Session 78: True Colors

Arpad in the library of Tarlech the necromancer
As the group peered around the desk at Yanliz’s victim, Jess cried, “You killed Arpad! Why did you do that? What’s wrong with you?”

“Yanliz, you seriously messed up this time,” Brother Martin tisked, shaking his head.

Yanliz silently backed up to the corner, staring at the dead body.

“Brother Martin, can’t you do something?” Jess cried, tears forming in her eyes. “Can't you bring her back?”

“I’ve done what I can,” Brother Martin insisted, and gently removed the arrow from Arpad’s throat and laid her down on the floor behind the desk.

Philip moved to console Yanliz as the ranger dropped his bow and sank to the floor, staring at his shaking hands. Brother Martin was soon at his side as well.

Prynhawn took up a position by the entrance.

Lawrence’s attention was drawn to the books on the shelves.

“Gods!” Jess cried. “What are we going to do?”

“It’s going to be okay,” Valeria consoled in a soothing voice, embracing Jess. “We’ll bring her back. Everything’s going to work out.”

“We’ve got to bring her back right away,” Jess sobbed, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“We will,” Valeria assured her. “As soon as we get back.”

“You know it didn’t have to be this way,” Brother Martin said to Yanliz, lowering himself to the ranger’s level, and patting him on the leg. When Yanliz didn’t respond, Brother Martin squeezed the ranger’s hands in his own and positioned himself in the ranger’s line of sight. “We can overcome this...together. Just give me a chance to teach you to be better. I’m so sure we can do it. I tried before and maybe you weren’t ready then, but now you see what living in darkness is like. Bad things happen.” Seeing that Yanliz was staring right through him, he added, “I’ll be here when you’re ready to talk. Just say the word.”

Valeria gathered everyone together between the entrance and the corner where Yanliz was still seated.

“Listen, a lot of mistakes were made,” Valeria admitted, “and I don’t think the blame can be on one person. I think we need to learn from our mistakes, and I don't think putting it all on one person is right. I think we have to come together in these times. Even if some people don’t feel like they contributed, and maybe not everyone did, it certainly wasn’t just one person.” Valeria’s voice began to quiver as she continued, “...Because we’re a team and we need to be there for each other.”

“Thank you for saying that Valeria,” Philip chimed in.

“I don’t think we can blame just one person,” Valeria continued, looking at Yanliz who was now looking up at her. “I, for one, feel very accountable for this, because Yanliz did ask if he could shoot, and there was very little hesitance.” Looking at Prynhawn, she added, “There was hesitance, but it wasn’t shared by enough people. We all could have done more, maybe to varying extents. We’re a team and this is on all of us. With that being said, I think it’s our duty to prioritize bringing Arpad back. For a variety of reasons I think we need to change some of the ways we go about adventuring and even just living. And I think we need to recognize our failure.”

“I think we can agree that this has been a long time coming,” Brother Martin added. “It was bound to happen.”

Yanliz finally rose and said, “I appreciate all the protection and comfort and friendship I’ve gained from this party, but we all know this was my fault.

Yanliz began to leave the room, but Prynhawn wrapped a friendly arm around his shoulder and veered him back into the room with an iron grip.

“Mistakes were made,” Valeria said, facing Yanliz directly, “but it certainly wasn’t entirely on you. You might have made the shot, but you did ask…” she glanced briefly at Prynhawn, “and you did hesitate, but nobody else did. And we’re all culpable for that. If I would have said something, you wouldn’t have done it. This was a joint effort.”

“I appreciate it,” Yanliz finally spoke, “but at the end of the day, I made the shot, and I don’t want you guys to feel responsible for what was clearly my actions.”

“But we are supposed to feel responsible,” Prynhawn added, still holding Yanliz firm. “We’re a team, right?”

Approaching the two of them with his arms wide, Philip said, “Bring it in guys. It’s all going to be okay.” He gave them both a hug.

“Yanliz, come here,” Brother Martin called from the other side of the desk. “We have to face this, buddy.”

“What do you want me to do?” Yanliz argued, “I’m not like you. All I do is kill people.”

“Come here,” Brother Martin insisted. “No, you can be. Come here. Just stand next to me.”

Prynhawn released his grip and Yanliz stepped up to Brother Martin’s side.

“I want you to look at her face,” Brother Martin said, pointing down. “Look at Arpad’s face.

“I want you to look at the hole in her throat." Brother Martin urged.

“Buddy, you’re on a dark path, but it’s not too late. This really was a group problem. I should have been more diligent. I should have said something, and I didn’t. But at the end of the day, you did loose the arrow, and that’s inescapable. But there is a second chance for you. And the Dawn Father says there’s a second chance for everyone. And you can have it. You just need to start walking the right path. Step out of the darkness and into the light. Face what you’ve done and it can be better. I promise. You just have to start walking down that path.”

“I appreciate the honesty,” Yanliz replied, staring face to face with Brother Martin, “but I’ve gone far past my second chance.”

“You think you’re on your third chance?” Brother Martin questioned. “Third? Fourth? Fifth? Sixth? Second chances are eternal. That’s why...that’s the magic. It’s not like you mess up twice and you’re irredeemable. As long as you’re willing to try and do better there’s an opportunity to move forward. As long as you think you deserve it. And right now I’m not sure you think you do, but I know you do. I know you can do better. That’s why I’m talking to you.”

“We all do,” Philip agreed.

“We’ll work on it,” Brother Martin promised. “It’ll be fine.” Turning to the rest of the group, Brother Martin asked, “Alright, what now?”

“I have some suggestions for how we should move forward,” Valeria announced, and I want to hear what you all think. I think we should try to get back to the keep to revive Arpad. And when we return, I think we change our order now that we can all be in the dark. Maybe Prynhawn and Philip should be in the front, and we should stop sending anyone into a room by themselves.”

Philip, Brother Martin, and Prynhawn agreed.

“This is my suggestion,” the paladin added, “We should go a little more strict about the order in this group. And if we are going to do something, like attack, for example, we should definitely have Valeria say a clear ‘yes’ before we do it. Not just take her not saying anything as a yes. We should definitely stick to Valeria being a leader of this group. That’s my opinion. How you think?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Valeria agreed.

“Yeah,” Yanliz muttered, staring once again at Arpad.

“Make sure you ask Valeria,” Prynhawn reiterated, “and wait for a yes when you attack, okay?”

After a silence, Yanliz eventually muttered again, “Yeah.”

Meanwhile, Lawrence had been looking at the twelve polished skulls atop the twelve tall, narrow bookcases that lined the walls. Counterclockwise from the entrance they belonged to a halfling, a demon, a dwarf, an elf, a goblin, a kobold, a gnome, an orc, a human (atop the midmost of three bookcases), and a massive bugbear. After perusing a few books from each bookshelf, he focused on the last bookcase, and found that they were all about clerical magic.

“Why don’t we finish up in this cave,” Jess finally suggested, “so we can get her back and do what we need to do with her.”

“I think that’s an excellent plan,” Brother Martin agreed.

Valeria suggested bringing Arpad to the labyrinth, and they decided to go through Tarlech’s chamber to the nearest secret door.

Lawrence grabbed the massive black folio and a half-written sheet of parchment from the table and placed them in his pack for later examination.

Brother Martin carried Arpad in his arms while Philip and Prynhawn led the way, with Valeria in the rear behind Jess and Yanliz.

When they reached the door that presumably led to Tarlech’s chamber, Jess checked the door for locks and immediately noticed that the door was made completely of wood, and devoid of any metal, including the knobs. After further inspection, she determined that the door was not locked, but she noticed a faintly glowing amber glyph in the shape of a skeletal snake on the door.

“Back up,” Jess warned, and everyone complied.

“There appears to be a glyph here,” Jess explained. “See that glowing amber skeletal snake? It looks like a trap.”

Everyone backed up around the corner while Lawrence hit the door with repeated firebolts, but the door did not catch fire.

Since the east corridor was a dead end, they agreed to leave Arpad in the library while they explored the northern corridor.

As they rounded the corner from the tunnel, they saw a barred door in the far north wall and a twenty-foot by twenty-foot chamber opening out of the far south corner.

As they approached the door, five skeletons lunged at them, with five zombies close behind.

Philip leaped into the room and smashed his quarterstaff down on the closest skeleton, sending its bones scattering across the floor. He lunged at another with his staff and broke the skeleton in two with a spinning kick. Jess hit a skeleton with an arrow, but it did little as it bounced through its hollow rib cage. Philip blocked its rusty sword, but was stabbed by two others. Two blasts of a scorching ray from Lawrence finished the skeleton that had been struck with an arrow, while a third blast struck another, and a firebolt hit the wall. Valeria hit the farthest zombie with an eldritch blast. Prynhawn finished a skeleton with divine smite.

Brother Martin hit a zombie with sacred flame, and called out to Yanliz who was staring blankly at the unfolding battle, “Yanliz don’t worry, these are zombies. Zombies don’t get second chances.”

Three zombies surrounded Prynhawn, but were unable to penetrate his armor as the paladin shielded Philip from a zombie’s fist, but another bonked Philip on the head.

Prynhawn tried to protect Philip from the last skeleton, but Philip was just out of range and was pierced by its rusty blade. The monk responded with his staff, shattering the skeleton’s bones, before following up on an approaching zombie with his staff and a kick, and another kick, but it kept coming, so the halfling rolled away to where Brother Martin healed him with cure wounds.

“These are beefy zombies,” Brother Martin commented, noting that they and the skeletons all seemed to have unusually stocky and durable frames, and the zombies appeared well preserved and void of any visible injuries.

Yanliz began to move, but shot aimlessly into the fray, bouncing an arrow off Prynhawn’s armor. Prynhawn finished Philip’s assailant. Valeria hit the farthest zombies with another eldritch blast., but it continued its assault on Prynhawn until Lawrence dropped it with a firebolt. Jess stuck an arrow into the zombie that Prynhawn had blocked, but it was undeterred.

The three remaining zombies converged on Prynhawn. Two swung in vain, but the third connected with Prynhawn’s face as the paladin recognized that it was Baricus Karium!

Philip dropped one of the zombies with two strikes of his staff and kicked another. Valeria hit the other with an eldritch blast and Jess put it down with an arrow in its skull. Prynhawn struck zombie Baricus with his sword, but it kept swinging until Yanliz nailed it with two arrows in the chest.

The zombies began to stir, but they were cut to shreds before they could rise.
Prynhawn lifted the bar from the door and a dismal sight greeted their eyes as Philip opened the creaking door to this room. Several men and women—emaciated, pale, and dressed in rags—shielded their eyes from the sudden light. Lying in the back of the room were the petrified body of The Huntress and The Black Knight.

After Valeria and Prynhawn explained that they were adventurers there to rescue them, the wretched folk introduced themselves as Estelle, Henno, Pascala, Kenley, and Fatime, and explained how they had all been abducted in various ways and had been there for quite some time. Brother Martin and Jess did not recognize any of them from the keep.

They agreed that they should return to the keep with the prisoners as soon as possible and hoped they would make it in time to retrieve the last diamond back from Mouse so they could revive Arpad.

On their way out of the cave, they retrieved the bodies of Arpad, The Huntress, and The Black Knight, burning the latter two in the valley before departing.

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