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The conversation along the way is sparse and frequently hushed as Necahual, Coanacoch and company bounce around in the cart along a course that you can easily tell were not intended for carts to traverse.
It takes 20 minutes to escape from the manacles, but you eventually manage to slip free of its iron grasp. Shortly after your hands are free, you hear a dull thud and a man cry out in anguish. Then you hear the hissing whistle of arrows fly near your head, and the wild howling and barking of gnolls. Men shout orders and chaos ensues.
You hear Sam utter a vile curse and then you hear a heavy thud, which startles the horse and mule.
"Reign in the horses! Form ranks! Archers!"
At the Town Hall
A dull thrum shakes the ground sending out a shock wave of dust like a ripple in a pond. When it finally does hit your perimeter, it feels like all the air is sucked out of your lungs, and then blasted back in your face. The explosion sounds more like a roar than a boom, but it's difficult to compare it to any form of animal. The shelter you've ducked behind protects you from any damage, but the powerful ripple begins to topple the stone walls that make up the town hall.
When the dust settles, you see that the majority of the building is oddly still intact, but the stench inside the town hall is no longer trapped within its threshold.
Li shakes his head to clear it. Something tells me another blast is the least of our worries. Any money our foe knows someone screwed with his magic and isn't happy about it. Let's get the hell out of here!
"I'm out," Coanacoch says, showing his free hands. "But I can't get either of you out unless I find a key. I'm willing to bet that helping these bandits is more in our interest than the gnolls, especially if the dog-men are here to finish off 'loose ends' ... the goblins. Advice?"
"Little brother," says the calmly manacled Necahual. "I will stay the course, but you cannot free me without luck. Instead, we need to make sure the Temple gets notified of all that has transpired ... including these bandits and this raid. That is more important than trying to stop two predators from devouring each other. You are agile and fleet of foot. Use the chaos for order, and take flight."
Current Games The Jackal - Kalti Rise of the Runelords - Dušana Essert,
Coanacoch feels weird in his tummy. He didn't really believe the bandits might be all bad. In a way, they were actually a part of their own cog in the wheel of law and order. By staking out territory in the forest, they actually provided some semblance of protection. Of course, that is compensated in "protection money", which is its own corrupt economy for lack of a better system.
He wants to help them, but as always, his sister is right. The most important task now is less about the goblins and more about just getting word to the Temple so his brothers and sisters there are not likewise ambushed.
He looks out of the wagon at the fight. His gifts are speed and agility, not stealth. As soon as battle is fully joined, he looks back at his sister as they exchange wordless emotion (well, more emotions from him) and ....
.... he makes a break for it.
He doesn't even try Stealth. Hopefully combatants have their hands full with enemies trying to kill them than with the unarmed youth.
He uses his 40' movement, but only goes that speed so he can use a total defensive action in concert with whenever Dodge seems appropriate, all with his Mobility. If things get really hairy he'll Tumble as needed, but he trusts in his speed and defense over trying to go super-slow and bouncing around.
His AC will be 19 (20 with Dodge), but as his greatest threat is likely to come from his movement, his Mobility gives him AC 23 (24 with Dodge).
"You mean that somebody put all those dead people there just so he could set a trap and kill anyone who would find them and inform him about it? What a sick, depraved mind would think about something like that?!"
Li gets up and starts running. Keeping buildings and other structure's between himself and the source of the first two blasts.
One who has seen war. One who cares not for life, but only for his ambitions. When it comes to it, we have a capable foe, who will try any measure to kill us.
Once you lift your blindfold, you can see Sam squirming on the cart with an arrow in his thigh. He's grinding his teeth trying not to make any noise, so as not to attract the Gnolls. You can see that the smaller of the two golbins is dead and the bigger one, who called himself Byuckyuck, is struggling to free himself and has already managed to loosen one hand, though he has severely mangled the flesh on his arm to do so. There is and arrow embedded into the cart right next to where Necahual is sitting.
Looking around, you can see that the battle has mostly come in close, swords drawn, so the odds of stray arrows hitting your sister are lessened. Taking off in a blind run, the only resistance you find is one from the highwaymen who is assigned to reigning the horse. But as soon as he reaches for you, the horse rears and tries to bolt, which forces him to refocus his efforts on his assigned task.
You manage to duck a stray javelin as you dash in between the trees. Once in the thicket, you notice silhouettes of other possible invaders wading in for a flanking ambush.
Shackled and with your blinds on, all you can hear is the chaos of battle. Something or someone is bumping against your leg. The you feel the weight in the cart shift as Coanacoch hops off. A brief moment later, you hear the horse scream and the cart rolls back and then jolts forward aggressively, knocking you off balance. You can hear a man trying to calm the horse, but that just makes it kick. You can feel the cart tremble from the impact. Then the horse screams again. Rolling around in the cart, you can hear Sam's muffled groans from the pain. Miraculously, he seems to still be alive.
Near the Town Hall:
Whatever that last blast was, it seemed to have been the grand finale. Now, only the natural fires remain, slowly and stubbornly consuming the remains of townsfolk. Running through this town gives you a sense of the emptiness of this place. It looks like some post-apocalyptic nightmare, where all life has been erased from existence except for the companions traveling with you.
(Where are you heading? Back to the abbey, or somewhere else. Your characters are fairly knowledgeable about the region. Roll a Knowledge Geography, Local, or Intelligence Check if you wish to head somewhere other than the Abbey.)
Tilmek shudders as he looks back at the town. "I.." he starts but then immediatelly cuts off. He rubs his eyes and then blinks vigorouslly. "That was wrong. Something like that shouldn't happen. Whatever magic caused that, its not the kind that should ever see the sun.... we need to go to the abbey. We've been seperated for too long."
Li smirks a bit. His ears finally stopping their ringing. He changes course and slows to a pace for the others to keep up. (Since psionically focused I move 50' he is dropping down to 40').
To the abbey it is. Hopefully we can gain some better supplies once we are there. We are going to need them. Just remember...I owe the creep that did this a good solid blow to repay him for my pain.
Li smirked as they ran.
Fine! I'll snap his neck before you get the chance...then you can play kick the corpse. So, I hope you two can keep the pace. I ain't stopping until we reach the temple unless something needs to die along the way.
Tilmek takes a deep breath then says, "I doubt it'll be as difficult as running to catch up with you at the rest stop." with that he shuts down his mind and focuses on the rythem of his feet pounding across the miles.
Snapping twigs and kicking up stones, Coanacoch flies through the woods until the last of the combatants are long out of sight and earshot. Then, naught but the ambient sounds of nature greet you from all sides. A wall of green closes in on you so thickly that only spears of light break through the thick canopy. If not for the direness of the situation, the setting would be almost serene. However, without the sun as a clear point of reference, you have no easy way of discerning west, and suddenly it hits you. You are lost.
(You can make another survival check to get "unlost" in 24 hours. In the meantime, only new information resulting from spot, search, listen etc can grant you a new intelligence check to at least make an educated guess about which way to go.)
The insanity of the environment around you makes it difficult to discern specifics, but it seems that there are more human death cries than gnoll death cries. The cart shudders from another brutal *whump* sound.
"To the hells with this!" an anonymous bandit groans. You hear a powerful chopping sound, followed by the terrified braying of your mule as well as a shriek from your goblin prisoners. Then, the weight in the cart shifts suddenly... someone is boarding it.
(Due to your intense disciplinary training as a Monk, you can roll a Concentration check (DC 15) if you wish to roll a Listen check to use your ears to better understand what's going on around you. If you succeed on your Concentration check, I'll allow you to take 10 with no time penalty on the Listen check or use the result of your roll, whichever is higher. Otherwise, you're being bounced around like a pinball in a machine, and it's getting hard to tell heads from tails.)
Outside of Town:
With the sun bearing down overhead, you leave the mournful tomb of Cliffside behind you.
Two hours, charging down the trade path back toward the abbey, leads you to the humble rest area with the shrine to Farlanghn. Your chest burns from labored breathing and your sides ache, and the campsite poses a welcome sanctuary from the horrors and trials of the day. It appears that some small effort has been made to restore the grounds as well since last you were here, and you can clearly discern the tracks of a merchant cart that may have stayed here some time in the last few days. Otherwise, the area has been cleared out, and the campfire spot has been refitted with a spit and makeshift benches of felled loges have been arranged around it.
A medium-sized box, with a simple latch, sits on the ground near the campsite chained to the shrine. Carved onto it's lid reads:
Take only what you need, and give back what you can. Farlanghn's watching.
On the shrine is a posted note, reading:
Monks say Cliffside was raided and no one there remains. Those who dare to continue on, be warned of danger ahead. If you are a survivor of Cliffside, go to the Abbey of Azer's Flame. I'm heading there now.
Below it, a smaller shrine now exists, with a crudely carved effigy to St. Cuthbert that is only slightly larger than a fist. Below it is a bowl to hold burnt offerings, and it appears that a bird has been sacrificed to it. Tied to the birds leg is a small strip of charred and wilted vellum. Some of the writing is still discernible in spite of the damage to it from the ritual burning.
(You are all fatigued and have taken 1 point of non-lethal damage.)
Well, Coanacoch isn't going to try the "moss grows on the 'x' side of a tree" .... because that's part and parcel of the Survival check, but it's also not entirely correct, either.
Most establishments aren't too far from a source of water. Funny how that works. So, how about the Temple? Is there a flowing source of water (in or out) that the Temple uses? or, at the very least, he knows of a water source that goes near the Temple somewhere?
Coanacoch stills himself and listens for moving water. Listen: (1d20+5)
* If successful, he heads for that. He should know the flow of water as it is relative to the Temple, guiding him to go upstream or downstream.
If he can't hear anything, he will spend a few hours (if necessary) searching for any moving source of water. Untrained Search = INT check: (1d20+1)
Lastly, he'll use whatever wives' tales (or real ones) he may know about what may indicate nearby moving water sources. Untrained Survival = WIS check: (1d20+1)
Li stops at the shrine as he sees the notes. The one that is burned and tied to the roast bird catches his eye. Sacrilidge or not, he reaches for it to try and read it. He hopes it will yield something. Any kind of information now is important.
Li groans as he reads over the letter. Missing letters make it hard, but he tries to piece together what it meant. After a long few moments he speaks.
Cuthbert...grant me...vengeance for my...son...before I die.
Li shakes his head as he drops the paper back into the dish. A part of him offering his hopes that whomever left the note finds their answers and peace.
Well...let's get started. Vir looks like he is going to collapse if we run much farther. Close perimiter, no one is to be left alone. Just in case those orcs we passed on our way to the town are still lurking about. Together they wouldn't be a problem, but alone they may take us.
You hear the snap of the reigns and the horse and cart charge off in an unknown direction, leaving you ad Sam to bounce around haphazardly. You can feel that this is definitely a trackless path as the cart slams into trees and bounces off rocks.
Then you feel a sharp upward jolt and a loud crashing sound. Then you can feel yourself floating. Sam and the other man are screaming. You finally come crashing down on the hard ground, your back slamming into a stone.
Necahual takes (1d6) fall damage.
There is a long silence. Then you hear a faint groan. "S... Sam? You okay? Ow!" Then you hear a thud and snapping sound.
Then you feel two fingers on your throat.
You know that the temple gets most of it's water from underground streams. However, you are aware of the fact that The Flame Hand rests high on the hills, and all rivers would run downstream from it. Still you left the river behind you at the bridge. Wherever you are now, you don't hear any water.