The 21st of Vor, 1329 Avard: Ethos and Zap rested that evening at Zap's parents' place. Zap's mother took good care of them, fussing over them considerably.
The young human warrior and the elven missionary both felt bad about the selling of Kelerin's Manor, but it had been the only way to pay for all the fines and fees and reparations to Master Geladine. Bjarne and Hrothgar had returned to Kashin to rest the night at the hospice of the monks of Whalin. Tor was at the warehouses of Gideon Enterprises, and Norion had returned to the Lyle House with Gabriel.
Ethos and Zap went to the Wolves' Den to visit the altar of Rahne, before heading back towards the Manor Compound -- the area of the city where the Lord Count and the Lord Reeve worked. A young page met them on the way and gave them a merry chase, before catching them from behind and delivering a missives. The missive was from a Sir Karl Brynx, and indicated that the two should speak with the knight at some point.
At the Manor Compound, one of the Lord Reeves Adjutants determined that some of the goods stolen from Keleran's Manor, before it was sold, had been found. None of it was was the gear Zap was hoping to find, including a bastard sword of his own making, but there was a short-sword of some rare black metal, and a long-sword with naked women as its theme.
They asked about Sir Karl Brynx, and found that he had lost two sons in the service of Firestorm some years ago. When that had happened, he had retired as a Leftenant from the Army of Rakore, and taken up painting there in Kashin.
Zap and Ethos, curious as to the missives, went to visit with Sir Karl Brynx. 'Karl', as he insisted they call them, was a masterful painter, but he also collected and sold paintings of good quality. He told the two that Master Geladine was probably as bad as they thought: he had a painting called The Second Death, and how he had come about the painting had to be illegal.
The Second Death was the only known painting of its kind, and was a two-foot by four-foot oil painting of the resurrection and second death of the Dark God by the Chosen of Arpelos. Whomever had painted The Second Death must have been at that momentous event, and the painting was a priceless work of art, and of historical significance to all the churches.
Karl let it be known that a bishop in Kashin was the last known possessor of the painting, and for Geledine to have it carefully curtained off above his fireplace was odd. Karl had offered to purchase the painting from Master Geladine for a considerable sum, but the merchant claimed not to have the painting. Not long after, Karl's sources told him, the painting had been removed from above the fireplace and had disappeared.
The knight feared that if anyone pursued the matter openly, the merchant might destroy the painting to destroy evidence he had it. Karl wanted Ethos and Zap, who already were at odds with the merchant, and had seen inside his compound-manor, to obtain the painting for the princely sum of 60,000 silver. The retired leftenant had already discussed the matter with the Lord Reeve, who had given his blessings on the strange deal.
The Lord Reeve had already scoured the compound after the Night of Assassins, when Zap and Ethos had accused Master Geladine of being a Scorpion -- and had not found the large painting.
Zap and Ethos agreed to take on the mission, though Zap hinted heavily at preferring Sir Karl Brynx's personal set of armor, instead of coin, as pay.
The two plotted and schemed, and worked through the day until near to dusk on several plans.
They had hoped to use Tor, Bjarne, and Hrothgar to help them, but the three were summoned by Firestorm to help with a serious matter: a scrag had sunken a ship on the Slav River besides which the city lay. The ship had gone down well down-river, but the danger to shipping could not be over-looked.
Opting to help out Tor and his friends, before tackling the issue of The Second Death, Zap and Ethos went along with the three warriors.
A strange black ship called The Black Holly II -- painted all in black with black sails and black trim -- took the bunch downriver all through the night. A tomanth named Sivith, a dwarf named Garth Rubynose, and a man named Lader were the only crew of the black ship.
With the tomanth serving as point, they made it to the last known position of the scrags, and the location of the sunken ship. Springing a leak as they accidentally ran over the wreckage of the ship hidden below the water, they quickly began repairs -- just as the scrag attacked.
The tomanth had been in the water too long, when the water troll yanked Lader into the water with a splash. Hrothgar leapt into the water to save the man, while Bjarne took up a position along the side with his serrated battle-axe at the ready. Tor edged over the side of the ship and splashed into the water, ready to do battle with the scrag.
Zap began helping Garth with the repairs, as Ethos leapt into the water to help the others.
Unable to see into the water under the red light of Maroth, Ethos asked for Whalin's blessings on the silvery head of one of his maces. The mace blazed into white light, and helped illuminate the battle below.
It was then that they realized the error of their tactics, for there were two scrags, and one of them had an electrical ability that was deadly. Tor went down, attacked by a hulking scrag as big as he was. The other water troll pulled about itself some sort of armor made of electrified water, and helped attacke Hrothgar.
Zap, the repairs as good as they could be, ran out of the hold and dove off the side of the ship, coming to the rescue of his friends.
Every time Bjarne's deadly axe cut into the huge water troll, the veins of the creature would reach out like tendrils, grasp the other edge of the separated flesh, and pull the flesh back together. The scrags were healing faster than the group could damage them under the water.
Ethos, seeking to save Tor's life, dove down and jump-started the big minotaur's heart and lungs -- forcing Tor to suck in a lungful of water. Bjarne distracted one of the scrags while Zap heaved the immense bulk of Tor towards the surface with Ethos' help.
The minotaur managed to make it up to suck in a broken lungful of air, and cough up water, when by Ethos' flail light they saw Hrothgar begin to float away from the smaller, electrified scrag.
Deciding on retreat, they all began to head for the boat, save Bjarne, who was too enraged to fall back.
They managed to get Hrothgar's still form back up on deck, as Bjarne went down. Tor, hoping to save him, returned to the battle.
Hrothgar would live, but he would be unconscious for a long time. Ethos, scrambling, prepared to leap back into the battle -- when someone put a hand in his path.
The newcomer was an elf dressed red cloth that soaked up the red light of Maroth, with one hand gloved in red, and the other in black. The elf giggle insanely, held his nose, and leapt off the side of the boat.
Zap, discovering the light ballistae on the Black Holly II, limbered one up with Garth's help, and fired down into the water, hoping not to hit Bjarne, Tor, or the strange elf.
A huge ball of light threw everything underwater into shadows, and then a geyser of water shot into the air fifteen feet with a deafening boom. Those on the ship swore they heard the insane laughter of an elf. There was an odd flash of light under the water, and bolt of light sizzled off in one direction, going a half mile underwater in the space of a heartbeat before dissipating.
Zap fired into the battle down below with the light ballista, growling with frustrating and rage as Hrothgar's blood was finally staunched by Ethos' adept healing skills.
Suddenly, there was silence.
Ethos' light flail was down at the bottom of the river, some fifteen feet below them. The shallow river had a mucky bottom, and it was difficult to see by the white light of the flail.
Ethos sighed. Having stabilized Hrothgar, he leapt back into the water to see if Bjarne, Tor, and the stranger were still alive.
He dove straight for his mace, found it, and held it up -- to find the face of a scrag right in front of him. Ethos' second flail came out, and both hit the scrag's head in a slow, one-two punch under the water.
The head went sailing away into the murky darkness, as it was apparently all that was left of the water troll.
The elven missionary figured that the other strange elf must have been a member of Firestorm, come to rescue Tor. His lungs burning for air, he searched for the huge minotaur, just in case, but there was no sign of any of them.
The second scrag floated nearby. It had a ballistae bolt through its heart, with three feet of wood sticking out of its chest, and another three feet coming out of its back.
The scrag's eyes flared open. With an ominous-sounding crack under the water, the creature broke off the half of the bolt sticking out of its chest, and then pulled out the back half.
Ethos surged for the surface, but it was too late.
Zap saw Ethos just breach the surface, take a last gasp of air, and then he went down again -- the lit head of his mace floating away from his limp hands.
The young human leapt into the water, and yelled at Garth to keep firing. The human hoped to use himself as bait to lure the scrag in and kill it, and then go after Ethos, hoping against hope that his elven friend was still alive.
Garth, his hands shaking violently, accident shot Zap with the light ballistae. The long javelin went under his right trapezius, and broke his collar bone. Unable to swim, Zap turned around in shock, and then the scrag took him.
The first rays of sunlight fell across the river. The Black Holly II was lashed fast against the legs of a massive cypress tree, with Garth still at the light ballistae, hands white and without feeling, his teeth chattering in stoic fear.
The dwarf spun the light ballistae as a figured appeared at the bow. The strange elf in red robes blinked, and held the dwarf with a spell.
Delbin Arcanus, Norion's master, and the Master of Interplaner Studies for Lok Magius, sighed. He had teleported Tor and Bjarne out, and returned as quickly as he could -- but he was too late. There was no sign of Zap, or of Ethos.
-so ends the 23rd of Vor, 1329 Avard.
Both of them, dead.
(sigh) I have to say that they were true to their characters, but... First, they went off on a side mission instead of pursuing The Second Death, and then they leapt in where angels fear to tread, despite the warnings.
Tor, Norion, Bjarne, Hrothgar, and the others are not my intellectual property; they're only on loan to me, as they are past PCs of other players. I have the rights to use them in the story to a certain extent, but not to kill them -- thus, they will always have a Deus ex Machina to save them, except in certain circumstances. (For instance, I had to kill one such NPC recently for story continuity: see Prat's War in the fiction section for more details.)
PCs like Zap and Ethos, who are currently in the campaign, don't have that kind of luxury. I had almost gone to sleep at 3:30am that morning, when Brent returned, begging me to resurrect their characters. I felt bad for Ramon, who had followed Brent's lead in all of this, but there just wasn't any justification, story-wise, for me to bring these guys back.
I got the feeling that for Brent, DnD was just a super version of Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, or any of the other online games where resurrections are a matter of course. Brent didn't seem to understand that most of the people powerful enough to cast resurrection were PCs, and there were very few at that. Bringing a character back from the dead is a momentous occasion, and not something happens every time you turn around!
They of course have the option of playing new characters that can adventure long enough or earn the right to have Zap and Ethos resurrected, but that's about their only option. I let them roll a d20; if either of them rolled a 20, then I would work out some way to bring them back. Neither rolled over a 10.
I hope this doesn't leave a bad taste in Ramon's mouth for DnD, and I rather liked his character of Ethos. Zap was really annoying, and not much of a pleasure to game for, but Brent's company was worth the character. I'm hoping that next time, things go better. And there will be a next time.