kept me safe. However, the danger they are putting themselves in now is much greater than their original job might suggest. Although you hired them to escort me to Nightstone, I believe the original agreement was they would be paid part of this on return? Having quite recently had them drag me from the grip of bugbear and keep me from being crushed by ogres I feel they are working above and beyond what is asked of them, and ask that they be paid as such.

I hope all is well in Waterdeep. You would tell me if it was not, wouldn’t you? I am sad to miss the harvest festival, but with your approval I hope to be home before the year end.

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The Bells Toll for Thee
Scenario Eight

25 Eleint 1486
before sunrise

The party readies for a fight.

The ogres, equipped with siege weapons mounted on their backs, begin hurling spike-armored goblins at the Inn. This kills the goblins, but does begin to batter holes in the walls of the Inn. The goblins still on the ground fire arrows into the holes created, hitting Natalia as she attempts to call divine fire onto the ogre’s trebuchet backpack. Korotir is hit by a javelin from the darkness. Their allies, the Innkeeper Miros and the bard Orin, get off shots at the ogres.

The other ogre, not so encumbered, begins ripping apart the nearby houses, pulling out women and children and stuffing them into sacks, yelling about “meat!” and “food!” while the children cry. Atarah drops the crossbow she had been loading and runs out to challenge the ogres, because This Is Not Cool. Korotir follows her out. The ogres ignore her. Natalia steps out and notices three bugbears in the shadows, calling divine flame on one of them and yelling for Atarah and Korotir. One of the bugbears throws a javelin and hits Orin, impaling him. Another pops up in front of Natalia and starts dragging her away, screaming.

One of the ogres advances while Atarah and Korotir turn to rescue Natalia, getting a hit on Korotir as they run. The two reach Natalia just as another bugbear joins the first, but Atarah gets in a stab with the rapier and Korotir mashes its head with his new flail. It’s a good weapon; he is pleased.

Natalia surrounds herself, and them, with floating angelic figures who menace any enemies in range, and heals herself, Korotir, and poor Orin.

The Temple’s bell begins ringing. A few moments later, so do the ones on watchtowers on the walls. The surviving bugbears retreat, calling for the Ogres and goblins to do so as well. Miros drags Orin to cover and manages to get a shot at the trebuchet ogre, causing it to drop its sack of “meat”. The second ogre, with the sack, grumbles about retreating and swats at Korotir, coming into range of Natalia’s guardians. Korotir nearly goes down, but thanks to his Orcish constitution and Natalia and Atarah’s divine healing, stands firm.

Dismayed by Natalia’s guardians, the Ogre turns to run after his fellows with Atarah and Korotir right behind. Natalia gets the final blow with a perfect crossbow shot, felling the ogre who crushes several fleeing goblins as he falls. Atarah and Korotir rush after the fleeing ones.

They find the fleeing horde blockaded in an alley by… a large, angry tree? Atarah, frustrated, compels the remaining Ogre to a duel. It stomps over (getting hit by the tree on the way), ignores her, and hits Korotir instead. “Hey! You’re supposed to fight ME, stupid!” The three of them get good hits, and Natalia sends it up in flames for the second killing blow of the night.

The tree goes whomping willow in the background, killing goblins left and right and taking hits from the bugbears until the valiant… tree… also falls. Natalia heals it while Korotir and Atarah scramble amongst the branches to attack the final bugbears. One dies, the other flees into the dark and vanishes.

Meanwhile, across town:
Titan and Tranled are sneaking through town when the run across the guards in a messy fight against another pair of ogres and force of goblins, raiding the town’s livestock. They can’t get past, and reluctantly decide to help the guards.

“We’re going to have to kill them all,” Titan grumbled.
“You mean, I’m going to have to kill them all,” said Tranled.

But first, Titan makes sure to hide his bag of loot in a nearby wheat field. He sneaks over to a chicken coop and hides behind it, making eye contact with a bugbear who is doing the exact same thing. They both attack, but Titan’s attack is the one that hits.

Captain Strog is bellowing orders out in the middle of the mess, focusing down one Ogre at a time with sword and arrow. Strog’s crossbow breaks and he valiantly charges forward. There are guards and goblins falling everywhere.

Tranled, spotting the bugbear menacing Titan, kills it with an eldritch blast. A fireball heralds the arrival of the town’s resident Wizard Liaison, Naxine, who kills the first ogre and several goblins. Titan is freed to sneak over to the remaining ogre, hiding beneath an overturned water trough.

Tranled moves the loot and moves to duck behind the chicken coops, where he is surprised by a javelin shot and a sudden Bugbear attack. He’s badly injured, but manages a Hellish Rebuke and a spray of poison fog, allowing him to escape. He reappears next to Naxine and Captain Strog, who gives him a look.

“Ah – We can talk about this later?”
“You… you are on my shit list. But for now – We need to kill the Ogre.”

Titan pops up from under the trough and tosses axes, which reveal him to the nearby goblins. They attack.

Naxene, very calmly, moves slightly to get a clear line of sight and Lightning Bolts the ogre and also, helpfully, the goblins attacking Titan. He runs from their charred corpses towards Naxine, Strog, and Tranled, chugging a healing potion and taking a pot shot with a flung axe as he goes. The ogre falls.

Strog kills another goblin and starts to give a heroic speech, but a bugbear’s javelin spins his helmet around and mostly just makes him look like an idiot. He’s displeased. The bugbear tries a couple more times, fails to hit anyone, and retreats.

Tranled (still moving at a blur thanks to magic) moves, attempts to cast and fails to hit, and moves again, disappearing into the night. Naxine changes targets and hurls another lightning bolt, obliterating the last Ogre and most of the goblins, while the guards mop up the rest.

Strog, verily pissed and having lost sight of Tranled, tells the last of the guards to grab Titan. Titan flees into the dark city, with the guards on his trail.

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For the attention of the ZSSSSC
A letter from Tranled to the Zhentarim

For the attention of the Zhentarim Security Subcommittee for the South Sword Coast (ZSSSSC

Dear Executive Comrades, 

Hear in lies my report on the failed Zhentarim Nightstone Defence Initiative(ZNDI). 

As it should the Zhentarim Truthful Information Dissemination Network (ZTIDN) gathered the incoming and sometimes conflicting reports of the Nightstone Elint Osser Incident (Zhentarim Incident Nomenclature) and provided the summative reports to this subcommittee (ZSSSC) for debate. A mention in dispatches for Kella Darkhope for insuring the reports were able to exit Nightstone.  

 The ZSSSC decided to activate the RIDF plan (Rapid Incident Deployment Force) and quickly gathered, what was considered a sufficient enough force and ,at the time, reliable leaders, to the AO (Area of Operation).  

On arrival in the AO the RIDF (now will be called by their operational name The Seven Snakes or TSS) encountered a group led (if that word could be used in such a strange leadership style) by Natalia Cuvelier of the Waterdeep Cuvelier’s (bio and description attached as appendix a). 
 
TSS led by Xolkin (Zhentarim Employee number [ZEN] 49874313)  and seconded by Dexter (ZEN 45216366) had not undergone the Zhentarim Leadership Re-education Seminar (Seminar registration list attached as appendix b). Time and time again failed defence Initiatives have been linked to inadequate leadership relations. the leadership of TSS acting as the RIDF for the ZNDI did not act in best practices when securing the AO and in their relations with the 3rd Party Neutral Combatants ( the group ‘led’ by Natalia Cuvelier, they have no operational name and just seem to just follow her around, most ineffective and runs contrary to all known Zhentarim approved leadership styles) 

Instead of employing them to the cause of the ZNDI Xolkin planned to kill off the Cuvelier Group ( now known as CG, in want for a better name) which is not an unapproved best practice when dealing with  3rd Party Neutral Combatants but only if there is substantial profit involved and never as a first response. Xolkin’s second in command Dexter was also grossly negligent in his/her ( zir? The Zhentarim neutral pronouns leaflet needs updating) actions with the CG as zie sought to join them without benefit to the ZNDI!  

Furthermore Dexter sought to actively betray Xolkin and gain leadership of TSS. Now I know the Subcommittee is laughing with the knowledge that this is normal self promotion protocol and I would agree. Be that as it may after self promotion Dexter gave up the governing authority of the TSS acting as the ZNDI under the agency of ZSSSC to the CG.  A 3rd Party Neutral Combatants group being in authority of a Zhentarim sanctioned RIDF is unheard of and the ZTIDN should clamp down on the this PR disaster post-haste.  

My recommendations is that Xolkin and Dexter be recalled and given server re-education and a leader of suitable gravitas (and holding a certificate from the latest Zhentarim Leadership Re-education Seminar) be sent to Nightstone to address this problem. 

I will continue to travel with the CG as I feel they might be very useful in the present Giant Related Strategic Question (GRSQ). 
 
Faithfully yours 
 
Tranled Agganor  
ZEN 201506183 
Sub-representative of Zhentarim Diplomatic Relations: South Sword Coast. 
 
(note scribbled at the end of the letter) As much as this upstart Tranled Agganor infuriates me with his needless acronyms and questionable ideas (does he think we are trying to bring about a socialist utopia?). He does make some solid points. The Seven Snakes were a bit ropey but we did think it would be a easy job. Next time lets send at least one full Zhentarim member to look over things. This Kella Darkhope might be the one to be in charge of any next jobs. Also lets do keep an eye on this Natalia Cuvelier plus party as I remember that mother is still unmarried and possess vast wealth. A ally like that is just what we need right now.  

Pass this onto the Zhentarim Central Committee for review at their next meeting. 

 
 

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Jailbreak in Goldenfields

A flash in the night as a glint of moonlight caught an exposed axe edge. As quick as it appeared it was gone, hidden under the swathe of black cloak and grubby rags that formed the Halfling. Quick and quiet as a stalking cat ghosting through the night.

Stupid cat, Titan recalled that was the whole reason they were in this mess. Some pet delivery to some lunk too witless to protect his own house. Titan had no clue why the man even wanted it back, it wasn’t even a kitten…

And now they were under attack by Ogres. Ogres! Although truth be told Titan was glad of the interruption, it wasn’t as if he was getting much sleep anyway, not with a bed full of chilli dust that only stopped stinging long enough to itch like balefire.

That only proved it worked though! Gormless as the nature-addled human had been, he’d made an absolute weapon of a fruit; he’d only got a few specks of up his nose and thought his skin might blister right off then and there. Titan laughed abruptly as he thought of himself emptying the whole bag right into the eyes of Kagan Smyth. Why, he’d probably go completely blind! That would teach him.

Laughing made his jaw hurt, Envar had clocked him good it had to be said. Envar the awkward. There was one who said little and struck often, and Titan liked that about him truth be told. Korotir was the same, lunkheaded though he was. Once those guards had laid hands on Korotir, you knew what you were going to get. Murderous rage. No fists, no warnings, just mashed bones, impaled torsos and a hefty great shield in the teeth of any enemy. He was no giant but he was the next best thing, a hulking great tower of violence that Titan knew, absolutely knew, was squarely in his corner.

It has surprised him how angry he’d gotten when the guards had tackled Korotir, he hadn’t even thought how to react, just that they were enemies and he had to kill every last one of them. He’d of done it too, he remembered the guard’s stupid-eyed shock as he’d stabbed his sword right through his neck, the blood bubbling up, the human’s mouth opening and closing mutely like a landed fish. Envar had saved the man’s life for sure. Well, him and Natalia of course, that magic of hers seemed to be able to undo even the handiwork of a great artiste such as himself. It they hadn’t of done what they had, if Atarah hadn’t of done….whatever it was that she’d done, Titan knew he would have buried an axe in the skull of every one of those guards. It was so strange how he’d stood up for his party members…he was sure he’d never been so quick to violence before…and it wasn’t even him that got attacked. They’d of done the same for him though…probably. Titan had to admit this whole ‘comradery’ thing was an odd feeling, but not a bad one.

Saving your enemies was a ridiculous concept, but Titan had to concede that Natalia’s way had worked out OK. The Ogres would smush those guards for sure, they’d never get the chance at revenge and they were too useless to succeed at it even if they did. Not only that but now Titan was racing to break someone out of jail instead of being there himself…which was nice.

He was in his element now. He leapt from one rooftop to another, rolled and regained his feet in one fluid motion, the slippers on his feet making nary a sound as he patted across the tiles. There was a large gap to the next longhouse, too long to jump but with two slender shop signs spanning the distance. Titan balanced across them nimbly, a hop between the two landed with extreme confidence. The he was across, racing down the next roof, the cool night air feeling wonderfully soothing against his chili scorched skin.
Titan imagined himself returning triumphantly with the devil thing, saving the entire group with a stunning jailbreak that only he could have pulled off. Oh how they would laud him. Natalia would shower him in gold, Atarah would start telling legends about him like she did with her ghost-father, Korotir would swear some blood oath of loyalty, Envar would…well Envar would probably just be all awkward about it and hardly say anything, but you couldn’t win them all. It would be easy, he was making excellent time, just one more corner and he’d crack whatever pitiful shack these bumpkins called a jail and show Nano who was the real technician around here…

Oh.

But it wasn’t a shack. Quite the opposite in fact, it was a fully-fledged fortress keep built to house hundreds, looming menacingly into the night. Where there was supposed to be a dilapidated wooden wall Titan saw a sheer face of thick mortared rock. Where there was meant to be a single drunken watchman sleeping his shift away on a rocking chair, Titan saw regular patrols of steely eyed soldiers. He considered just turning around and going back to the inn, after all it wasn’t as if he actually wanted Tranled out of jail. The psychopathic devil-thing could rot as far as Titan was concerned. But then he thought of Natalia’s face as he told her of this failure. That vague look of skeptical disappointment she got sometimes (often), the single raised eyebrow and exasperated sigh. He thought of Oren changing the words to his song, for the worse, of Natalia asking Nano next time. Plus, as an afterthought, there was the small matter of the horde of murderous Ogres that they’d have to slay without spells. No it was too much, this would be done and done quickly and all glory and riches would be his. He spat on the ground.

The mechanical part Titan’s mind engaged and the keep became a problem to be cracked rather than an opponent to be feared. In a moment he scanned it, seeing points of ingress, guard’s lines of sight, good hiding spots and open ground he would need to dash across quickly. Then he spotted where the jail actually was, not buried deep in the bowls of the castle as he feared, but right there in front of the gate, barely more than a raised hole covered in iron bars, a pit of shame open to the entire town.

Titan cackled. Tranled’s time here must have been supremely uncomfortable and utterly humiliating. Perfect. This wouldn’t be as bad as he feared but he could still see a half a dozen guards watching over the cell. What he needed was a diversion…
Luckily there happened to be just the thing in motion, the town was under mortal threat. Titan sunk into an ally.

‘Attack, Attack, everyone to battle stations, Goldenfields is under Attack!!’ He yelled at the absolute top of his lungs, before darting through shadow to a pile of barrels at to the other side of the street, as far as possible away from the source of the sound.
The peace of the night was shattered, but nothing happened immediately. Titan saw a few of the guards outside the gate look at each other bemusedly, totally unsure what to do. As luck would have it, just then a bell on the other side of town began to ring urgently, once, twice, three times. It fell dead but others began to answer it, the keep began to ring, the walls began to ring. Shouts rang out and all of a sudden, everywhere the night was a cacophony of sound. Guards in full armor began to pile out from the keep and towards the center of town, calling to each other with fear in their eyes, unsure of the threat but carried along by the momentum of their colleagues. Titan watched from the shadows as the stream slowed to a trickle, then nothing at all. He emerged from the alley and headed to the cell.

Tranled looked haggard and tired, but disappointingly not completely miserable. His robes were still in good condition for example, and his skin glowed dull red beneath them.
‘Listen up and listen well Pinky Devil. I don’t like you, in fact I can hardly stand you, but right now the town is under attack by Ogres and we need your magic. I’m here to break you out but there are TWO conditions, non-negotiable.’ Titan hissed the words too fast; he’d gone over the speech many times in his head and now found he wasn’t savoring the moment. Tranled merely blinked up back at him, his eyes glowing beads of red. Titan pressed on.
‘Condition one, if you ever, EVER burn me again, I’ll bury an axe so deep in your skull your head will split right in half. Condition two, I broke in to your stupid house, past your pathetic locks, me, Titan, ME! I did it and robbed you and there is nothing that you can do about it. Everything I found there is mine now so you need to drop all thoughts of revenge right now and forever or you’ll stay here for good. Is that agreed?’

There was an achingly long silence as the Teifling blinked coolly back up at him from under his horns. As if Titan was a piece of meat Tranled was deciding how to best barbeque instead of a friend risking his neck to spring him from jail. For a moment Titan considered bolting away from the cell before some dread devil-magic came rushing up and burnt him to a crisp, but Tranled only put one hand behind his back and said.

‘OK’

That would have to do for agreement. Titan fished a pick from a pouch in his cloak and set to work on the heavy lock. It was a crude, clumsy thing and it shouldn’t have been a problem for a master such as himself. His skin still itched though, and the devil Tranled kept staring at him, making him feel even more uncomfortable. Tranled started to grow agitated, obviously painfully aware of how long this was taking in full view of any guard who happened to look this way. He started to pace in his cell like a caged beast. Minutes passed, Titan began to fear that he would fail, be humiliated after that whole speech and all his efforts, that he’d have to admit defeat and slink back to Natalia empty handed. Just as the tension was no longer bearable, just before Tranled’s patience ran out, before Titan’s nerve broke, the lock popped open with a tiny sigh.

Tranled exploded out of the cell, shocking the Halfling utterly and hauling him up against a wall by his clothes.

‘Listen, I need my things! You understand me? I can’t cast spells without my things and you, you’re going to get them for me, understand? If you want me to kill these Ogres, you have to go in there and get my stuff and you have to do it right now.’ Tranled hissed urgently, inches away from Titan’s face, pointing towards the tower.

Titan came back to his senses and wriggled free, rearranging himself as coolly as he could. ‘Sure, no problem’ he said with as much nonchalance as he could manage which wasn’t much at all. He was inwardly dreading the fact he would have to break into the imposing tower after all…

The Halfling took a few steps towards the tower and looked it over again. He wanted to convey the impression he was formulating a cunning plan rather than simply shitting himself with fear. He looked behind him to see if Tranled was paying attention. He was, unfortunately. Actually that was a massive understatement; Tranled was following Titan’s every move with rapt expectation, as if his very life depended on Titan’s quick success. Perhaps it did.

Titan had no clue how best to break in but a small window was ajar ten feet above the floor and that was as good a place to start as any. Titan motioned his head and Tranled look the hint. He hefted the Halfling up to his shoulders, and then, with much bickering and complaining, onto his head. The Teifling was all wiry and lean under those robes, with none of Korotirs towering strength. He worked as a ladder well enough though and Titan was able to grab with lead lining of the window and haul himself up.

‘Third door on the left’ hissed Tranled. ‘Here, take this’ continued the Teifling and thrust a pouch into Titan’s palm just as he was about to swing himself through the window.
As luck would have it the other side of the window revealed a small, unmanned mess room. Flagons lay overturned on the table and there was a still steaming plate of stew, obviously abandoned in the haste of the guards. Titan clambered down and went to the door, opened it a crack. Clear. He eased himself though the door and padded down the corridor which was disappointingly well lit and worryingly devoid of cover.

‘Speed, speed, speed’ thought Titan, as he scampered along. Where exposure was unavoidable, best make it as short as possible. One door passed, two. He could see the left that should be the impound coming up, just a few more steps-

Right then a guard rounded the corridor and abruptly stopped looking right at him, shocked. There was a supremely awkward moment as they both regarded each other, each wondering how to react.

Titan had no plan. Out of instinct rather than design, he flung the pouch that was in his hand, the one Tranled had given him, towards the guard.

Disappointingly, it was a cloud of beautiful glitter that flew out rather than a blinding acid or cunning smoke or any of the half a dozen other things Titan might have hoped for. The guard was obviously anticipating pain, but as the flecks settled all about him and he inspected himself, he found himself completely and worryingly unharmed.

Well that was just perfect; he had the initiative and all he’d done with it was make the man look fabulous. Titan made a note to kick the warlock in the shins when, and if, he got out of this. With a triumphant yell, the man drew his sword-

And began to float…. Titan’s mouth was agape. The guard was just as gobsmacked as he worked his feet furiously but without traction, trying desperately to regain directional control. Titan turned and ran but he hadn’t got far before the guard worked out his new physics, he lunged forward bodily, sword held ahead of him like a lance. Gathering speed faster and faster, he careened towards the Halfling with a shout, anticipating a swift and imminent victory. Suddenly, Titan swerved and flung open a door in the man’s face, he was moving far too fast and with too little control to avoid it. With a sickening thunk, the heavy wood connected with the guard’s skull, instantly knocking him cold. He floated past Titan with an odd serenity and came to a heap at the end of the corridor.

Titan was almost too stunned to laugh. Almost. Why break into an impregnable fortress crawling with guards when you could break into an impregnable fortress crawling with flying guards? Titan cackled to himself as he made his way to the third door.

Just as Tranled had said, this was the impound. It was supremely disorganized, a total clutter of weapons, scrolls and knick-knacks that Titan hadn’t the first clue how to make sense of. There openly on the table though was a gnarled twist of wood that Titan supposed constituted a wand.

Briefly, Titan again considered the wisdom of arming the Warlock. As it was he was as helpless as a babe, he’d said so himself. With this though…Titan well remembered the searing, indescribable pain of the fire that Tranled had so carelessly hit him with, the fire that Titan was sure he had dodged, but that seemed to hungrily seek him out anyway. He remembered the horrible psychobabble of that demonic voice in his head that probably only lasted for seconds but felt like hours. He knew those flames would have killed him if it hadn’t been for Natalia’s intervention and a terrible death it would have been too.
Was it really wise to give up his only leverage and take the word of the devil-thing that he would act peacefully? To blindly hope that he was somehow grateful enough that he wouldn’t seek revenge for the little break in? Titan regretted admitting it now, it was sweet at the time but it had put him in a terrible positon.

But he had seen how destructive the Warlock could be. If they were to prevail over the Ogres and get out of this accursed town alive they would need his magic, simple as that.
And as for leverage, Titan ran his thumb over the edge of one of his axes, wicked-sharp; it drew a bead of blood immediately.

‘Here’s your leverage’ he muttered to himself before opening his sack and indiscriminately bundling every object on the table within it.

When in doubt, put it in the sack.

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Valkyrie Hangovers
Atarah; "And Justice For All" Scenario 7

Korotir’s face smashing into the bar was a jolt to her system; Atarah whipped around, the drinks she’d been ordering abruptly forgotten. That guard captain, the one who had it out for all of them, apparently, was holding her shieldmate face-down against the floor. The half-orc warrior growled, fighting off the disorientation from the blow to get free. Righteous anger boiled over into action.

“You’re under arrest -”

“Oh no, he’s fracking not – .” Atarah shoved away from the bar and slammed into the captain’s shoulders, knocking him back and away from her friend. The Captain overbalanced, tripped over a stool with Atarah still tangled with him, sending them both crashing to the ground and half into the circle of guards behind him. Her armored knee ended pressed to the Captain’s throat. “What do you think you’re doing?! Arresting someone who’s done nothing- .”

“Nothing! Lies, you’re a fecking liar – you and him and that blasted tiefling you came in with-”

Atarah heard the other guards hitting Korotir behind her, but she could spare no attention for anything else while the Captain pitted his strength against hers. The ground shook as the half-orc stomped to his feet, shoving a guard flying across the room with a vicious front kick.

“Nobody leave,” Korotir said from behind her. His voice was a snarl around his tusks, full of the promise of proper violence. “I’ll be back.”

“Caught your tiefling, we did,” the Captain was saying as he thrashed beneath Atarah’s weight and choking knee. She heard Korotir move off – did he leave her alone? Had he left, just like –  She couldn’t look, couldn’t take her attention away from the fight – “Arrested him for murder. Done nothing! You’re all lying-”

“I am a Paladin,” Atarah said, wrapping her fingers in the Captain’s forelock and thunking his head good against the wood floor a couple of times for emphasis. “We do not lie!”

There was a yelp and the kind of death-rattle gurgle that Atarah had heard one too many times from her own throat lately.  She turned involuntarily, looked, caught a flash of Natalia’s silvery blue healing light before she was flipped, flat on her face against the wood floor. Captain Strog was strong - he wrenched her arms back and pinned them.

“And now you’re under arrest – for disturbing the peace, accessory to murder and obstructing justice-”

“I am Justice-!” something fierce and hot blazed behind Atarah’s eyes, something frustrated and restless, flowing under her skin until she thought she might combust. She twisted to get free and Strog recoiled from her; when she rose all the guards were staring at her.  In fact, a quick scan showed the entire room was staring at her. Good, let them look. Let them see how a godstouched acted in the face of… well, she wasn’t sure what exactly it was, other than bad.

“No one touches my team-” There was a very discreet, very proper throat-clearing sound from her left, where Natalia knelt. Atarah amended hastily. “-Lady Natalia of House Cuvelier’s Company. You want to arrest somebody, you come back with a warrant. And proof. And you come to me… to Lady Natalia… first.”

Firelight, brilliant and gold, flickered over the faces of the guards and their Captain, and for a second Atarah thought the fight wasn’t over. That they’d come at her. A clatter on the staircase and the thud of Korotir’s boots, the now-familiar creak of iron and wood from the half-orc’s iconic shield reported his presence, and Atarah felt a little easier, ready for the fight again. He hadn’t left her-

The inn’s doors bounced open and Father Ellardin strode through, full of civil authority. “Captain! What in the name of Blessed Chauntea is going on? What are you doing here? Have you completed the increased city defenses against giant attack — as ordered?”

“No, sir, we were arresting this trouble-maker-”

“Oh, is that what you were doing? Certainly looked like an unprovoked attack to me-”

Ellardin and Natalia took control of the situation with the kind of deft maneuvering and honey-coated words Atarah had witnessed a thousand times before and never been able to mimic. She was happier with a sword, anyways. In the morning became the watchword – we’ll attend to this accusation in the morning. We’ll have a trial for the tiefling in the morning… Atarah let it pass over her, confident they’d find nothing against her shieldmate.


One of the guards – the one with a dusty boot print marring his armor – had an ugly gash across his throat; closed, but still bloody and angry. As he passed her, heading for the door, Atarah clapped a hand on his shoulder, murmuring an invocation to Papa Summerheart. Light flared from beneath her palm, soaking through his armor to the skin beneath, pooling up to the wound. It healed over completely, leaving only pink, new skin. “Sorry about that.”

“I… buh… Sure—” the guard backpedaled hastily into the cluster of his fellows. The light went out in her hands and the inn seemed somehow darker and less welcoming.

“Right!” Atarah said cheerfully, once the Captain and his goons were definitely gone. Time to dispel a little of the gloom that had settled on her. She tossed down too much gold onto the polished wood bar. “Where were we? Drinks!”

- -

She woke from nightmares again, fingers spasming closed around the chunk of quartz gravel she’d picked up from the Dripping Caves and kept. Atarah sat up and tried to calm her heartbeat, to keep from gasping in air like a drowning man. She’d been drowning, far out to sea beneath a black storm and an angry ocean, darkness so thick she could hardly tell what was sky and what was water. She turned towards the wall, away from her friend, and bent over her knees.

It was too dark. Too dark in the room, it was going to close in on her, suck her away – Atarah willed and the stone in her hand flared with light, streaming out in thin bands beneath her white-knuckled grip. Just enough to pin the shadows back against the walls where they belonged. Atarah breathed, slowly, deeply, waited for the panic to subside.

One of the bands of light caught on a piece of grubby white, stuffed into her belt pouch where it lay discarded beside the bed. Atarah fished it out with her free hand and stuffed the rock under her blanket where it wouldn’t be quite so blinding. Scrawled in what looked like charcoal on a worn torn-off piece of paper was a note, delivered to her by one of the city children earlier that evening (“from your friend in the jail”). She unfolded it and read for what seemed like the hundredth time:

Atarah
The Left Hand are
in the city. Find them
before they find you.
-T

T. T for Titan? He’d been right there with them in the Inn, not in jail (though not for lack of cause, sometimes… and she wasn’t even sure if Titan was literate). Or T for Tiefling… for Tranled. It’d explain a lot about the Captain’s… distress. The Left Hand though…

The Left Hand had featured in the stories about papa, one of his primary adversaries. She’d been convinced they’d all died with him, twenty years ago. It was why he’d been sent back, after all. Surely she didn’t have to keep fighting papa’s battles. She’d get her own, right? Maybe this was a different group, or copycats with the same name…  

It’d keep. Till dawn, when she’d be getting up anyways. She’d go down to the jail at dawn, figure out what was going on. Why the note was sent to her. Why now. Atarah leaned over, put the note away, and started to settle back down. To nightmare-free sleep.

“Attack! Attack! We’re under attack— Ogres!” A fist pounded on their door; Envar’s voice called down the hall. Atarah was already scrambling to her feet, to her armor. Natalia took a little longer but then she was up too, both girls rushing for their gear, out the door -

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