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"I swear," the bandit says uncertainly. "I ain't never done nothing like this before. But fresh starts, y'know. Time for a change. But I'm guessin' first you need to deal with Kressle 'fore anythin' happens to me. I know Oleg thinks he's safe now, but Kressle's a mean-eyed killer. I dunno what she'll do when she figures out we - them bandits - were beat bad."
Estanos nods at the question about the bandit; the fact that he does not yet know the young man's name bothers him. " I had been planning on speaking with the man in question further; I'll put the topic forth and see what he thinks. As to the assault... Unless Tireas has a means of taking them all prisoner, by himself, in the dark, then what he suggests is acceptable. Providing," the priest ammends," that they suffer as little as possible in their passing."
In the confessional...
"We do not intend on finding out what she would have done; we are leaving as soon as can be arranged to settle the problem once and for all. I was hoping you would be willing to come with us, as a guide only, mind you. As the first step in your new life."
" Which reminds me..," Estanos breaths, takes a pinch of ashes ( wood ash, this time ) and draws a crude sunburst on the forehead of Marrin. " Rise, Marrin, in the grace returned to you by the Fire That Is Never Quenched. Though your sins will never be forgotten, they are forgiven by the High Most Judge. Strive ever after for the light."
"If the rest of our company is agreed," Viktor says, scowling slightly, "then I will not object to this plan. Tireas will enter the camp under cover of darkness, and slay as many as he is able, before retreating. We will remain vigilant, ready to come to his aid, but if he goes undetected we will strike in force in the morning." He pounds his fist on the table to emphasize his point.
Marrin, the bandit captive, agrees somewhat reluctantly to accompany the party, worrying that, if you should lose he'll be "gutted for a traitor." But he steels himself to the danger.
Oleg has your new horses (commandeered from the bandits) ready for you after lunch. He looks up into the sky, where clouds are beginning to gather in the clear sky. "If luck holds, you'll get a cloudy night. Be careful out there."
Svetlana joins him to see you off, waving goodbye. "Come back soon," she says hopefully.
And then you are off.
3 Gozran, 4708
With the midday sun high in the sky, partially obscured by grey clouds, you spur your horses out of the familiar gates to Oleg's Post, which so recently were the site of combat and triumph. The palisade and the South Rostland Road beyond grow smaller and smaller as you ride away, diminishing into the distance. Now you are truly in the wilds.
You cross the plain that lies between Oleg's Post and the Greenbelt's treeline. It is a rocky field of brown stubby grasses and cold weather shrubs, with pockets of snow still lingering on the ground. The first flowers are coming into bloom, tiny white specks that grow in thick clusters and carpet the ground, alongside patches of caribou moss and the occasional growth of red bearberries. Hares run and hide as you approach, and an orange fox is forced to give up his quarry to wait patiently as you pass by.
It takes four hours to cross the plains, and noon is steadily advancing towards evening as you reach the treeline. Here tall pines grow close together in a green ceiling above you, their trunks gnarled. The ground is a mat of leaves, logs, and new growths. A narrow hunting trail allows your horses to navigate easily. Marrin tells you that the trail is in fact the route the bandits used to arrive at Oleg's, and that following it will lead directly to their camp.
Despite the trail, the journey will take more than a single afternoon. The calling of birds slowly changes into the hooting of owls and the flutter of bats overhead as the sun falls away. With the moon concealed above the trees, it becomes difficult to see, though between a few torches which Oleg has provisioned the horses, and Tireas' demonic heritage, the path is still navigable.
Well past midnight, the sounds of a river can be heard, and you can see moonlight shining off the water's surface. The Thorn River seems little more than a stream here running downwards to the southeast, splashing and gurgling over wet rocks as it makes its gentle descent.
"We're close," Marrin whispers. "Maybe five minutes away on foot." He looks at Tireas. "If you're goin', go from here. Just follow the river 'til you see it. Rest of us can wait here for you. If you need help, shout. Believe me, we'll hear you if you're loud enough, an' we can get there pretty quick if we make them horses run."
The camp is not far. Within minutes of leaving the others, you see the light of a large campfire in the distance. The bandit's camp is little more than a patch of forest near the river which is more bare than the rest. A few logs have been clustered around the fire to form a ring of benches, while an old, broken-down cart sits just off the hunting trail which has lead you here. Near the river, you spy a platform that has been built atop a large tree, with a rope ladder dangling down to the ground. On the platform, you can see a cloaked figure, a sentry, who sits with arms folded across his chest, looking out over the path. A second such platform sits near the firepit, though you cannot make out whether this one has a guard.
The fire allows you to see the silhouettes of four figures gathered around the fire. Two are asleep, but two are sitting upright.
K3 and K2 are the platforms.
K1 is the firepit area. Here there is dim illumination within 30 feet of the firepit.
B3 and B4 are the bandits who are still awake.
Estanos, Ilya, Viktor, Zinovia
The forest somehow seems even darker with Tireas' departure. There is little to do but wait now, and you you set about making yourselves comfortable, though still alert for any sign that the tiefling might need aid.
A cracking twig is the first sign that you are not alone in the woods. Then there comes a growl, and then another from the opposite direction. Something has found you, beyond the torchlight of the flame Marrin holds.
"Oh crap," Marrin cusses. You can see nothing past the torchlight.
I'll have a map up for you once I make one, which should be before you get into combat, if you do. Right now, none of you have darkvision, or low light vision, so you can't see a thing past the torchlight radius (30 ft).
Additionally, since you're waiting until morning here, you guys will have the opportunity to rest and re-prepare spells if Tireas doesn't require your help. Otherwise, too much time will be used up to have sufficient rest time left.
Last edited by ApatheticAbacus : 06-08-2012 at 10:00 PM.
"Whatever we are to do," Zinovia hisses, "we must do it quietly. Do not shout, do not raise your voice above a whisper. If they are to hear anything, it must be only the noises of beasts, so that they can assume it is of no consequence."
She continues, trying not to let her shame show through. "I have no spells remaining except minor ones. I... will not be of much help to you here."
"Goodness," Ilya whispers fearfully. "What was that? Maybe wolves? Or bears?" the bard asks quietly, his imagination and the darkness of the forest getting the better of him. "Do we dare risk a light, or will that reveal us to the bandits?" Ilya seems totally unsuited to the situation and about to panic. Apparently he decides that a little light is necessary, and with a quick word his dagger begins to radiate a clean, white light. The young man hurries to dull this light with his cloak.
Perception (if applicable): (1d20+2)
Ilya will cast Light on his dagger, and then cover the dagger with his cloak to make sure it isn't too bright.
"Beasts," Viktor growls in a low voice. "Be cautious, for these creatures can see far better in this darkness than we can," he whispers, drawing his sword silently. "We must dispatch these foes swiftly, or else the sounds of battle may bring bandits our way."
@RocketMan: I'm pretty sure we already had the torchlight, so your light spell won't alert the bandits.
As they approach the camp, Tireas strips off his armor, leaving himself protected only by a thin layer of cloth. "It's designed to restrict movement as little as possible," Tireas explains, "But I'm still more comfortable without the armor on. Better safe than dead, yes?" With the armor off, he hands his sheathed katana and shortbow over to Viktor. "Take care of these while I'm away, will you?"
Taking off his armor for no armor check penalty.
I know there isn't actually a stealth penalty for having a bunch of weapons handy, but it seems a bit silly to be carrying around four different types of weapons while trying to be as quiet as possible. As such, Tireas will only be bringing his dagger and shurikens.
Hm, so that's their watch? More awake than I expected, but nothing I can't handle... I hope.
Tireas sticks to the underbrush on the side of the watchtower, using the terrain to obscure his location.
Moving around the watchtower through the trees on the left, trying to approach the base without the bandit on top noticing.
With only a few minor rustling noises, you manage to conceal yourself in the heavy foliage as you make your approach to the watch platform. The platform is about twenty feet up in the tree, with its rope ladder dangling down. Over at the camp, you can hear the sounds of two people talking, though you cannot make out any words.
Estanos, Ilya, Viktor, and Zinovia
At the edge of the circle of firelight, you can now see shapes moving, closing in around you in wary circles. Three beasts pace around the torchlight, about the size of dogs, but with slender yet muscled builds, with dark stripes running down their backs. They growl and bay as they make a slow approach.
Ilya and Zinovia
These creatures are known as thylacines, doglike hunters that are common in the stolen lands. Usually they fill a niche below wolves, hunting small prey, but if larger animals prove weak, they are not unwilling to attack.
Estanos and Zinovia
In the darkness, you can make out little. But there is something besides the three thylacines you can see out there, judging by the rustling brush. You can't determine where, but there is.
Your horses, which had been sleeping, tethered off the road, begin to wake at the sounds of growling. They stamp their feet nervously, but have not panicked, yet.
The brown blobs are the horses.
The light green area is the torchlight radius.
If the bandits in their camp hear the whinnies of horses, they will know we are here! Zinovia resolves, despite her lack of power, to attack. "We have no choice now. We must defeat them before they spook our horses."
She points a finger at the one Ilya has just fired at. A sliver of frost flies from it.
If Ilya doesn't kill his target, Zinovia attacks that one. If he does, she attacks T2.
Touch attack: (1d20+2)
"Ilya!" Viktor hisses. "Stop! These beasts may not have attacked..." Still, it seems too late, the bard having launched a pair of arrows. Shaking his head, the paladin charges, trying to bring his sword down upon the nearest thylacine.
Tireas clenches his dagger with his teeth (careful not to cut his gums, of course), and climbs up the ladder under the watchtower. If he's lucky enough not to get caught, the Tiefling quickly pulls the dagger out, stabbing at the unsuspecting bandit.
Stabby time. I had a 16 on my climb check, or a 17 if I wasn't allowed to take a 10
(1d20+4) to hit against (hopefully!) flat footed. (1d4+4) damage plus (1d6) sneak attack.
Estanos just stands there as the violence begins. He grabs hold of the reins of one of the horses, and gestures at the others for Marrin to grab. If the presence of the cowardly predators wasn't enough to spook the horses, bloodshed might be.
The bandit watchman notices nothing as you climb the ladder, taking your time so that the frayed robes make no noise, and the branch overhead does not creak under your added weight. Peeking over the top, you see that the bandit is facing away from you, his body language bored and tired. It is a simple thing to slip over the top onto the flat wooden platform. By the time the sentry notices that something is amiss, and looks behind him, it is too late. Your dagger is at his throat, and he dies swiftly.
You now sit atop the platform with the slain watchman. Conversation continues from around the campfire, but from your vantage point, you can see that nobody is moving.
Estanos, Ilya, Viktor, Zinovia
Ilya fires at the thylacines as they enter the firelight. A pair of his arrows strike one of the creatures, bowling it over. It regains its feet with a whimper.
Zinovia's spell splashes against the forest floor, missing its target.
Viktor, after chastising his impetuous ward, closes with the closest of the dog-like predators, killing it cleanly with a stroke of his sword.
Estanos' firm hand, meanwhile, and his quick thinking in directing Marrin to do likewise, is all the keeps the horse from bolting. The gentle force calms them enough that they hold their ground, stamping their feet nervously.
The two remaining beasts jump towards the party simultaneously, snarling aggressively. Both of them focus on the weakest prey, which, even to their animal intellect, is obviously Zinovia. Sharp fangs and powerful jaws chomp down on the wizardess. One tears into her arm, while the other goes for her throat. It barely misses its target, but the wound it causes is still grievous.
12 damage to Zinovia. That's a KO.
The reason why two small thylacines would choose to fight instead of flee is clear when, with a loud bark, their alpha jumps out from the darkness. This beast is larger than its kin, and utterly ferocious as it snaps at Viktor. It barely manages to get past the paladin's armour, but bites down on a relatively-unarmoured wrist.
"Now you show yourself," Viktor says quietly as the larger thylacine enters the torch light. Undeterred, the man swings at it with his long blade while interposing himself between the creature and Estanos, trying to shield him from Zinovia's fate.
5 foot step to the spot between TA and Estanos. Power attack!
With the man before him neatly executed, Tireas attempts to strip the man down, and don any armor that he had been wearing, as well as any ranged weapons he might have possessed. Moving the corpse to the side, Tireas, moves to the edge of the watchtower, and tries to see if he can make out any of the details of the conversation below.
Perception Check: (1d20+6)
If the bandit had a shortbow, Tireas will equip it. Same for any armor he may have had.
" Look at the teeth on that thing-," Estanos begins, cutting himself off, not wanting to spook his comrades (or, for that matter, himself) by waxing on the obviously impressive size of the alpha. Instead he fishes his holy symbol forth, holding it in a clenched hand.
" Sarenrae, protect us," implores the priest in a hushed voice; while his mounting panic might tempt him towards a shout, he knows that the goddess hears even the most silent prayer.
Tireas slips into the bandit's armour (only mildly bloodstained), and waits. He is unable to hear anything of the conversation anymore. In fact, there may not even be one so far as he knows. But he does hear a rustling in the bushes nearby.
There's a longbow on the bandit, but no shortbow. The rustling noise is at K4 on the map. See the map from last round, since nothing's changed.
Estanos, Ilya, Viktor, Zinovia
Ilya puts a third arrow through one of the thylacines, finally putting it down. Viktor shifts his stance, taking up a superior position against the alpha, between Estanos and large dog-creature. While his position is good, his swordhand is less so; his swing at the alpha misses, slicing through the air. Estanos, shielded by Viktor, whispers a prayer to his goddess. He bolsters his companions and heals their wounds. Zinovia's unconscious form ceases its bleeding, though she is still far from mended.
The two thylacines who still remain jump at the clustered adventurers. The alpha goes for Viktor, but receives only a bloodied snout when it crashes into his shield. Ilya barely manages to dodge out of the way of the other.
Zinovia comes back to the world, the blackness and pain fading away. "Nhhh..." The immediacy of the situation draws her quickly back to reality. She stands, even more shakily than before, and fires off another bolt of magic.
Ilya laughs quickly, before barely dodging the charging beast. As it swipes at him, Ilya kneels and fires a pair of arrows at it, aiming for the throat. "You won't get me," he whispers to himself as he does so.
Rapid Shot, provoking an attack of opportunity, on T2.
The sound in the bushes makes itself clear. A dark-skinned man with long black hair emerges from the bushes, unbuckling his belt. By a pair of old logs whose bark attests to their use as benches, he turns away from you. It is faint, but you can make out the sound of a stream of water hitting foliage.
Estanos, Ilya, Viktor, Zinovia
This time, Viktor's grip is firm and his attack well timed. The thylacine alpha yelps as it receives a gash along its foreleg. Ilya has less luck. His shots thud into the leaf-matted ground, his aim put off by the closeness of the beast to him. Fortunately, he is able to evade its counterattack without much trouble.
Estanos channels Sarenrae's energy once more. This time, the goddess' power swells, washing over the forest, and over Viktor and Zinovia. The wizardess staggers to her feet and launches frost. It strikes the beast attacking Ilya between the shoulder blades.
That thylacine jumps right back at the still-weak Zinovia. Its claws and jaws miss her by inches, tearing away a small portion of her robes. The alpha, meanwhile cannily exploits Viktor's aggressive attacks. The paladin's stance leaves him overstretched, unable to defend himself well. Consequently, the monster's jaws land in a brutal vice around his arm.
It is the sound of jaws snapping shut on something other than air that alerts Estanos to the trouble behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he identifies that yes, the alpha's mouth and Viktor's arm are tragically conspiring to share the same space.
" That's not...," he begins, and cuts himself off; words of -that- sort will be no help here. Thrusting the reins of the horse he holds in to Marrin's hands, Estanos turns on his heel, snaps the holy symbol from the thong that holds it about his neck, and holds it to the back of the paladin that is all that stands between him and being the meal of a psychotic forest beast.