Session 45: A Risky Escape & A Suspicious Discovery

Prynhawn, Philip, and Vernim had ran to the woods to engage the archers, leaving the rest of the group with the fallen Aseneth.

Dubricus was hit with an arrow from a bandit on his left. Vernim caught up to Philip and Prynhawn in the woods and cast healing word on Philip. One of the bandits Philip had been fighting dropped as Yanliz's arrow ripped through his head, and Dubricus hit the other with a fire bolt. Vernim was hit by an arrow coming from the west, and then two more from close in the woods. Valeria cast cure wounds on Lawrence, just before being hit by an arrow. Prynhawn turned and slashed his sword into the bandit that had stabbed him in the back, as Lawrence also hit the bandit with a fire bolt. Philip mortally bludgeoned his last attacker with his staff and a flying kick. A nearby bandit dropped his bow and stabbed Philip with his shortsword. Brother Martin examined Aseneth and could not detect any signs of life.

Dubricus was hit with another arrow. Sensing that the situation was dire, Vernim used radiance of the dawn to drop all three bandits in the immediate area, but was then hit by another arrow from farther off to the west. At his urging, Prynhawn and Philip dashed back towards the road. And arrow hit Prynhawn in the back. Yanliz crouched low and shot into the woods where he thought the arrows were coming from, and was hit by one himself. Severely wounded, Dubricus dropped flat and scrambled into a depression on the far side of the road. Valeria, Lawrence, and Brother Martin crouched down by Dubricus.

An arrow arced through the air, mortally hitting Dubricus in the back. Valeria revived the wizard with cure wounds, and began to scramble toward the woods away from the archers, followed by Lawrence, and lastly Brother Martin, who was dragging Aseneth. Vernim cast cure wounds on himself, and began to make his way back toward the road, but was hit with an arrow in the back. Philip and Prynhawn made it back to the road. The monk turned and faced the archers, catching and arrow and tossing it aside.

Yanliz was hit with another arrow as he continued to shoot into the woods. Vernim dashed toward the road. Valeria cast cure wounds on Dubricus and continued crawling toward the far woods with Lawrence and Brother Martin. Prynhawn dashed in the same direction, while Philip walked, keeping an eye on Vernim, and deflecting another arrow. Three arrows were headed directly for Vernim when he stumbled, avoiding two of them, but the third was all it took to drop the priest of Tymora.

Prynhawn reached the far woods. Behind him, Lawrence continued crawling towards the far woods, followed by Dubricus and then Brother Martin. Valeria, still crawling, stabilized Vernim with healing word. Philip dashed back to Vernim, picked up the priest, and began staggering backwards, back towards the road, away from the archers, deflecting another arrow.

Lawrence rose and dashed the rest of the way to the far woods, where Prynhawn was waiting. Dubricus continued crawling close behind, followed by Valeria and then Brother Martin, still dragging Aseneth. Philip crossed the road, moving backwards as fast as he could with Vernim over his shoulders, and deflected another arrow.

Yanliz, still firing into the woods, began backing up toward the far woods. Dubricus got up and dashed the rest of the way to the far woods, where Lawrence and Prynhawn were surveying the area for any dangers. Valeria was close behind, followed by Brother Martin and then Philip.

Valeria waited for Philip to catch up, and revived Vernim with cure wounds, and Philip put the priest down. Brother Martin was with them, dragging Aseneth. Yanliz was bringing up the rear, still shooting into the woods. Meanwhile, Prynhawn thought he heard something moving farther into the woods.

Vernim immediately cast gentle repose on Aseneth. Valeria and Philip reached the far woods. Lawrence and Dubricus began searching the woods with Prynhawn. Brother Martin was close behind, while Yanliz was a ways back, still providing cover with arrows.

Vernim ran the rest of the way to the far woods, and Brother Martin joined them, with Aseneth. In the distance they saw two hairy spiders, as big as wolves. Dubricus said he would advance and try out his thunderwave on them, but Lawrence destroyed them both with quickened scorching rays. Still backing up and shooting, Yanliz was hit with an arrow.

While Yanliz made his way to the far woods, Brother Martin used preserve life to heal Prynhawn and Philip.

Once Yanliz made it back, Prynhawn used most of his lay on hands to heal him.

With Aseneth dead, the group unanimously decided to return to the keep to rest instead of continuing to the caves.

As they started to walk, with Prynhawn carrying Aseneth, Vernim and Valeria both saw two more wolf spiders, but the arachnids did not seem to notice the party.

The group continued to walk on the edge of the forest until the woods across from them ended, when they went back onto the road.

After around three more hours traveling, they arrived back at the Keep. Wort and Joop lowered the drawbridge, and they underwent the usual peace-bonding ritual.

"You're back early," Sabine commented.

"We encountered some... trouble," Valeria explained, "on the road, and we had to—"

"What kind of trouble?' queried Sabine.

"Bandits," Philip and Valeria synchronized.

"And spiders," Philip elaborated, "but mostly bandits.

"Bandits," Vernim echoed. "Terrible."

"Oh my," Sabine voiced.

"They were ambushing us," Prynhawn added.

"And Aseneth..." Vernim stuttered.

"She fell," Valeria finished.

Prynhawn nodded, Aseneth weighing down on his shoulders.

They entered the now familiar keep and went directly to the chapel, which was now open, unlike the last time they had come with a dead friend.

They rushed to see Abercrombie, and the few people there made way for them. Vernim split off to go visit Opal.

The chaplain asked if any of them needed healing, but the group declined, saying that they would be resting before they went anywhere. They requested a place to lay Aseneth until they could find a way to revive her and Opal.

Abercrombie showed them where to put her body and they thanked him. Valeria took the wand of eldritch blast , and her share of treasure from the dead mage.

Once outside the temple, Valeria showed the rest of the party a note she had found on the necromancer's body.
After briefly brainstorming what the symbol on the note could be, concluding it looked like a sigil, and concluding that it seemed evil, they turned to the implications of the note as a whole.

Prynhawn brought up the idea that she could be trying to be the apprentice of a more experienced necromancer. He pointed out that she was very overeager to get further into the caves, even in life or death situations, such as when Opal had fallen. She was also a new arrival at the Keep, which would fit the hypothesis, as she may have come only recently when she discovered the possibility of an advanced apprenticeship in the caves. Vernim reiterated Prynhawn's idea.

Philip acknowledged the controversy in the situation. Brother Martin added that the letter could be an old one.

Valeria noted that the first part of the letter was missing.

Dubricus was convinced that Prynhawn was correct, and that Aseneth was involved in some evil plot with a necromancer in the caves.

Philip was shocked that such a thing could be true. "She didn't seem evil, not to me. How could somebody be evil like that and not even—"

"She was practicing and harnessing the power of abominations," Vernim accused. "This goes back to what we were talking about just yesterday — although I'm not saying necromantic magic is bad magic, because healing magic is necromantic in nature — she was planning on using abomination for her own benefit, which Lawrence and Brother Martin can agree with me, that’s just not a good thing—"

"I actually quite disagree with you," Brother Martin refuted. "That's not what she said at all. She never said she was planning on using those creatures for her own benefit. What she emphasized very specifically — and I think it's important to give her the benefit of the doubt — is that, if she had to, in order to save her friends, she would. I think she repeated that."

"I'm sorry," Vernim apologized. "I used the wrong words. So, Brother Martin, I have a question for you. Let's hypothetically assume the worst about Aseneth. I want to know your thoughts about how second chances come into the fray here. If she were to commit a bad act and not atone for it, how would that fit into your belief system."

"I think we just discussed yesterday that somebody asking for repentance deserves it," Brother Martin reiterated. "Are you suggesting a situation where she acts against us, and then tries to atone for it?"

"No," Vernim clarified. "I'm suggesting she doesn't ask for a second chance, but we know her really well, and..."

"Why would we give her a second chance if she wasn't looking to repent?" Brother Martin asked. "I hope that makes sense."

"I'm just asking," Vernim replied, "and it does. I just wanted to get your viewpoint on things, because I am indeed interested in learning more about The Morninglord, and I only ask because we knew Aseneth and she was a valued member of the party. I was only curious. I apologize for the interruption."

"I'm pretty sure that in the goblin cave," Prynhawn declared, "is the necromancer, probably in the section we haven't explored, and when we tried to turn back, more skeletons appeared, which means there is something that is creating the undead."

"Every sign is pointing toward it," Vernim furthered, "and Aseneth probably wanted to get there, for good or for bad. We don't know yet, but she probably went to the keep to look for people to help her get to the necromancer, and we were the perfect candidates, because we were all outcasts, and we all banded together for the sake of ridding evils from the caves."

"I think you're right," Dubricus concurred. "I think she was a power hungry necromancer, and was just using us."

"It's so confusing," Philip whined. " I don't want to think she was a bad person. She seemed nice. I don't know. It's all so uncomfortable."

"You don't have to," Prynhawn consoled the halfling. "I'm not fully sure about her, but we have to find out."

"We don't know who she was trying to contact," Brother Martin offered. "We don't know anything about that necromancer, and we don't know how much she knew about that necromancer."

"And we don't even know if the letter was directed to her," Valeria added.

I hadn't considered that, but Valeria's right," Brother Martin agreed. "Consider this: what if there's a necromancer in the cave with the Skeltar and the Zombire, that's creating the skeletons and zombies in order to clear out the caves from the goblins, which is the same thing that we did. That doesn't seem like a stretch to imagine Aseneth doing, even if it's not something I'm comfortable with."

"I don't know if I agree with that," Prynhawn disputed. "It seems more likely to me that the necromancer had more than enough time to kill off the goblins, and was just using them to increase his power. And yet he kept some of the goblins alive, which means he did not have any intention of terminating or eliminate them."

"Assuming that Tarlech isn't undead himself," Valeria considered, "he could be using the goblins to bring him food."

"Which means," Prynhawn concluded, "he doesn't have such a morality as to destroy the evil."

"I don't think we should assume that Tarlech, or the necromancer, is male," Brother Martin suggested.

"Additionally," Vernim interjected, "it may serve as a first challenge if anyone wants to reach him. Just like a potential dragon trying to lord themselves over this area of the caves, and use those as the first challenge, as well as the whole idea of using them for food."

"That also says the same thing," Prynhawn maintained, "that he doesn't have an intention of destroying evil."

"For some reason the necromancer had a room with a talking a skeleton and a talking zombie, who were having a formal party," Valeria wondered. "It doesn't seem super hostile. That alone makes me very curious. Why were they having a party, with all those fancy clothes? And why wasn't he there?"

"I think you all make a lot of really good points," Brother Martin shared, "and I'm not trying to discount any of them. I'm only saying I'm to the possibility of a scenario where there's a necromancer in the caves that is utilizing the skeletons and zombies to eradicate the caves of the evil that was there before, like the orcs and goblins, and at the same time, feels the need to protect themselves. Imagine if were in those caves, we would not only need to worry about our offensive capabilities when we're attacking them, but also our defensive capabilities in case they attacked us. In that case, the necromancer would need to hold some forces in reserve in case there was any retaliation."

"I also think, possibly, that this necromancer, while clever," Vernin posited, "may not be entirely there in the head. The reason is that I have a bit of context to this. I used to live in the Ardeep forest, and there was this evil cleric named Selabeam who would revive skeletons and he would call them his family. He would refer to them as his brother and sisters, and he was very clever. It took a while for him to be captured. He was just thought they were real people. So that might connect back to the Skeltar and the Zombire. He might actually think that they're his family or something, and gave them the capability to talk or something, so he could achieve some semblance of stability. And now that we killed him, now he might seek vengeance towards us."

"Well, we don't know," Prynhawn stated. "We don't know any of this. And that's why I think we should go back to the goblin cave, to the part that we haven't explored yet, so when can possibly meet this man, or woman and see what will happen. But I want to stress that we cannot trust this person."

"When should we go?" Dubricus asked.

"I don't know," Valeria replied. "I don't know when we should go, and I don't know how we should go, because we don't want to get ambushed again."

"Yeah, that was pretty..." Dubricus admitted. "I thought we were done for."

"I suggest we rest and lick our wounds," Vernim offered, "and leave very early. Before it's even light out. I think the bandits would expect travelers to take the road during the day. Hopefully bandits won't expect travelers during the night."

"Sounds good to me," Yanliz seconded.

"I don't know," Prynhawn worried, "because the night time is their time."

"Not necessarily the bandits," Valeria guessed, "but remember the last time we traveled at night... But they seem to have something out for us. If they really want to get us, they're probably resting by the road, with a lookout."

"In that case no time is safe," Vernim countered.

"Yeah, but nighttime is unsafer," Prynhawn asserted. "Daytime us much safer for us."

"I have an idea," proclaimed Dubricus. "You said that you think they're expecting us to travel on the road during the day. What if we don't travel on the road?"

"In that case I actually think we should travel during the day, not on the road, because during the night we could encounter wild beasts. There would be more spiders. There would be a lot more things in general." Vernim reconsidered. "That changes my point of view."

"We don't have to travel on the road," Valeria offered, "but then which side of the woods do we travel on? They know that we switched sides of the road. And they know that we're not stupid. So they can safely assume that we'll travel on that side of the road. So do we travel on the side of the road that we came back on, or the side they were on?"

"My issue with that logic of thinking," Vernim protested, "is that we delve into a mind game that proves no solution, because if you say 'they would think that we'd be traveling on that side, so we should go on the other,' you could say they "maybe they would anticipate what we were thinking, so we should go on this side.' Ultimately what we should do is flip a coin, because Lady Luck will be on our side."

"I think we should travel at night, in the woods," announced Yanliz. "I think that it gives us the best chance for surprise. It can either get us to the caves, or give us the best chance of surprising the bandits. Remember when we attacked the bandits from behind, we decimated them pretty easily. The reason that they had such an advantage this time, is that they were so well prepared. But if we could sneak up on them..."

"We have to decide whether our intention is to eliminate them," Prynhawn indicated, "or to avoid them. We have to decide."

"If we avoid them," Valeria put forward, "we're probably going to have to keep avoiding them every day, at least for a while. And if we eliminate them, then we won't have to deal with them anymore."

"I'm happy to do either one of those things," decided Philip. "They certainly don't seem like very nice people to me."

"You did really well, Philip," Valeria commended. "You had a great idea to run up and engage them."

"If we want to travel at night," Yanliz said, "we can rest now and be ready to travel by midnight. Then we could travel on our side of the road, where the spiders were, and avoid them, or we could try to circle around behind them, like we did with the other bandits."

They debated how effective they could be in the dark, the chances that the archers would wait for their return, and how many archers there were.

Ultimately Valeria decided they would rest now, and see how cloudy it is at midnight, only leaving if the stars provided sufficient light.

When they woke, it was quite cloudy.

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