After their rest, our heroes next ascended back up to the surface, and even though it was cloudy and dreary out, it nonetheless felt a lot better than being in that musty, damp castle and tower they had spent the previous week in. They were happy for only a minute though, for as soon as they were all up out of the hole in the ground, they were accosted by some mean-looking men with an agenda clearly at odds from their own. The leader began to speak, "Well, well, mates. Look what we have here. Some blokes coming up out of the ground in our territory, no doubt on a treasure hunt, and they didn’t even ask our permission first. We’re gonna have to ask you to pay us a fee for letting you forage in our territory. Let’s start with you dropping your weapons, bags, stripping off your armor, and hand over the notebook and we’ll let you live.”
Zerak, being the most intelligent in the group by the way (although at this point one couldn't tell), decided to tell them where to stick their demands, and for that, he ended up getting hit by three arrows from three different archers. And then they demanded the notebook again. Blackwell said he had the book and took out a random book and threw it to them, letting the book land just on the opposite side of the hole. And Kel started to slowly close in on them by feigning he didn't quite hear them and tried to draw out the time it took to drop weapons and bags and such. Their enemies were having none of it, though, and told Blackwell to bring the book to them and for Kel to stop moving znd start dropping equipment. Well, Kel had managed to get to a point where he would be able to rush the leader and hopefully knock him down, so he ran at him and the battle was on.
Zola and Asphodel rushed into melee range with some of the archers. Kel's bull rush was very effective at knocking back, damaging, and engaging the leader. Blackwell engaged with the one who appeared to be second in command. And Jobi and Zerak began casting spells at the enemies. Everything seemed to be going in their favor until a fireball exploded right in between Zerak and Jobi. The spell brougt Zerak to near death because of the three arrows he had been hit with before, and it knocked Jobi down as well, but did not knock her unconscious. For the next few round she stayed on the ground trying to help Zerak out with first, the wand of cure light wounds, and when that wouldn't work for her, she fumbled around and found his potions of healing and poured them down his throat (as well as one of hers for herself).
Kel had nearly killed the leader when one of the "archers" advanced and healed his comrade, making Kel's job much more difficult now. Blackwell was firmly engaged with the second in command when another fireball came out of nowhere and exploded at a distance that would target both Kel and Blackwell but miss their assailants. This fireball proved to be devastating to the two. Kel was hurt very badly but was still up, but Blackwell's luck had run out and he went down hard - the blast actually killed him! When the smell of burnt puppy reached the nostrils of the remaining adventurer's, morale sunk to the lowest it had ever been, and doubts about actually surviving this fight were now in play.
Meanwhile Asphodel and Zola were able to kill their targets, with Asphodel then running to the other group of combatants and Zola advancing to lay down some missile fire. Just at this time, Asphodel saw the one throwing the fireballs - he was hiding behid a tree out of sight of everyone else. So she ran at him and grappled him with her (eidolon's) four arms. As the poor mage struggled in her iron grasp, she broke his neck like it was a twig and let the body crumple to the ground. The leader was stricken down by Kel, but Kel was in turn stricken down by the one who had healed the leader. He would have also been dead had it not been for extremely good luck, if not the attention of Desna that kept him at the threshold of death's door instead of pushing him through. The rest of the enemies, now four in number began advancing on Zola since they did not notice that Asphodel was now in back of them. Once the way was clear, Asphodel ran over to Kel and gave him a cure serious wounds potion that brought him back. By this time, Zola was again engaged in melee combat and Jobi and Zerak were back in the fight with Jobi casting her magic missile spells and Zerak doing something that none of the other have seen him do before. He began vomiting up spiders! In fact, he threw up an entire swarm of spiders and directed them to go attack! Jobi definitely thought this was one of the most disgusting things she had seen in a long time and once again, regretted the night she spent with him.
Now Kel got up and saw two of the archers getting near the hole in the ground and decided to bull rush the one. He was so successful in his bull rush that he pushed the first one over 15 feet, pushing the second one over the edge to fall to his death 50 feet below in addition to killing the one he bull rushed - two in one attack! After this, Jobi sent another magic missile to the last one, doing him in and the battle was over.
This victory felt very different from al the others though. They knew that with all the treasure they had gathered up from Holifax's tower and castle they would be able to buy a raise dead ceremony for their companion, Blackwell. But that didn't change the fact that they were basically handed their asses to them and were very nearly defeated by a group that knew who and what they were and were waiting for them to come up with the recipe book. Our heroes were beginning to think that maybe Regis had set them up and was playing dirty pool with them. But that confrontation would have to wait till they got back to Targas and raised Blackwell. Fortunately, they found 8 light horses, all apparently combat trained, no doubt from the now deceased ambush group, and they loaded everything and everyone up and rode hard to Targas.
They arrived back in Targas with enough time left in the day to sell off a bunch of stuff and get Blackwell raised. Then they took lodging in the only other inn so they could rest and regain their strength without tipping their hand to Regis that they were already back in town. They also took the recipe book to a local sage to see if they could get a translation of it. But that didn't yield any real results other than finding out that Holifax used a cipher that was made up of elven, dwarven, draconic, and abyssal languages and that most likely the contents of this book only had items of a necromantic nature, seeing as how the sage laughed when the party mentioned a healing wine recipe. So armed with this information, the party went to confront Regis about all this, but they had Blackwell stay hidden and out of sight to cover their backs if need be (and they thought it would be necessary).
They found Regis sitting at a table in the inn, with his back to a wall and the four body guards he had brought with them on their trek from Neverwinter. Regis was very happy to see them return, but immediately noticed that there were only five that returned. He quickly had a concerned look upon his face and asked to hear what had happened. He was simultaneously afraid and angry when he heard about the ambush, saw a burned up book (that our heroes first saw to deceive Regis with) and made mention that their rivals/enemies knew more than he thought they did and that everyone was in danger (although he didn't mention who actually was the enemy, nor did someone think to ask him either). Asphodel and Zoa were intently trying to see if they could determine any kind of trickery or decieving statements while talking with Regis, but could not detect any. He truly seemed to believe what he was saying to the group.
So Asphodel whispered that maybe they should talk somewhere else. Regis agreed and brought them all up to his suite. He then had the doors and windows closed and proceeded to cast a high level spell, most likely some kind of silencing spell, for when he was done, they could not hear any noises from outside the suite anymore. Then the party asked for an explanation about what was going on, plus they revealed the real book to Regis. So Regis sighed and began telling them what was really going on.
<blockquote> Sorry my friends, I do apologize for the bit of deception. But one can’t be too careful and too trusting at first meetings. Look, the research I’m doing, while not in the mainstream of society, is nonetheless very useful and is not going to evil ends. We want to offer willing, intelligent people the ability to choose what type of free-willed undead they want to be without the extremely time-consuming research and most likely extremely evil process for what needs to be done by offering a ‘no evil involved’ option. We’re not looking to hand this over to depraved, homicidal maniacs who crave un-life so they can keep on being a menace to society, we’re looking to be able to offer this to the world’s great scholars, thinkers, and doers who want to stay on this world and continue their good works without the time constraints that normal mortal life imposes on each and every one of us.
As you know, some of the existing processes for making the transition include horrible rituals that demand many innocent lives to be sacrificed. The recipes we’re working on don’t need that. The process becomes an individual journey that doesn’t require the destruction of innocent lives. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.
For your inconvenience, I’ll not only pay you the 180 gold each I promised you, but I’ll give each of you an additional 500 gold pieces, and will continue to hire you for jobs that need to be done for the research. And I’ll share the research and results with you too, so if any of you decide that one day you want to make the transition to the unlife state of your choice, we’ll be there to help facilitate your journey. I have all your gold here. All I need from you is the notebook and we have an agreement.</blockquote>
Zerak nearly orgasmed when he heard these words and was one hundred percent willing to sign up right away. Jobi and Zola were pretty much appalled by what they heard and really didn't want anything more to do with this. And Asphodel was on the fence. She said that before she could continue to help Regis, she had to meet who was behind all this - Regis' patron if you will. Regis said that he understood and could respect each of the party members' positions and said that he would arrange for a meeting with the leaders of the group that is conducting this research so the party can hear first hand what is going on, plus they could ask any questions they wanted. But for now, he said that since they are all in danger that they should leave for Neverwinter quickly and travel in a group for better protection. And they did all agree to that. Plus Regis reimbursed them the money they had to spend in order to raise Blackwell from the dead too. So it appears that Regis and his patrons definitely have a good sum of coin backing them. Upon hearing everything, Blackwell came up with a line of reasoning that seemed to placate himself, if not others, as to what to do if Zerak wanted to go on future missions for Regis. He said that if Zerak said yes to Regis and then asked him (Blackwell) to help, he would help his friend Zerak in whatever endeavors he needed help in, since he considers everyone in the party as a part of his pack, his family.
And so the trek back to Neverwinter was uneventful. About a day before Neverwinter, Regis and his caravan said goodbye, taking a less traveled path in a different direction and said he would be in touch within a few weeks, once they had deciphered the book. The party then continued on to Neverwinter. They arrived later that day and when they were just a few minutes into the city proper they had heard someone calling out, "Princess! Princess Keladry!" Kel turned around to see eight men, six fuly armored knights of the Crownsilvers (3) and Emmarasks (3) with a mage and a cleric (who bore the crest of Cormyr). "Princess! Wait! Princess Keladry! Princess Keladry! Please stop! Mi’Lady, please come back with us. Your mother and betrothed are worried about you. They gave us the message that they forgive your running away if you will come back with us now. Your new friends are welcome to attend the wedding and celebrations. Your mother has instructed us to take you back any way necessary. Please come with us of your own accord, I beg you Mi’Lady. I really don’t want to have to hog tie you, your grace.”
Kel spurred his horse on but the captain (a mage it seemed) all of a sudden materialized in front of him and his horse. Kel stopped. Kel had absolutely no intention of going back with them and said that she was not going to be married off. The captain of the group (a mage) said that he didn't care what she was going back for, only that he was taking her back. Blackwell had managed sneak behind the man and was just waiting for Kel to give the signal, but he (she) just spurred on the horse, intent on making the mage jump out of the way. But he didn't and Blakcwell nearly got run over while the horse passed through the mage harmlessly - obviously some kind of projected image. And the chase began with Kel in the lead, the mage flying after her, and the other guards running after them, with the rest of the party close behind. After winding through the narrow streets and anywhere he could get his horse to go, Kel saw the Neverwinter guards at one of the other gates. He tried to ride throught the gates while yelling that he was being chased by evil men, but the Neverwinter guards made him stop as well.
Finally when everyone had arrived at the gate, the Neverwinter captain of the guard demanded to know what was going on in his city. After hearing the story of how Kel, a 16 year old girl ran away from home to avoid an arranged marraige and how her mother had sent troops to bring her back to Cormyr, The captain was most obviously flustered at this situation. But he kept is cool and told the young lady that she should consider what she was doing but also let everyone know in no uncertain terms that no one from any other nation had the right to forcibly remove from Neverwinter. And that Neverwinter would consider that kidnapping and arrest whomever was responsible. So for now, Kel was safe from being forced to leave back to Cormyr and the Crownsilver, Emmarask, and Cormyr Royal troops left the city without any further incident...
Our group's adventures will continue in three week's time. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving and watch out for Pumpkinhead coming to eat your soul, I mean turkey.