Silvanus' Garden

Keetel's Parallel Path 3
Keetel's ordeal

When the welcome blackness relieved her of the fangs of the worg, Keetel was aware of nothing for a long time. In the midst of her nothingness, raw stimuli periodically fought their way into the dark recess her mind wherein her consciousness sought refuge. She distantly felt a sting and burn. Then cold. Then sharp motion. Then blackness once more.

“Keetel? Can you hear me? Are you still in there?” The voice floated across a great distance, disembodied and hollow. Yet it was familiar.

“Uhhhh,” was the only reply Keetel could muster, her blood loss so severe and her muscles so strained for oxygen that inflating her lungs was almost beyond her capacity.

“She’s alive, and aware, head Primate.” Another voice, closer, but somehow less noticeable, responded.

Another spell of blackness. Not aware anymore. Some more motion. Muted voices.

“Keetel, we’re losing you.” The world slowly faded back into existence. The first voice spoke again, as though through water. “Awake.” The feeling of lightning pulsing through her body raised Keetel from her swoon. Her eyes opened.

For the moment of her lucidity, an image burned into her mind. Leaning over her, cloaked in black and dripping with blood, stood Darell. He laid his hand upon her forehead and a barrage of multicolored energy flooded over her.

“I know of only one way to save you. Will you give me leave?”

A wave of pain flared across Keetel’s head and her body involuntarily convulsed, shaking in a way a body so depleted of blood should not be capable of. She wanted to pass out, but she couldn’t pass out. She was all too aware now of the vaulted, stone ceiling in the room, the wrought iron braziers gleaming with greenish-white light, and a great, black banner bearing a recognizable red seal of four spears radiating outward, encompassed by a gear.

The pain was increasing. It was unbearable and yet inescapable. Keetel tried to scream but the sound choked in her throat. Anything to make it stop. Summoning the last, small reserve of her will, Keetel took her final breath and released it in a desperate “Yes.”

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Keetel's Parallel Path 2
Keetel the Bard attempts to catch up with the rest of her party

Darell and Keetel set off together, following the tracks of the Kobold raiding party. As they continue deeper into the forest, away from established civilization, the woods seem to change in nature. The light, cheerful bird songs become more scattered, the shafts of sunlight that caused the floating particulates in the air to glitter became dimmer and farther between. While the sun was beginning to sink in the sky, it did not account for the feeling of the forest, the sense of creeping danger drawing nearer.

The kobold path has, by now, become rather difficult to make out, but Darell had seemed to be confident enough in their direction. Finally, however, he paused, looking concerned. At Keetel’s questioning, Darell mentions that for the past 1/2 mile or so he hasn’t been certain of the trail, but was taking his best guess and moving ahead.

As the light wanes, they decide to move aside from the trail somewhat and make camp. As the two seek for a suitable location, they come upon the ruins of what once was a small watch tower. Only a semi-circle of crumbling stone remained, with a few spurs of metal scaffolding still standing, the rest of the masonry having been swallowed up by the forest. They decided to strike camp in the old watchtower, using the ruins as cover and concealment.

As the last of the direct sunlight faded into the dark blue of twilight, Keetel and Darell became aware of something just beyond a nearby tree watching them. As it stepped from the darker shadows into a patch of moonlight, its silhouette revealed it to be a worg. It salivated as it appeared, a ridge of fur standing on end down its back and intelligent eyes feasting on its prey. After a moment, Keetel started to imagine motions in the shadows all around. The worg’s lips curled into a low growl, revealing split and blackened incisors, jutting crooked from its black-spotted, swollen gums. It tilted back its shaggy, grey head and barked several times loudly into the air. A moment’s pause, then the reply of the rest of the pack began to echo through the surrounding forest.

The hunt was on and Darell and Keetel had to defend themselves as best they were able. Despite her best efforts, Keetel was overwhelmed by the worg. As its powerful jaws sank into her shoulder, the beast jerked her heavily to the ground. Blood seemed to fill her eyes, leaving everything a burning, red blur. As the pain began to shut down her conscious system and things started their inevitable fade to black, Keetel almost imagined she heard a deep, rough chant and felt the worg release its grip. Or it could have just been the last, seizing throws of her nervous system before she welcomed oblivion.

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The Matriarch Tree
The party has elected to follow the druids and fey out into the woods, blindfolded.

By the time they reached the clearing, even Aotiyane was exhausted. The forced march, especially when blindfolded, had been excruciating. The party had been half shoved, half dragged down an all-too-long and all-too-narrow game trail deeper into the forest. Even the wolves were weary. In fact, the only creatures in the party who seemed unfazed by the ordeal were the bears. Apparently that’s why the potion was known as “Bear’s Endurance”. Yane wished for one about now. Or maybe a potion of heal for those blisters. She still couldn’t see anything and did not dare to remove the blindfold wrapped tightly around her head. She’d heard rumors about the Fey and few of them were nice. She wished Keetel were around to fill in some of the details, but from the bits she remembered, Fey were capricious, powerful in their native element, and notoriously cruel on a whim. She really didn’t want to give them a catalyst.

Daveak, with his lack of armor rigorous conditioning as a monk, was doing much better. He, at least, could stand and he began to shuffle around slowly, memorizing every step and mapping out his immediate area. The grass was soft here and despite the now deep night, the air was surprisingly warm for autumn and smelled lightly of rose, if one strained to smell. It was a good place. At the moment.

A few feet away from Daveak sat Salutara, groping blindly around her to find Potestatem, who had been stable early in the march, but whose current status was unknown.
Off to their right, a silver giggling wafted on the air. “Welcome guests”, said its owner, “to the matriarch’s tree. We’ve made ready for you. You should see the delight we have in store. Oh wait—you’re blindfolded, you can’t see anything.” She giggled again and the sound floated away, leaving the party in silence.

The party remained still in the new silence, Sellek continued to try feigning unconsciousness, although it was possible that no one was even around to observe. Daveak, having mapped a small perimeter around himself, sat down to meditate and listen. Salutara, however, was becoming uneasy and gingerly lifted the corner of her blindfold in hopes of locating Potestatem.

The clearing was round, almost a perfect circle, with trees so dense around it that she wasn’t certain how they managed to enter the clearing at all. The only remarkable feature of the clearing was a tree in nearly the exact center, tall and imposing with silvery gray bark that lay nearly smooth down its trunk. She estimated the lowest branch was nearly twenty feet above the ground, with a set of dark green vines hanging from it and wrapping tightly around the pristine trunk, like a protective mesh. A sliver of moonlight that penetrated the canopy of the forest provided just enough light to see that the vines extended beyond just the central tree throughout the clearing and out around the trees at the perimeter.
Salutara pushed her amazement at the foreign and surreal beauty of the scene to the back of her mind and looked for Potestatem. He lay near the edge of the clearing only a few feet away from her, roughly deposited in a heap as the bear who carried him to the clearing brushed him off as it shambled back into the forest. She approached and rolled him onto his side; careful to keep his back aligned. Checking his vitals, Salutara learned that he was stable, albeit the weakness of his pulse indicated that Potestatem was still unconscious.
Although Salutara’s blindfold was now off, it was Daveak who was aware of her first. The soft crunch of the leaves on the carpet-like lawn was almost imperceptible, and the still-dark morning hid the approaching shadow.

“So, my little Ironlings, what should I make of you?” The voice was feminine, deep alto, and smooth, albeit with an edge that caused a dual impression of the coo of a lover and the growl of an executioner. The voice’s owner was feminine, towering, and intent. “Take off your blindfolds, I want to see into your eyes—all of you.”

The party hesitatingly removed their blindfolds to behold the owner of the voice.

The figure before them was unlike anything they’d seen or heard of before. Her features seemed almost elven, but elves, even the high elves, don’t stand eight feet tall. There was nothing in lore or song that really describes such a creature as they then witnessed. She stood erect, eyes glinting their multitone orange and green, and seemed to look both at and into each member of the party at the same time. The feeling is disconcerting, to say the least.

She wore a loose, beige robe of a material you cannot identify. It almost seemed to be a composite of the entire essence of the wilds. Part bark, part grass, part spider silk, part leather hide. All together at once. In one hand she clutched a staff, a branch long dried and treated with resin, perhaps a branch from the same tree in this glade. Around her neck hung a silver chain, upon which is a crystal pendant that seemed to radiate a soft, green aura.

“I am Cailych, the Matriarch.” Her voice both crooned and warned. “You were taken captive fighting alongside goblin and kobold, you carry the seal of the Cult, you are led by a necromancer, and not least, you have killed my wolves. Yet my servants did not destroy you on sight. Why?”

Cailych eyed Daveak carefully, considering his statements carefully. “Your tale is interesting, at least. And you wear the robes and ring of a paragon monk. If the monastery is destroyed, as you say, then some might have been stolen, although I doubt it. Regardless, I watched you pace off your vicinity and watched your meditations. I believe you to be a monk. And if truly a monk, then you would not be so likely to flagrantly lie before me. If you have lied, then know that I will find out and the consequences will be dire.”

She turned her appraising gaze at Salutara. “You’re far too brash to be only a cleric, especially one of the Lady of the Winds, yet I can see her mark upon you. Do not let your past life so invade your present that you would insult me in my own home, especially fatigued and beleaguered as you and your friends most visibly are.” Cailych paused a moment, contemplating. Then elevating her voice slightly, to ensure that all could hear her, the Matriarch declared:

“I will make your party an offer. I will grant you safe and unopposed passage to the very door of the beasts you seek. I will ensure that you’re well fed and rested when you arrive, and I will even grant you access to some trinkets you may or may not find of use. My forest, every reach, shall be cleansed from all that is not natural.”

“There is a price,” Cailyth smiled slightly and even Daveak was left in some question as to its meaning, “but I believe you will find it not too difficult to bear.”

“The price is this: I set my mark upon you. The creatures of the forest will know and respect it and the Cult will hate it—passionately. If were enemies before, you will continue to be forever. Were you previously friends, that compatriotism will forever be removed. When delivered to the Cult’s door, you will enter without hesitation and destroy all of the undead and their necromancers within.”

Turning back to Salutara, the towering Matriarch of the forest refocused her gaze on Salutara. “And cleric, you will atone for your party’s offenses by healing several of my wolves who sit on death’s doorstep.”

The matriarch turned gracefully to withdraw from the party. As she began to move toward the central tree, she called over her shoulder, almost as an afterthought: “Aotiyane, I see you have returned. Come, and bring your companion.”

Although her back was turned, the glow of the gem that hung from her neck pulsed and the vines that wrapped the entire clearing shook to life. They reached up to enclose the matriarch and she disappeared into the ground without trace. No sooner had she vanished from sight, then the vines shook again and began to wrap themselves around each of the party members, their iron-strong tendrils immobilizing, compressing, and pulling each adventurer into the ground. From outside the glade, a frightened baying could be heard before it also disappeared into the forest floor.

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Keetel's Parallel Path
While the rest of the party left to pursue the Kobold, Keetel was left, writing her music

As Keetel, Salutara, and Daveak speak with the bitten guard in the Administrator’s house, Keetel has a flash of inspiration for a hit single about a vampire who desires to take a mortal woman as his new bride. The lyrics go something like this:


What is this feeling, I’m feeling inside
A secret, dark stirring, makes me want to die
I think of that girl and I feel so alive
Wanna rise again and drink her wine
Take her blood, make her mine, mine, mine, all mine.

Mina, Mina baby, you’ll be white and all corpsified
Mina, Mina baby, you’ll be my vampiric bride.

How can I find you, I’ll find you some day
A sepia picture, it gave you away
Thanks to my guest for his unwitting behest
Wanna rise again and drink your wine
Take your blood, make you mine, mine, mine, all mine.

Mina, Mina baby, you’ll join my unholy rite
Mina, Mina baby, you’ll feel my sensual bite.

And you’ll feel like you never died
And you’ll feel like a wild ride
And you’ll feel like a vampire bride.

Mina.

While Keetel writes her first forays into the Goth scene, the rest of the party leaves without her, leaving her to her work.

A couple hours later, she emerges from the bungalow with her new lyrics and goes looking for the party to give them a preview of the song. Some of the slaves, who have begun to recover their faculties, gathered around to thank Keetel for her part in defending the camp and, in the conversation, asked Keetel why she’d been left by the party. This was news to her and she rushed to the Administrator to find out where they’d gone.

The Administrator at first dismissed Keetel, but upon consideration, granted her request for a tracker to lead her down the trail the rest of the party had taken. She had the visceral feeling, though, that the Administrator’s change of heart was not genuine, and that he had an ulterior motive somehow. Regardless, she was on the road, on the trail of the kobolds, and the rest of the party.

After several hours into the wilds, the tracker assigned by the Administrator assaulted Keetel, throwing a bag over her head and tying her hands and feet. He regretfully explained that this was the only way for him to get his freedom, which he would be granted upon taking Keetel’s heart back to the Administrator. Apparently, Keetel knew too much about the Administrator and needed to be silenced (blast that bardic knowledge!)

Just as the tracker was about to behead Keetel, he was shot from behind by a tall, slender man wearing light, black armor. The man, named Darell, checked to ensure that the tracker was truly dead and then asked Keetel how she was doing. A cleric for his god, one whom Keetel did not recognize (she rolled a 1 on her knowledge check), he was following the trail of the kobolds as well and, upon learning of her intentions, offered to travel with her until she found her friends.

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From Nessis to the Slave Lumber Camp

After the party had rested Arden says the following morning that it is time to depart. As they go to the gate the guard questions them and advises them not to go in the forest, as none ever return the same. The party thanks him and then passes the gate which closes behind them with a solid “thunk” as the bolts are put into place.
The party then starts to follow the well-worn trail to the camp. Along the way they see an outcropping of rocks with a cave. Approaching with caution Sellek notices the trip wire that would notify the inhabitants of the cavern of approaching travellers. The party then hides behind the rock while Potestatem pulled the trip wire. Immediately three dwarves leave the cavern with hungry looks upon their faces and start advancing towards Potestatem. He immediately tells them to halt, to which the laugh until the party appears surrounding them. They quickly plead for peace just saying that they didn’t like people snooping around and just wanted to be left alone. The party was going to leave them when a claw barely misses Bravianna from the entrance of the cave.
To the party’s horror, a Cavern Creeper, was in the cave and almost was able to use the dwarf as a human shield. It quickly retreated into the cave forcing the party to use a lantern to spot the creature. Potestatem quickly puts the creature to sleep and Daveak finishes the creature off. During the battle the dwarves ran off and so the party continued onwards towards the lumber camp.
With the camp in sight a cry of distress resounded in the woods. All but Arden went to investigate finding a bunch of slaves being attacked by a troop of goblins. Taking the side of the slaves the party quickly dispatches the goblins and discovers an amazing artifact, a Bag of Holding! Though not like any bag of holding they have seen before as all objects placed into the bag disappear. Daveak knowing that a Bag of Holding with release all the contents when inverted, asked Sellek to turn the bag inside out. This resulted in nothing but a slight tear in the seam. Keetel thinking that she could mend the seam put her finger near it and immediately a piece of her finger was devoured by the bag. This gave Sellek an excellent idea to use the Bag of Devouring as a sock puppet weapon, suitably nicknamed “Bitey”. With the slaves rescued, the party reached the lumber camp.

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Demise of Aurgie

After deliberation a plan is hatched to scare the guards upstairs to flee outside by having the captured necromancer run out of the house screaming that the experiments are loose and in the mayhem have the slaves run out behind. The first part goes according to plan though while everyone is escaping the city guards rush into the estate looking to capture Aurgie. Not wanting to be questioned a portion of the group rushes upstairs to find Aurgie and deliver the message they were sent to give. Sellek having his mouth run before his mind threatens the guards that he will burn down the house unless they are given answers which of course results in the guards attacking. Keteel calls down her Celestial Beetle and Potestatem summons a wild ape that quickly takes out the guards along with the party, from the last cowering surviving guard they learn that Aurgie is in the next room over and go off to confront him with the message. Aurgie laughs and turns and exits to another room but Daveak follows and in his anger attacks the man who destroyed his monastery. Though there are many close calls with Sellek almost forever lost from this world, Daveak delivers his final blow crying out with his killing, “For my friends, teachers and the order of the Paragon Monks.” Righteous vengeance had been dealt against the main attacker and quickly the party took the back passage to escape to the tavern.

After arriving at the tavern, Arden sits with Daveak and Braveyre and thanks them for their assistance in escaping Aurgie’s trap. He goes on to says to them, “I thank you both deeply for your aid, we may not have survived the undead were it not for your help. I hope, though, that I may enlist your aid again. I have no call or right to command, but I have assembled this party to aid me in reclaiming my wife. We were making our way south along the edge of the explored forest and were attacked by a raiding party of monsters, led by some unnatural creature which I have never before seen. We tried to escape, but even with the aid of her druidic magics, she was taken into the deep woods. I have reason to believe her to be a captive and still alive, but I knew I could not free her alone. This is why I’m seeking all the help I can get. I don’t know what evils lurk between me and my wife, but I cannot fail in this thing.”

Daveak ponders on the words as he rests and meditates. He then leaves to do some shopping to replace the items lost in the monastery. After picking up the supplies and avoiding the party’s thief, Sellek, his mind returns to Arden comments the night before. He remembers the training the morning of the attack on the monastery. He had practice with Master Elhorn the art of disarming his opponent with the sai before heading off to the nearby village. Then that attack came and though his masters and friends could have taken on the “army” that Lord Aurgie sent, it was the dragons that did them in as the dragons could traverse into the ethereal plane and take out the master monks who were using the plane to traverse between attacks. He was troubled as he couldn’t figure out why Lord Aurgie would have attacked the monastery. Was is Aurgie’s plan or was he ordered by those who had been performing the experiments in the basement? Looking down at the ring he had retrieved from the bowels of the Dire Rat while imprisoned he realized that most likely the two events were connected since his order had worked on the skills and spells to make sure the undead stayed dead after one who wielded the ring slayed an undead. Anger rose in Daveak’s chest as he realized though slaying Aurgie was part of getting his revenge those that worked on animating and reanimating the dead were the ones truly responsible. He will need to find this “Wildthorn” place that was mentioned in the journal. Thought it might not be the place where this Master Delorn is, it is the next link in the puzzle.

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Aurgie's Dungeon Cleanout

Now that the group had finished initial fight with the dungeon guards and gathered the scattered loot including the journal. Potestatem decides that it might be a good idea to see what is behind a few doors and opens onto an experiment of raising the undead which unleashes more undead opponents upon the group. Fighting for their lives and the lives of the slaves the fight bravely, however in the middle of battle a well armored warrior followed by a powerful necromancer enter from the mess hall. Strangely though, instead of joining the battle the necromancer freezes all the combatants in place and both rush out a secret entrance by the main slave prison. Seeing their leaders have left the party quickly defeats all the undead turning their efforts to question the two living necromancers. Their questions reveal that the Amulet found by Selleck in a chest actually is a sign of allegiance with the goblins and can be used for safe passage into the woods.

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Aurgie's Dungeon Experiments

Daveak remembering his promise made to the cleric requests the assitance of Arden’s party in rescuing the slaves. As his party was already heading into the manor they agreed to help and through the secret enterence they go. Leaving Arden and Potestatem’s weasel to alert them of any ambush on their exit. It wasn’t long until they received a blood stained note declaring the single word, “many”. With this they entered the dungeon and Sellek sealed the doors behind them.

Within the dungeon, the party engaged the hallway patrols, one of whom managed to sound the alarm, initiating a battle in the hallways. The battle would have easily been containable until the door was opened to a room containing a summoning chamber, complete with abominations and a necromancer. To further complicate matters, some of the guards began attacking the imprisoned slaves, forcing the party to divide yet again to protect them. With the aid of the cleric who healed Braveyre earlier, the slaves were once again protected—for the moment.

Finally, the adventurers pulled off a victory with only a few injuries and began the process of sorting through the items carried by the guards and found in nearby rooms cleared of their residents. Among the treasures discovered was a large tome, written in cipher, which Daveak was able to translate. It revealed the nature of the barbaric experiments being conducted on
the slaves and the horrors that this research would unleash upon the world. The party also learned that Aurgie was being used as a tool for someone much greater—a being named “Delorn” (Lore DC: 30), of whom nothing seemed to be known. Another mention was of a location called Wildthorne Keep, a location of which no one seemed to be familiar (Lore DC: 20).

Text from the Tome:


Entry 1:
Day 35 of Year 671 of the realm. Patient 4 bears up remarkably well to the grafts. I believe that she’ll last for another 3 sessions before the Transition. Her donors have now been Transitioned themselves, thus removing the mental deterioration that has to wear on her physically. With that factor removed, I think we can add several muscle sets and significantly improve the subject’s agility on a more permanent basis.

Entry 2:
Day 60 of Year 671 of the realm. We have finally made a key breakthrough. Perhaps we have even beaten our brethren at Wildthorn. If we complete the transition while the subject is barely alive, we can spawn undead that can be reanimated if they are destroyed in battle. Just think of the possibilities! Twice Undead! The power of any army, if properly supported, will be doubled. DeLorn will be very pleased. I have sent off a report.

Entry 3:
Day 78 of Year 671 of the realm: I am finally in accord with the Master Warden, it is good we weakened the subjects as much as we have. While the undead we are creating here are nearly double the strength of their living selves, we are still mastering exerting full control of their wills. Today one of the compilations broke its will free and devoured parts of three of our subjects before the guards were able to destroy it. We learned a valuable positive externality—while the creature fed, its own muscle tissue grew in direct proportion to the mass of the limbs devoured. Indeed, we are very fortunate to have used such weakened test subjects. The ideal subjects, however, would be children—physically very weak, but with strong wills. I must consult with that fool Aurgie on the matter and see what can be arranged.

Entry 4:
Day 102 of Year 671 of the realm. Received word from DeLorn today. He is most pleased with our work and instructs us to finish with our current subjects, then use the undead to destroy all those in Nissas who know of the program. I will be most grateful to be rid of Aurgie and this miserable hamlet."

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Adventures of Daveak and Bravianna

Starting off in Aurgie’s dungeon Daveak and Bravianna have been locked in the dungeon along with a multitude of slaves and a cleric. Bravianna had been just returned from the experimentation room where they had removed a large portion of the arm mussel. When Daveak asked the cleric to heal Bravianna’s arm he as first rejected saying that he used to heal but then they are taken away for additional pain, better to die sooner. But after promising to protect the slaves the cleric heals her arm just when a pair of dire rats some through a small hoel and start attacking. Quickly dispatching the rats results in Daveak finding a ring of his monk order and puts it on. Just then the guards come and take Bravianna and Daveak to the experimental room cells. Using her ability to slip through the bars Bravianna escapes and engadges the guards while Daveak trys to escape his cell. After many attempts, and right before reenforcements for the guards come, Daveak slips through and they escape upstairs and outside.

Meanwhile Arden’s party leaves the tavern and heads towards Aurgie’s estate when they encounter a person who motions them off the road. He says that there is a back enterance to Aurgie’s estate that will get them into the manor without dealing with the guards. While they follow them, Sellek picks a piece of paper out of their guide’s pocket which reveals that though he started out on their side has turned over to Aurgie’s side and is leading them into a trap, confronted with this evidence the guide says that he will help them instead. The party then heads towards the secret enterence when two people come running towards them with a troop of guards close on their heels. Quickly the party attacks the guards and slays three of the seven guards while allowing the other 4 badly wounded guards to depart and find employment in a distant land.

Entire party advances to level 2

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Introduction - The Tavern Encounter

Sellek and Potestatem enter the tavern and look around suspiciously. They tried talking with a few characters to see if they could find work and end up talking with a hooded figure who takes a look at them and states that they are too inexperienced to do any good. Sellek tries to show off his rougish abilities but fails and almost gets in a fight with a drunken dwarf. The hooded figure Arden finds this ammusing and decides to give them a chance. Leaving the tavern, Arden directs the two over to the slave autions in an attempt to gather more recuits for this adventure.

They arrive just as the first wagon finishes selling their wares and out come the second. Keteel is brought before the crowd where after an impressive display of lights and some close bidding, Arden is able to purchase her. Suspicously she joins them and finds out about the quest and her freedom. Meanwhile, Selleck notices that they won’t be able to buy all the slaves with the limited funds that Arden has and goes around releaving various persons from the wieght of their gold.

Next is brought out Aotiyane who looks furoius and able to break the auctioneer into two. Of course the City Adminstrator notices this and wants to send her to the lumber camps to help with the logging operations. Since the city had near unlimited funds the price was going higher and higher so Potestatem distracts the City Admin with sounds behind him and the city loses the bid and Aotiyane joins the party.

Finally Salutara is brought forward, not one to wait for prince charming on his white horse to arrive and rescue her, she casts a cloud of darkness and escapes into the arms of the party where Aotiyane convices her to stick with them and quickly leave the premises. Arriving back in the tavern they are met with a group of thugs beating up some people. Quickly the party springs into action and dispatches these thugs leaving one for questioning. The one mentions a Lord Argee and that there is a monk and a dwarf in his prision, but before he can tell more a berserker enters and garrots the man, killing him. The berserker gives the group a packet, telling him to deliver it to Lord Argee to force him to step down and stop his experiments and then leaves.

After the Berserker and his cronies departed the tavern, your party stood in the unexpected silence, muscles starting to shake as the adrenaline of combat wore off and you had to deal with the aftermath.

It was, predictably, Potestatem who broke the silence: “Let’s see if they’ve got anything cool!” Keetel winced at the callousness of his suggestion—these were people, many of them just teenagers who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. Did they deserve to die? Why should her new companions profit off of murder? She looked down at the blackmail packet in her hand and shuddered again. Even if this ‘Lord Aurgie’ guy was as bad as they said, the whole business was sordid.

By the time she looked up again, Sellek, had already stripped the thugs and was placing his infamous calling cards over their eyes with a handwritten note on the back gently reminding the recently departed that ‘you can’t take it with you anyway’. The greater good demanded that people on a noble quest have priority over the general public in the procurement of equipment. Besides, most of public didn’t watch their possessions very well as it was. Things got ‘lost’ so easily nowadays. It was just easier this way.

Arden began handing out equipment to the party, his first offering was of armor to the ex-slaves. To Aotiyane he presented a set of studded leather armor. Ever the survivor, she accepted the armor without a second thought and brushed off the flecks of skull and fajita. When the party next rested, she would scrub out the rest of the blood and take in one of the hems.

Salutara also accepted a set of leather armor, shaking her head tragically at the loss of life. She knew what it was like to be those kids, after a sort. Her own “troubled” childhood and her distinguished military career had culminated in her laying gashed upon a field of battle as her hit points ticked toward -10. She wished that she could have done something for this lot. Even if she could have healed just one of them it would have been something. But the memories of what it meant to be a brigand, or a soldier, or an adventurer, had not left her and she knew that to dwell on the scene overmuch would only cause reciprocal harm to her, and would in no way help the dead. She also walked past the dead, closing the eyes of those who had faces left.

When Arden offered the final set of leather armor to Keetel , she stared numbly at the small holes in the back where Potestatem’s rat (or was it a weasel?) had been gnawed through to extract a kidney to serve as a reagent for one of Potestatem’s bizarre experiments. She broke down in tears. Arden rolled his eyes and muttered to himself ‘What have I gotten us into? The pup bears up well under Thayan slavery only to break down in a simple tavern fight. This’ll be fun."

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