Chapter 13:

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Session Number: 199
Date: Sunday 26 January 2014
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Ariel Sor13 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Calico Drd13 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA6 (Ash) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal13 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz13 (Densial) (kills: none)
Violet Drd13 (DM) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

Troll arranges for the whole party to be Mind Blanked by Saju.

The party travel to Ashhope's Mages' Guild and talk to one of their researchers. They inquire whether he has heard of the name 'Celus'. There is no record of note of anyone with that name. Ariel asks about the image spell people from the palace are being sent here to get.

"Oh, you want Bob. He is an apprentice wizard currently doing a lot of the illusionary work for the palace officials. Here is his address."

Bob is described as bald, tanned skin, somewhat short and stout and 25-30 years old: not strikingly like the Bob the party have just met.

Ariel insists on seeing one of the guild's senior illusionists, backing up her request with the king's seal. The party are shown to see Fraust, a woman of high rank in the guild with first-hand knowledge of Bob. They ask her how an 'apprentice' would be casting a spell of such magnitude. Fraust was not aware that Bob was capable of such feats, agreeing that the effect the party describes is very advanced. Fraust used to be Bob's teacher before he started specialising in illusion. He started working for the guild three or four years ago, performing small tasks and minor research. Ariel asks how the guild might help the party with seeing through illusions. Fraust suggests the True Seeing spell. There are no magical items available capable of such effect. Ariel expresses that her group would of course be willing to pay for a copy of the spell. Fraust does not want money, she wants Ariel's time. She thinks on the matter, then requests that Ariel consider being a keynote speaker at an upcoming guild conference. Ariel and Rowaine impress upon Fraust that this is not a simple commercial matter, that they do owe a duty to the crown and that any aid offered will of course be communicated to the king. Fraust is insistent; Ariel agrees.

Troll is petulant that Fraust didn't ask him. Rowaine placates him by saying he'd only end up standing in front of all the mages and telling them to, um, eff off.

For her part of the bargain, Fraust supplies Ariel with a Scroll of True Seeing. Troll transcribes it into his spellbook.

Rowaine asks about Bob's personality. Fraust describes him as quiet, reserved, and keeping to himself. She doesn't know anything very personal about him. He wasn't particularly religious.

Ariel mentions overtly that she has some suspicion as to Bob's character; that the guild may have a cuckoo. Fraust takes note, concludes the meeting and escorts the party out.

Ariel doesn't want to see Bob until the party have some way of countering illusions. In the interim, the party travel to Avarriel, thinking that they may have more leverage with its Mages' Guild. Troll elects to stay inside Ethalyn's tower. Ariel mentions to Troll to perhaps talk to Ethalyn about this: if Bob is after the Tower network or Trina and is not above manipulating minds, then Troll's wife may be a target.

The others make their way to the Guild and make their requests. The advice they receive is much the same and the Guild has no magical items that it is willing to part with.

All return to Trina for the night. In the morning they travel to Avarriel and head to Bob's address, about a fifteen minute walk from the Mithral Mug. Saju's Mind Blank effect has a few more hours before it expires. Close to their destination, Troll casts True Seeing on Calico. Ariel adds a Protection from Evil spell, and Rowaine casts the same on Troll.

They party approach the address. There is no magic on the door. Calico tries to open it.

"Shouldn't we knock?" Rowaine asks. "This is someone's house."

"No!" Ariel retorts.

"It's locked anyway," Calico adds. Ariel approaches the door and casts Knock. There is an audible 'snick' from the door.

"Hang on," Rowaine says. "We can't just go into someone's house!"

"Open the door, Calico," Ariel says.

"Stop!" Rowaine says with authority. "I get it, but hear me out. If this is the big bad Bob, then it doesn't matter, he already knows we're here. In which case, we may as well knock. If is just a normal person's house, then we are breaking and entering. There is no reason not to knock."

"I am compelled by logic," Ariel says. Calico knocks on the door. It opens. Behind it is a hallway with several doors.

"Ah, excuse me," Rowaine says. "Door seemed open. Hello?"

"Come in, come in. It's fine. I expected you to just barge in. You can knock as well if you want." The voice is that of Bob. Calico, Troll and Lionel note that the hallway looks sparse and unused.

Note: spells that can see through illusion and see invisibility also let the viewer know that they are seeing things as other than they seem.

Calico sees no illusion. There are two doors on either side of the hallway, and an open doorway at the end.

"Which room are you in?" thinks Calico. Silence. Then, "Are you going to come in? I'm in the room in the very far end on the left."

The party enter. Bob, pale and black-eyed, stands in the room to the left. Calico sees the same. Magic cloaks the figure, of types the druid cannot identify.

"I'm surprised you managed to find me. Nice to see you again. Do you want to talk now?"

"Can I shoot you again?" Lionel asks.

"OK."

Lionel nocks an arrow and lets it fly. It is a perfectly timed and aimed shot, but the projectile merely bounces off Bob's cheek.

"Please excuse my companion," Rowaine says. "He is a little quick to resolve matters with his bow."

While Rowaine speaks, Troll casts Spell Theft.

"If you don't mind," Rowaine continues, "How do you do that? That would normally be a death shot for most creatures. He is really good."

Troll sees multiple enchantments on Bob. He can identify Hold Monster, Astral Projection, something similar to Wish, Iron Body, Temporal Stasis, Scrying, Ethereal Jaunt, and a number of others that the spell cannot identify. He is unable to steal any of them.

"It's a long story," Bob says, "and something I can't explain. I believe we have more pressing matters anyway."

"I don't," Lionel says. "I want to know how to kill you. And speaking about more pressing matters, shouldn't you be at work?"

"Now? Yes, I'll be just finishing in about five minutes."

"I'm talking about your character, Bob."

"So am I. Spooky, isn't it?" Bob turns to Rowaine and Troll. "Have you come to discuss Harkon? I would like to apologise for my actions earlier. I just wanted to talk to you, to get to know you better. I had no intention of not releasing Harkon, or of threatening you. I still believe there should be a power dynamic between us, but I wanted to talk and I thought the only way you would talk was if I had Harkon." Rowaine believes that Bob's apology is genuine.

"That's fine," Ariel says. "I'm sure we can come to some arrangement once you release Harkon."

"So you came here to talk about Harkon, or was there something else?"

"We are willing to come to an agreement to talk to you for a certain amount of time if you release Harkon."

Lionel adds, "What do you want for his release?"

"To talk and get to know your party."

"For how long?" Ariel asks.

"I was hoping we'd get to know each other and become good friends."

"You have heard our terms," Rowaine says. "Do you agree to them?"

"Hang on," Troll interrupts. "Is this where we are going? I don't necessarily agree to this guy getting to know us."

Rowaine adds, "I think it fair that just as you Bob have not answered some of our questions, so too do we reserve the right to do also."

"The questions I haven't answered I cannot answer - not because I don't want to, but because I don't necessarily understand it myself. If you have other questions, you are welcome to ask me and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability. Things like what my favourite colour is: it's black."

"We did not need to know that," Lionel says.

"OK, you have got to know me, now let me get to know you."

"My favourite colour is not black," Troll replies.

"What is it?"

"I gave you one piece of information. About as useful as the piece of information you gave me."

"Well, that's all subjective, isn't it?"

"Yes, but as far as I'm concerned, about as useful as what you gave me. I'm just saying, be prepared to get information about as useful as you give."

"What if I considered the information I just gave to be incredibly important?"

"Not from where I sit."

"So it's about you? OK. This is why I wanted to hold onto Harkon until I talked to you more, because this is not the sort of friendly conversation I wanted to have."

"If you wanted a friendly conversation," Rowaine says, "You really should have approached this very, very differently."

"I see the error of my ways. But then again, you can't argue with the logic."

"I am not arguing with the logic, I am stating the result."

"Noted."

"The only thing we can negotiate with is our indifference," Ariel says. "And yet we are still talking to him!"

"I don't think we can get Harkon back," Troll says. "I'm not willing to become friends with this person. Not under duress. What he wants is to have conversations to learn about us, and I have no interest in doing that."

"What we are negotiating here," Rowaine says, "is for you to have the right not to answer anything you don't want to."

"How about I only talk to the paladin, and not to Troll?" Bob suggests. "Etella. Whatever."

"The same would apply," Rowaine says. "I would reserve the right to not answer any question that I don't feel it is my duty or responsibility to answer."

"Even if I were to give back Harkon as a sign of good faith?"

"That merely opens the door," Rowaine says. "What we talk about after that happens is an entirely different matter."

"Just because you release Harkon doesn't mean that Rowaine is free to speak about anything that you might ask her about," Troll says. "She is still bound by agreements of her own."

"So I couldn't ask about Etella, for example?"

"You could ask about Etella…"

"But I wouldn't get an answer?"

"That depends whether Rowaine feels the information asked for is hers to give."

"Rowaine," Bob says, "would you feel honour-bound not to give me information about Etella if I asked?"

"That very much depends on the question and the information."

"I don't think we should bargain," Troll says. "I don't think we can free Harkon."

"It is difficult," Ariel agrees with a sigh.

"The terms we are presenting," Rowaine says to Bob, "are they of interest to you?"

"Yes, they are of interest to me. I am just making sure I get my money's worth before I go through with my side of the bargain."

"You do understand, Bob," says Rowaine, "that there is no money's worth here. You are in the red. The onus is on you to make good on the wrong you have done."

"That is a perspective thing," Bob says. "From my perspective, it is that you are to talk to me to get Harkon back. But the way you put it, getting back on equal footing, I am interested in. Assuming that I get my money's worth." He catches Rowaine's expression. "So to speak."

"Can you explain for what purposes you want to get to know us?" Ariel asks.

"I do not feel honour-bound to give that information. Or I do feel honour-bound not to. Whatever Troll just said."

"I think without a convincing answer to that question," Ariel says, "I would agree with Troll that we can't afford to enter any kind of negotiation. If you can convince us as to your motives, and we believe that those motives are not evil, I would vote that we would talk to you after Harkon is released. Without that, there is no way I could participate."

"OK," Bob says. "Let me think how I can put this. I get bored and I do things. Interesting things. You guys are a strong force in the world at the moment, from what I have gathered. Possibly. I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. This is why I want to get to know you, because of the things you have done, the things that you are doing, and the things that you might do in the future."

"You're curious? Bored? Rowaine asks.

"Yes!"

"Rowaine, did that ring true for you?" Ariel asks.

"So what if it did?" Troll butts in. "We cannot penetrate his defences, he trapped a magical tree of the planes… He can probably pull one over on Rowaine."

"The only thing that we can be really sure about this guy is that he has kidnapped Harkon," Ariel says. "Do we really want to hang out with an individual about which that is the only thing we can be sure of?"

"As much as Bob would like us to 'hang out'," Rowaine says, "That's just not a possibility. I am here to secure Harkon's release. And I am OK so far with what we have put on the table towards that end."

"If I have your word that you will have this conversation with me," Bob says, "even if Etella doesn't want to, as much as it hurts, I don't mind. I can give you back Harkon."

"Right now," Lionel says, "we are negotiating with you as if you were an enemy, which is why we are giving you nothing. If you were to give Harkon back, we will consider you neutral and will give you a very small amount of information. We won't consider you a friend; we won't give you a lot of information."

"So how do I become friends with this group?"

"It may take years."

"What do you consider friendship?" Rowaine asks.

"I don't know… High-fiving whenever we do something cool together! Possibly not kidnapping a tree, I don't think you guys thought that was as cool as I did. It took a lot of effort…"

"Name some of your friends."

"And if I say I have no friends?"

Rowaine thinks. "I would understand why…"

"I don't think you will ever be a friend of the druids," Lionel says.

"Oh, druids are particularly interesting to me. I don't understand them at all. Why the hell would you turn into a dog? That's why I want to be a friend of one." Bob turns to Rowaine. "So, if you are willing to give me your word that you will have a conversation with me, then I can free Harkon."

"I cannot guarantee that that conversation will be to your liking. But I can say that there will be a conversation. We will also need to confirm that Harkon has indeed been released."

"Yes, I completely understand."

"What say you?" Rowaine asks.

Bob ponders. "Ah, sure, OK." He pauses for a second. "Harkon is free. Do you want to go and check?"

"Yes."

"Go ahead."

"Troll, would you please do the honours?" Rowaine asks.

Troll heads back to the Mithral Mug, and then onto the wing where Harkon's root resides. Ezalor is there. "Harkon is being incredibly communicative right now," the archon says. "It is still hard to understand a lot of what he is saying, but he is much more lively."

"Tell him, 'You're welcome.'"

"What?"

"For freeing him. Just say 'You're welcome. No problem. Any time. Call me again if you ever have something like this going on.'"

"I don't know what to say to that," Ezalor says. "Did you free Harkon? Did you have him in the first place?"

"Didn't have him. Course not. Gods, demons, stuff that … You're welcome. It's fine. I gotta get back." Troll then beats a hasty retreat through the wing back to Ashhope, then to Bob's residence. "Harkon's back," he says to Rowaine.

"Are we OK?" Bob asks.

Rowaine turns to Bob. "So, 'friend', what would your first question be?"

"Oooh, exciting! Why did you seek out Harkon?"

"Curiosity and opportunity."

"I can understand opportunity, but curiosity? Why was a paladin motivated by curiosity?"

"Paladins can't be motivated by curiosity?"

"You went to look for Harkon instead of doing a number of other anti-evil things that I associate with paladins."

"I'm sort of between jobs."

"You're not going to be a paladin any more?"

"There are things on my to-do list and I was in a bit of a lull. You can't work … well, maybe you can, but I can't work every hour of every day."

"OK, so, if you are on this vacation, and you came across evil, you would not do anything about it?"

"We paladins aren't stupid."

"That doesn't answer my question, and that's open to debate."

"There is no one answer to that question. It depends very much on context: the evil, whether I have any possibility to actually stand against it…"

"I understand your statement now about not being stupid. That you will only fight something that you have the chance of defeating."

"That again is not true in every situation," Rowaine says.

"So if an undead dragon were to suddenly go about terrorising the world, would you not do anything about it? Or would you not fight it? There you go, that's a better word."

Rowaine's eyebrows rise. "An undead dragon?"

"Just as an example. They probably don't exist. Assuming that an undead dragon did come and ravage the land, though, would you do something about it, or would you not?"

"The 'doing something about it' can take many forms. Some of them are very active, some of them less so."

"OK. Going along with that example, what would you do in that situation? Feel free to substitute 'undead dragon' with whatever you think of as evil."

"So you want to pitch me against something that is my polar opposite in this example?"

"I'm just wondering what your motivations are, and what your actions would be, concerning evil things."

Lionel chuckles. "Big bad evil is attacking, what do you do?"

"Well put, ranger," Bob says. "Despite what people say about you, you do have a way with words."

"How do you know what people say about me?"

"Secret."

"What do you know of paladins?" Rowaine asks.

"Little, which is why I am asking."

"When we first met, you said something I believe designed to insinuate that I wasn't doing my duty. You have just done so again. This suggest to me that you do know what paladins are and what they stand for."

"This is a question not about what I know about paladins. This is about you and what you would do in that situation. Even if I know the history of every paladin that has ever done anything, I'd still be interested in what your answer to that question was. If some 'big bad evil', as the eloquent ranger put it, started ravaging the world, what would you do?"

"It depends on the big, bad evil," Lionel answers. "We don't know what we could do."

Bob ignores Lionel, focusing on Rowaine. "If an undead dragon suddenly appeared and started burning Ashhope to the ground, what would you do?"

"Seek to oppose it."

"In what way? Would you go up to it and hack at it? Would you charge it on a horse?"

"Would I think that either of those things would be effective? If yes, then yes."

"So a large evil undead dragon comes and attacks Ashhope. You know that you could smite it down and deal considerable damage to it. But you also know that you wouldn't kill it. Would you still do so?"

"I would be thinking of other ways of dealing with the problem, and what I might buy by doing that very thing. It is a weighing up of benefit and cost."

"And just for confirmation, you would do something about this undead evil dragon? You would get assistance where possible to stop it? As one of your possible choices?"

"Action, in whatever form that takes, is part of the call of paladinhood. I once heard it said, by one far wiser than I, that all it takes for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing."

"What sort of action would you take against this undead dragon? Give me some examples of some things you might do in that situation."

"I would need more information about the situation."

"An undead dragon suddenly appears and burns down the palace."

"Suddenly appears? Do I see it appear? Out of thin air?"

"You see it fly in suddenly. You are in this room when you hear loud screaming and crashing and burning coming from the palace."

"Just so I know what's going on here," Rowaine says. "are you going to actually do this? Because right now I believe you probably could."

"No! I do not intend to do this. This is a conversation, this is purely hypothetical. This is not actually going to happen! I can't just summon an undead dragon out of thin air! Maybe. I don't know. I've never tried. But we could… Not. Let's talk!"

"Do you care what the rest of us would do, or just the paladin?" Lionel asks acerbically.

"I'm more interested in the paladin at the moment. I can ask you later. I assumed you're the 'go out and shoot it' type… aren't you?"

"Not necessarily."

"OK, we'll find that out later. Rowaine, what would you do?"

"Do I sense evil on the creature?"

"Yes."

"Is is causing harm to others?"

"Yes."

"I would stand in the gap, stop if if I could."

"Be more specific about what you would do."

"I would use whatever resources I could…"

"You're still dancing around the question! Literally if this happened right now, what would you do?"

"I would rush outside and … try and kill it, probably."

"I don't think you would, straight away," Lionel interjects. "You would let us know and we would make a plan together."

"True words, friend elf. It is uncommon for me to act alone."

"OK," Bob says.

"What would you do?" Rowaine asks.

"I'd watch."

"You would be one of the people to sit by and do nothing?"

"Unless I was called to do something else," Bob adds. "It depends on what's happening. If it was to happen right now then I'd probably stop it because this conversation is more interesting than a dragon."

"So the lives of people being taken by the dragon…"

"…Does not concern me," Bob finishes.

"They weigh less in your mind than … a conversation?"

"See? We're getting to know each other! What if you were walking down the road in Ashhope, you had the ability to see through illusions and detect evil for some reason… Hypothetical. You see through an illusion of a person of someone walking past you and it turns out it's an undead dragon. It's evil. You see the evil in it, but it's pretending to be a person. What would you do then?"

"The creature is taking what form?"

"A man, just walking along the street."

"It has my attention."

"I imagine it would. What would you do?"

"Other things get my attention than just undead dragons. I'm interested in why you keep using that as your hypothetical creature. Is that the worst thing you can think of?"

"It's just something evil that comes to mind that's very powerful as well. Let's change to something not powerful. How about a lich?"

Undead. Dragon. Lich.

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