Session 74: The Friends We Made Along The Way

The Black Knight
As the rest of the group withdrew into the cave, Lawrence challenged The Black Knight to fight Philip with honor.

“Hey Mendel,” Lawrence called to The Black Knight, but he received no response.

Lawrence suggested loudly that The Black Knight was too scared not to fight his friend Philip from horseback, but The Black Knight insisted that this is how champions fought.

Lawrence pried The Black Knight, trying to figure out what The Black Knight's motive for the fight was, asking whether he was fighting to prove himself or whether he was looking for something.

The Black Knight revealed that a one on one duel was more honorable than just killing them all while they ran, and added that if he wins, they would have to surrender all their treasure, including everything they had taken from the priests, who Lawrence confirmed had been defeated.

Lawrence tried to convince The Black Knight to let him relieve himself in the woods, but The Black Knight refused, adding, "If you try to run, Kira will shoot you down, as well as your companions. The Huntress is a very good shot!"

As Lawrence continued their dialogue, he got the sense that The Black Knight did have some sense of honor, but was clearly frustrated and aggravated.

"You seem like a fellow whose real interest is in testing your own strength," Lawrence pried. "Have you ever trained in magic?"

"No, I have never trained in magic," The Black Knight replied flatly. "I only have my faith."

"Ah, it sounds like you gain magic abilities from the divine," Lawrence continued. "I have a friend like that. Care to test your faith against my magic while we wait?"

"First I must fight your—ahem—champion," The Black Knight sneered. "If you want to test your magic, try the necromancer."

"Oh yes," Lawrence pressed. "I've heard a lot about him, if you're referring to...umm...Tarlick was it?"

"Yeah, something like that," The Black Knight grunted.

"He sounds very adept," Lawrence parlayed. "Is he around for a bit of magic fun?"

"Seems like a bit of a hermit to me," The Black Knight shared. "I rarely see him."

"Oh he's not here today?" Lawrence questioned. "That's a shame. Does he usually spend his time around the caves?"

"I'm sure he's holed up in his cave, working on his experiments," The Black Knight admitted, nodding toward the highest cave in the valley.

"Should we try to gather him before the fight?" Lawrence ventured. "Perhaps he'd enjoy it..." As The Black Knight was walking, he noticed a slight limp in his stride. "Excuse me, just occurred to me that we haven't exchanged names," Lawrence added, "but I noticed your leg seems a little hurt and was wondering if you would like assistance with it... The name's Lawrence, by the way. Lawrence Kerman."

"THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH MY LEG!" The Black Knight shouted, drawing his sword, threateningly. He turned away to the west, and shouted, "Kira, are you still out there?"

"Oh, no, of course your leg is alright," Lawrence squirmed. "Must just be that the ground is uneven."

An arrow hit the ground between them. Lawrence noticed that the arrow came from the south. He leaned to pick it up.

"SIT DOWN!" The Black Knight barked.

Lawrence sat down, and quietly continued, "You seem a little tense. Would you like me to read you an excerpt from my book to calm your nerves?"

"Sure," The Black Knight grunted. "Whatever."

Lawrence took out his books on theology, saints, and deities, and opened to a random page. He began reading aloud the stories of Stronmaus, the cloud giant god of sun, sky, weather, and joy.

Meanwhile, Valeria led the way back toward the temple.

As they were passing the door to the room where they had encountered the kobolds, Jess remembered, "While I was chasing that acolyte—remember he was knocking on all the doors—he yelled 'Mendel' when he knocked on this door."

"Do you think he meant the Mendel?" Vernim asked in astonishment. "The Mendel that we know?"

"No one saw anyone come out, right?" Brother Martin confirmed. "Which means he's either mistaken, or Mendel's still in there...if he's there."

"I think we're in bad shape," Yanliz suggested. "I think we should rest before we do anything rash."

As they continued up the hall, Yanliz listened at the various doors, but didn't hear anything. They passed the temple, and into the labyrinth, where they sat down and rested.

Valeria gave Philip the incandescent blue sphere.

Philip took out his ale, and began to drink heavily, handing his pack to Valeria. Yanliz asked for a swig, and took a few sips.

"You will get this back, Philip. I know it. Guys, I know this might not seem like the best situation," Vernim rallied, "but I am sure we will get through, to the end, with the power of our friendship, as Philip said, and the power of Tymora, and of all the beings that are following us and are rooting for us to this day. Philip, I know you. I trust you to lead us to greatness. You are their shining light that will lead us to victory, and I'm so proud of all the work we have done. Although Tymora may show her favor in strange ways, I know she is proud of the work we have done, and she will lead us to victory today. Yes!"

"Thank you for your faith, Vernim," Philip muttered. "It''s—"

"Not only do I have faith in my god, but I have faith in you," Vernim continued. "I have faith in you, Philip. And I have faith in Lawrence, that he will do good things, as diplomats do."

"I'll try not to let you down," Philip sighed. "On that note, I have some questions. What does this stone do?"

"I believe it offers wisdom," Valeria explained.

"And, are you sure that's something I should take?" Philip asked. "I just want to make it clear that I don't know how good the odds are that I'm going to return. You know? I don't know how this is going to go."

"I'm not certain either," Valeria admitted, "but I think that we have to give our best shot."

"What's the plan?" Philip asked, returning to his ale.

"I peered across the valley," Yanliz shared, "and was able to get a glimpse at something shiny beyond the bugbear cave, which I assume is where the archers were perched. So what me and Jess could do is try to sneak up on them and take them out while Philip is fighting the knight so they don't intervene."

"I'm willing to try that," Jess agreed.

"That sounds good," Philip stated. "Do you have any ideas for what I should do?"

"I think that you should try to distract the knight," Valeria suggested, "and then try to run."

"After me and Jess hopefully take care the archers," Yanliz added, "I will try to assist and take out the horse, assuming the knight uses it, if that's any assurance."

"I don't know if that's a good idea," Vernim worried, "because I thought the knight said he wanted to fight you, Philip, one one one, and even though he is truly an evil person, to the core, he does seem like he has some code of honor in a sense. An honor to his evil nature, if that makes any sense."

"If we're considering having a full on fight," Brother Martin asked, "Yanliz, do you know how many archers there were, because it seemed like arrows were coming from all over the place."

"I got shot by two arrows," Yanliz replied, "so I think there's at least two...unless one archer shot two. They came from the same general direction. Once Lawrence is free, and Philip's getting chased down by a horse, are we just going to watch and let The Black Knight hammer away at Philip?"

"We don't know what he's going to do," Brother Martin questioned, "even if the battle goes that way. What happens when the battle's done? Are the archers going to let us go? Is The Black Knight going to let us go?"

"That's true," Vernim agreed.

"So you're saying we should sacrifice Philip," Yanliz challenged, "so the rest of us get safe passage?"

Philip started to cry.

"No!" Brother Martin and Vernim insisted.

"I just think we need to consider all our options," Brother Martin explained.

"Our only option is to kill." Yanliz stated.

"I, myself, am just concerned there is some unknown ace up this knight's sleeve," Vernim speculated, "that he will not pull, unless we violate the rules. Although, to be clear, he might just do that if he's almost lost. I don't know."

"He did specify that if Philip wins, he would leave," Valeria recalled.

"Do you think I should focus on trying to take out the horse?" Philip asked. "I was thinking about trying to knock it down, like I tried to that time we first met it. I just don't know. I could also try to dodge the horse. I'm not sure what else I could do..."

"It would be nice if you can buy some time before the fight," Jess suggested, "so me and Yanliz can locate the archers."

"I don't know," Philip sighed. "Rescuing Lawrence is probably the number one priority here. At the same time, I don't know how far away from the caves I can get, because I think the horse is pretty fast, and I don't know if I can out run it for long. As far as battling the knight goes, I really have two options, maybe three, that I can think of. I can run away. I'm not sure where, but I can try that. I can try to knock down the horse. Or I can stall for time. And I'm not sure how long I can stall for time. I'm also not sure how far I can run away, before I get caught. I'm not particularly keen on trying to take on the horse either."

"I think the best thing you can do is stall for time," Valeria surmised, "and then attack the horse."

"I don't mean to make excuses," Philip said, "I just don't know how much of that I can do. It's all pretty exhausting." He went to take another swig of ale and found he had finished it all.

They continued to ponder the possibilities of the battle to come and the various tactics they could take, including how to ensure Lawrence's safe exchange.

Valeria sang a song of rest to help revitalize her companions.

When they were rested, they began to return to the cave entrance. Jess gave Philip a hundred feet of rope, and Yanliz gave him a small hammer and two pitons.

Valeria sang a song of inspiration for Jess, Yanliz, and Philip.

Yanliz peeked into the room where they had encountered the kobolds. Confirming that the room was empty, he and Jess left the group and went through the room's secret door to the labyrinth, heading for the bugbear cave.

With the incandescent blue sphere orbiting his head, Philip stuffed the pitons in his belt and tied the hammer to one end of the rope.

Valeria led Philip to the cave entrance, with Vernim and Brother Martin following a short distance behind.

Vernim cast bless on Philip, Valeria, and Brother Martin.

Brother Martin cast shield of faith on Philip.

"YOUR TIME IS UP!" They heard The Black Knight bellow, just as they were reaching the cave mouth. "SEND OUT YOUR CHAMPION!"

"Aw, we were just getting to the good part," Lawrence bemoaned, closing his book and putting it away.

When Philip and Valeria peered out of the cave, they saw The Black Knight pacing on his warhorse, just beyond Lawrence.

"I'm here," Philip called, with his staff held forth in one hand, and dragging the rope behind him in the other. "Hi."

"It's about time!" The Black Knight scolded. "A puny champion, with a puny staff, and no steed to speak of. Come on out and meet your doom."

"Can we have our friend back?" Philip asked.

Philip leaped down into the valley, and traded places with Lawrence, who called out, "It was a pleasure sitting with you," before returning to the cave.

When Lawrence reached the cave mouth, he found Valeria and Brother Martin at the entrance, and Vernim down the hall.

"One of the archers is on the south side of the valley," Lawrence informed Valeria.

Yanliz and Jess had arrived at the common room of the bugbear cave without incident, and stealthily made their way toward the entrance. When they turned the corner at the bottom of the cave, they saw the large gong on the floor, leaning against the wall across from the entrance. A club lay on the floor in front of it.

As they approached, they saw that the large wooden frame that had held the gong was in the entrance, parallel to the entryway. Tied to the far post, just sticking out of the entrance, was Prynhawn's suit of archaic bronze plate mail, and inside it was a beheaded wax and paper mâché figure. The armor was so battered, it barely hung on the post.

"That's some diversion!" Yanliz uttered, realizing what the kobolds had done.

When they saw Philip trading places with Lawrence, they slipped out of the cave and headed west, to where Yanliz had seen something shiny earlier. They searched in vain for any signs of archers, oblivious to the commotion coming from the west.

"Valeria," Brother Martin asked, "do you feel that rumbling?"

"I feel it too," Vernim confirmed. "It's like a minor tremor."

Philip glanced toward the west, from where he also heard the rumbling. He couldn't look away as he saw something large moving in the trees. Something huge!

At the top of the valley to the west, the trees began to shake. Suddenly the trees parted, revealing the huge horns of a familiar giant elk.
The Giant Elk
"Here's my steed," Philip teased The Black Knight.

The giant elk leaped down the steps of the valley and stopped next to Philip, lowering itself.

Dumbfounded, Philip clumsily climbed onto the majestic beast's back, still holding his staff and rope.

"Interesting," The Black Knight commented. "So you have a steed after all. But you still have a tiny lance."

Philip coiled up his rope, and began swinging the hammer around in a large circle, like a flail, disturbing some bees gathered around the elk.

"Can you send a message to Philip," Lawrence asked Valeria, "that The Black Knight has a limp?"

"How do you know this?" Valeria asked. "He's on a horse!"

"He got off while we were talking," Lawrence explained. "We became really good friends."

Yanliz and Jess found the area uninhabited, and began scanning the valley for any sign of archers.

Philip on the giant elk, and The Black Knight on his warhorse, charged at each other.

The Black Knight's lance was aimed at Philip, but at the last minute, it was deflected by the elk's horns. Then the elk lowered its horns and rammed the warhorse, knocking it down and sending The Black Knight tumbling to the ground. Philip threw his hammer at The Black Knight, but it bounced harmlessly off the black armor.

Noticing how banged up Lawrence was, Brother Martin cast cure wounds on the sorcerer.

Lawrence, Valeria, and Vernim tried to scan the valley for archers, while they were enthralled by the miraculous turn of events in the valley below.

Vernim noticed some movement in the trees, to their right, just behind the highest cave. After pointing it out to Lawrence and Valeria, he withdrew into the cave.

Not finding any signs of archers in the valley, Yanliz began searching tracks in the area. He noticed footsteps heading west. They appeared to have been made by a single human, lighter than he was. He motioned for Jess to follow him.

The Black Knight rose and mounted his horse as the two riders swung around for another pass, weaving out of the charging elk's path at the last moment. Philip tossed his hammer again, but it landed in the grass.

Jess noticed some movement in the trees, just behind the highest cave, and took off around the rim of the valley, pointing it out to Yanliz as she passed him.

Yanliz thought he spotted a cloaked figure, and followed Jess around the rim of the valley.

The warhorse and the giant elk charged at each other once more. The Black Knight aimed his lance, but Philip ducked under it. The elk lowered its horns and rammed the warhorse dead on, sending the horse and rider flying end over end. The Black Knight almost landed on its feet, but its right leg gave out and it fell awkwardly, barely managing to get its shield up in time to block the hammer Philip had flung.

The Black Knight rose and limped onto the risen warhorse. The elk charged them again, glancing the now stumbling warhorse with its horns. Philip flung his hammer wide, but the rope wrapped around The Black Knight's torso. The elk continued its charge as Philip held tight to the rope. The Black Knight tried to untangle himself, but was dragged off the warhorse, slamming into the ground, and dragged around the valley.

The giant elk circled the valley and rammed into the risen warhorse, knocking it down for good. Philip continued to drag The Black Knight around the valley, the heavy black armor bouncing and flailing.

Jess climbed to the higher ledge toward the highest cave, passing over the cave where her companions watched the thrashing in the valley below. Yanliz followed close behind.

Philip flipped off the giant elk's back, stomping both feet onto The Black Knight and slamming his staff into the black helm. The solid suit of armor was still.

As Jess reached the top of the highest cave, she spotted a figure aiming a bow to the east. Jess drew her short swords and charged the archer. As she stabbed the figure, it's stiff form toppled over revealing a cloaked woman in leather armor with a face of stone.

As Yanliz arrived, an arrow whizzed past his face and sunk into a nearby tree. A black ribbon hung from it.

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