D&D General To TPK or Not to TPK, that is the question...

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I'd like to thank all of you who responded. This was troubling me and you helped me talk and think it out.

Still not sure of the final resolution, but I've got a better grip on it now.

Want to know the funny part? The "Big Bad" of the scene, the Efreet? By the book they're CR 6, and the only reason he'd be a real challenge at all would be because the party should be ground down from the previous encounters.


I thought you all deserved to know what happened, so here's the epilogue, in pseudo story form.

The sky was a twisted collage of smoke and fire, and the ground shifted underfoot as Sir Pax Manus, temple knight of Corellan called for his horse.

Across the field his opponent was already mounting up, his Second holding the reins and helping secure the tournament straps.

There was an odd symmetry to the pair. Sir Pax, champion of Freedom, wore dark armor of adamantine, scarred where the symbol of a dark deity had been struck and gouged from the surface.

Sir Michael Irons, Paladin of Tyranny, sat resplendent in armor of shining mithral, all silver and blue, his cloak billowing behind him like a cloud. His armor was scarred as well, for it had once carried the sigil of a knight of Pelor. The irony wasn't lost on either of the pair.

Off to one side Leona and Siri sat and watched. Leona almost bounced in her seat, repeating "This will make such a great story!", with occasional remarks about writing a ballad about it all.

Siri tried to ignore the energetic Bard, concentrating on her friend, Sir Pax. His horse was in pain due to the fiery nature of the place, but the Cleric of Kord was soothing it, granting it protection against the near-hellish flames.

At the far end of the field, the man who had been called Shade was pacing impatiently. He seemed cat-like in his movements, looking sharp eyed and predatory, waiting for his chance to pounce. He carried only a belt knife, with similar blades visible at the top of each of his boots, yet he felt dangerous.

Once both knights were ready, Leona called out in a surprising loud voice, "Are you ready?". Both men raised their lances, looking at her, then back to each other.

Leona stood up on her bench and cried, "Pretend I have a handkerchief to drop." And then her raised arm snapped down, and the pair were thundering down the field towards each other.

Pax' horse was the swifter, as it's feet flew over the lava-boggy field, and he leaned his weight forward, rising up slightly in the stirrups as they crashed together.

He felt his lance catch slightly in his opponent's armor, then slide off. Sir Michael's lance didn't slide, but found a shoulder joint in Pax' armor and emerged bloody.

The pair wheeled, paused a moment to ensure that their opponent was ready, then charged again. Once more the field rang with the sound of impact, and both lances now showed blood.

They spun once more and, without pause, thundered down the fiery field once more.

Pax raised his lance tip at the last moment, targeting his opponent's head, but Michael shifted slightly in the saddle. His own lance struck true and so solidly that Pax reeled from the impact, unhorsed by the blow. </story>

<Commentary> The evil Paladin scored a Critical hit. My rule for being unhorsed was simple: When struck, make a Ride check, with the damage done as the target DC. I'm sure there are official rules somewhere for that sort of thing, but I had no idea what or where they are, so I just ran with what felt right. </Commentary>

<Story> Pax rolled as he landed, as he'd been trained, and came up with his lance in his hand. Blood flowed freely from the tear in his side.

Sir Michael paused. "Can you continue?", he asked. He seemed to be stalling, and Pax took advantage of the moment and called upon a gift from his deity to close his wounds. It took almost every ounce of that gift, but when the moment passed he stood, ready to fight again.

Sir Michael waited until he was sure Pax had finished, then lowered his visor and charged once more.

Pax shifted his feet from side to side as he watched his foe try to ride him down. Just before impact he stopped and, bracing the butt of his lance against his foot, dropped the tip into striking position.

Sir Michael's lance scored true again, and Pax was forced to steady himself, lest he fall.

On the next pass, Pax lance scored, as did Michael's. The, to Pax' surprise, Micheal called shade over and handed him the lance. "Never let it be said that I'm anything but fair.", he declared, then accepted his axe from his second.

From there the pair approached each other and began to exchange blows, over and over again.</Story>

<Commentary>The two faced off like that for the rest of the scene, though both had really cold dice. Pax, the PC, was taking the worst of it, but the cold dice made it drag on.

I had advised the group that they needed to regroup. One of the players resisted, or at least failed to realize what would happen when the single combat turned into anything larger.

I even went so far as to ask his CR (Clue Resistance) and he still missed it. He comes in via Skype and has a hearing problem, but I don't think that accounts for this. He was in Wind Walk form, and it takes five rounds to solidify. In combat five rounds can be the rest of your life.

I finally told him about available time, and asked what he was going to do with it. I listed options, then said, loud anc clear, "THIS IS A CLUE!!!". His response? "I'll just wait back here and see what happens."</Commentary>

<Story>Mash, the mighty Barbarian, slowly solidified in the courtyard, then moved to the gate so he could see the battle. As he approached the gateway he saw a towering figure standing by the side, watching the battle. Summoning his will, he cast a spell as quiely as he could. A bolt of green light leapt from his hand and struck the Half Ogre, sapping his strength.

At once Renaldo, the Cleric of Hextor, cried out, "Treachery", and cast a spell of his own.

Mash felt the curse strike him, but it failed to overpower his willpower, so he remained unaffected. Still, the peace of the moment was broken, and battle began in earnest.

Siri sprang to her feet and activated the blessing on her Celestial armor so she could take flight. Leona looked surprised, and cried out, "Wait, you'll ruin the ending." But suddenly there was a blade in her hand, and Siri felt it slide across the thin protection on the back of her knee. And just like that the bouncy, sparkly Bard was gone and Siri found herself facing a much darker, fiercer foe. "Hi. I'm Blades", the Halfling said with a grin.

Across the field Shade stopped his pacing and pointed an accusing finger at Mash. And in an instant there was a bow in his hand, and an arrow sprang from it like a thunderbolt. And nobody had even seen him draw it.</Story>

<Commentary>I have an admission to make: I can't recall the name of the party Ranger, so I'll have to make something up. I'll call him Ardan.

Shade is a Scout and has a pair of Gloves of Storing. He had prepared by activating the Shock effect on his bow (normally a Standard Action), nocked and drawn an arrow, then put the bow into his glove. When needed he can "point" at a target and snap his fingers (activating the Glove is a free action.) The bow is suddenly there and he isn't holding the string back any more so it fires. One free shot, with a penalty for the way it's aimed, without the bow actually being there.

Yeah, it's a dirty trick, but it has style.

I'm going to break right now, but more will follow.


Continuing the story/commentary epilogue...

<Story>Siri staggered as her bloodied knee almost buckled beneath her, amazed at her opponent's speed. What surprised her most was that she could be surprised that way at all. She hadn't seen that coming, and she knew that she should have.

Knife fighting is something of a dance, one that Siri was normally happy to join, but her wounded leg weakened and slowed her, and that would mean death. She withdrew to the sky, a place her opponent couldn't follow.

Arden the Ranger had shed his misty form without anyone taking notice, choosing a spot atop an outer wall of Ignus estate. When he saw Shade's bow suddenly appear, his own was in his hand a moment later, and an arrow whistled though the smokey air.

Shade recoiled as the arrow lanced into his side, only now noticing this new adversary. He danced to his right to line up a shot and fired. It might have scored, but Ardan's perch afforded him some cover, while Shade had none.

Ivan, the Half Ogre, finally noticed that something was amiss and drew his great sword from the hollow log he used for a scabbard. With a roar of fury he brought the blade around, crerating a 20 foot circle of ringing steel. Mash ducked beneath the blade and watched it bury itself in the pillar beside him. Even enfeebled, his opponent was terrifyingly strong.

But then, so was Mash, and the scythe that had earned him the name "The Green Reaper" was in his hand in an instant, and gouging flesh from his opponent an instant after that.

Ferguson, Cleric of Kord, saw that what had been a duel of honor had devolved into a raging battlefield, so he drew his own greatsword and charged across the field, intent upon placing himself between the enemy archer and Sir Pax' exposed back.

As he ran he heard the scrabble of feet on hard tile and, looking up he saw his friend Cyrano struggling with someone else up on a rooftop. The scene was so unexpected it distracted him at the wrong moment.

The reason it was unexpected was that Cyrano had stayed with Fireheart at his estates, and because Cyrano was a Wizard who would seldom if ever join in a wrestling match with anyone.

The reason the distraction was at the wrong moment was that his path took him closer to the two battling knights and he ran right into the blade of a great axe. The impact took the wind out of him, along with a good bit of blood.

Despite the momentary interruption, Pax and Michael were still standing, toe to toe, pounding on each other with a grim determination. Only one of them would walk away from this. And at the moment it appeared that it wouldn't be Pax.

Even with the opportunity Sir Irons had granted him to heal himself, blood was running from every joint in Pax' armor, the sheer power of the great war axe threatening to crush bone even when its edge met plate. At the same time the huge shield of the axe wielding warrior danced about on its own, protecting him from Pax' blade, swifter though it be.</Story>

<Commentary>Something I didn't make clear earlier, and I should have, is that the Paladin of Tyranny was using a Tower shield, animated so he could use a two handed weapon and still have some defense.

Also, the surprise of Siri was actually the way the player felt. She was certain that she was effectively immune to Sneak Attacks. At her level the Improved Uncanny Dodge feature said that she couldn't be flanked, would retain her Dex bonus when flat footed and even against Invisible opponents. Only a Rogue four or more levels higher than she was could flank her at all, and being 18th level in a non-epic game there shouldn't be a Rogue four levels higher than she was.

What she had missed was the Improved Feint feat. The chattering of the "Bard" was an ongoing distraction to set up that blow. That particular approach to Sneak doesn't depend on a flank, so the "Rogue four levels higher" rule didn't apply. Neither was it depending on her being flat footed nor was her opponent invisible. Add in Crippling Strike to drain 2 points of Strength with each sneak attack and it's a nasty combination.</Commentary>

<Story>Shade was amazed at the sheer fury of Ardan's assault. The Dwarf was all but raining arrows down from his perch on the roof, and while Shade was nimble he wasn't so quick that he could dodge raindrops. Not all of them anyway. His own preferred tactic was to maneuver to line up his best shot, then strike with deadly accuracy. He was seeing the virtue of another approach, as his "deadly accuracy" was yet to draw even the first drop of blood.

Ardan was facing the flaw of his quick firing approach: He could fire five arrows in the time most people could fire one, but it meant that his quiver got empty five times faster. He could see the dark archer below gauging every shot, and counting the arrows. He knew that the Dwarf would run out of ammunition soon.

Then it happened. His hand went for an arrow and found emptiness. And he smiled.

He'd faced this limit before, and came prepared. He quickly reached into his magical pack and withdrew a fresh sheaf of arrows, loosed the tie that held them, and dropped them into his quiver, all in one smooth, well practiced move. The look on his opponent's face was priceless.

Blaze/Blades cursed as she struggled across the field, trying to keep up with her flying opponent. Her short legs churned against the yielding ground but seemed to get little traction, while Siri darted away into the distance. Still, she had done her job: She'd kept the infamous Rogue occupied and out of the conflict, almost without needing to draw a blade.

The pounding exchange between Sir Michael and Sir Pax was mirrored by the match between Mash and Ivan. But in the latter case the winner was likely to be Mash, as his weakened opponent couldn't really follow through the way he was used to.

Ferguson clutched at his midsection, shocked at the effect of that axe, and knew that if that was what it felt like to be hit once, then Pax ability to even stand was a testament to his fortitude. He looked about, realized that he was safe for the moment, then called upon the power of his god. "Strength to Persevere, oh Kord!", he cried, and he felt the divine power flow through him and outward, closing his wounds.

Pax also felt the healing power of the god of strength, and fought against it. "No!", he cried. "I stand or I fall with honor. No quarter asked and none given!" His wounds closed none the less, though he had rejected much of what was offered.

And the battle raged on.

Siri, hearing Pax' resolve, chose not to land behind Sir Irons. Pax might need the help, but he'd never forgive her if she provided it.

She surveyed the field, looking for another likely target. Even getting close to the huge Half-Ogre could be the last mistake of her life. There really wasn't a way to do that without eating steel, and she knew it. Shade had no one engaging him, so no chance of sliding a blade into some unguarded ribs, and Cyrano seemed content with what he was doing. She decided to wait for an opportunity.</Story>

<Commentary>Yes, Cure Light - Mass was cast specifically to help Pax, and the character made his Will save to reduce the effect by half. The player/character earned an Exp bonus for that move, because it's exactly the right thing for the character to do, even though it could mean his death. Good role playing like that is a rare thing and deserves recognition. Presuming the PC lives to collect it, of course.

The business of Cyrano and the other NPC on the roof was simple: They had an arcane caster, but as the DM I knew that the PCs didn't. Their Wiz' was out of play, the DM's character, and relegated to NPC status for the duration. So I balanced the field a bit by simply declaring that the two casters were wrestling, an act that does little or no real damage but makes spell casting all but impossible.</Commentary>

<Story>"Strength of Kord!", cried Ferguson, again invoking the power of his god. Kord answered and the cleric felt his muscles and form swell with that power. He now stood as a giant on the field, taller and more massive than the mighty Half Ogre. And now, even without moving the dancing Shade was within the reach of his blade.

Shade was the quicker though and sprang backwards into a quick flip, evading the towering Cleric's great blade, while drawing a fresh arrow as he moved.

The bow sang it's song and lightning sprang from it to find a home in that huge form, drawing yet another look of shock from the Cleric.

Ignus had retreated from the courtyard when the battle began in earnest, no longer finding death and destruction entertaining. He stepped inside the front chamber of his own manor house, where its magical defenses could protect him.

And across the field a booming voice sounded in the minds of all: "Well, Ignus, you do make a guest feel welcome." It was Fireheart, standing tall over even the towering Half Ogre. His arms were folded, his blade at rest in his scabbard.

"You broke the Sultan's law!", accused the lesser Efreet. "You sent mercenaries to kill me, and the Sultan forbade that."

"These?", Fireheart chuckled. "They don't work for me. I've given them neither pay nor promise of payment. Their leader there", he added, indicating Sir Pax, "He can barely stand my presence, his fury is so intense. He wouldn't take an order from me even if I though to give one."

Ignus backed deeper into the room, crying, "Janni, attend me!" A small throng of the muscular guards, who had been caught up watching the battle, flocked to his defense, setting a perimeter of flesh, bone, magic and steel around their master. And Ignus looked at the field before him and realized that they wouldn't be enough.

He started to cry out again, but no sound emerged from his lips. And in everyone's mind, Fireheart roared with mirth.

Ivan had fallen to his knees, dropping his great sword to the ground and bowing to Mash. He had had enough.

Shade, knowing that he was seriously overmatched, darted towards the building and around a corner. When Ardan peered over the edge all he saw was smoke and fire. His foe had disappeared.

And spells were raining into that front room, blasts of blistering cold and blinding light. Ignus kept trying to say something but couldn't. He turned to flee but the doors behind him wouldn't open. And he knew the strength of those doors because he'd had them built as part of his home's defense.

"They really don't work for me, nor will they obey any order I give", Fireheart called out, his voice heard in all the minds present. "But I might be able to intercede on your behalf. But you had best decide soon, because they really won't stop just because I ask."

Ignus voice rolled out within their minds as well, but his words would have scorched the earth even if it was already on fire.

A burst of pure sunlight erupted from the room, and several of the Janni staggered, clutching at their dazzled eyes.

"What are your terms?", Ignus asked.

"Simple. You agree to pay your debts to your own mercenaries, you agree to relinquish all of your claimed lands to me, and you admit to your crimes."

Ignus hesitated long enough for an arrow to sprout from his chest, then quickly agreed.

"The battle is over!", declared Fireheart. "By my word, all slaves are to be released and all debts to be paid."

Suddenly the flames of the battlefield swirled high all around them and all present found themselves in a grand hall.

All except Sir Pax and Sir Michael, whose weapons crashed and rang against each other unabated. It took them several seconds to realize that they weren't on that field of fire and blood.

The Janni present immediately fell to their knees and bowed forward, their faces to the floor.

Fireheart turned to face the Sultan, whose hall they were in, dropped to one knee and bowed deeply (though not so deeply as the Janni had.)

Even sitting upon his grand throne, the Sultan of the City of Brass was taller than even Firehear. He looked at the two knights standing before him and waved encouragement. "I always find blood and rage amusing. Pray continue."

When they didn't, and Sir Michael went to a knee, the sultan looked mildly disappointed. The he turned his attention upon Fireheart.

"I gave specific orders about your dispute, and you ignored them. Is there any reason i should not have you struck down right now?"

Fireheart smiled and bowed even lower. "Your orders were indeed specific. That we should settle the territorial dispute between ourselves. We were forbidden any violence between ourselves, including violence between our servants, slaves, minions or hirelings."

The huge Efreet then looke up with a smile. I have obeyed your law to the letter. Neither I nor any who serve me in any capacity have shed a drop of blood nor struck any blow against Ignus or any who serve him."

The Sultan frowned. "And yet there is battle and blood. Explain!"

"None of these combatants serve me.", Fireheart began. "I informed my friend of Ignus perfidy, but I offered these no payment. No monies were promised, nor favors or services were offered, nor were any debts they might owe me to be forgiven. When it became clear that they intended to intrude on our disagreement I went so far as to beg thhem to be merciful, and you know that for one such as I to beg anything from fleshlings is no small thing."

"That word you used, 'friend'. What is that?", queried the Sultan. He had had to use the Common word "friend" for there was no such word in the language of fire.

"A 'friend' is a person who might choose to help you when you need it, without payment nor counting of debt. As their friend you might choose to help them on occasion, but then again you might choose not to. No payment, no contract, all strictly voluntary."

The Sultan was aghast. "Service without payment? How can such a thing be? Which of you is the master, if both can serve the other?"

Fireheart tried to explain further, but it became clear that the Sultan couldn't believe such a thing was real. However it was also clear that he understood that it was real among "fleshlings".

He then turned to Ignus, who had remained silent to this point. "What of you? Why did you engage these mercenaries, if not to battle Lord Fireheart?", he demanded, making a point to acknowledge Fireheart's rank.

"I feared that he might find some way to subvert your very just ruling.", Ignus replied, still looking at the floor. "Had I not done so I would surely have been slain."

The Sultan then, finally, looked at the mortals in his hall. "Who is your leader?", he asked. "Who speaks for you?"

Both sides pointed towards the two knights.

"Which side struck the first blow?", the Sultan asked impatiently.

"By agreement, and in accordance with our laws, we struck together.", Sir Michael replied. Pax agreed, "Sir Michael and I are rivals of old, and met in battle as equals should. It is the way of our orders."

The Sultan's impatience became more apparent, as he didn't seem to be getting the answers he wanted.

Pointing to Pax, who had last spoken, he asked, "Which of these two do you work for?"

Pax looked askew that Fireheart and had to admit, "Neither. I'd die before I would agree to serve either one. I came here because that one", he almost spat at Ignus, "had stolen land and taken slaves."

"But Lord Fireheart also holds slaves. Why be offended by one and not the other?"

Fireheart advanced slightly, "I hold no slaves, great Sultan. I freed al of mine and forbade any of my subjects from holding any. Any who serve me do so by choice." Seeing the look of disbelief on the Sultan's face, he quickly continued. "It is the way of these fleshlings, and though I don't truly understand it, it does seem to work for them. I made this decision as a gesture to my friend", he said, indicating Cyrano, "but independent of any decision or action of his friends and companions."

The Sultan sat back, and smiled. "Well played, Lord Fireheart. I will have to be more careful in my rulings. I trust that you and Ignus have reached terms?"

Fireheart smiled in return, not the forced smile of a subject in the halls of his lord, but the smile of success. "He has agreed to pay his debts, both to his servants and those he hired. He also agreed to turn over all disputed lands to me, and to pay the penalty of the Sultan's law for his crimes." </Story>

I'm going to end it there. In my view of a Lawful Evil society, such as the Efreet of the Plane of Fire, the concept of a "friend" is a foreign one. That's how Fireheart tip-toed around the Sultan's orders.

I left one PC out of the narrative completely. The party Druid had taken the form of a Fire Elemental, which was excellent cover for the scene. I also left out any other mention of their Cleric after his first spell. The cast of characters was pretty large and I didn't want to make the tale more of a jumble than it already was.

Ignus ended up being imprisoned in the same magic ring that he had used to imprison Fireheart. The party asked what would happen to that ring. If Ignus was bound within until he had provided three services for a mortal, he could be back as soon as the next day.

Fireheart confirmed that those were the terms, but also explained that he had no intention of ever leaving that ring where a mortal could find it.

The PCs knew that they'd been used, but the full details of how badly they'd been used only came out at the very end. All of his gestures and concessions had been empty. He could free his slaves, but unless they had some way to walk for two days to the city, across the flaming landscape of the Plane of Fire, they couldn't actually leave his estates. They had to work for their food and upkeep jus as they had before.

Even when the party realized this and he relented, offering them safe passage to the city, he knew they'd be back. Humans walking in that city were always presumed to belong to someone, and without money they could neither eat nor find shelter, and they certainly couldn't afford a trip back to the Material plane.

Under pressure from the party he offered to send the word through that quarter for those humans to gather at a place called "The Details" (an inn, of sorts) within the next three days. The PCs planned to ferry them all home. Of course, few if any will come to Fireheart's call, so they're still screwed.

Yeah, the "nice guy" thing was an act all the way. Still, he is the legendary "lesser of two evils", compared to dealing with other Efreet. He actually has seen that there is value in this "friendship" thing, and does defer somewhat to the wishes of the Paladin of Freedom.

And thus ends the tale. I hope that you've all enjoyed it.


A few final, technical notes.

Ignus had three rings of Forbidance set within his manor house. No teleport, plane shift, D-Door etc, unless someone spoke the password. And anyone who wasn't Lawful Evil who entered would take damage.

Fireheart, from across the field, cast Silence into that front room, and had already Wizard Locked the door. (yes, he has character levels on top of the straight Efreet package.) Ignus had both Plane Shift and Ethereal Jaunt available, but once the Silence landed he couldn't speak the pass phrase to use them. And the Silence all but filled that front room.

Shade is a Scout and his bow has the Shock property. When activated the bow crackles with electricity. So do his arrows, which is why the "like a lightning bolt" description kept coming up. I know it's just a D6, but the imagery was just too good to pass up.

Scouts, for those unfamiliar with the Prestige Class, contrate on one shot per round. They have to move 10 feet in the round, so they get only that one shot, but it gets extra damage based on the Scout level.

Final bit of humor: The big guy's full name was Ivan the Trebble (not a misspelling). He'd been named by Blaze. Though truly a Rogue and not a Bard at all, she used "profession: musician" as a cover story. After all, anybody who advertises that they're a "thief" quickly lands in jail, or missing a hand. I'd always figured that a Rogue needed a cover like that. That's why Disguise is an in-class skill for them. She had ranks in Perform, and could probably have made an okay living as a performer if she needed to.

Ivan was built by taking an Orc (+4 Strength with Int and CHA penalties) and adding the Half Ogre template. (Bonus to Strength with Int and CHA penalties. Then add the Feral template (both of the templates are from Savage Species), which grants Fast Heal and even more Strength (with Int and Cha penalties), and you have one mean mofo combat machine. He'll have the IQ of a cantaloupe, but he'll be hell on wheels in melee. Add in some Barbarian levels and he's an unholy terror. Each of those templates is a +1 ECL, so considering the result it's a good trade off.

Yeah, the INT sucks, but all of these say that it can't drop below a 3, so at some point more penalties become meaningless. He's the classic "Big, dumb fighter". type, taken to the extreme.

Oh, and that hollow log he used tohold his great sword? That's his "drum" when he performs with Blaze. It's a way to get towns to let him inside. Besides, hitting things really is the only way he can be musical.


Thanks for the report. Good story, and I liked the behind-the-scenes commentary.
I used to record our campaigns in story all the time. The dramatic elements and scene setting, shared with the group, helped keep the story line, I don't know, colorful. I think it inspired the other people at the table to keep "It makes good story" in mind as they played.

At some point I stopped. Not really sure why.

They're 18th level 3.5 PCs.

If they dont have clones, contingent [plane shift to ally, who has scroll of raise dead] spells crafted on them, plus true ressurection and wish to fall back on, it's their own fault!

On a practical level, have Ignus simply take them prisoner. He likely wants to interrogate them to confirm his rival sent them, and may very well need them alive as proof of his betrayal of the pact they had.

Then stage a rescue from the other (split up) PCs.

They're 18th level 3.5 PCs.

If they dont have clones, contingent [plane shift to ally, who has scroll of raise dead] spells crafted on them, plus true ressurection and wish to fall back on, it's their own fault!

On a practical level, have Ignus simply take them prisoner. He likely wants to interrogate them to confirm his rival sent them, and may very well need them alive as proof of his betrayal of the pact they had.

Then stage a rescue from the other (split up) PCs.
It actually already ended.


Yeah, but there's an epilogue to the epilogue, sort of.

As mentioned earlier, we take turns as the DM, so another member of the group was supposed to take over when I was done. "Was" being the operative word. He wasn't available, at the last minute, so I continued.

And thereby hangs the tale...
<Story>As they departed the palace, via a passage that wove through a maze-like labyrinth of corridors, Fireheart bid them farewell. "As you know, I can't pay you.", he began. "But I have some final details to deal with, so it will probably be several days before I can take stock of Ignus holdings. And I think I saw your lance on the ground there..." he said, looking at Pax, but leaving the thought unfinished.

They departed the palace grounds and began the long walk back towards The Details. "You know", mused Cyrano, "I think we may have forgotten something else back there as well."

"I'm not going to rob that estate." declared Pax, the edge of iron in his voice.

"Well until the, um, 'final details' are dealt with, the ownership of that hall is sort of a gray area.", Cyrano argued. "And we sort of have his permission. Besides, what I was thinking was that we got taken away before we could actually free any of those slaves."

Reluctantly Pax agreed. It was quickly arranged so that Cyrano and Ardan would wait at The Details to see about meeting the ex-slaves while the others headed off to free the remaining slaves.

The Wind Walk spell was still upon them so they took the moment to turn to mist and then wasted away towards the gate. After checking briefly with the city guards at the gate, they headed out towards their destination. They followed a particular road across the hellish landscape, lest they get lost, reachong Fieheart's estates in under an hour. From there they had to take a rough heading to relocate Ignis home, a task made no easier by the slowly shifting, undulating landscape. </Story>

<Commentary>Fireheart wanted the Sultan's seal on his settlement with Ignus. It would give him a claim to all of the lands that Ignus tried to annex, noy just his own but also portions of other Noble Efreeti' lands that he had tried to claim. The other Efreet had chosen to wait and let Fireheart fight it out with Ignus. As one of them had put it, "We'll see which one blinks first." If they fought, whoever struck first would be in deep, because of the Sultan's ruling. If they waited it was possible that both would be dispossed and their lands and wealth up for grabs. Welcome to a Lawful Evil society.

But because they hadn't formally protested Ignus actions, a confirmation from the Sultan that all of Ignus land clams were ceeded to Fireheart would mean a huge gain for our favorite LE Efreet. :)

According to the Planar Handbook the landscape in the Plane of Fire is constantly changing, as the "land" is a thin solid crust over a layer of slow-flowing magma. I had premised a system of roads that were, somehow, stable, at least to the extent tht they weren't broken up by the flow. Fireheart's home is right on one of hese roads, so travel and trade to and from the City of Brass was relatively easy. Ignus' home didn't have that advantage, which was one of the reasons he wanted Fireheart's place.

So the party followed the road back to Fireheart's, then set out from there. Hard to navigate when you can't see more than 120 feet ahead (per Planar Handbook), and you want to fly at 300. (Normally 600, but flight on this plane is at half speed unless you're a local.) </Commentary>

<Story>After spending far more time than they liked, the flyers saw formations they recognized: Plantings of the odd crystaline "trees" cultivated in the region. They followed the rows to find the estate of Ignus Noir, Flame of the Night.

Their approach didn't bring them to the gate and, being unable to talk while in mist form, discussing a desision was a problem. Pax decided to circle and find the gate, while others decided to simply fly over he wall.

The backlash hit even before they reached the wall, the "passive" defenses lashing out at the interlopers. They quickly decided to rejoin Pax.

Pax had landed and started to materialize in front of the main gate. There were a pair of Janni guards there, shirtless, their oiled muscles rippling as they moved. And move they did. As the party became clearly visible and solid, the outer guards closed ranks, blocking the gateway. Their leader stepped forward, arms crossed, his huge blade evident in his hand.

"These are the lands of Lord Ignus.", he declared firmly. 'What business have you here?"

Pax spoke up first, as was appropriate. "Ignus is done, imprisoned by the Sultan. We're here to free his slaves."

"I know nothing of this." declared the guard, his face hardening like stone. "And if you want to take from my lord's holding, you'll have to go through me." His smile showed a dark glee, predatory anticipation. Then he added, "And to be honest, I don't think that's possible."

Mash stepped forward hefting his scythe. his smile a match for the Janni's. "I am Captain Sir Mash, Duke of Firenzia, named champion of Taruntella, the Green Reaper of Danushan. I challenge you. If I draw first blood, you stand aside. If you drop me, we will leave."

The Janni looked at the creature before him, trying to determine just what he actually was. But his mind was as sharp as his blade: "So you need only blood me, while I have to take you down entirely? Do you take me for a fool?" He scowled his displeasure as he continued, "In any case these aren't my lands to wager. Still...". He drew out the pause for a long moment before finishing the thought, "If you wish some sport, here's a wager for you. First blood. Loser retires from what is to follow."

Mash agreed and the pair stepped out onto the field together, allies and enemies drawing back to make room for the fight.

Their eyes met and an understanding was exchanged, and it began. And it was over. The Janni's blade flickered out, once, twice, three times, and it came back with blood on it. Mash, caught off balance by his foe's lightning speed, finished his strike clumsily, striking nothing but air.

There was laughter from the other guards, and one could be heard saying something about "Teaching these mortals just how mortal they are."</Story>

To clarify, Mash started out as an Orc. Not a Half Orc, the full thing. +4 Strength bonus is nice for the party's heavy hitter. He also managed to give him a slightly positive Charisma. After a few Sorcerer levels he started taking levels in Dragon Disciple, which eventually turns the PC into a Half Dragon, complete with wings. So yeah, his blood line isn't obvious. That odd skin tone, overlayed with Copper Dragon from his half dragon part, and his talent from slaughtering anything he met with that scythe. earned him his reputation as the "Green Reaper".

In the first blood battle, Mash rolled a 1 on his Initiative. Add 2 from Dex, and that's it. The Janni rolled an 18, and they have a 9 point bonus, so yeah, his strikes were lightning quick compared to the PC's. </Commentary>

<Story>An arrowe featherd itself in the laughing guard's chest, and blades were drawn. Dion, the Druid, nocked another arrow, ready to fire again.

Siri looked across the field and started to move, cursing the soft yielding ground that shifted and flowed as she moved. Two huge blades flashed out as she went, the reach of her larger foes catching her off guard, and then she was bleeding as well.

The captain of the guard stepped forward to strike, and was gone. Ferguson's voice echoed in the void as the power of his spell faded.

The Pax was there, blade in hand, challenging Ferguson, "What are you doing?", he asked, shocked athe destruction of guard who was simply doing his duty.

"What?", stammered Ferguson, confused by his friend's reaction. "All I did was send him home, back to the Material Plane."

Pax and the other guards were both calmed by this statement, and as a second Janni stepped forward to take command, he pointed to Pax. "I remember you from earlier. You refused healing in the middle of a challenge, and now you speak out like this. You are a man of honor. You I trust."

He looked askance at Siri, who had been rushing in to strike someone in the back, and at Dion who had drawn and fired without provocation. "Not them, but you. Until I see a statement from the Sultan, I can't let you take anything from this hall, but I can take you to see the slaves, so you can see that they're alive and cared for."

He looked back toward the entrance to the hall itself, noting the sudden absence of the two guards who had been stationed there.

To the surprise of all, Pax refused. "I'm here to free them, and nothing less will do.", he declared firmly, standing his ground. "If you remember me, you also remember Ignus surrender to Fireheart, and the terms they agreed upon. Ignus is no longer the master here."

"I saw and I heard. I also saw the magic of the Sultan sweek all away. Until I hear the final judgement, I must defend these halls."

As these two spoke, Mash had been slowly dematerializing and now, in mist form, he drifted towards the unguarded doorway, Had he been breathing he would have held his breath as he passed between two of the outer guards, but they didn't appear to notice. As he approached the entry itself though, they whirled and struck. Two other Janni, the door guards who seemed to have left, suddenly appeared, their blades singing in the thick smokey air. And Mash was staggering, amazed that they'd noticed him, and even more amazed at how easily they had struck him down.

The quartet now turned to face him squarely and, one by one, struck at him again, a pinwheel of steel and pain that didn't stop until he was done. They had apparently been waiting for him to step into their trap, and he had.</Story>

<Commentary>Wind Walk gives you the benefit of Gaseous Form. That is, you get a DR 10/Magic and can drift through tiny gaps. But the forms is till visible, and in fact looks like you to the point that someone might mistake you for a ghost. Further, Efreet can do this, so the Janni weren't at all fooled. They'd even seen him transform.

The pair at the door had gone Invisible, which they can do several times a day. At the center of their square pattern all of the Large creatures had overlapping reach, and it was there that they took their Attacks of Opportunity. And, because Rogue is the preferred class for Janni, and because I'd advanced them, there was sneak damage as well. He was in a four-way flank.

Gaseous form also negates any physical armor, natural armor or shield. You get Dex, Deflection and any Force effect defenses, but that's all. Mash' AC had dropped through the floor. All the Janni had to do was not roll a 1.

Mash' Initiative was last in the round, and the Janni were first, so right after their AoO, which took fully half of the character's hit points, it was their turn. Technically he should have died, but rather than roll the dice the player agreed that his character was down. We placed his hit points at an arbitrary -5.

I'm goinng to take a break before I write any more of this. So the classic line would be, "To Be Continued..."
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Okay, it's a new day so I'll try to pick up where I left off.

<Story>Pax looked at his fallen friend, unable to even determine from his still-misty form if the huge Barbarian was still alive.

"He won't bleed in that form", one of the Janni guards said, almost casually. "He'll feel the pain without dying from it.", added another with a cruel smile. The rest almost laughed in satisfaction. The blustering intruder had been humiliated and then defeated without having ever landed a blow.

Dion looked on sadly, and carefully dismissed his Wind Walk spell so Mash would solidify. The body, now having weight, slumped to the floor and blood began to pool.

"Let me take our friend and leave", Pax asked as he watched his friend gradually expire.

The leader of the guards snapped an order in Ignan, which Pax didn't understand. But he turned his head back towards the Temple Knight and assured him. "We'll see to his wounds. He won't die, but we'll keep him here. He tried to go where he was forbidden, and the law is clear."

Pax felt his jaw clench and his voice came out like a blade on a grindstone: "We will not leave without our friend, and the slaves!"

"They you remain. Out there.", came the equally hard reply. "Wait as long as you like, but until we hear otherwise, this is the hall of our lord Ignus, and you may not enter."

It was Dion who broke the deadlock. "I'll go back to the city and see if I can get something official. Will that do?"

The lead guard nodded curtly, never breaking gaze with Pax.

The Druid once again cast Wind Walk, this time including only himself, and then set off like the wind for the City of Brass.

One of the Janni whispered something to their leader, who softened his stance slightly. "That will take several hours, even at the best speed. If you and your cohort would like to enter the courtyard, I'll send for refreshments. There are laws of hospitality, after all."

But Pax might as well have been carved of stone, and his companions followd his lead. No one moved a muscle.</Story>

<Interlude>I'm actually taking this small break to show the passage of time, and to mark the change of scene.

I will comment though that I'm not sure Wind Walk can actually be "dismissed", per the rules, but I let it go by.

Also, there probably aren't any formal "laws of hospitality" that would apply to uninvited guests.</Interlude>

<Story>The landscape was as bewildering and the the smoke just as thick for Dion as it had been for anyone else, but he knew the general direction and he knew that the city was wider than the distance he was traveling, so he took his best guess and pressed on.

It took over an hour before the great city came into sight, but he was traveling so fast that he nearly passed the outer wall before he could stop. He didn't see any barrier, but in a world where most everyone could fly it would make sense that there were precautions to prevent that.

He dropped down and found the nearest entrance and, once there, took solid form.

The gate guard looked at the Human with open contempt. "Who is you master and what is his business here?", the guard demanded, once again presuming that any Humans in the city were someone's slaves.

"I'm a free man and I'm here on my own business.", replied Dion.

Are you a beggar, or do you have coin to spend?", asked the guard, sill looking unfriendly. Dion answered by jingling his purse, and was allowed entry. It ws then that he realized that he had no idea what to do next, nor where to go. He certainly couldn't find Fireheart in this huge place, if he was even in the cit, and if he had this much trouble simply entering the town unescorted, antering the palace was out of the question.

Still, he decided that the palace seemed like a place to start. He once again turned to mist and took to the air. Since the city was free of the open flames and volcanic vents that filled the lands outside its walls, visibility was much better. So, as he rose he realized that he'd been right earlier. The city was huge, and his trip from the perimeter to the grand palace at the center was almost as far as he'd already traveled.

He stayed low and followed the road that he recognized as the Grand Curve. It lead to the palace.

As he arrived h materialized some distance from the palace gate and approached on foot. A pair of Efreet guards stood, scowling at him as he approached.

"Excuse me, but has the Sultan made any formal proclamations recently?", he asked politely.

The towering guards smirked as they replied, "Why yes he has." They said no more.

Dion, knowing the way of this city, opened his purse and drew gold from it. "Penny for your thoughts?" he asked, the proper form he'd learned in his time here.

"Yes he has," repeated the guard as he tucked the coin into a fold in his sash. "He's confirmed the station of Lord Fireheart, and his victory over the lower one known as Ignus." While the word translated as "lower", Dion recognized that in the local language it denoted someone or something pathetic.

"Is there a place where I could find a copy of that proclamation, in writing>", he asked, again offering golden tribute.

This time the second guard replied, taking the coin. "Yes there is", he answered. "Turn to your right, walk about fifty paces, then turn left."

Dion did as instructed and saw the proclamation clearly posted on a pillar. He also realized that he'd only asked where he could find a copy, rather than asking if he could have a copy, and that taking this one would probably be a problem. He returned to the guards, this time with two gold in his hand.

"Is there a copy available that I can take with me?", he asked.

One of the guards whisked away both coin, the whistled. A Mephit appeared within seconds, his tiny wings abuzz. "This one wants the latest proclamation.", the guard said. The tiny bit of animated flame vanished back through his small tunne, then returned with a small bundle of parchment. "Post these clearly at every crossroads and at any public square. Or circle", he added, passing the mass to Dion.

Dion extracted two copies and returned the rest to the Mephit. "I'm not here as your servant. I have other duties", he said, then headed out, this time following the way known as the Crooked Road, which he knew lead to The Details, where his friends were waiting.</Story>

<Commentary>If I didn't make it clear earlier, my take on the City of Brass is that, being ruled by the Lawful Evil Efreet, if you're not sure if something is legal, it probably isn't. They take delight in tormenting lesser beings, and even each other when they can, so you really don't want to give them an excuse.

Fireheart seems to be the exception. Definately Lawful Evil, but far less predatory than the others they'd dealt with. But, as I said, "Seems".

Also, nothing is free. The "Penny for your thoughts" line was something I adopted as a way to say that you want information and are willing to pay. Dion called it right on the amount. A copper for common directions about the city, but as you move up the scale of importance, so the costs rise accordingly.

Again, I have to take a break, probably for a few hours, so again, "To be continued..." :)
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Okay, it's been more than a few hours. Still, we'll pick things up where we left off.

<Story>Dion decided to check in with Cyrano and Ardan at The Details, to see how their task was going.

As he entered he saw that the figure behind the desk had changed. This time it was a towering figure whose head seemed to brush the high ceiling. His skin was like stetched red leather, and there were horns on his head. That last point was hardly unique in this city, as most Efreet had them, but this was unquestionably a Devil. And suddenly the reason for the name of the place became clear.

"Hello", ventured the Druid with a confidence he really didn't feel. "I'm here to meet some friends, an Elf named Cyrano and a Dwarf named Ardan."

The infernal proprietor looked down and smiled, leaving no doubt about one thing: He wasn't a vegetarian. "Fireheart's associates are in the back room.", he said simply, pointing down a broad hall.

Dion dropped a coin on the counter as he left, the habit of paying for information apparently growing all but automatic. The passage opened up to a moderate sized meeting room. Cyrano and Ardan were waiting, playing cards to pass the time.

"Anyone show yet?", Dion asked, looking around.

"No, but it's only been half a day since the word went out. ", Ardan said hopefully. Cyrano seemed less optimistic. "Fireheart said he'd spread the word to meet here. He didn't say he'd tell them why, so I'm not expecting a lot of his ex-slaves to just come running at his call. We may need to track them down."

Dion nodded in understanding. Fireheart might be their "friend", but he wasn't a "good" friend in any sense of the term. He told them what had happened, and then headed out.

After exiting the city he had to hunt a bit to find the right road. It wasn't where it had been the last time he used it, one of the delights of this plane. He wondered idly whether the magma that lurked just below the surface had high or low tides. He played with that idea as he took mist form and flew out along the rust colored road.</Story>

<Commentary>I think I mentioned before that the landscape moves. It actually rotates slowly around the City of Brass. The roads within the city are arranged like spokes on a wheel, with the palace at the center. There are roads that ring the palace, making the street map resemble a spider's web. Outside the city the pattern repeats, with a perimeter road circling the great brass hemisphere that serves as a foundation, and major roads radiating out from there. Each was marked with a different color.</Commentary>

<Story>The wait had been a long one, and many in the party might have taken a rest or walked around to stretch their legs, save that Pax' example held them in place. He was still as stone. He'd said that he wouldn't leave without Mash and the slaves, and they knew him well enough to know that he would never leave a companion behind.

Then, after almost five hours, Dion came wafting in and took solid form.

"Did you get it?", Pax asked. His first smile in what seemed like forever lit his face when he saw what the Druid carried. He took one of the two copies and presented it to the lead Janni guard.

"The servants of Lord Fireheart are welcome.", the Jann declared on a loud, clear voice. He then turned to the other guards, holding up the proclamation. "The Sultan's seal is upon it. Ignus is our master no more. This hall and all of the associated lands are now under the protection of Lord Fireheart!",

Pax noted the absence of the "Lord" before Ignus name. The way the Jann had said the name had somehow sounded like he was spitting the word, to get the taste out of his mouth.

"I will take you to your friend, personally.", the Janni leader said. "I do have to warn you though, there are protections that one like you can pass only by saying a secret phrase. The words are", he started, followed by a phrase in Ignan that Pax could hardly pronounce. "It means, 'by the grace of lord Ignus', if that helps.", said their guide.

Pax almost accepted the pain instead of giving even lip service to the fallen Efreet, but decided that the words were empty noise. He was also bothered by the Jann's declaration that they were "servants" of Fireheart. Wisdom prevailed though, and he held his tongue. They had previously declared, here, that they weren't the Noble Efreet's servants. He could argue it again, but there are some arguments that are better to lose.

They proceeded at a brisk walk within, repeating the pass phrase several times as they went. Their path took them to a lower level, where the near-infernal heat lessened. It wasn't cool, but it was survivable.

Pax lay on a makeshift tangle of crystal-wood and cloth, his ribs wrapped in a blood-soaked cloth. Even with two cots bound together the unnatural breadth of his shoulders nearly overlapped the edges, and they'd had to fold a blanket or cover into a long roll to pad the center where the two met, an arrangement that also kept him from crushing his wings.

The Temple Knight knealt beside his fallen friend and carefully dripped two potions between his lips, taking care that he didn't choke or cough them back out again. The massive Barbarian's eyes came open, slowly, but refused to focus for several moments.

"You gave us a scare", Ferguson said over Pax' shoulder. He gave a brief prayer to Kord that his friend's strength should be restored, and in a minute he was ready to stand. He felt the pain as he rose, and elected to leave the bandages in place. He was able to walk, but was far from being whole. He also noticed a few other things. "Where are my clothes?", he asked.

"Ah, over here.", replied the Jann who attended the room. The head guard had apparently returned to his duties. He presented Mash with his common clothing, the cloth he normally wore beneath his armor. It had been neither mended nor cleaned and Mash again realized what a thorough job he Janni had done in beating him down. The jerkin was tattered and caked with dried blood so thick that it seemed it might crack before it bent.

As he drew his trous into place, he inquired about his armor. "Ah", replied the Jann. "Slaves and prisoners aren't allowed such things, so they were taken to the armory."

Another guard was summoned as an escort and they went to another room, this one closed with a massive bar and lock that most ordinary Humans wouldn't be able to lift, even if it were somehow unlocked. Within were a number of racks holding armor, and weapons adorned the walls. There was only one set that even came close to fitting Mash, and he recognized it at once. Once he was dressed, with his favorite scythe in his grip he began to feel more himself.

"My rings and other jewelry?", he asked. And again the Jann lead the way. This area was outside the protected area, up higher than the ground level. Ferguson had to protect the mighty Half Dragon from the heat. It wouldn't have made any sense to leave magic protection rings in the slave quarters, where they could be used by someone trying to escape, after all.

"These are the servants of Fireheart, our new lord", the guide informed the guard on the door, who promptly withdrew a large and oddly shaped key and unlocked the door.

The group found themselves in a richly furnished apartment, apparently the private chamger of Ignus. They were directed to a small chest. "This is where our lo...", he stopped and corrected himself,"I mean Ignus placed any jewelry found." Again a key was produced and the small chest swung open.

Mash was lost. There were dozens of rings, broaches, necklaces, circlets and bracelets here, all beautiful and dazzling, but nothing stood out to him. He knelt down to begin the search.

Sire approached, drawn to the brilliant display like a moth to a flame. "What did yours look like?", she asked, her hands gripping the edge tightly.

"Well, not this one.", he declared, setting one aside. " One was marked with shields all about the outer face, and the other was inscribed in twisting vines." "My amulet was of two bears at the wrestle."

Siri's hand approached the glitterin mass, hesitated, then withdrew. "I'd better look with my eyes, other wise we'll get in each other's way." The guard, under whose watchful eye they worked, failed to notice the ring she'd pilfered. "After all", she told herself, "we didn't get paid and I just lost a lot of things."

As Mash pawed through the chest, she'd occasionally point to something. One was the Shield ring Mash had described. He found the amulet himself, but it was several minutes before the Ring of Life was located. In that time Siri had managed to secret away three more rings. She didn't know if they were magical or not, at least not for certain, but she had a good enough eye to know quality from glitz.

"I think I have everything", Mash said, showing his finds to the guard. He nodded, satisfied that the strange Barbarian had taken only what was his.

As Mash and Siri had sought out his jewelry, followed by them asking after his pack and its contents, Pax, Dion and Ferguson had gone to visit the slaves.

Some were Human, a few Elves, and some other races that they were unfamiliar with. All were in poor shape, strong enough to work, but malnourished and clearly dehydrated. Water, it seemed, was a special reward for these, one meted out with cruel frugality.

"We're here to free you", or "You're going home soon", they said to each in turn. Ferguson shared his water skins, making sure they didn't drink too much, lest they retch from too much at once. A second skin was brought out, and then a third. And some of the men began to hope, to think that maybe this wasn't another cruel trick played by their captors.</Story>

<Commentary> A small glossary note. I've been calling all of the guards Janni, and that was wrong, Janni is the term for several. Individually they're called Jann, a mistake I've corrected in this segment.

Also "trous" is the old fashioned way of saying "pants", and had a specific meaning that escapes me now.

Siri's player was still upset that the party had been hit with a Disjunction in an earlier adventure, and felt the right to try and recover what she'd lost. One of the rings she filched was a Ring of Elemental Command, for Earth Elementals. It has a 200,000 gp price tag, and it's up to her whether she decides to share it with the group. Temptation is a terrible thing.

The "Shield Ring" as a Ring of Deflection. The "Ring of Life" was Regeneration.</Commentary>

<Story>Ferguson realized that he didn't have nearly enough Plane Shift spells to get these beings to their home planes, nor did he in fact know which planes some of them hailed from. Without a focus attuned to that plane, he couldn't send them there anyway.

He also realized that in this world there was neither day nor night, neither sunrise nor sunset. He really had no way to know the appointed hour for him to ask Kord to renew his favors.

He did know that he was tired, and that they'd been up and busy for many hours. He set out to find the others and perhaps secure a safe place to sleep.</Story>

<Interlude>Again, this is more to mark a change of scene than anything else. However, I can't help but include a comment: I really have no idea how to adjudicate things like when a daily use item recharges, or when a Cleric can get their spells in a world withno day or night, no sunrise or sunset.</Interlude>

<Story>Sire quietly gnashed her teeth. There was a fortune in that room. The coins in the hall's treasury had been mostly Mashs. Apparently Ignus only kept enough around to meet payroll. From the look of it he might have been short on that as well. His quarters had been lavish in appearance, but much of it was gaudy, bright and flashy but of little actual value. Stll there were things worth acquiring.

She made her way back towards that room and peered around the corner, holding her small mirror at almost floor level. The door was closed and the guard was there. She'd noticed, however, that when she and Mash had left the guard failed to re-lock the door.

She considered her options. The corridor ahead was wide and long and didn't offer nearly enough cover for her to approach the guard without being seen. Actually slipping by him would have been impossible. She considered creating a distraction, but the guard seemed dedicated to his duty, unlikely to leave his post, and any commotion might attract more guards.

She withdrew and sought out Mash. He was big enough to hide behind, and might prove enough of a distraction in his own right.

"You want me to what?", asked the hulking Half-Dragon.

"Just keep him busy.", she said in her sweetest voice. "I mean, Fireheart practically said we could take things. 'Loot of the field', he said"

Reluctantly Mash agreed. As they approached the hallway she had Mash pause so she could climb on his back, clinging like a monkey to the lowed side of his pack. Then he approached.

"I'm Captain Sir Mash, duke of Firenzia", he said, not as a boast but an introduction. "You and the other guards may be looking for new work soon, and I've watched you. You're good and extremely loyal" He grimaced and clutched at his ribs, adding, "You're also damned good at dealing with trouble. I may need some people like you in Firenzia." Seeing the look on the Jann's face, he quickly clarified, "Not as soldiers, but as guards, same duties you have now. The weather's cooler, the wine's good and I pay better."

As the pair started to discuss terms, the wiry Rogue slid to the floor, careful to keep Mash between her and the Jann's eyes. She slid past, unnoticed, holding her breath the whole way. Carefully she reached up for the handle, which was near her head height, and eased the door open a crack. Then she was through, and the door closed as silently as it had opened.

Quickly she scanned the room. That ornate bottle, cut of red crystal, was covered in a lace of burnished gold. The stopper was sealed in place with some ornate symbol, and the possibilities made her heart flutter. Into her bag it went. A curving dagger with a jeweled hilt quickly joined it. She had to be careful, lest the missing items be noticed too soon. Then she turned her attention to the chest. Again, she didn't want to empty it. She selected eight rings of good quality, and a handful of pendants, amulets nand gold chains. After that the chest was re-locked and carefully hefted back where she'd found it. The chest was quite heavey, but sliding it might have made noise.

One final scan of the room, a few minor trinkets added to her bag, then she crept to the doorway and drew it open a crack, then silently cursed. Mash had done too good a job, attracting three more Janni with his talk, They were discussing doubling the guard's pay, and she knew that there was absolutely no way to slip past them. They nearly filled the hall, and at least two were facing the door.

She searched for another door, but there wasn't one to be seen. She looked up and saw that there were what looked like windows up high around the room.

Her hook and line came out, and she tossed with practiced expertise. It snagged the first try, and she began to climb.

Outside, one of the Janni looked up. "Did you hear something?", he asked. Mash tried to look, well, something like surprised, and said, "No. But you should check it out", he added, pointing down the hall.

The guard instead approached the door to their fallen master's chamber. "Why isn't this locked?", he asked as he pushed the door open.

Inside Siri almost froze in terror. She was halfway up the wall when she saw the door start to move. She began a mad scramble, desperate to reach the cover of the window before she could be spotted.

She almost made it. As the guard peered around the room his eye caught the motion of a silk rope, and he looked up just in time to see her legs vanish into the high opening. He called the alarm and advanced as Siri tried to retrieve her rope. It was a long drop to the ground outside, and there wouldn't be any vines on the walls in this hellish realm.

She almost lost her balance as the towering Jann reached up and yanked at the thin rope, yanking it from her hands. She managed to let go before she was pulled out of her perch, but she lost the rope in the process.

"He's in here", called the guard. "I saw him go through that window!"

Find him and bring him to me!", responded Mash, trying to take command. If Siri was out that window, and they were looking for "he", then she might be safe.

Without hesitation the Jann took to the air, rising quickly towards the opening above.

Siri looked desperately for a niche, a nook, a shadow, but there weren't any. Then she heard the ring of a blade and the words she dreaded most. "Surrender or die, thief."

She sighed in resignation and raised her hands.

"Turn around, face away from me", came the next command, after which she felt huge hands grab her belt and collar, lifting and carrying her back to the floor. Then she was out the door, being carried like a drunk being evicted from a tavern.

"Here she is.", declared the guard. "Caught red handed. Should we take her hand here, as is the law?", came the question.

Mash hesitated for the briefest of moments. Hands could be regrown, but the trust of these guards couldn't be, and he'd faced them before. He still felt the wounds from their last encounter.

"Yes, proceed.", he responded harshly.

Siri twisted desperately. She heard cloth tear and she kicked herself free, hitting the ground running. But the other guards already had their weapons drawn, and again they lashed out, lightning quick, nearly tearing her in half. She sank to her knees, still conscious, but barely.

One of the Janni hefted a long, curved knife and offered it to Mash. "Would you like to do the honors?", he asked.

"No, you can have this one.", Mash replied, as if wanting to watch the man at work.

Siri screamed as the blade came down. Blood sprayed and her hand hit the floor with a dead sound. Then the pain faded and darkness claimed her.

Mash walked over and inspected the stump of his friend's arm. Good cut, clean stroke.", he commented, then mumbled a quick spell. The bleeding stopped and the bloody stump began to crust over. The slight woman's eyes fluttered open for a moment before the pain seemed to claim her again.

"I'll put this back.", one of the guards declared, taking Siri's bag and carrying it back into the master chamber.

Mash draped his friend over an arm and went to look for Ferguson.</Story>
<Commentary>That was where we left off.

Siri's player got greedy, and went in without an exit strategy, I'd suggested a Bluff check to distract the guard, but the character didn't have any points in it at all. She thought Mash could do better, but he didn't have anything in there either. Still, he was good cover.

I tried to discourage her, without flatly forbidding it or telling her to plan carefully. I'm normally soft on my combats, as I said earlier. It's not that I like to pull punches, though I often end up doing it, it's that I tend to underestimate the party's mahem potential. Fights that I think will be tough turn into cake walks all too often. Not really the case her.

The window was the classic medieval style we've all seen in the movies: A flat sill and an arched top. In a five foot thick wall it gives a PC a firm footing and some concealment from below. I probably should have had it barred, or had the shutters closed and barred, but I didn't.

I had the two roll Initiative. Siri's a high Dex Rogue with Improved Initiative, so she has a straight +10 on that roll. The Janni are normally +6. They too have Improved Initiative, and since their preferred class is Rogue I'd built them that way when I advanced them to make them appropriate to face the party. They're a total of 14 hit dice, and the Dex advance I gave them from levels, plus Dex items put their total Initiative at +9.

Siri's player rolled an 18. I rolled a 19, so the pair were on the exact same initiative. And she had farther to go than he did. I rolled the Spot for him to notice the rope and rolled well. She got caught.

She would have been better off taking the 40 foot fall. Yeah, it's 4 D6, but she could have handled that better than surrendering and then running into a pair of Attacks of Opportunity. One of them critted, and she was reduced to 3 hit points.

She could have also tried sliding out the window and hanging on by her fingertips. That would have afforded her some cover for a Hide check.

Poor planning and some bad choices lead to her end. She isn't dead but she lost her hand and all the precious loot she'd gathered. She also lost what money she had left, and pretty much everything she wasn't wearing.

Sucks to be her, but she has no one to blame but herself. </Commentary>

Until next week when we probably finish this story arc.
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