Shadows of the Mercenary Part 4

SkidAce SkidAce March 16, 2014
Everything seemed ominous as they entered the forest. It quickly became apparent that there was no marching straight towards the ruins. The mercenaries had cut an initial path into the forest, which then split off into dead ends.

It appeared that the thorny brambles in some locations became very effective walls, and the mercenaries had been forced to turn back, which was implied by blood stains at those locations.

The entire forest is difficult terrain , with the exception of special locations and the path the mercenaries cut open. Some bramble patches are obstacles and cannot be passed through.

Using his tracking skill, Nitram could normally determine the main course of the bulk of the mercenary company whenever he came to a intersection of paths. Presumably, the less traveled paths were more dead ends and potential ambushes, but there was no guarantee of this theory.

The dense foliage and brush made it too thick for Serre to fly safely, at least in most locations. It occurred to the party that the foliage and branches were actually thick enough for druas to move about, hopefully this had occurred to the mercenary company. Underneath the canopy of the forest, the lighting was dim, at best.

The group found themselves approaching a small glade (not open to the sky) from which led two equally traveled paths on the other side. Lying just inside the glade nearest the party were two mercenary corpses. The corpses looked withered and shrunken. From where the party stood, they appeared to have had their swords placed in their hands, and copper pieces placed on their eyes.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 16, 2014
Aeron whispered to the group, “I have not seen a more obvious trap. Blend, does anything look out of the ordinary to you?”

AFCop AFCop March 16, 2014
Blend scanned the area thoroughly before moving forward to examine the bodies.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 16, 2014
Aeron whispered to Merchant Blend as he skulked forward, “It looks like the dark elves are proficient in vampiric magic…or they may have a vampire amongst them. Drag one of the bodies over here and I can determine from where the mercenaries hail. If the druas are conferring with and assisting denizens from the negative materiel plane…we should expect to encounter more undead before we make it to the ruins.”

SkidAce SkidAce March 16, 2014
Blend felt sure the area between himself and the bodies was safe to transverse. But it was fortunate that he was alert and ready for danger, as otherwise the black shadow form that rose from each corpse would have caught him by surprise.

AFCop AFCop March 16, 2014
Blend took a quick step to his right and lashed out twice in rapid succession with his blade, hoping to dispatch the shadow quickly.

Flurry, plus SA damage.

SkidAce SkidAce March 16, 2014
Blend’s wakazashi sliced the air and passed completely through the shadowy form. Both slashes of the sword dragged black shadowy substance from the creature’s body, which slowly dissipated off the length of Blend’s blade. (Att 22, 25, damage halved 9)

The shadows seemed to ignore Blend’s attack, and in fact the one to his left rushed out of the clearing and towards the ranger, striking at him with shadowy claws. Up close the shadow seemed reminiscent of a human in leather armor, much like the corpse that lay upon the ground.

The hand of the human shadow seemed to reach right past Nitram’s armor and into his chest. (Att 17, 4 STR damage) The coldness of its touch sapped the strength from Nitram’s limbs, causing his his sword and armor to weigh upon his shoulders. (- 2 to hit and damage)

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 16, 2014
Aeron kept a wary eye on the shriveled bodies of the mercenaries, “I am not well versed in the dark arts, such as High Wizard Trepas nor proficient in protective magic such as the Councilor of Magic Syn’thizar… but I know a trick or 2 that may convince the undead to leave us in peace.” Aeron went over the rarely used incantations in his mind as he readied for the poor tortured souls of the slain mercenaries to lash out at the slightly less tortured soul of Merchant Blend. Merchant Blend had always unsettled Wizard Aeron. It wasn’t just his pragmatic convictions or unknown loyalties…there was something more. Shadows seemed to physically manifest around him that could not be explained. Not that Lord Nitram was a bundle of joy. In fact, the party had a disproportionate concentration of brooding and melancholy. Aeron sized up the new sorcerer and guide that had been sent with them from Aelvinwode. Aeron didn’t even know there names, it was better that way. If history was any indication, they would run off or be slain by the first enemy they encountered. They may be only a few heartbeats away from oblivion. The way that guide constantly sharpens his sword it will be ground down to a toothpick by high sun. The Eladrin sorcerer is more of an enigma, but after viewing the dark elf conversion in the Tower of Life he must be worried that he can lose so much more than his life on this mission. They must know the danger that surrounds us. Aeron snapped out of his dark thoughts and redoubled his focus on the twisted and drained bodies of the prone mercenaries. That’s it! Next town we come to I am going to hire a bard to balance the overbearing somber nature of these companions.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 17, 2014
Aero called out to Nitram and Shylent. “Fight defensively, I will take control of it!” Aeron chanted the words to command the specter. (Command Undead, Will vs DC 20 negates…If I get it I will command it to attack the other shadow…Cha check 12 vs 6)

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 17, 2014
“Rillifane’s boot! What the…” Nitram could barely speak after a feeling of weakness and fatigue washed over him. As he grasped Kinslayer with both hands, his boot heels clicked together as he began slicing at the shadow and wondering if he will regret wielding the smaller weapon. “I wonder if my greatsword would have better results…” Hasted: + 1 atk, + 1 AC; power attack & 2-handed: + 8 / + 3 / + 8 atks, 1d6+ 10 each (I think, please double check me)

SkidAce SkidAce March 17, 2014
Even with the drain on his strength, Nitram’s two handed slash with Kinslayer tore through the substance of the shadow, flinging little bits of darkness off into the air to slowly fade away. That was Nitram’s best effort however, as he was so fatigued by the effort that his return stroke dragged the ground and missed completely. He made a valiant effort to swing again, but was unable to connect with the creature, leaving him swaying exposed in front of it. (Att 19, 10f, 15m, damage halved 7, fumble effect, – 1 AC)

Shylent cursed and leapt forward to engage the vile shadow creature. To her surprise her weapon cut uselessly through the creature’s form. “Schiese” she exclaimed and spit on the ground, making some sort of protective gesture with her hand as she drew back.

The shadow in front of Blend rose into the air and began to drift past him towards Aeron. Blend quickly lashed out at it as it moved, but it was too quick. (Att 16) The creature reached towards the chanting wizard with a whispering moan of pain and death, and drew the strength from Aeron’s limbs. (Att 20, 6 str damage, – 3 str penalty)

Aeron focused on his efforts to command the other shadow, and impose his will upon the undead. (DC 20, Will save 8, failed) The shadowy creature stopped its assault uppn the weary ranger and looked in Aeron’s direction as if submitting to his will.

SkidAce SkidAce March 17, 2014
Via text

With a spread of his large wings, Serre bounded over Shylent’s head, causing her to duck, and landed between the two shadows. Serre clawed at the shadow engaged with Aeron, and seemed astonished when his claw had absolutely no effect other than causing Aeron to have to duck also.

AFCop AFCop March 17, 2014
Blend moved toward the less aggressive shadow and resumed his assault on it, lashing out twice with his wakazashi.

Move to K10 and flurry, +2 for flanking.

SkidAce SkidAce March 17, 2014
Blend attacked the shadow that had inexplicatedly ignored him, swinging his finely crafted blade at in quick succession. Again the blade stripped the substance from the form of the shadow, dissapating it into nothingness. (Att 23, 21, damage halved 10)

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 17, 2014
Nitram looked at the wizard, “Well, what are you going to do with that one?”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 18, 2014
Aeron was exhausted by the undead attack. His arms hung limply at his sides aa he addressed the shadow. {color:green}"This creature will tell us about the mercenaries then it will drive them from the forest. As we have discovered you need magic weapons to damage him. That is not exactly common among mercenaries. Now all we have to do is find them and set him on the chase."*

AFCop AFCop March 18, 2014
“These things look exactly like the dead mercenaries on the ground. What’s to say that whatever this thing kills, they won’t turn into more of them? I say destroy it.”

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 18, 2014
Nitram looked at the elf in a new way, “What exactly is that thing and how are you controlling it?” He was beginning to adjust to the added weight of his armor and pack, wondering what happened. Nitram looked at the party in general, but focused on the two magic users, “When that…thing touched me, my gear seemed to get heavier. It’s as if he made me weaker. Any idea how to reverse or heal that?”

SkidAce SkidAce March 18, 2014
07 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
12pm, Sunday

Glimpses of what may have been the sun through the overgrown canopy of leaves and the obscurement of the clouds led Nitram to guess that it was about noon.

There was an unsettling hush to the forest, and the mercenaries bodies lay quielty under the roof of the dark green trees. There was still a winter chill to the air, a crispness that promised the day would not get much warmer.

The two paths to the north of the clearing led further into the forest and deeper into the thorny brambles. Not much disturbed the silence other than the discussion of the horrid creatures they had just encountered, that and the occasional sighing moan from the silently standing shadow.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 18, 2014
Nitram tried to discern the path of the mercenaries while munching on some jerky survival one more time just in case it works before asking the wizard, “Aeron, can you ask your new friend which way the mercenaries went? If not, I say we take the left path. Does anyone have any objections?” Nitram threw some food to Serre before setting off again.

AFCop AFCop March 18, 2014
“How long does your spell last before you lose control of that thing and it turns on us?”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 18, 2014
Aeron replied to Merchant Blend, “The shadow will turn on us at highsun of the seventh day. I will instruct the shadow to only weaken the mercenaries…not kill them…so no new shadows will be created.” Finally, Aeron addressed the shadow, “Take us down the path the mercenaries took.”

AFCop AFCop March 18, 2014
Blend was content with the wizard’s answer and simply nodded as he sheathed his sword, disappearing from view.

SkidAce SkidAce March 18, 2014
As Nitram was trying to determine the most traveled path (which he vaguely felt was the left hand one) (Survival 24) Aeron’s shadow began drifting towards him, totally unconcerned that Nitram was in the way. Just before running into Nitram, the shadow floated slightly left and went down that path.

The pathway continued slightly northeast, almost parallel to the edge of the forest, although the edge could not be seen . It curved and bent, mostly to the right, as if the mercenaries who had cleared it had tried to follow the path of least resistance. After around 30 minutes of travel along the cleared path, the party saw ahead of them a large 10 foot square pit of unknown depth dug into the ground. A very narrow path (single file and precarious) led along the right edge of the pit, and then the path widened and continued into the depths of the forest, curving out of sight to the right.

SkidAce SkidAce March 18, 2014
The shadow floated over the pit and kept going down the path.

SkidAce SkidAce March 18, 2014
Druas_Forest_Path.png

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 18, 2014
Nitram looked at the pit and then at the path. “This reminds me of a time we were walking on a narrow bridge, over a swampy stream outside that underground temple. What do you think’s in this pit?” Nitram sheathed Kinslayer and drew his greatsword before cautiously moved closer to look into the pit as well as determine if the path was sound.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 19, 2014
Aeron pointed into the pit, “Shadow, fly into the pit and tell us what is there.”

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 19, 2014
Nitram looked doubtful, “Can that thing actually communicate with you? All I’ve heard it do is moan in a most unsettling way.”

SkidAce SkidAce March 19, 2014
Nitram looked down into the pit just as the shadow swooped over his shoulder. Nitram got the impression the thing wanted to finish the job it had started on him. But that was just an impression.

Down in the 15 foot deep earthen pit Nitram could see spikes set into the bottom, about five feet tall. Impaled upon the sharpened spikes was the body of a mercenary. Thorns and briars grew out of the walls of the pit, making climbing out difficult and painful. Blood splashes on the side of the pit implied either combat had occurred, or others had fallen in but had not been fatally injured.

Blend felt the narrow pathway would not be a problem to traverse, if the other members took their time crossing the right side of the pit.

Aeron saw the shadow fly into the pit as commanded, but after that there was no response from the spiteful thing.

SkidAce SkidAce March 19, 2014
Nitram felt the path to the right was risky, but if someone went slowly with caution, they should be okay.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 19, 2014
Unsure of Blend’s location, Nitram began moving carefully along the side of the pit. Blend will probably just jump over it The ranger thought to himself as he watched Serre just jump-glided over the relatively short opening.

AFCop AFCop March 19, 2014
Blend didn’t disappear, his blade did. Sorry for the confusion.

SkidAce SkidAce March 19, 2014
Nitram made it to the other side of the pit by moving cautiously. (Acrobatics Take 10, 12, success) Once on the other side he could see a little farther down the path, which looked much the same as the rest of the path they had traveled.

SkidAce SkidAce March 19, 2014
With Nitram waiting impatiently on the other side, eventually everyone crept their way past the pit.

The group followed the shadow for another thirty minutes, until the path ended in a dead end full of briar brambles. To the keen eye of the party, it appeared there had been a battle here, as the ground was tossed up and there was splashes of dried blood on the leaves.

07 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
1pm, Sunday

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 19, 2014
Aeron looked around the battlefield, “If this was the site of the battle…where are the bodies? Do you think we are within a few miles of the Faerfell ruins?”

SkidAce SkidAce March 20, 2014
The party had a rough idea of their location relative to the main ruins they had seen during their approach. This was an approximation, and didn’t take into account specific turns or bends in the path.

Shylent helped Nitram make a rough sketch on the ground in answer to Aeron’s question. They had traveled northwest from where they had quartered the horses (which she indicated with a green vine) and then turned northeast when they started following the mercenaries path (which she indicated with a brown vine.

Druas_Forest_Vicinity.PNG

As far as to where the bodies went, Shylent just went “Hmmpth” Servan proposed that perhaps the mercenaries carried away any of their fallen comrades.

SkidAce SkidAce March 20, 2014
Shylent thought a bit, and furrowed her brow in concentration. “Other path?” she questioned.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 20, 2014
“I wonder where they were intending to take this path? Maybe their ‘scout’ isn’t very good or there was another reason to circle so far out of the way. I don’t think they are taking away their fallen comrades. They left the two that turned into the shadows and there’s the one at the bottom of the pit. Why did the shadow think they came down this way?” Nitram looked around for the shadow to see what it did at the dead end. “We’ll most likely need to take the other path, but this one is curious. Why would they come this way?” he thought to himself, ready to go back to the other path.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 20, 2014
Aeron supposed this was the last direction the shadow saw his comrades heading before he died. Aeron added, “We are close enough to use the Bagpipes of Building. To create a path to the ruins. Not exactly a stealthy approach, but then again, I’m sure the dark elves know we are here.”

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 21, 2014
Nitram looked at the elf in astonishment. In an attempt to be somewhat diplomatic and sensitive with his answer, he commented, “While that is an interesting idea, I don’t know that it is our best move. Aside from the impact on the local environment, I doubt the druas would appreciate us carving a path direct to their home from the outside. It doesn’t seem to be going well for the mercenaries. I would also prefer to keep the existence of such a powerful magical item a secret, especially from two relatively large and well-armed groups who would benefit greatly from taking it from us.” The ranger waited a moment before continuing, “Maybe we should just take the other path for now. If we can get to the mercenaries, maybe we can convince them to leave.”

SkidAce SkidAce March 21, 2014
Servan looked perplexed, and glanced back and forth between Aeron and Nitram. He then looked around to see what Blend and Shylent were doing. He adjusted his sword belt and stated “Whatever we are to do, we should do it. But I will wait for the two leaders to decide”

He then walked closer to the thorn bramble and began inspecting the area.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 21, 2014
Aeron waved his hand and cast a magical cantrip to turn his robes black with a large silver symbol of Spider Bramble on the center,“The plan is simple. We Just announce ourselves as emissaries of Spider Bramble….which is technically accurate…then see how the dark elves react. If they welcome us then we accept their hospitality and look for a way to destroy them from the inside. If they are enemies of Spider Bramble or just angry at the path clearing, we retreat and let them turn their ire on Spider Bramble. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 21, 2014
Aeron glanced at the quiet eladrin that accompanied them. “I am glad that our eladrin sorcerer has not turned. It gives me faith the source of his power is not infernal…but his nature will reveal us for something other than agents of Spider Bramble.” Aeron turned to merchant Blend, “Can you think of a way to disguise his nature or can we say he is waiting the transformation ritual back in Spider Bramble?”

AFCop AFCop March 21, 2014
Blend nodded and knelt down, removing his pack. He withdrew a tightly bound and neatly folded parcel about twelve inches square. Blend proceeded to ceremoniously unwrap the bundle, each motion purposeful and exact. The bundle appeared to be well worn cloth of exceptional quality and treated with some type of resin or oil to protect it from the elements. Blend finally stood up and presented the bundle to the eladrin. “Put this on and pull up the hood,” he stated matter-of-factly. He shouldered his pack and moved back toward the front of the group. “Spare cloak,” he said to Nitram as he passed, winking just barely.

SkidAce SkidAce March 22, 2014
Spider_Bramble_Silver_Black.png

the_app the_app March 22, 2014
Rúmil looks over at the unfamiliar elf addressing him, attempting to suppress any outward sign of emotion “I am no sorcerer. They are a vile lot, summoning demons and other denizens of evil. I serve Corellon Larethian, and it is from his servants blood that I wield the power to channel.” Looking down at his garb, he is uncertain what is causing such offense. He, however, quickly surmises that his attire, while acceptable for duty in the city, is a bit out of place in the wilds. As Blend hands him the cloak, he looks it over. Anything about the cloak that would be distasteful or inappropriate? If not, then I put it on to appease the company, to which I have been assigned.

SkidAce SkidAce March 22, 2014
Shylent leaned forward past Aeron from behind and looked curiously over his changed attire. She frowned for a moment, then uncharacteristically broke into a big grin and slapped Aeron in a comradely fashion on the shoulder.

She chuckled for a moment and then said to the group “Pipes or path?

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 22, 2014
Nitram looked at the merchant, “How fortuitous.” Surprised at Shylent’s reaction to Aeron, Nitram responded, “The path, we can’t risk the pipes.”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 22, 2014
Aeron checked his pack to make sure it hadn’t “fallen out” during his travels with Merchant Blend. Blend had a remarkable ability to “find” things. Satisfied that his pack was no lighter then when he started Aerin nodded to proceed down the other path. He commanded the shadow to precede them along the trail.
SkidAce SkidAce March 22, 2014
The party backtracked for 30 minutes with the shadow drifting prominently in front of the group, until they reached the pit. Successfully traversing the edge of the pit like tehy did before, the group worked their way back along the overgrown path towards the clearing, reaching it in another 30 minutes.

Immediately proceeding down the remaining path, Nitram noted that the tracks of the mercenaries were just as common here as they were down the other path, suggesting that perhaps, like the party, they had gone down one then the other. But maybe not. Since the mercenaries were clearing the path along the lines of least resistance in the thorns and underbrush, why had they stopped at the dead end the party had found. Maybe they cleared one then the other.

This path twisted and turned much like the other, however the group did not encounter any pits along the way. After another hour they reached another dead end. This “dead end” on the path had a rocky outcropping of stones leaning to the left side of the path before it ended in a wall of thorns and briars. Between the gaps of the two largest stones was what appeared to be a five foot wide opening leading downward into the earth.

Druas_Forest_Vicinity_01.PNG

SkidAce SkidAce March 22, 2014
07 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
3pm, Sunday

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 22, 2014
Nitram grabbed a quick snack as the party stopped to determine a way ahead. “Based on our rough interpretation of where these paths are relative to the ruins and the forest, I wonder if maybe they don’t know where exactly the ruins are. It seems like they may be performing some kind of repetitive search, moving a specific distance from the southern edge into the forest. Anyway, anyone want to go down into the hole?” For some reason, the ranger was looking at Blend.

the_app the_app March 22, 2014
Rumil begins to wonder what madness the spirits may have inflicted on those that were touched. To follow an spirit of an enemy and back and forth…and now we are to go into a hole? What have the elders gotten me into? Peers over the hole and casts “Detect Magic” Rumil isn’t sure what he will see – if anything – so a quick peek…and not at the party – they have a caster amongst them.

SkidAce SkidAce March 22, 2014
Rumil peered into the hole, it was hard to see very far in the dim light under the overcast skies and forest canopy, but it appeared to be full of shadows. Rumil’s detect magic failed to reveal any auras.

Rumil felt a tap on his shoulder, and when he turned he saw Shylent standing next to him shaking her head. Rumil didn’t know much about Shylent, except she seemed to be a woman of vary few words.

the_app the_app March 23, 2014
Rumil acknowledged Shylent’s silent suggestion and stepped away from the hole – taking up a position further back to watch and learn.

AFCop AFCop March 23, 2014
Blend walked up to the hole and looked into it, letting his vision adjust for changing light. Once he was assured nothing immediately threatened him, he entered, footfalls making no noise as he proceeded.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 24, 2014
Nitram smiled to himself and followed Blend into the whole, ensuring to keep his distance. Before entering, he looked back at Shylent and Aeron, saying “Standard formation? Aeron, break out the torch. Let’s put the eladrin in the middle with Aeron. Shylent, you can decide on who brings up the rear, you or the swordmaster.”

SkidAce SkidAce March 24, 2014
After Blend took two more paces into the hole, he stopped in order to check out what he could now see clearly. Nitram was forced to stop also, still on the outside of the looming stones flanking the entrance. Shylent had prodded and gestured the swordmaster and the eladrin into position, then placed herself at the rear.

Blend saw four more withered bodies like they had initially encountered in the clearing previously. They lay in a small circular room about 15 feet across, with a low five foot ceiling. There were no other apparent exits to the room besides the one Blend was standing in. The floor underneath the four mercenary bodies was a small circular raised dais 10 feet across, and only six inches high. Thorns and brambles were draped down from the ceiling and across the bodies and the walls of the room.

AFCop AFCop March 24, 2014
Blend turned and said over his shoulder, “Four dead mercs. Possibly more shadows. Close confined space. Wait here. If there are shadows down here, I’ll draw them out.” Blend crept forward toward the mercenaries and waited to see if he was assaulted by the undead creatures again, preparing to spring back toward the entrance of the cave.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 24, 2014
“Aeron. Will a magic bow with non-magical arrows harm one of those shadow things?” knowledge nature check if Nitram would have heard anything about that Nitram drew Kinslayer, hoping he wouldn’t have to use it against those shadows again. He was just starting to feel somewhat normal, but weaker, from their last encounter. He stepped to the side of the opening prepared to flank them if they followed Blend out.

AFCop AFCop March 24, 2014
I’ll let Aeron answer IC too, an arrow fired from a magic bow is a magic weapon. Also, you no longer have the strength to draw your bow properly so I believe you will suffer a to hit penalty.

AFCop AFCop March 24, 2014
Skid house rules much knowledge check info, however per RAW, undead fall under Knowledge:Religion.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 24, 2014
Aeron, replied to Lord Nitram, *{color:green}"The ritual positioning of the bodies appear necromantic. My arms are still weak from the last encounter, but as long as the bow or arrow is enchanted it will harm the shadows.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 24, 2014
Aeron sent his shadow to the far side of the bodies to flank them as Merchant Blend approached.

SkidAce SkidAce March 24, 2014
Blend’s entry into the room seemed to disturb nothing. No shadows rose from these corpses, and nothing in the small cave like room was aroused by his entrance.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 25, 2014
“That makes sense, Aeron. Thank you.” Nitram looked at Shylent, “Shylent, if we encounter any more of those shadows, you should use Kinslayer and I’ll use my bow. In fact, why don’t you take it now?” Nitram presented it to her, “I will be wanting it back.”

AFCop AFCop March 25, 2014
Blend, still wary that shadows could spring out of the walls or floor at any moment, scoured the room, looking for anything of import.

SkidAce SkidAce March 25, 2014
Shylent looked at Nitram dubiously, but took Kinslayer and held it ready. She watched the perimeter of the dead end path the group found itself in while the others investigated the hole.

Blend found almost nothing of interest in the room, other than the bodies. (Per 26) They appeared to be standard rank and file mercenaries, equipped in leather, with one still having his short sword in its sheath. There were several footprints in the dirt around the dais, suggesting that the bodies had been placed in their current location.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 25, 2014
“Blend, do you see anything of interest in there – tracks, hidden doors? You know, standard stuff.” Assuming blend lets them know about the bodies and the tracks… Nitram asks Aeron, “Mon frère, may I borrow the torch for a moment?” The ranger enters the small room to determine if the tracks are from the mercenaries or something else, like dark elves. Once inside, Nitram notices the brambles on the walls and gestures to Blend, “Any doors behind the foliage?”

AFCop AFCop March 25, 2014
“Come see for yourself. I don’t see much.”

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 25, 2014
And so he did.

SkidAce SkidAce March 25, 2014
Nitram could tell that the tracks were made by humanoid creatures with feet. Wearing boots. Other tracks appeared to be sandals or moccasins.

After looking around further, Nitram came to the conclusion that Blend was correct, there wasn’t anything else there.

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 25, 2014
“Looks like both mercs and elves left the tracks. Hard to tell which was more recent. Back to the other path?” Nitram left the small room and began moving back toward the last split in the path.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 26, 2014
Aeron cast a quick spell to fill the cave with floating lanterns to help Lord Nitram and Merchant Blend inspect the room and bodies. “Merchant Blend, take a close look at that short sword. It seems strange that the other weapons were carted away…but the dark elves and the undead where not able to remove that short sword.”

AFCop AFCop March 26, 2014
Blend looked at the wizard for a moment, then heeded his suggestion silently. He bent over to look at the sword and examined it thoroughly before handling it.

SkidAce SkidAce March 26, 2014
The sword that still resided in its owner’s sheath looked ordinary and didn’t appear to be booby-trapped in any fashion. (Per 34} Once Blend pulled it out and looked at, it seemed to be merely a well cared for and efficient blade.

While Blend investigated the sword, Nitram and Shylent conferred over another makeshift map. This path had been relatively straight and thee had been no branching paths off of it. The only path they could take led back to the clearing where they first met the withered bodies and the shadow.

The shadow which had quietly maneuvered fairly close to Nitram and Shylent’s huddle and begun to make a faint moaning whisper as it stared at Nitram.

Nitram took the lead and began moving the group back towards the clearing with the bodies. When the group entered the clearing there was something odd about it. The bodies were still there, and the path to the northeast that led to the pit was still there, but the southern path, the one Nitram was positive they had used to enter the clearing in the first place, was no where to be seen.

The area where the “path” should be looked like any other thorny clump of brush. The dim light from the cloud obscured sun was getting even darker as evening approached.

07 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
430pm, Sunday

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 26, 2014
Somewhat unnerved by this observation, Nitram commented to the group, “That’s a little odd. The druas must be able to regrow their forest rather quickly. That might explain the dead end we found when following the shadow. Maybe we should just try to make contact with the druas now. Right here. Any other ideas – other than the pipes?”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 26, 2014
Aeron hefted the large octopus like instrument under his arm and nodded to the group, “Pipes?”

SkidAce SkidAce March 27, 2014
Shylent went and stood in front of the wall of thorns where the exit path was supposed to be. She did not appear amused.

Servantes stepped up to Aeron and said “What will those ‘pipes’ accomplish?” while looking at the contraption Aeron was holding.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 27, 2014
“Playing these bagpipes for one hour can clear as much trail as it would take 100 men to do In a week. Easily enough to make a trail to the ruins…assuming you guides can keep me pointed in the right direction. Additionally, they clear the area of anything that can hear…that part is a more mundane affect.”

SkidAce SkidAce March 28, 2014
Shylent snorted and pointed towards the northeast, presumably telling Aeron that she knew which direction the mains ruins were located in.

As Shylent was pointing, vines and thorns erupted around the party, filling the entire area of the clearing and spilling into the edges of the forest and pathways. Aeron was caught off guard but was barely able to dodge the grasping thorns. (Reflex 16). Blend easily maneuvered out of the way of the apparently slow (to him) vine attack. (Reflex 25). Shylent, Nitram , and Serre were not as lucky, and felt the sharp prick of thorns as they were held in place. (Reflex 12, 13, 10, dam 1, entangled)

the_app the_app March 28, 2014
“It would seem that the vines aren’t all too happy about being removed.” Rumil attempts to sidestep the vines, keeping close to Shylent and drawing his blade should any get too close.

AFCop AFCop March 28, 2014
“Druid? Blood magic?” Blend whispered as he scanned the area for potential targets?

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 28, 2014
“This is getting rediculous…. This forest does not want us to pass. There must be another way to get to the druas or the mercs." Nitram attempted to throw up his hands and yelled, “We come in peace! We are trying to prevent bloodshed, not create more. We are trying to find the mercenaries so we can get them to leave peacefully.”

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 28, 2014
Aeron inflated the bagpipes and commented to Lord Nitram, “Lord Nitram, remember we are emissaries of Spider Bramble…I will translate your message to the bloodthirsty shrubbery.” Aeron took a moment from inflating the airbag to comment to Rumil, “You may have heard tales of beautiful elven song magic…cover your ears…this is not one of those times.” WIth that warning, Aeron faced to the northeast (in the direction of the Faerfell ruins) and began to squeeze the bladder and randomly cover the pipe holes producing a discordant cacophony of sound akin to the torturing of cats. A path began to burrow through the vines at an impressive pace. Aeron motioned everyone to move quickly through the opened path before the vines refilled the area. Aeron continued to squeeze and play the hideous instrument. Even when he temporarily stopped inflating the bladder to comment to the party, the atrocious music played on continuing the relentless assault on their senses. Aeron commented over the screeching tones, “This is only my second time playing this instrument?” The cursed instrument produced another wave of caterwauls and then there was another comment from the wizard, “Can you believe this is entirely self taught?” While the arcane instrument was effective at clearing the vines, the pain inflicted on the party was great. A bagpipe in expert hands was only passable, but in the hands of a novice it became an almost masochistic experience.

SkidAce SkidAce March 28, 2014
Blend momentarily spied a figure high up in a tree nearly 100 feet away to the east. (Per 32) The figure seemed humanoid and quickly moved towards the north, disappearing from view as it left the small gap in the foliage that had given it line of sight into the clearing.

As Aeron began to play and create the path out of the clearing he moved northeast and reached the edge of the writhing thorn vines.

There was no reply to Nitram’s shouted words.

SkidAce SkidAce March 28, 2014
Servan involuntarily flinched back from the bagpipe playing wizard as the hideous sound washed painfully over him. He almost looked like he regretted his curiosity and proximity to the source of the fiendish music.

AFCop AFCop March 29, 2014
Blend nimbly weaved through the vines straight east hoping to catch a glimpse of their assailant again.

Move to H18

SkidAce SkidAce March 29, 2014
It looked like insanity at first, as Blend moved out of the grasping vines, onto the cleared path, and then BACK into the writhing vegetation. But none of the vines or thorns could get a grip on Blend as he eventually moved out of the affected area. (Reflex 28) From Blend’s new position he could not see the figure he saw before, but various rustlings and the subtle creak of branches led him to believe that there could have been several figures in the trees, all moving off to the north/northeast. (Per 30)

Shylent managed to pull loose from the grasping vines, and grabbed Rumil’s arm in an attempt to pull him along with her to the beginning of the path Aeron had cleared. (Aid Another + 2)

the_app the_app March 29, 2014
Rumil, realizing that the animated vines were now creeping on him, slashes and struggles to pull free – moving NNE with Shylent, taking cover behind some trees and away from the vines. Move to I13 {fixed position based off DM clarification} if slash/aid breaks lock

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 29, 2014
Nitram will attempt to break free then help Serre break free so they both can move to the cleared area by Aeron.

SkidAce SkidAce March 29, 2014
With the vines tugging and twisting around him, Rumil realized that without the assistance of Shylent, he would not have managed to break free. (Str check 13 + 2, success) He struggled out of the foliage and into the magically cleared path.

Nitram managed to break free of enough of the vines to make it to Serre’s side and help him. (Str check 19, success). Serre had clawed and bite a lot of vines in tow, but others threatened to grab him again. Even with Nitram’s assistance he was unable to break free. (Str check 11 + 2, fail, dam 1)

Servan attempted to break free but failed, and was nearly lifted off his feet by the vines. (Str check 5, fail, dam 1)

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 30, 2014
Aeron commanded the shadow to precede them into the newly formed path that tunneled through the vines. He then looked back over his shoulder and casts a quick augmentation spell to assist the griffins strength to break free of the ensnaring vines (Transmutor + 3 augmentation to Serre’s strength).

SkidAce SkidAce March 30, 2014
The shadow followed Aeron’s commands, but when Aeron attempted to cast a spell, the interruption threatened the magic of the pipes and it began to falter. Aeron was able to continue playing on the instrument and the construction of the path resumed, but the spell he had tried to cast did not take affect.

AFCop AFCop March 30, 2014
Blend moved to the northeast in an attempt to spot their assailants or to at least pick up their trail.

Double move unless Blend sees someone or something.

SkidAce SkidAce March 30, 2014
Blend moved northeast into the forest. It was difficult terrain but he managed to make some progress. As he moved forward he spied what he assumed was a druas kneeling on a tree limb, watching Aeron with some interest. (Per 30)

The druas was dressed in green, gray, and black leather armor. He raised his head as he heard Blend’s approach, and jumped down out of the tree, 15 feet to the ground. As the druas slowly straightened up from his landing, he shifted his quarterstaff to the ready position, obviously prepared to engage Blend in combat.

As Blend prepared to defend himself, he noticed that the quarterstaff appeared to be made completely out of jade.

(separate init for Blend/Druas)

SkidAce SkidAce March 30, 2014
Shylent waved/pushed Rumil to follow Aeron. She then proceeded to assist Servan in getting out of the thorny brambles. (Aid Another)

SkidAce SkidAce March 30, 2014
Nitram just barely managed to avoid being entangled again. (Reflex 15)

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 30, 2014
Nitram continued helping Serre free himself from the vines so they could move closer to the wizard.

AFCop AFCop March 31, 2014
Blend fought the initial urge to rush the druas immediately and end this engagement in a splatter of blood and instead pulled up short. He remembered they were here for another reason. From all outward appearances, Blend was unarmed and unarmored, so he hoped that would set the druas at ease. He held his hands to to his side and spoke in Elven, hoping the dialects were similar enough that the druas would understand. “We are here to talk, not to fight.” Blend however remained prepared to move should the druas attack him instead.

SkidAce SkidAce March 31, 2014
Nitram’s attempts to free Serre continued to prove fruitless. (Serre 7 +2 aid, DC 15, fail) The vines in the area were malicious as they wrapped around the griffon’s claws and torso.

Nitram managed to notice four crossbow bolts flying out of the trees to the northwest, just past the clearing. Three of the crossbow bolts missed Nitram as he began to duck, but the fourth struck him in the arm. (Att 13, 10, 11, 24h, dam 2) From the location of the crossbow strike Nitram felt a tingling that spread up and down from his shoulder. Summoning his fortitude, Nitram managed to keep conscious as a dizzying feeling swept over him. (DC 13 Fort, Nitram 21, saved)

Servan succeeded in pulling himself (with Shylent’s aid) into the clearing, as a single crossbow bolt just missed the back of his neck.

SkidAce SkidAce March 31, 2014
The druas that Blend had encountered sneered at the human and replied “Imbécile, then why do you cut paths through the forest and invade in large numbers?” The contemptuous druas made a “wait” with his hand towards his left, as he moved closer to Blend. (40 feet to 30 feet)

AFCop AFCop March 31, 2014
“This is a misunderstanding. We are not with the larger group. I will get my companion to stop. It would be easier if you dispelled the magical vines.” Blend waited for confirmation, and whispered to Aeron to stop playing (assuming he cast the message spell, if not, he will run back and tell him).

SkidAce SkidAce March 31, 2014
“Excellent” stated the druas, “Then you will make great sacrifices to bolster our forces against them” His hand twitched down and a crossbow bolt came out of the tree above and behind him.

Blend of course was prepared and easily evaded the poorly aimed bolt. (Att 8) Reacting with his usual speed, Blend disappeared and moved unseen forward and right. (Stealth 36)

AFCop AFCop March 31, 2014
Motherfer! Lesson learned: never try to negotiate unless it’s with the edge of your blade.

AFCop AFCop March 31, 2014
Blend padded like death up to the druas and unleashed a flurry of strikes.

Flurry against enemy flatfooted AC, +2 due to invisibility, SA damage.

ProfessorHill ProfessorHill March 31, 2014
Aeron called to the woods, “How dare you attack the emissaries of Spider Bramble!” He then expanded the area of the pipes to clear a path to Blend.

SkidAce SkidAce March 31, 2014
Blend’s sudden appearance in a different location gave him the advantage against the flat footed druas. The druas attempted to block both of Blend’s strikes with his jade staff but was unable to do so. (Att 17, 26, 35 damage)

Shylent re-entered the entangling vines and moved to assist Nitram with Serre, eyeing the trees warily for crossbow bolts. (Reflex 16)

The druas was severely wounded and dripping bright red arterial blood onto the forest floor. With a choking gasp the druas muttered some arcane syllables and stepped into the darkness of the nearest tree’s shadow.

Rumil followed Shylent’s direction and moved out onto the cleared path in an attempt to follow Aeron. As he moved closer to the screeching of the bagpipes, he heard Aeron’s call out to the forest, and he also heard a faint reply.

“Death to the Spider, and death to all who would invade”

mmartin_10 mmartin_10 March 31, 2014
After dodging most of the poisoned bolts, Nitram briefly held up his hands in apparent surrender, shouting towards the origin of the bolts, “We’re here to help, not fight. You obviously have the advantage, so you can see that we are not a threat to you.” diplomacy Almost before he had stopped speaking, Nitram continued struggling to free the young griffon and move toward Aeron. During this “struggle”, he attempted to alert the group, “Poisoned crossbows to the northwest. We need to find cover.”

AFCop AFCop March 31, 2014
No AOO on drua?

SkidAce SkidAce April 01, 2014
Sometimes its hard to tell if you will “want” the AOO

Blend noticed the druas casting an unknown spell and took advantage of the opening it presented. His wakizashi sliced effortlessly across the left arm of the druas, putting a thin cut through the fabric of the arcane warrior’s armor. (Att 19, dam 8) The druas spit and faltered, but completed his casting, and disappeared into the shadow of the tree. (Made Concentration check)

After a few moments the vines in the clearing ceased their writhing and ensnarling of the group. There were a few more scratches and wounds of negligible effect, and no further crossbow bolts emerged from the trees.

The only sound that could be heard as the group assessed the situation was the continuous horrendous screeching of Aeron and the bagpipes of doom building. Aeron had the choice of continuing to play the bagpipes, resuming course towards the ruins, or ceasing to play. Barring any further attacks, and getting advice on the course from Shylent, Aeron projected they could reach the ruins in about an hour, or a little less. Using the magic of the pipes to clear a path back they way they had came (closed off by the druas thornwalls) would only take about 15 minutes.

Nitram could find no tracks of any sort in the area, and when Blend cautiously investigated the area of shadow where the druas had retreated, he discovered the warrior with the jade staff was gone. Considering the amount and color of blood at the base of the tree, he wouldn’t be back soon.

The darkness under the trees was increasing as the already overcast sun presumably began to set.

Shadows of the Mercenary Part 4

Unconquered Kingdoms SkidAce