[WotD] Chapter One - A Rock and a Hard Place

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Trigger
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Eryndir crouches near the zombie in the raiment of the Thousandfold Men of Industry, and wipes the gore from his blade with the cleanest patch of fabric he can find, a disgusted look on his face.

"I wonder if we've found the owner of that crystalline dagger."

He stands, sheathes his rapier, and looks to the edge of the clearing from which the zombies entered. "If so, where had it run off to after hiding the pack? Who did it find out there?"

Trigger
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Eryndir nudges the zombie wearing the Thousandfold Men of Industry colors with his foot and offers a shrug. "Dead."

After a cursory look at the portion of the brush where they entered the clearing, he shakes his head. "Looks like they came from . . . that way." He points in a generic, but distinctly unhelpful direction.

deadDMwalking
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"Is that a suggestion?"

Trigger
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Eryndir shakes his head. "No, I would recommend we continue to follow the lead of our owl friend, unless someone else has an idea."

Trigger
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At the end of the hour, and with Caleb still looking somewhat sore, Eryndir walks to his pack. He pulls one of the two Potions of Healing given to the party by Simon Kendarr.

"Should we find trouble again before you have a chance to sleep through the night..."

He hands the potion to Caleb.

MinusInnocence
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Caleb winces as he rides to his feet. "No, thank you. It would be prudent for them to be distributed among the rest of you; else when a stray arrow lays me low before I can heal myself, we'll have lost a potion and my curative magic."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Trigger
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Eryndir nods and replaces the potion in his pack. He shoulders it, ready.

Cronono
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Gingerly, Caleb inspects the corpses. The largest of the three zombies bears a number of lacerations that are incredibly precise. It doesn't take a man of Caleb's faith to determine that the crystalline blade was used to very carefully extract a number of the corpse's organs.

The zombie clad in the raiment of the Thousandfold Men of Industry was bludgeoned to death, likely by the endless assault of one of the other corpses.

The half-zombie appears to have been chewed on, extensively.

MinusInnocence
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"I don't know if it was the Communist or someone else, but one of these corpses was harvested for some of its major organs. Maybe before reanimation, maybe after. They definitely used the crystalline blade."

Caleb sighs. "It has all the makings of a wonderful mystery for less busy adventurers to investigate."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Trigger
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Eryndir nods, making a mental note. "Yes, agreed."

He turns to Rupert. "It appears that we are ready to continue."

Cronono
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The owl hoots and takes to the skies. It is extremely unusual to see an owl fly during the day. Rupert's lazy circles make him rather easy to track.

Cronono
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After an hour of following the owl, the travelers are thoroughly in the woods. Eryndir can find no sign that the travelers are being followed and no sign as to the direction Rupert is taking them. The brambles and thickets are thick here but the bird simply flies in lazy circles waiting for the travelers to make their way through the untamed wilderness.

While Eryndir hangs back and waits to see what transpires in their wake, Charn is the first to notice the metallic web. He recoils from the sudden realization that the finely spun metal is inches from his face, almost bowling Caleb over as he does so. Had Caleb been a few inches faster in his pace, the Dragonborn may have knocked the poor cleric into the tiefling with his sudden retreat.

The metallic web is composed of strands roughly as thick as a human hair. It spans a space between two trees roughly eight feet apart and as tall as a clydesdale. Rupert appears oblivious to the metallic obstacle below.

Dafyd
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Charn hisses as he regains his footing, "Hold. I've spotted what may well be a trap."

Trigger
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Eryndir catches up with the group, bringing up the rear. He approaches the web carefully, stepping to ensure there isn't a second trap lingering in front of it.

Cronono
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Eryndir inspects the area around the metallic web. His pointed ears perk at a very faint sound - something is moving in the leaves above. Glancing up, Eryndir sees an incredibly complex network of webs. The webs are fashioned out of incredibly fine metalwork, a silvery reflection barely catching the sun's rays through the canopy. It takes him a minute to realize that these webs aren't like a spider's. Instead, the webs remind the wood elf more of the webs created by Fall Webworms. Unlike that moth's webs, however, these webs are made out of strands of metal.

Trigger
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Silently, without taking his eyes off of the canopy, the elf raises a hand to catch the attention of his compatriots, then points in the direction he is looking.

Dafyd
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Charn glances up at the webbing, not sure what to make of it. "Is there some beast that planted these? If so, we might duck under and press on before we attract its attention."

MinusInnocence
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Caleb shrugs. "Likely, it is too late." He begins reciting an incantation. "You are the lifeblood of the State. You bring goods and people where they can best serve the collective good. O, Roads! May you ferry us to our destination safely and swiftly, and may that happy conclusion be a salve for my cares and aches. Amen."

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Trigger
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Eryndir quietly slips a little deeper into the brush, attempting to blend with his surroundings. His brow furrows, and his eyes sweep over the webbing, searching for their creator.

Cronono
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As the wood elf attempts to hide in the thick shrubs, he finds his way barred by the metallic webbing. The metallic webs extend not just across the intended path, but also in the vegetation. If Eryndir didn't know better, he would think someone had constructed the metallic lattice. Eryndir does know better, however, because he is able to find a small swarm of worms spinning their metallic webs in the way. Somehow, someway, these worms are creating metal instead of silk and barring the travelers from proceeding in the direction Rupert is flying.

Trigger
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Eryndir gestures to the others. He voice is a low whisper. "I have found the source of the webbing. It looks as though our path is blocked completely. Our options seem to be doubling back or trying to cut through."

He leans closer to the worms, examining them. "Though, I have never seen metal, rather than silk webbing, and do not have a sense of what creatures these might be."

deadDMwalking
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"Well, let's kill the lot of them and then sever the metal webs. If there is sinister purpose it will reveal itself rather than let us terminate the plot." Able has been getting increasingly nervous as the group moved deeper into the wilderness. He might have his problems with civilization, but at least he knew how to survive.

Dafyd
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Charn observes, "Worms that spin steel might be handy at the Outpost. I will carry them if no one objects."

Trigger
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Eryndir nods and steps back from the webbing.

Trigger
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As Charn collects the worms, Eryndir pulls the crystalline dagger from his pack.

Holding the weapon gingerly, with an eye towards the section where the blade is biting into the leather wrappings, he places it lightly on one of the metal threads of webbing, in an area where the path seems most easily cleared.

With a gentle sawing motion, he begins to see if the dagger will cut through the metal webbing, applying incrementally more pressure until the threads break, and stopping if it appears that the blade will cut through the leather wrapping first.

Cronono
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The webs fray and fall apart almost the instant that the sharp edge makes contact. The blade is so sharp that it takes almost no pressure to cut away the webbing. Eryndir's focus is on the leather wrapped around the blade, however, as he can see that even the inconsequential contact with the spun metal is enough to cause the blade to bite ever so deeply into the grip.

After a few moments, the path is clear, if strewn with delicately spun metal. Charn manages to place five of the worms in a small pouch.

Rupert hoots, somewhat annoyed at the delay. He flies further into the forest.

Cronono
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The travelers make slow but steady progress moving through the thick foliage. The uneven ground is composed of regions of uneven rock, densely packed soil, or thick clay that slightly stains the clothing it comes into contact with. Each step made by the travelers has to be carefully assessed to ensure the traveler doesn't stumble and fall. As the elevation swiftly changes between steps, the travelers also have to track an owl who seems content to circle quite lazily overhead while condescending to wait for the travelers. It speaks to the mental fatigue of the journey that the owl's actions could be considered condescending.

Caleb is the first to hear signs of trouble. As the travelers are making their way down a steep clay edifice and using the densely packed trees as handholds, Caleb makes out the sound of a voice. Caleb instantly recognizes the structure of a religious chant, but he can't quite make out what the words are saying. Rupert, unhelpfully, alights on a nearby tree branch.

The travelers are about 10 feet from emerging into a river bed that is cleared of vegetation. The river bed extends for hundreds of feet north and south of the travelers who are approaching from the east. The other side of the river appears to be mostly flat but densely packed with brush. The 10 feet to the river bed involve a descent of about five feet, meaning that the terrain is difficult.

Eryndir is confident that the travelers have not made much noise recently as their footfalls have been softened by the clay. He is confident, however, that the river will not be sufficient to mask hastened activity by Charn and Caleb in their heavy armor. Unfortunately, the elf does not know where the chanting is coming from.

Trigger
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Eryndir once again brings up the rear, ensuring they weren't followed, when he notices that Caleb has stopped. The elf makes his way to the front and listens as carefully as he can.

Eryndir turns back to Caleb and whispers. "Our approach up until now has been nearly silent. But the sounds of the river will not provide cover once we leave the brush. Can you determine the nature of those chants? Are they hostile?"

deadDMwalking
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"We could announce ourselves and find out. Aren't you always for solving problems that don't concern us?" Able is also speaking in a whisper.

MinusInnocence
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Caleb shakes his head at the elf's query, "No. I don't know what they're saying or what their intentions are. Perhaps before we commit to announcing ourselves, someone can go check it out and tell the rest of us what they see?"

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
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"Sounds like a job for a scout. Good luck!"

Trigger
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Eryndir nods. His voice remains a low whisper. "I would be happy to scout ahead. However, I cannot tell where the chanting comes from." He thrusts his chin at the five-foot drop over the last ten feet of brush. "If I go even as far as the edge of this clearing, we may have no choice but to continue forward."

He adjusts his handhold on a small sapling and makes his way to the drop. "That said, it is better than remaining here."

deadDMwalking
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"Best of luck to you, and may whatever gods you worship guard you. Just pick a direction and if you don't find them, go the opposite way. If things go poorly, scream."

Trigger
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Eryndir removes a length of the hempen rope from his pack and ties it around a tree at the edge of the drop, helping to lower himself down.

Trigger
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Eryndir carefully picks his way back up the incline to the rest of the party, and returns the rope to his pack.

His whisper is slightly breathy, as he recovers from the exertion of the climb in this terrain. "I see six - one priest conducting some kind of ritual, four communists participating, and --" he furrows his brow in confusion, " -- one druid wearing a crown of antlers. One hundred yards upstream."

deadDMwalking
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"Cover me." Able splashes into the water and rushes upstream. "Hold everything. I mean, I'm not here to stop your sacrifice, but I need a minute to talk to his druidness."

Trigger
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The wood elf glances around. "The clay on this hill will obscure the sound of our approach -- if we wish to approach -- though, we will have to move carefully through this terrain.

"However, as there is no way to cross this river without being detected by the communists, whether our aim is purely self-serving or altruistic in nature, I believe our path leads through them, not around them."

Trigger
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Eryndir is surprised by the tiefling's sudden movement, but seems to recover in short order. He draws his bow and one arrow and begins trying to pick his way upstream, balancing care and stealth with as much speed as the terrain allows.

Dafyd
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Charn grimaces as Able darts off and loads his crossbow. "Cover me, he says," the dragonborn mutters to Caleb. "I just hope it is clear when it's time for us to blast the communists."

MinusInnocence
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It takes Caleb significantly longer to get down to the riverbed, as he must find a path suitable for the mule he is leading behind him.

When he is close enough to the Marxist miscreants to call out without shouting, he raises a hand. "My friend speaks true. Yes, I know you can see my vestments. There has been no shortage of distrust between our ideologies. But we have one important thing in common - taxes are just redistribution of wealth by another name. It is good and right to give in times of plenty so that others can share our good fortune. In finding the most ethical form of governance, surely there are more things that unite us than divide us?

Persuade
I rolled 1d20+4, the result is 10, 4 = 14.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Cronono
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Eryndir and Charn maneuver into place while Caleb and Able attempt a dialogue with the communists. The peaceful approach meets its end as the diplomats come to faux-blows.

"Enough!" roars the druid. His skin takes on a decidedly rocky appearance as he grows so fast that his bonds shatter. Fully in the form of an earth elemental, the druid begins his assault on the communists.

Cronono
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Round One

Status

Squares with a pink ^ are difficult terrain and require an additional square of movement to enter.

Squares in the stream are flowing from the top of the map to the bottom. Moving "upstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party does not move. Moving "downstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party moves 5 feet further than intended. These athletics checks are made as part of the move action.

Cronono
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Initiative

20 - Marx
19 - Eryndir
19 - Charn
17 - Commie One
15 - Able
15 - Commie Two
7 - Caleb
7 - Druid?
6 - Commie Three
4 - Commie Four

It is now Eryndir's turn.

Cronono
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Round Two

Status

Squares with a pink ^ are difficult terrain and require an additional square of movement to enter.

Squares in the stream are flowing from the top of the map to the bottom. Moving "upstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party does not move. Moving "downstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party moves 5 feet further than intended. These athletics checks are made as part of the move action.

A heart symbol bound with a chain indicates the target is the recipient of Caleb's bless spell. The duration, in turns, is indicated on the bound heart symbol.

A red dot indicates a character is bloodied. A bloodied character has less than half of their hit points remaining. No further information is available without applications of the medicine skill.

Commie Four has perished in this combat. He is currently moaning as he moves and is likely now a zombie. None of the player characters are proficient necromancers, however, so this is simply supposition.

A red tint to the token indicates that a character is bleeding out. Successes and failures are denoted below:

Commie Two: 0 Successes, 0 Failures
Able: 0 Successes, 0 Failures

Initiative

20 - Marx
19 - Eryndir
19 - Charn
17 - Commie One
15 - Able
15 - Commie Two
7 - Caleb
7 - Druid?
6 - Commie Three
4 - Commie Four

It is now Charn's turn.

Cronono
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Round Three

Status

Squares with a pink ^ are difficult terrain and require an additional square of movement to enter.

Squares in the stream are flowing from the top of the map to the bottom. Moving "upstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party does not move. Moving "downstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party moves 5 feet further than intended. These athletics checks are made as part of the move action.

A heart symbol bound with a chain indicates the target is the recipient of Caleb's bless spell. The duration, in turns, is indicated on the bound heart symbol.

A red dot indicates a character is bloodied. A bloodied character has less than half of their hit points remaining. No further information is available without applications of the medicine skill.

Commie Two has perished in this combat. He is currently moaning as he moves and is likely now a zombie. None of the player characters are proficient necromancers, however, so this is simply supposition.

Initiative

20 - Marx
19 - Eryndir
19 - Charn
17 - Commie One
15 - Able
15 - Commie Two
7 - Caleb
7 - Druid?
6 - Commie Three
4 - Commie Four

It is now Charn's turn.

Cronono
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Middle of Round Three

Status
Squares with a pink ^ are difficult terrain and require an additional square of movement to enter.

Squares in the stream are flowing from the top of the map to the bottom. Moving "upstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party does not move. Moving "downstream" requires a DC 10 Athletics check or the moving party moves 5 feet further than intended. These athletics checks are made as part of the move action.

A heart symbol bound with a chain indicates the target is the recipient of Caleb's bless spell. The duration, in turns, is indicated on the bound heart symbol.

A red dot indicates a character is bloodied. A bloodied character has less than half of their hit points remaining. No further information is available without applications of the medicine skill.

Commie One is dead.

Commie Two has perished in this combat. He is currently moaning as he moves and is likely now a zombie. None of the player characters are proficient necromancers, however, so this is simply supposition.

Initiative
20 - Marx
19 - Eryndir
19 - Charn
17 - Commie One
15 - Able
15 - Commie Two
7 - Caleb
7 - Druid?
6 - Commie Three
4 - Commie Four

It is now Caleb's turn.

Cronono
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The scene explodes in water, blood, and magic. Green energies suffuse the living while black shadows suffuse the undead. At the end of the explosion, four dead communists lie in the waters. Marx has vanished, nowhere to be seen.

The druid reverts to his humanoid form. His crown of antlers looks smaller, somehow.

deadDMwalking
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"I believe we have a letter for you, sir, if you are not otherwise indisposed." Able wouldn't dare delay after witnessing what the druid is capable of when angry.

Cronono
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Still panting and soaking wet, the druid sits on a rocky protrusion in the stream. He takes a look at the nonplussed Rupert on a nearby tree branch and looks back to Able. He looks back to Rupert again, disbelieving. He takes in all of the carnage, including the now deceased communists in the river.

"You're mailmen?" he inquires.

Trigger
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Eryndir carefully picks his way down from the embankment and wades into the stream, recovering the arrows he directed at Marx. Lifting each one close to his face, he examines the fletchings and replaces them into his quiver. He then turns his attention to the druid.

"If you are Druid Hatepshon, then we carry a message from Archdruid Taron at the Outpost." He seems to miss the disbelief in the Druid's tone.

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