Monday, December 29, 2014

The eighth man

After the battle with the giants, the party decided to rest and recuperate for a day as we waited for the effects of the Slow spell to wear off of Amit. While we rested, Ishmael used the down time to practice his craft, and he made several tubes of varying sizes out of the metals he carries.

The next day we broke camp and traveled on. Shortly up the road, we came across a very large oak tree that had been recently split by lightning. At the base of the tree lay a man in obvious distress, and a second man was there tending to the injured person. The second man stated that his name was Osman, from the desert area. He spoke desert common in a dialect that Tobias, Shalev, and I all recognized, and seemed quite taken aback when Tobias offered him a formal desert greeting. He returned the greeting somewhat timidly, and then told the party about how he came across the wounded man, and had been tending to his wounds.

As he conversed with the rest of the party, I went over to check on the oak tree to see what could be done. I was able to determine that the tree was still alive, and I attempted to cast a basic druidic spell to help heal the tree. There was no visible effect, but I felt like I succeeded to some degree. Perhaps my spell was able to give it the strength it needed to sustain itself during the regrowth process? Only time will tell, but I could not just leave it there without trying something.

I came back over to the party to see Shalev check the wounded man, and then give him a healing potion. As he regained consciousness, we asked him gently who he was and what he could remember. He said that his name was Bartow, - this is the man that the Count tasked us to find - and that he faked his death in order to discover what happened in the area, but was unfortunately captured anyway. He managed to escape, but was wounded in the process and that the last thing he remembered was collapsing by the great oak tree.

Bartow went on to describe the enemies he faced in great detail – including verifying that the old man did in fact seem to be a harbinger of attack. He described the old man to us as being short of stature and wearing nondescript brown and green rags. He told us of the prisoners that were lead behind the Inn at Waycam, and warned that he did not know what else we might face.

 He seemed confused and still weak from his ordeal, and Osman chimed in at that point telling his side of the story – How he found Bartow gravely wounded, and took cautious steps to care for him during his time of need. Osman then stated that he is a scholar from the desert areas with some knowledge of the lizard folk and that he had ventured out to enhance his knowledge of the creatures. This struck the entire party as rather foolish, as Osman appeared to be neither armed nor armored, nor did he carry any supplies with him. He mentioned quietly that he knew some few spells that he had used to keep himself fed and mildly protected along the way, and I wondered then at how much more there was to this new stranger.

Fife and KelLyn both quipped with wry humor that the peoples of the desert seemed to be everywhere. I wisely kept my opinions to myself on the matter, but took small note of the nature of the gripe. Given the infighting that has gone on between the other party members to date, there might be concern for the mentality of “us vs. them” which, while not the case in the slightest, could cause trouble later on. It’s worth keeping a watchful eye on anyway. I have come to admire or respect each of the party members in their own way, and am loathe to see any rift between them grow.

As Bartow was still obviously weakened, and in no shape to guide us forward, Shalev equipped him with a horse and enough supplies to get him to the Robin’s Breast in safely, then sent him on his way with his word of honor that he would inform the count of our promise to find him, and of our continued progress to restore Waycam and clear the Evil out of the Swamp.

Since Osman had some small knowledge of the lizard men that we faced, and we could provide first-hand knowledge of the creatures, we agreed that he could join the group and travel with us; and after sending Bartow on his way, we gathered our small caravan and continued on for another few hours.

During the third watch that evening, Fife heard voices that forewarned “They’re not moving. Kill them now!”  He immediately threw a spear towards the voices and shouted to KelLyn to wake the party. The monsters attacked Fife, and he again relied on his skills with the spear and his extensive knowledge of boar hunting to kill one of the creatures with his first hit to the face.

Tobias and Shalev were the first to awaken fully, and they also immediately engaged the remaining monsters, only to see two additional foes appear just over the ridge about 60 feet away. Fife then shifted his attack to the new foes while Shalev and Tobias closed with the ogres that were attacking Fife.

KelLyn, having woken the rest of the party, then engaged and cast a spell on the end of Fife’s spear which turned it white-hot. Fife’s aim was true, as it always appears to be, and the spear exploded against the ogre’s face with a shower of molten metal and slag. Fife reacted to the explosion like a child with a new toy, and promptly urged KelLyn to do it again. As she prepared a new spell, Tobias and Shalev took down the two ogres that they battled, and the others turned to flee.

I managed to get a shot off at one of the running ogres, and shortly after that KelLyn's spell goes off.. predictably badly, causing a deafening cone of sound to detonate off into the swamp to the right. Shalev called for Amit to catch and kill the remaining running ogre, and Amit took off like a bolt to attack. Amit used his magically enhanced claws to rake the back of the fleeing ogre, and slowed it down long enough for Ishmael to smash it in the foot with his mace to take it down entirely.

With all of the enemies taken care of, we search their remains to discover more of the embroidered money pouches, this time with 50 silver in each. We check the party members for injuries, and discover that Amit was radiating an evil aura because of the effect of using the magical ability of his claws. Shalev was alarmed by this, and cast dispell evil on Amit, thinking it would cause the aura to disperse. Unfortunately, it caused a grievous wound to the great cat instead, and Amit collapsed. Shalev managed to get a healing potion into him quickly, and the wound was terrible enough that even with the effects of the potion, it took an hour for Amit's wounds to close and knit.

Amit was understandably distressed, and was very wary about letting anyone near him for quite a while after that. Only Lan and KelLyn were able to approach him and they fed him some of the salmon we had in our stores. They managed to get him to calm down enough to allow me to approach him - though with a deep warning growl - and I was able to cast a simple healing spell on him. It felt as if it were successful, and I thanked the god and goddess that he was well, and asked them to add some small blessing to Amit to help aid his recovery.

Shalev was heartbroken that he had caused such unintentional harm to his friend, and he spent quite a long time in prayer to Ma'at. I do not know what it was that she said to him, but after he emerged from his meditations, he asked for a goat so that he could perform a specific rite. She appears, for the first time, to have answered him directly, and that intimate conversation seems to have had some effect on Shalev. Perhaps his goddess has started him on the next steps of his path as a Paladin to her name? Time will tell there, I think. Though he has gained a measure of confidence with his position, he still appears to have some reservations about how he should proceed in some cases. I am concerned that he seems to gravitate towards rigid law, as opposed to the sense of balance that Ma'at represents.

I will pull him aside when I get a moment to gently remind him that balance is not necessarily about always doing the good thing or the right thing, but that maintaining balance can sometimes mean allowing something bad to happen as well. This will be one of his most difficult lessons, I fear, and I hope that I can guide him with what little advice I can give.

On an interesting note, it appears evident that Osman is also a cleric or a paladin of sorts, as he emerged from his tents radiating a sense of faith and power. This would explain his lack of equipment or weapons when we found him, and it bears not only noting, but some careful observation as well. We know little about this new party member so far, and it will be interesting to discover more about him.

Later that afternoon, after the party had rested a little while, we continued down the road and eventually came across the remains of a ravaged village. Fields were burned, houses destroyed. The only remaining structure of any stability was the Inn. The Inn was also gutted and deserted, save for the innkeeper, who was trying to rapidly pack what belongings he could in preparation to leave. The innkeeper informed us that this was, indeed, what was left of Waycam; and he went on to describe the enormous flying creature that came out at night, as well as the crazy old man who squatted on the northern edge of the ruins here. He recalled that the road through here went north to the mountains, or continued straight to the desert, then went on to say that we could keep what wine we found in the inn, for he was leaving and didn't care much what else happened here.

It is possible that he was originally party to the destruction of the village in the first place, but we will never know for certain. After he left, we spent some time searching the remains of the inn, but found nothing remaining of any value. We then continued warily to the north, towards the old man, recalling the warnings that he was possibly some form of harbinger to attacks. We found the poor wretch to the north, in a semi-livable hut, singing to himself about others that had been carried off to the "bad lair". His rambling sing-song told us of Sacatha the great lizard king, who would come to rescue all and renew his kingdom. He knows how to get to the bad place on his raft, but that he would not go there. that he was to remain behind and bear witness to the destruction of all.

We managed to get him to agree to take us out to show us his raft. We left the horses at the stables near the inn, and agreed to hide the bulk of our supplies under the floorboards of the inn to retrieve should we return from the swamp. KelLyn promptly threw a hissyfit about her books, but finally stated crossly that as she did not trust any of the other party members with her things, and agreed to wrap them in oil cloth and hide them with the rest of the supplies. While KelLyn was arguing about her possessions, and angrily muttering about having to choose what to bring with her, Lan discovered that the old man was actually cursed with madness. After several more moments, and some more angry diatribe from KelLyn about being interrupted, Lan managed to convince her to see if she could help remove the curse from the old man. KelLyn reluctantly agreed, and drew a circle on the ground to call the power she needed to break the curse. She was successful, and as soon as she had completed the spell, she went back to sorting through her belongings.

The old man - who was now quite lucid - told us that he remembered fishing, and then being captured. That he was supposed to watch the people to see where they burned. The realization of all he had borne witness to sank in with a shocking realization, and the old man wailed at what he had done. In shock, and wounded to the soul at what had happened here, he tried to kill himself. We were unfortunately not fast enough to stop him from wounding himself, but we succeeded at removing the dagger from his chest and healing him completely before the wound could complete his desire. We promised him gently that he would have a chance to make things right. We sat him down carefully, wrapped him in a warm blanket, and gave him a little food and water to help calm him down.

He wearily told us that the tomb is actually real, and he made the offer to take us there on the raft. At that point Shalev boldly stated that he would destroy the evil, or die trying. Osman and I looked at each other in alarm, as we felt a clerical spell discharge, and we realized that Shalev had managed to geas himself to the task; quite possibly geasing the entire party to the same quest.

I do not think that the rest of the party was paying close enough attention to realize what Shalev had done. It alarms me that he made such a broad statement of intent, and that such a statement carried such a powerfully binding effect. He is still very cavalier with his own life, and it is my quiet thought that perhaps I should remind him that he is both a valued friend to me, and an essential member of the group. I do not know if the binding effect of the geas affects only Shalev, or will affect the entire group.  I fear what may come of this, but I promise to see it through to whatever end may come.

No comments:

Post a Comment