Session 54: Playing With Fire

As the group turned toward the clamor from the stairs, Valeria and Prynhawn ignored the small tapestry hanging on the north wall.

The last hairy creature in the gong room lunged towards Lawrence to stab him with its skewer, but the sorcerer was out of reach. Valeria finished it with an eldritch blast, calling out for everyone to, "Retreat to the other side of the stairs!" Vernim positioned himself on the far side of the stairs.

"Watch out!" Dubricus shouted. "I'm going to cast a giant fire wall up the stairs!"

From behind Dubricus, Lawrence cast scorching ray, but only hit one, in the second row. From the far wall, Yanliz transferred his hunter's mark to one of the creatures nearing the bottom of the stairs and sunk an arrow into its gut. Next to him, Jess sunk an arrow into the same creature's thigh. Philip positioned himself at the bottom of the stairs, eager to trip them. Dubricus cast Aganazzar’s scorcher, and a line of roaring flame shot up the stairs, and the descending creatures howled in pain as the flames scorched their yellow fur. Having waited for Dubricus to cast his spell, Brother Martin dropped one of the creatures with a guiding bolt.

With flaming arrows protruding from its hide, one of the creatures swung its morningstar at Dubricus. The wizard sidestepped the blow, but was smashed hard by the creature next to it. From the second row, another brought its morningstar down on his head, and the wizard fell, avoiding another's swing. As the creatures descended on the landing, the last two crushed the wizard's remains into the stone floor.

Philip swung his staff at the nearest descending creature's legs, but slammed the stairs instead, and failed to reach it with a kick. Prynhawn, who had been trying to get a clear shot at an enemy on the crowded base of the stairs, and had tried to protect Dubricus with his shield, stepped over the fallen wizard and drove his searing blade through the nearest and most injured creature.

"Tymora compels you!" Vernim shouted, blasting the five creatures fighting on the stairs with radiance of the dawn. "You have been judged!"

The lead creature reached for Lawrence, but missed, as Valeria scratched it with an eldritch blast.

"Brother Martin," Valeria called, "can you preserve Dubricus?"

"I would if I could," Brother Martin replied, "but I cannot cast gentle repose today."

"Prynhawn, can you try to move Dubricus?" Valeria called, "Vernim can you preserve Dubricus?"

"Done," Vernim affirmed.

"Uh, I have my hands full," Prynhawn replied.

"I can get Dubricus out of the way," Jess shouted.

Brother Martin cast spiritual weapon and crushed one of the creatures in front with his spectral mace. Lawrence cast another scorching ray, again only hitting one of the creatures, who then retaliated, slamming its morningstar into the sorcerer. Another lunged for Lawrence, but missed, losing its balance and affording Philip a chance to capitalize on it, but the monk could not bring his staff about quick enough. Yanliz missed the lead creature. Jess put away her bow, and began dragging Dubricus' body toward the exit. Philip swung in vain at a creature attacking Lawrence, while Prynhawn deflected its morningstar that was coming down on the sorcerer, and gutted another with his searing blade.

They could see a second wave of the hairy creatures, even more than the first, descending down the stairs.

Vernim caught up with Jess and cast gentle repose on Dubricus.

Lawrence jumped to the side, avoiding a flame-like radiance that descended from just above him. Valeria hit one of Lawrence's attackers with an eldritch blast. Brother Martin tried to hit the same one with his mace and his spectral mace, but missed with both.

"I can get us an escape," Lawrence called, and cast dust devil in front of the second wave of descending creatures, and used it to bludgeon the last creature on the stairs from the first wave. A closed creature swung at the sorcerer, but he stepped aside, and right into the range of another. Prynhawn quickly deflected the crippling blow with his shield.

From beyond the top of the stairs they heard a gravely pitched voice shouting. Yanliz recognized the words as, "By Hruggek be healed and fight on!"

Before their eyes, they saw the creatures' wounds magically heal slightly, and two of the fallen rose, though still injured. One was still burning from Prynhawn's flaming blade and quickly fell again.

Yanliz transferred his hunter's mark and sunk an arrow into one of the creatures that had been standing. One of the creatures swung over Philip's head, knocking Philip's staff aside, but missing Lawrence. Philip broke its leg with a kick and followed up with a stomp that left it motionless. Prynhawn beheaded another with his searing blade. Jess dragged Dubricus just outside the cave.

Vernim cast healing word on Lawrence, and sunk a crossbow bolt into a revived creature Another flame-like radiance descended down on Lawrence from just above him, causing his dust devil to disperse.

The second wave of creatures began to descend.

"Lawrence, we need to get to the other side!" Valeria shouted, as she pulled him past the landing and closer to the exit, missing a revived creature with an eldritch blast. Brother Martin dropped it with a blow from his spectral mace, but missed the last one with his actual mace. As they moved, Lawrence hit the last one with a firebolt, and Valeria just barely avoided getting hit with a stray arrow from Yanliz. It smacked Lawrence with its morningstar in retaliation. Then, a floating staff with a sickle on the end appeared, floating in the air, and smashed down on the sorcerer. Philip swung his staff wide at the last of the creatures, but wobbled its legs with a hard kick to the legs before rolling closer to the exit. Prynhawn missed the last creature with his flaming sword.

Jess dragged Dubricus away from the cave.

"We need to retreat!" Valeria shouted. "Prynhawn, hold them off."

As they began to withdraw, the last creature swung at Lawrence, but missed.

Vernim cast scorching ray, but only hit the last creature with one of the three rays.

Wobbled and bloody, the last creature waited for the second wave, avoiding the last swing from Brother Martin's spectral mace.

The second wave advanced cautiously as the group withdrew to the cave exit.

The group dashed, and the creatures stopped at the cave entrance.

Moving faster than the others, Philip caught up with Jess and picked up Dubricus.

The group soon caught up Philip and together they all made their way to the bandit cave.

They knocked at the locked door, and heard Cob's voice answer.

"It's us," Valeria said. "The Outcasts."

Cob unlocked the door and they piled into the room.

Philip put Dubricus' remains on one of the beds, sighing, "Cyrrollalee! Guys..." and he buried his head in his hands. "What can we do?"

"We'll have to bring him to the temple, with the other dead," Valeria stated.

"Let's go back to the keep," Yanliz suggested.

"There's no one in the keep who can bring him back," Jess stated.

"As soon as I can revive the dead," Vernim promised, "Dubricus will be the second spell I cast."

"I care about Dubricus just as much as the rest of you," Jess said, "but, quite frankly, if we know that we can't revive him, and we're traveling through the woods, it's probably best to get back. If we can bury him quick, that would be great. But if we think keeping him here is going to pose a threat to our safety, and we know we can't bring him back, then it might be best just to leave."

"But we can bring him back," Yanliz started.

"I think we should leave," Vernim repeated. "I think we should leave."

"But if we can't do anything to bring him back," Jess asked, "is it worth the burden of carrying him all the way back?"

"Absolutely." Brother Martin stated. "I think it's time to go."

"We can bring him back," Lawrence added, referring to the keep.

"We've done this three times already," Valeria pointed out, and referring to the rescued prisoners who were still exhausted, she added, "and we won't be slowed down, because we won't be traveling at our full speed anyway."

After Brother Martin cast cure wounds on Lawrence, and Vernim gave him the last moon pie, they prepared to depart.

They collected their treasure and as many weapons as they could carry, clothing the rescued prisoners with the bandits' clothing, and arming them with a crossbow and scimitar each.

With Philip carrying Dubricus' body wrapped up in blankets, and Jess carrying his pack, they began plodding their way back to the keep, stopping frequently to give the rescued prisoners a chance to rest.

During each break, Valeria sang a little song of rest to help rejuvenate the former prisoners and speed their journey up a little.

On the journey back, they discussed the best way to use the zone of truth spell, should they have to use it again.

Late in the afternoon, Valeria and Jess spotted a campfire up ahead. They saw two people run from the campfire, farther away, and duck behind a rise in the ground.

"It looks like there's two people," Valeria pointed out, "hiding behind that ridge."

Brother Martin couldn't see anything in the field, but everyone else only saw the abandoned camp fire.

After some discussion, Valeria told Lawrence to confront them with Philip, Prynhawn, and Jess.

The four of them walked toward the campfire, which was about ninety feet away from the road.

When they were ten feet from the campfire, two men stood from behind the ridge, thirty feet farther than the campfire. One was taller and well groomed, with fine clothes, and a shiny rapier hanging from his hip. The shorter man seemed quite ordinary with common travelers clothes, a crossbow and short sword hanging at his side.

"Hail and well met," the taller, more gallant, man called. "I guess that was very not a very stealthy attempt at seeking cover after all. I hope you don't mean us any harm."

"Seeking cover from what?" Lawrence asked. "We hope you don't mean us any harm."

"There's only two of us," the taller man said, rubbing his thumb and forefinger through his well groomed and pointy beard. "There's a dozen of you."

"What are you doing hiding in the grass?" Lawrence asked, noting the man's black hair and six foot stature.

"We weren't originally hiding," the man said. "We were just making camp by the side of the road. We thought you might be bandits. We saw some bandits up ahead, and we were able to hide from them. You don't look like them, but either you're relocating, or you've been much more successful than they were. You look like you could fit the bill. Let me introduce myself. I am Lord Sylvester, and this is my manservant, Dag. We were just on our way to the keep and stopped for some lunch."

"We're headed to the keep as well," Lawrence revealed.

"Okay," Sylvester said, "well I guess there's safety in numbers. You certainly seem like an odd band to say the least."

"Philip," Lawrence asked, "do you mind if they accompany us? Let's walk and talk."

"What brings you to the keep?" Philip asked, "If you don't mind me asking."

"No," Sylvester replied, "I don't mind at all. I was originally afraid that we were about to be ransacked. But to answer your question, I'm hoping to meet with Lord Devereau."

"I have no problem with him traveling with us," Jess offered.

"That's wonderful," Sylvester smiled handsomely.

"Dag," Sylvester said, motioning toward the campfire, "take care of that, would you?"

Dag promptly put out the fire and gathered their belongings.

"Like I said," Sylvester continued, "there's safety in numbers. I consider myself a man of some wealth, but you obviously have as much wealth as you can handle." He gestured to the group and all they were carrying. "Where are you coming from, with all of this?"

"We're adventurers," Lawrence replied, as they walked back to the group, "doing business for the keep."

"Oh, and very successful, I assume?" Sylvester implied.

"No, not necessarily," Lawrence sighed. "We've taken some losses, and he indicated the bundle that lay by Brother Martin's feet.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Sylvester consoled. "In any event, it sounds like we're safer with you, than on our own."

"That would make sense," Lawrence agreed. "Where did you get your lordship from? Are you from a noble family?"

"I am," Sylvester admitted.

"Which family?" Lawrence asked.

"I'm from house Fellini," Sylvester replied.

"Where are you from?" Lawrence inquired.

"I hail from the illustrious Silverymoon," Sylvester replied.

"That's a beautiful place," Lawrence acknowledged.

"It certainly is!" Sylvester agreed.

"Do you do regular business with the keep?" Lawrence probed.

"Not frequently," Sylvester revealed. "But I am this time."

"Just for discussion," Lawrence explored, "or are you bringing good and wares?"

"Well..." Sylvester disclosed, "I was actually hoping to make an acquisition."

"I see," Lawrence wondered. "What interested you in the keep, may I ask?"

"Well, it is personal," Sylvester replied. "Something that Lord Devereau may be able to provide."

"It is a pleasure to meet you," Lawrence regarded, continuing to show interest in the lord as they all continued on toward the keep.

As they walked, Sylvester asked Lawrence about himself as well as his companions, and had to be corrected that Valeria was the leader of The Outcasts. Lawrence told him about his draconic sorcerer heritage, and introduced him to his companions. He admitted that they had only been working for the keep for a week, and that they had acquired what they carried from their adventures in the caves.

Jess explained that six of them had just been rescued from captivity in the caves, and were not members of their adventuring party, and that one of their party had just fallen.

"That's a shame," Sylvester consoled. "How did it happen?"

"He believed fire solved everything," Jess commented.

"And what happened?" Sylvester asked." Did he get burned?"

"No," Jess replied. "He got maced in the face."

"Maced in the face?" Sylvester repeated. "Who did that to him?"

"A couple of furry bear things?" Jess explained.

"They spoke goblin," Lawrence added.

"That's horrible!" Sylvester condemned. "They must have been viscous to get the better of the likes of you. I'm sorry to hear that."

"You weren't expecting any danger, were you?" Philip asked. "I was just wondering."

"Actually, I was," Sylvester admitted. "Consider your appearance. And as I've mentioned, there are bandits in these parts, and unless you're all relocating, you certainly could fit the bill. After all, you're practically carrying furniture."

"Is there a reason you travel in such a small group?" Brother Martin asked. "I don't want to impose, but I would think a noble would travel with a party of guards."

"I like to travel fast and light," Sylvester replied, easily. "We were quick enough to avoid the bandits."

"That is a true advantage," Brother Martin acknowledged. "Hopefully we can maintain that advantage with this group."

"To be honest," Sylvester admitted, "you all make quite the racket, but I imagine that if you ran into some bandits, you would not have to resort to running and hiding."

"I hope not," Philip replied. "I know we can look a little intimidating from afar, but I was asking if you were expecting anything specific...prior to seeing us."

"No, not at all," Sylvester replied. "We were just finishing our lunch on the road."

Sylvester thanked them again for their companionship and safety on the rest of the trip back to the keep, and repeated that he had seen bandits on the road, which he managed to avoid by hiding.

The talk continued for at least an hour, until they heard what sounded like a woman's scream up ahead.

Over the next hill, they saw what looked like two thugs roughing up a woman.

As they saw the group approach, they shielded themselves with the woman, who struggled in their grasp.

"Valeria," Philip asked, "should I try to sneak around?"

Yanliz handed his chandelier to Valeria and fired an arrow at thugs, but it landed at the lady's feet.

"That's Lady Lenore," Lawrence said, as they got closer, "I recognize her."

"And those are the two from the cave," Brother Martin added, referring to the two thugs, Jeff and Yvonne. "The lover birds. The ones that were doing the do."

As the group advanced, Jeff and Yvonne tried to pull Nore away, but she was resisting, and the group was slowly gaining on them.

"Maybe she didn't leave," Brother Martin suggested. "Maybe they took her."

"Maybe it's a ploy," Yanliz warned.

"Lord Sylvester," Valeria asked, "do you happen to know someone by the name of Lady Lenore?"

"That name does not sound familiar," Sylvester replied.

"Okay, thank you," Valeria replied. "I think it's odd. She had the door barred with a chair. How could they have taken her?"

"We can find out," Brother Martin advised, "but we can't just assume. We don't want to risk hitting her with an arrow."

"Philip, go ahead and run up," Valeria instructed. "Prynhawn, put down the mirror and follow him."

Philip ran up on the side of the road, leaving a wide opening for Yanliz to shoot.

About half way, Philip noticed a body lying on the ground in the middle of the road, but continued on.

As he closed in on the tussle, Jeff put his dagger to Lady Lenore's throat, shouting, "Stop, Or I'll slit her throat!"

Philip slowed down and came to a stop at about one hundred feet away.

"If we slit her throat," Yvonne called out, "you're not going to be able to bring her back, so don't try anything funny! Just leave us alone. She's ours!"

"What happened?" Philip asked.

"I'ts none of your business!" Yvonne replied. "Mind your own business. Be on your way!"

"Why are you taking her?" Prynhawn asked, as he joined Philip.

"Help!" Lady Lenore shouted, as she flailed about, struggling in their arms. "Help me! Just kill them!"

"What do you want her for?" Philip repeated.

"That's none of your business!" Jeff shouted.

"Well, it is," Prynhawn replied, "because we want her back!"

"What do you want her for?" Jeff shouted.

"To keep her safe," Prynhawn replied.

"Lady Lenore," Philip asked "why are they doing this to you?"

"They're bandits!" Nore replied.

As the rest of the group continued to advance, Philip began angling around them to the side.

Suddenly, Lady Lenore ripped her arm free of Yvonne's grasp and grabbed Jeff's dagger from him, freeing herself. She ran toward Prynhawn.

Philip and Prynhawn dashed toward them.

Yvonne dropped her dagger on the ground, and they held up their hands in surrender, begging, "Please don't kill us!"

Nore stopped short of Prynhawn, but he ran past her.

"Get down on the ground!" he commanded the two assailants, and they immediately dropped to the ground.

"Don't kill me!" they both begged.

"I won't if you don't move!" Prynhawn warned.

As the group approached the body lying in the road, they saw that it was Norman, lying in a pool of blood.

Brother Martin cast spare the dying on him. Examining the body, he found that he was still alive.

Philip approached Nore and asked for the dagger, which she willingly handed over.

Prynhawn removed the scimitars and crossbows from Jeff and Yvonne's belts and tossed them to the side of the road. He searched them for any hidden weapons, but didn't find anything.

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