PrP: A Tangled Web

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Quint – Human Paladin – Lvl 3

Azog – Orc Fighter – Lvl 3

Darella – Human Sorcerer – Lvl 2

Alteri – Human Fighter – Lvl 4

Sharna – Half-Elf Rogue – Lvl 3


CR 6 (Bypassed) – 2,400 budget (2,400 spent)

6 x Thugs (Level 3 human warrior)

CR 4 (Bypassed) – 1,200 budget (1,200 spent)

1 x Aranea (1,200 xp)

A nobleman receives a strange ransom demand. Unable to raise the ridiculously huge sum of money asked for the return of his only son, he instead turns to the aid of adventurers. It soon becomes obvious, however, that all is not as it seems, and something weird and uncanny seems to be underway. In truth, the boy had returned from his hunting trip empty handed, and, hearing rumors of half-spider monsters, had tracked them down and killed many of them with fire, until the father returned and subdued the assailant in horror. Unused to the common tongue and half-mad with grief, he had sought some kind of justice from the boy’s father. The heroes unpicked this mystery, strand by sticky strand, and ultimately resolved the situation without another drop of blood being spilt.

Word is that there's a job going in the noble district; one Lucius Dalaborn has sent out a call for brave and noble adventurers to assist him in some deed. Rumors abound, but they are often contradictory as to what the purpose of this is.

The Dalaborn family home is a very nice one, though, and if said brave and noble adventurers have expressed an interest across the seedy taverns, guild halls or campfires around which they had heard this rumor, they will know to arrive for midday this day, and present themselves with the password 'Fenny'.

The doorman is a somewhat snooty man, who will usher the first four people through into the hall of the great estate, and then lock and bolt the door behind them.

Azog hangs out at the Explorers' Guild, so that would be where he heard the word. He rides up to the gate, looking fairly respectable... or as respectable as a seven foot orc in full plate armor can look. Hitching his horse and offering a nod to the doorman, he says, simply, "Fenny," and waits to see what happens.

<OOC> Mab says, "Also, feel free to give me a diplomacy check if you want to have gathered and tried to sort rumors pre-meet."

GAME: Darella rolls diplomacy: (5)+8: 13

GAME: Sharna rolls Diplomacy: (18)+7: 25

You paged Darella with 'You don't hear much about this meeting particularly, but in the past the Dalaborn family have paid adventurers to help hunt wild animals. Lucius Dalaborn is the head of the family.'

Being both brave and noble, it is little wonder that Alteri is here. Yea right. It's a job, and jobs need doing. Securing the ties of her cloak, the Eldanar warrior shows up at the door in good time. Her boots have been spit-polished, and she appears every inch the competent mercenary. Appearences count when it comes to dealing with employers. A nod to Azog, as she sees him already there. She tethers her mare next to his mount, "Play nice, Stupid." Patting the bowed neck, she steps up after the orc. "Fenny."

GAME: Alteri rolls diplomacy: (4)+3: 7

Arriving on foot in a somewhat hurried manner, Darella looks over towards the doorman and says, "I'm here about the job for adventurers that you had offered... Oh right, it would be strange to not introduce myself-Though that can wait until we meet later, if we do at all. Oh! Right, you'll be wanting the password then. Fenny." before she proceeds past the doorman whom she may have confused with the amount of talking she had done and walks in.

You paged Sharna with 'Word is that Lucius Dalaborn, the current head of the Dalaborn family, was badly hurt in a hunting expedition recently. And that his son has gone missing after traveling towards Charn, but people have been trying to keep that quiet. It is *well* known to you that Lucius himself can't have any more children, a rather embarrassing situation for him ... and he's been trying to make his only son 'worthy' to take over for some years now. The boy is sixteen, brash, foolish, and desperate to prove himself in combat.'

You paged Alteri with 'Nothing on that roll I'm afraid.'

Sharna arrives on foot, beaming good-naturedly (or at least doing a good impression of good-natured) at the butler as she offers the password and saunters inside the manor. "I see you got my note." she says to Alteri, her hands hooking relaxedly in her belt as she casts an eye over the mottley gathering of adventurers. Brave and noble, perhaps not so much - but certainly interested in the pay, and seemingly convinced it'll be good pay.

If Quint is troubled at all by the snootiness of the man-servant it isn't obvious as he stands there stiff-backed and frowning mildly in the foyer. His surcoat is clean and strapped fastidiously into place over his polished breastplate armor. Not much for smalltalk, he awaits the arrivals of the more fiscally-minded individuals with one hand resting lightly on the pommel of his sword.

The doorman sniffs, and raises an eyebrow at Darella. "... Indubitably." He states, as he closes up the door. "If you fine ladies and gentlemen would follow me, the Master will see you in his study."

It isn't a very long walk; maybe three minutes of portraits, mostly of aging gentlemen with the same, characteristic pointed nose and dark, piercing eyes.

The study itself is rather different; decorated largely with the heads of various animals; exotic creatures from far away. There are five chairs arranged in front of a writing desk, and behind that sits Lucius. His torso is heavily bandaged, but his eyes are dark and keen, and his nose just as pointed as his predecessors.

"Ah, good, good to see you, yes, hello. Please. Make yourselves comfortable. I'd get up, but, I'm afraid I'm not to move too much. Doctor's orders and all that. May I offer you gentlemen some port? Maybe some water for the ladies?" Indeed, port /and/ water have been thoughtfully provided on the desk, amongst papers depicting various creatures; giant spiders and raging badgers.

Azog offers a polite nod to Alteri and the others as they arrive, following the doorman inside and eying the other adventurers curiously but saying nothing. He shifts his shoulders and settles into a more comfortable stance, the heavy armor creaking slightly. He follows the doorman inside and, glancing at the portraits and things, makes his way with the others to the study. He takes a seat when it's offered, clanking into the chair and looking over the fellow. He shakes his head at the offer of port. "I've tasted the water down where the ships come in, don't like it." He doesn't care how manly these people think it is.

Alteri eyes the beaming Sharna askance. "I did, thanks. You're in a good mood," she remarks in mild observation. "Found someone else to thank?" Casting about, she studies the inside of the manor, conspicuously avoiding meeting the elf-blooded's eyes, instead nodding greeting to Darella and Quint. The latter, she studies a mite longer, before seeming to relax a hair.

Following the sniffy snoot, the Highborn studies the portraits with interest, finally settling her hawkish gaze on the bandaged Master of the manor. She inclines her head at his offer, "My thanks, but nay, 'tis not my habit to imbibe whilst on duty." Funny how she calls it duty and not 'on the job'. While she does her best, there really is no hiding the noble upbringing that permeates her manner.

"Oh... I ought to be calmer than I am now." Darella says as she remembers the manners which had been impressed upon her in years past before taking a breath and saying, "As generous as your offer is, I'm quite alright for now. If I don't seem to hasty, would you mind telling us the reason for which you have called us? It seems to me that the sooner we get on with this business, the better."

"A most impressive collection, m'lord." Sharna compliments the... artistically preserved heads of things long since dead on display. Gloved fingers idly pass through the mane of some wild hunting cat, its maw arranged so it seems like it is roaring from its plaque. Sashaying over to one of the chairs, the lithe half-elf folds into it, legs crossing at the knee with a tiny creak of the armor on her.

"Must've been quite a ferocious beast to have injured you so, considering." she notes of the heavy bandages. She's wearing a tiny smile, one of those casually pleasant, business-like expressions. A small wave of hand in the negative indicates that no, she's quite fine, far as drinks go.

There certainly are signs of noble upbringing permeating the manor. Quint declines the offer of refreshments with a subtle headshake and a gloved hand lifting easily, palm out. The leather skirts of his armor flap subtly as he maneuvers towards one of the chairs, taking his time and managing to avoid bumping into the furniture and bodies scattered about the room. He stands behind one of the vacant seats and turns to listen...

Lucius smiles at Azog, but he doesn't correct the orc. Instead, he nods respectfully to Alteri. Surprised, somewhat, that nobody is taking him up on his drink... but he shrugs. Popping open the decanter, he pours himself a long measure, and takes a long, slow sip before he responds to Darella.

"You're quite right. Ah, for the days of my youth, when I would go running off..." He sighs softly. "Thank you." He says, at last, to Sharna. "It was a damned large bear. Actually gutted me right through. Dashed inconvenient. Cost an awful lot to get myself put back together again."

His lips draw into a long, thin line, and his brow furrows. "Which, brings me to my problem. My son has chosen this moment to get himself kidnapped and held for ransom. They're asking a ridiculous sum. I..." There's a definite, weariness in his eyes. "I can't afford to pay." He admits, doing his very best to keep a stoic demeanor. "I can, pay you some for your efforts... less, I daresay, than you deserve... but if you could bring my son back to me, I'd be in your debt."

Azog is smiled at. Clearly, he's making a good impression, as it's been gently suggested he try to do, and learned the humans' ways sufficiently to get along in their society. He actually perks up at the fellow talking about getting gutted by a bear, maybe he's ... well, like an elder - too bent and mangled by life to go toe to toe with a young warrior, but deserving of respect for old accomplishments? He rouses from his attempt to fit this all into his own worldview as the man talks about his kidnapped son, then nods gravely. "I will help rescue your son, Elder."

Stiffening at the man's revelation, Alteri seems to loom a little more, blue eyes sparking at the outrage. "His age? Has he been hurt?" these, she asks sharply, having shed any semblance of courtly manners for the sake of time. There is little, she appears to think. The tension in her lines speak of a marked need to hit something, preferably an honourless kidnapper.

Quint rests a hand on the chairback, looking away from the wounded host to watch Alteri as the ticking clock is introduced. He has little to add at this juncture -- no questions spring immediately to mind -- and so contents himself to continue listening.

"I am sure your Lordship values the life of his child enough to compensate us as best as is possible, given the circumstances - if we succeed." Sharna says, a tiny rise and fall of her shoulders following the casually-spoken words. "As you can see, we are all eager to help. No doubt you have some information as to the identity of these kidnappers and their whereabouts?" she inquires of the nobleman. "And maybe a likeness of the boy?" As if the nose won't give the youth away already, should there be family resemblance!

Darella appears somewhat surprised as she says, "Kidnapped? I can't say that I have much experience with these things... None the less I will do what I can. If I may, do you believe that there could be other reasons for this than simply money? I understand that such a thing is the most common reason, but a greater understanding of the situation could lend itself to a more peaceful solution, especially if other things have been tried first."

Lucius produces from the inside of his vest a tattered and torn piece of paper. The writing on it has been etched inexpertly; likely by someone to whom writing is not an everyday task. In the common tongue, it says:

"We have your boy. Dancing propriety is willingly broken. No hair on head misplaced. Small cuts and bruise as wiggle and thrash. Four weeks contact Glade Point. Sum of 100,000,000 shining gold misplaced from coffers to mine hands. All is well. Otherwise blood to sate dancing missteps."

"I don't know what to make of it." The Lord says simply, rubbing at his temple. "The boy is sixteen years old. I don't have a good portrait, the last one was done four years ago, and that is all I know. It was delivered to my butler by a man in a hooded robe, and that was the end of it. Glade Point is some three day's ride from here, they must have ambushed him just on the last stretch home."

Azog's air of helpfullness fades a little at hearing the boy's age. "He didn't die fighting them off?" he wonders. But still, this is a service to a distinguished warrior, and if the son was overwhelmed and taken without being able to fight back, Azog will help, for the old man's sake. "We can go there with a heavy trunk, as might contain the asked for ransom, to allay suspicion," he suggests. "And then kill them all."

A faint line furrows Alteri's brow. "Dancing... propriety?" She glances to the others gathered, wondering if any can make head or tail of this. "When was this note delivered?" Arms crossing, she tucks her chin to breastbone, musing, "One might assume he can walk, but a spare mount wouldn't be out of place. If your man could show us the portrait? Even an old one is better than nothing." Her chin lifts, "I left word with the Guild that we may require extra mounts." Reluctantly, she has to add, "You may add it to a Guild tab if..." If the man's finances are too tight, presently, though she does not finish her sentence. Delicate sensibilities must be assuaged, though whether it is hers or Lucius', is a question left unanswered.

Turning towards Azog, Darella shakes her head as she says, "I would sooner resort to trickery of some kind rather than risk an open conflict. A martial strike such as that would have to be swift indeed, or I would fear for the hostage's safety. As soon as we engaged in direct combat with his captors, I would assume an alarm would give them good reason to kill him outright if for no other reason than to deny us additional success beyond a victory of force."

"Ambitious." Sharna drawls upon seeing the number scrawled so haphazardly on the note - but her tone suggests she thinks it foolish and ridiculous, rather than merely optimistic. Her gently slanted eyes narrow slightly and ivory brows furrow as she works to make out the words, to decipher the meaning of the message, before passing it along. "Well, what can I say? It's a start. We'll look into it." she promises, quirking that tiny, business-like smile once more.

"Not the most practiced -- or intelligent -- of ransomers." Quint agrees with Sharna, the quiet intensity of his voice something of a surprise after the extended 'vow of silence' act. "We should proceed with caution lest they are driven to panic and take dire action." A shallow nod and then he falls quiet again.

The Lord nods gratefully to each in turn. "I appreciate that you'll do what you can. I don't know what madness this, one one-hundredth of that price would be a, difficult proposition, but I can only hope that if they believe he is worth so much, whoever they are, they will not have dared to hurt him in any way."

He gestures, and the doorman - who has been waiting, apparently, at the back of the party, like a statue, clears his throat. "The Master has prepared some horses, a chest, and supplies, assuming that you would wish to make use of them. If you'd follow me, I'll show you the portrait, and you can be on your way."

The portrait is upstairs - and it shows a young boy and his father, he clearly has his father's nose. The horse and cart bearing six days food for six people and a very large, ornate chest are of a high quality and good standard, at least; clearly the noble isn't completely out of money. He simply doesn't have several king's ransoms on hand.

<OOC> Mab says, "Oh, I forgot - he'll say he received the letter two weeks ago."

Azog shakes his head to Darella, "We'll make them bring the boy out before we open the chest, and when he's there with us, we'll make sure the kidnappers are /too busy dying/ to hurt the boy. We'll bring an extra sword, so he has a chance to fight back as well and gain honor." Following the butler back to review the picture of the boy, he makes a note of the nose and nods at the contents of the cart as well. "I think we're set," he declares.

The scar lining her neck, Alteri strokes with the back of one callused finger. A gesture of rapid thought. She nods cautiously at Azog's suggestion, then at Darella. "Ensuring they are unable to do this to another, would be good... The one best at putting up a harmless-looking front could present the chest to them." at this, her eyes rest on Sharna, crinkling a little at the corners.

Lush carpets mute her bootsteps as she paces after the butler, still thinking up a, for her, mental storm, "Perhaps it would be large enough for one of us to hide within. A layer of coin could fool them initially while the rest of us free the..." Her steps pause, and she turns to the butler, "I beg your pardon. What is his son's name? Was he on his way back from a ball?" The Eldanar gnaws still, at the cryptic scribbles mentioning 'dancing'.

"Well, I do think that such an approach would be a more sensible plan than just charging in." Darella says, "It would be to their disadvantage to let us see their hostage before they receive the ostensible ransom, so sending someone inside wherever he is being held would give us a higher chance of success even if we do plan to simply attack from both fronts at that point. I also see no reason why we wouldn't be able to sneak one of our own in, as given the sheer quantity of gold that they are asking for they most likely have no concept of the size, or even number of containers that would be involved at that point."

"Thank you for your time, your Lordship. We'll see you in a week." Sharna says, sounding as cocky - or perhaps as experienced? As ever. One can only hope it is experience. Unfolding her legs, the half-elven girl hops easily to her feet, moving to follow the butler about and inspect what's been prepared for the party. She commits the boy's likeness of four years past to memory, as even that should make him fairly easy to recognize... and gives Alteri a narrow-eyed glance at the look she's given. "If anything, I'll be too busy sneaking to the back to free him." she says. "Besides, I don't think I could pass for a typical serving girl of this household." is added, with a feral little grin. Her gray skin, after all, is not a particularly common nor welcome sight in the region.

As the party moves outside to be given the horse, cart and supplies, Sharna hangs back, directing a beaming little smile at Alteri. "To answer your earlier question - no, I haven't." she says to the other woman, giving a little 'tsk tsk' noise following. "Maybe I'll give you a reason to thank me in turn on this little outing. We'll see." she adds to the Eldanar sellsword before moving to inspect the arrangements. The part-elven woman gives a little nod, then - it seems they'll do fine, by her standards.

"I must retrieve Brannigan and make arrangements at the temple if we are to be absent from the city for such a length of time." Quint speaks again once outside, standing back and to one side while the supplies provided are inspected by others. "Select a place and time to reconvene and I will be there.

"He was on the way back from a hunting expedition." The manservant explains. "Trying to kill some big monster out towards Charn." His brow furrows, and he exhales slowly. "His name?"

"His name, is Darius."

The journey to the meeting point is an easy one. It is relatively well traveled until the last day, which is spent riding hard through a small, hard-worn trail in claustrophobic trees. The trunks are pressed close together, the leaves working hard to block out the sun. Small animals run and scamper in the undergrowth, but up ahead is where you would presume the meeting place to be; largely because there is a campfire blazing up ahead, adding a choking smog to the oppressive natural atmosphere...

((I am now going to suggest you guys sort out OOCly what way you are going to approach the situation; you have ample time to reach a common plan before arriving at the meeting place, and we can change pose order to suite who is going in first and in what manner.))

[RPOne] Azog notes he has Survival and Handle Animal, if you want me to lead horses/drive a wagon (assuming such a large chest isn't otherwise portable/luggable?)

[RPOne] Darella has joined this channel.

[RPOne] Azog notes he has Survival and Handle Animal, if you want me to lead horses/drive a wagon (assuming such a large chest isn't otherwise portable/luggable?) (Re for Darella)

[RPOne] Mab says, "Honestly, I'm happy to handwave rolls such as that unless/until they become actually dangerous or important - fleeing the scene, for instance."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "I have both as well, though I figure having Darella looking pale and innocent as the exchange person might help lull them into thinking the Lord is behaving."

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Being a sneakytype, I can try scouting, or just lying in wait for you guys to distract the guards/make a commotion, by the way."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "No offense, Azog, you is intimidating and lolhueg."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Yea, I was thinking Sharna might sneak in ahead and get the lay of the land."

[RPOne] Darella says, "Well, if Sharna's sneaky then I vote we send her in the false ransom."

[RPOne] Azog says, "Cool. Not asking to roll, just saying he has the skills if we need them. Hah, yeah. Maybe put a huge cloak on him, though, and he's just a beefy wagondriver for hire."

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Good luck getting her to do that. She'd rather just sneak 'manually'."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Nah, as Sharna mentioned, she looks shadow elfy, which is suspicious in and of itself for many. XD"

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Hiding in a big chest likely to be opened and riffled in, not such a good idea in my book."

[RPOne] Darella says, "Yeah, I suppose they might... Alright, Sharna sneaks in but what do the rest of us do?"

[RPOne] Darella says, "I look innocent and helpless while delivering a false ransom..."

[RPOne] Mab says, "If Sharna is going in to get the lay of the land, I'll do that very quickly with her, and then you can decide how to proceed."

[RPOne] Mab says, "Scouting and going in at the same time would seem illogical."

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Yeah, if I'm scouting, we'll need to do that so I can give them the info (or get killed trying). :P"

[RPOne] Alteri nods and will wait to see what Sharna reports back.

You paged Sharna with 'Give me a stealth check.'

GAME: Sharna rolls Stealth: (8)+11: 19 to Mab

[RPOne] Alteri says, "I'd suggest multiple chests with false bottoms but that's getting pretty over-complicated. XD"

GAME: Mab rolls 1d20-1: (14)+-1: 13

GAME: Mab rolls 1d20-1: (20)+-1: 19

GAME: Mab rolls 1d20-1: (16)+-1: 15

Sharna pages: I won't be going too close, mind you. Just having a peek from WAY far.

You paged Sharna with 'There are a total of six men in the camp. Three of them are playing cards by the campfire, three others are positioned at three corners of the camp to form a triangle, and seem to be playing a game which consists of whistling to one another. The three at the corners have longbows ready. All of them are wearing chainmail, the 'guards' have short swords and heavy shields to swap to from their bows, two of the men in the camp have battleaxes and heavy shield, the remaining man has a longsword. None of them seem to have noticed you.' You paged Sharna with 'There is no sign of the boy.'

Sharna pages: All human?

You paged Sharna with 'Yup, and rugged-looking. But given the state of their equipment, probably hired thugs rather than bandits; doesn't have the dirty, worn look you get from living in the woods for most of your life.'

Sharna pages: I shall return to my companions and tell them the news!

After a while, Sharna emerges from the undergrowth, idly picking branches and leaves from her clothing. "Far as I could see, half a dozen of them. Humans. Gruff, rugged types - thugs, probably, rather than bandits. All armed - three guards at the camp corners with bows as perimeter defense, further three inside with axes and blades. Couldn't see any sign of the kid." she relays. Irritably flicking a large-ish, green insect from her shoulder, she looks decidedly put out. "I hate forests." is muttered.

Pacing by the wagon, Alteri glances over to where the foliage spits out a Sharna. Listening to the report, she grunts, "Did any of the thugs resemble Darius?" Perhaps she recalls her own misspent youth and the times she made her own family gain white hairs over her antics. For all they know, the youth himself is behind the 'kidnapping'.

You paged Sharna with 'In answer; no, they are all professionals who are easily mid-twenties or older. No way any of them is 16.' "Not in the slightest. Even from the distance, they looked older and more experienced than a human boy of sixteen would." Sharna says, shaking her head slightly. Finally rid of the bits of forest that had been clinging lovingly to her, she corrects how her hood and cloth mask lay, arms crossing at her chest. "So, what's the plan?" she asks, then.

[RPOne] Azog says, "So, walk in with chest, demand to see the boy, and refuse to show the money til they cart him out. I throw down a Dazzling Display to get their attention, One of you sneaky types sneak attacks the ones holding the boy, grabs him, and we kill them all?"

[RPOne] Alteri says, "I'm good with Azog's plan."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "The melee'ers could bristle and look intimidating, distracting them from looking for a sneaky Sharna?"

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Sharna will be so displeased about having to go back into the forest. :("

[RPOne] Azog says, "Sounds good. Hah."

[RPOne] Sharna says, "I'll have to move a lot closer this time, though, so hopefully I won't roll like crap on the stealth!"

"It is entirely possible the boy is not in the camp." Quint observes, sitting high atop Brannigan and holding his recently-repaired polearm so it stabs up and into the sky. "They may intend to verify the ransom before giving us a rendezvous location. If this is the case -- and our ruse becomes obvious -- we will need to make sure none escape and at least one is left alive for interrogation."

<OOC> Mab says, "Okay, so Azog drives the cart with Darella next to him, Alteri on one side, Quint on horseback on the other, Sharna sneaking in from the side."

"Well, this isn't quite what I had in mind but I suppose an aggressive approach is going to be necessary here." Darella says, "After all, I'm hardly the leader of this group. I suppose I'll do my best to help in combat, however I can." she says.

"I'll stay back till you start screaming or they bring out the kid." Sharna says, giving her clean clothing a forlorn look before ducking back into the thick forest, keeping distance so as to not risk notice before it is time to move in in earnest.

Azog nods slowly at what Quint says. "That's right, no kid, no deal, we'll be firm on that." He takes his greatsword from his back and places it in the back of the wagon, where he can reach over and grab it, then settles himself to ride, or drive, as required. He grunts softly to Darella, "They've demanded huge amounts of cash. To pay them for committing crimes just encourages them to do it more."

As the cart rumbles closer to the camp, it isn't long before they are spotted. There's a sudden hurrying of motion and movement, archers fall back, and melee come forward. Two men with battleaxes and heavy shields next to a man who looks, more at ease, with longsword and shield on his back. They are all wearing chainmail, though there are no identifying markers of any kind.

"Hail, travelers." The apparent leader in the center calls. "What brings you this way, eh? You have the look of a /fine/ company of rogues about you."

GAME: Sharna rolls Stealth: (20)+11: 31

<OOC> Mab says, "Okay, pose order, to avoid confusion, is now: Azog, Darella, Alteri, Quint, Sharna (if necessary), Me. Feel free to say you don't want to pose if you don't have anything to add."

Azog looks up as the men swarm around them and reins in the horses, setting the leads where he can grab them back quickly if needed. Not that so few people can really /swarm/, but they're getting as ready as they can. His first scan doesn't spot the boy, but when they rush forward, he shrugs his shield around into place, though he doesn't draw his blade, not yet. He'll leave the talking to others. Getting off the cart, Darella steps down and says, "We are here concerning the ransom of a boy, Darius Dalaborn. I believe you requested quite a large sum of money, but none the less we are here to acquiesce, as you may be able to see."

GAME: Darella rolls bluff: (10)+8: 18

The clean-cut, stalwart and shiningly earnest form of Quint in full battle regalia might seem at odds with the image of a mercenary tough. Thankfully, Brannigan glowers and snorts with the best of the ill-tempered, midnight black nightmare steeds and the templar's surcoat is a simple white trimmed in the blue and silver of the Dreaming Goddess -- lacking any obvious iconography. Gray eyes stare with unblinking intensity from behind the barbute's eyeslit and the hand not holding his three-pronged stave is in his lap holding loose to the mount's reins.

The muscled draft horse' front hoof kicks at the grass and dirt in irritation, snort as it digs up short, shallow furrows. A short, muttered phrase, and the beast calms for the moment. Quint remains otherwise silent, allowing for others to maintain the deception.

Footsteps like those of a cat on the prowl in spite of the crunching leaves of autumn underfoot, Sharna creeps through the forest. She crouches down, then, slowly, placing a hand with splayed fingers upon the forest floor for balance... and waits. A grasshopper lands on the top of her hood and she stoically ignores its presence until it moves along - remaining still as a statue in the chosen spot and watching the proceedings from afar. The foliage nearly completely obscures her, her clothing and skin melding into the shadows of the trees and bushes.

GAME: Mab rolls 1d20+9: (14)+9: 23 to Mab

The thug who speaks for the thugs nods his head. "Alright." He says, all business suddenly. "Well. I was told a group might show up. I'm meant to check that you've brought, quote, a lot of, endquote, gold before I do anything else." He nods in the direction of the chest, "You won't mind if I check, will you?"

GAME: Sharna rolls Perception: (16)+11: 27 to Mab

<OOC> Darella says, "We have enough gold to stand up to inspection, right?"

<OOC> Mab says, "Of one million gold pieces? No. Of 'lots', that depends."

<OOC> Azog says, "I was just wondering the same thing. I think I'm going to shake the box to let him hear the jingle."

<OOC> Sharna says, "A hundred million. :("

<OOC> Alteri says, "Is there enough that Azog can throw open the lid for them to see but not touch?"


<OOC> Mab says, "There is a chest. It has some gold coins in it. The thug wants to open the chest and look inside, if you guys want to try and stop him, that's something to be RP'd."

Azog growls at the man who demands to see the gold, and though it's not really his part, the attitude annoys him. "You can see the gold when we see the boy, and not a moment sooner," he snarls in accented Tradespeak, though he does lean back to lift one side of the crate and let it thump back down, with a muffled jingle of the coins that /are/ inside.

<OOC> Darella says, "Oh, I know that we don't have 100 million but neither do they. They've asked for so much they might as well have asked for a number that's just imaginary and used to represent, "A lot"."

<OOC> Azog says, "Not really bluffing, but if it mattes, I can try Aid Another on someone else's bluff?"

<OOC> Azog says, "Matters, even."

<OOC> Mab says, "I'll allow it."

Sharna pages: Did a roll, by the way, as requested. *points above* Not sure if you saw it/if it matters at all.

You paged Sharna with 'I saw it. It wasn't quite high enough.'

Sharna pages: Alrighty!

GAME: Azog rolls bluff: (11)+0: 11

<OOC> Azog says, "Sorry about the delay, I'd forgotten how. :/ Well, someone gets a +2 to convince them we're legit?"

<OOC> Mab nods.

<OOC> Darella says, "So yeah, that makes my bluff check a 20 then since you were ICly helping me out."

<OOC> Mab says, "You'll need another check to convince him not to do his job."

<OOC> Darella says, "I will?"

<OOC> Mab says, "... Yes."

GAME: Darella rolls bluff: (2)+8: 10

<OOC> Darella says, "Crap."

<OOC> Darella says, "At least it wasn't an automatic failure."

<OOC> Mab says, "There's no automatic failure with skills."

<OOC> Darella says, "Oh, right. Saving throws only."

[RPOne] Azog says, "First check was to convince them we were the messengers, this was to convince them not to peek in the box. Hopefully we get positive mods for a good setup and so forth. Or, we can kill them all now. ;)"

<OOC> Mab says, "You'll need to pose too, just FYI, and... if you had to go around 5ish, we may as well stop before we actually get to the dice rolling."

<OOC> Darella says, "Don't the enemies roll a sense motive based on their stats or are you just using a generic stat-less character?"

<OOC> Mab says, "I'm rolling."

<OOC> Darella says, "Oh, ok."

GAME: Mab rolls 1d20-1: (12)+-1: 11 to Mab

"These are sensitive matters, and we both know it." Darella says, "We only perform the exchange once both parties have brought out that which we are exchanging. You can tell that we have our gold here already. Besides, what good would a ruse do? Any sort of attempt to circumvent a normal exchange and we both know that it will end badly for Darius."

Pale eyes glinting coldly down at the thug, Alteri shifts her gaze to stare impassively at the rest of the thugs, quietly noting positions and equipment. Azog's growled response, and Darella's more wordy one, she backs up by a silent, unseen signal to her mare, who snorts and rears. Flashing hooves slash at the air near the thug before thudding back into the drying brush. None shall pass, is the message. "Apologies, she's off her feed." the warrior intones without any apology in her voice, idly patting her mount's neck. With the hand encased in a spiked gauntlet.

Quint's hand opens and closes around the polearm, his grip going tighter and causing the wooden haft to groan quietly. His eyes narrow just a touch and his nostrils flare. He still doesn't speak -- he doesn't even open his mouth to sigh. He just waits and watches for now.

Sharna remains still and quiet, a ghost in the night. She sees no reason to move just yet, after all: the ruse, at least, seems to be working from where she's standing. For the moment, anyway. Her muscles tense, she soundlessly detaches her crossbow from where it lurks on her belt - carefully, slowly releasing the safety latch so that it can be fired, if the need should arise.

The thug pauses for a moment, and then shrugs his shoulders. "It isn't my job to care." He says, frankly. "We're just here to make sure you brought the gold. Don't know where this Darius is, so I can't get him for you." He shrugs his shoulders again, and spits on the ground. "Come into the camp, and I'll send up a signal to say you brought what you should have. No need to get stressed now, is there? All just business."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Okay, show of hands, we let them send the flare or do nothing (choice A) we let them send the flare and jump them (choice B)."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "*and do nothing."

[RPOne] Quint is fine with 'wait'n see'

[RPOne] Sharna says, "Let them send the flare but don't attack, for my OOC vote. Because my worry is we don't know where their employers ARE."

[RPOne] Azog picks A

[RPOne] Sharna says, "If they're near, they could show up midfight or hear the combat, and then they might slit the kid's throat or do a standoff."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Okay, I'm taking Choice A as well. Azog, mind posing that we follow 'em?"

[RPOne] Darella says, "Let them send the flare/do nothing. It's better we know the full extent of the situation, plus that dancing thing could mean something we're completely unaware of like a relationship to Lucius."

Azog takes up the reins again, and barks an Yrch command to the horses, snapping them into motion again and guiding the wagon after the ... whoever they are.

You paged Sharna with 'Another perception check please.'

GAME: Sharna rolls Perception: (20)+11: 31 to Mab

Sharna pages: I... see the universe functioning. It is... beautiful. *stares all googly-eyed* :(

Darella jumps up onto the wagon as it starts to move forwards, staying wit Azog and looking about as she attempts to take stock of the situation, looking for distinctive marks on clothes, examining weapons and such as best she can without looking like she's doing more than looking at the scenery.

GAME: Darella rolls perception: (7)+1: 8

The party are brought into the camp, and the leader of the thugs moves over to the campfire. The application of some strange powder from his pouch turns the smoke billowing from the fire a bright and bilious blue.

"Should only be ten minutes or so." The leader says, before adding, "You all seem really on edge. Me and the boys have got no quarrel with you so long as you play straight with us. We ain't getting paid to hurt anybody, today."

<OOC> Mab says, "They have weapons! It is hard to tell their quality, there is no identifying or unifying mark."

You paged Sharna with 'As the smoke goes up, you sense movement above you. Something impacts the ground about fifty feet from where you are. Peeking out from the undergrowth, you see a large (person sized) black spider materialize from apparent nothingness. Utterly silently, the flesh of the thing melds and runs like water, and soon, it has taken the form of a man in flowing robes, dark skinned, thick haired. The metamorphosis takes a few seconds, but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry. He's looking in the direction of the camp, however.'

Eyes narrowing a hair, Alteri nudges Stupid to follow, fanning out a little from the group. "We have no quarrel with you, either," she states quietly to the leader. Not dismounting, she uses her higher vantage point to scan the campsite and its denizens.

Azog shrugs at the accusation of being on edge. He doesn't offer a reply, glancing off in whatever direction these men are watching. Presumably they know where their erstwhile allies are coming from.

Sharna twitches and nearly abandons her post so as to -run away screaming-. She quells the instinct, though. Not that any of her companions can see... which is a bad thing, in this case, as it means they also aren't looking her way at all and communication is next to impossible. She has no choice but to stay perfectly still, gritting her teeth in frustration

"An odd number of battle-trained and well-armed men being paid to act as go-betweens and messengers." Quint observes quietly -- but loud enough to be overheard -- from atop his steed. The ranseur still points towards the heavens inoffesnviely as he looks down at the signal. "What sort of man is your employer?" He adds, speaking at the kneeling mercenary's back.

GAME: Quint rolls Diplomacy: (16)+11: 27

The thug scratches behind the back of his head, and shrugs his shoulders. "He's an odd one." He admits, "Didn't speak to him much. Just gave us our money and told us the job." He smirks, "No offense, buddy, but you don't get to stay in this job long if you ask too many questions. Seemed a bit... not all there, if you ask me." He gives a short laugh, "But his money was good, and--"

From the side of the camp, on neither of the trails, a tall, dark-skinned man in heavy black robes steps from the brush. This seems to get a start from the thug, who looks surprised he came from /there/. The man's head is completely bald, and his eyes shine with... tears? He's actually shaking, looking, completely, as though he has lost his composure. "--Fuck me that was quick."

[RPOne] Azog says, "And now we know (OOCly) that it's the son, out to see if dad really cares. :/ But. Does Azog see through the disguise? Or should I just slam him?"

[RPOne] Azog says, "Well, not -know-, but it seems so."

[RPOne] Mab says, "You are free to have any preconceptions you want."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Um, was dad darkskinned too?"

[RPOne] Mab says, "If you want to see through the 'disguise' roll Perception. And no he was not."

[RPOne] Alteri says, "Aight."

GAME: Darella rolls perception: (11)+1: 12

GAME: Azog rolls perception: (7)+0: 7

[RPOne] Mab says, "Definitely doesn't look like a disguise on those rolls."

Azog growls as he sees the single individual show up, without the boy. He either misses the tears, or misinterprets them. These humans, confusing people! But enough! He tosses the reins of the wagon down and rises to his feet. "We're here for the boy," he says to the robed man, placing one hand on the hilt of his bastard sword. "Show him now!"

Sharna pages: Wait, spiderboy is having a nervous breakdown?

You paged Sharna with 'He looked composed until he actually saw the camp, but now he looks /very unhappy/ yes.'

Darella quickly stands up, placing her hand on Azog in a restraining gesture as she says, "We don't quite understand. We had been lead to believe that you were going to bring out Darius. It appears as though there was something that we weren't told regarding this deal... Or are we mistaken?" before she starts making a few motions and whispers a few words in some sort of odd language in an attempt to see if any magic is being used and afterwards says, "I am not attempting to attack, simply trying to see if the source of confusion is more... Arcane in nature."

Alteri squints at the dark-skinned fellow who appears, noting that the thug leader seems more than a little surprised at the swift arrival. Ever cynical, she tries to make out if the fellow might be the son in disguise. The tears are an odd thing to see, either way.

At Azog's reaction, she exchanges looks with the rest in the party. On one hand, there is a need for caution, on the other, she would -love- to start bashing heads in until someone gives in. Settling for looking really ticked off at the lack of Darius, she sets her jaw and tightens her hand on Stupid's reins, waiting to see if Darella notes anything arcane in her efforts.

GAME: Alteri rolls perception: (20)+5: 25

You paged Alteri with 'It is not a disguise.'

Alteri does, however, give a mute shake of her head, meaning to say that is not the boy in disguise.

Alteri pages: Okay. :)

<OOC> Alteri says, "Sorry, just posing the result of the roll. :)"

Quint draws in a slow, deep breath at the sight of the man stumbling from the woods, lifting the ranseur from its rest and letting the tip droop down to a more horizontal orientation. The tears he interprets as madness and that coupled with the robes makes him suspect some variety of cultist. He'll be well ready should this come to blows.

Sharna's eyes narrow. The crossbow is quietly, slowly, stowed, the latch reapplied to prevent accidental firing - replaced with a pair of blackjacks as she scoots just a bit closer, more tense than ever. Fingers tighten and release on the weapons in barely subdued nervousness... but she waits, her teeth grinding just a tad.

The Newcomer narrows his eyes at Azog, and snarls himself, lips curling back in a nasty grimace. The noise he makes is utterly animal, a snarling his before he erupts; "What is this trickery?!" He bellows, "What disrespect? You weave a web to snatch my sight, and think me too fool to count the ticker-tick of blood memory?! I SAW THE DANCE. My pattern is torn, the larvae burn and slash and kill and YOU come to DECEIVE ME?! One thousand by one thousand by is not one drop of blood for coin for wound!"

His voice is cracked and furious, each word spoken with the utmost care, pronounced in a strange and alien accent, as though the act of speaking with lips and tongue is unfamiliar to him. The thugs look utterly confused. Since Azog has gone for his sword, though, their weapons are grasped as firmly; the leader is moving to try and position himself between the orc and his boss, though. "Oi, oi, oi, look, everyone, lets not do anything rash, shall we? Come on now, we're all, /sensible/ people..." He sounds like he's trying to convince himself of that fact. His boss certainly doesn't seem to be in possession of all his faculties, to say the least.

<OOC> Azog says, "I'm going to try to inditmidate him into revealing where the son is, not that it'll work."

<OOC> Mab says, "Feel free."

<OOC> Alteri says, "I could try to AA the Intimidate."

<OOC> Mab says, "Yup!"

GAME: Alteri rolls Intimidate: (5)+5: 10

<OOC> Alteri says, ">_>"

GAME: Azog rolls intimidate: (7)+13: 20

Sharna pages: Something occurs to me. Those pictures daddy dear had on his desk... were they of similar spiders as this one?

Sharna pages: He had pictures of giant spiders, my brain is nagging me?

You paged Sharna with 'They were similar, but they were different, too - they were hairier whereas this thing is smooth and chitenous, it was

  • probably* a coincidence.

Azog steps off the wagon and towards the man in robes, getting closer and closer to the one guard as if he intended to walk through the man, bellowing, "Rash? We came here to bring a boy back to his father! A proud warrior injured and unable to complete the task himself. But all we are presented is a madman. Bring the boy immediately!" He snarls, drawing his sword and swinging it so hard that the swish of air is audible in the pause after his shouting. He does stop short of walking over the guard, but is clearly looming for effect.

<OOC> Darella says, "Wow. I just had a crazy, crazy idea that could either be awesome or horrible."

<OOC> Darella says, "Try to understand the crazy guy and speak his language which either has references to something that he doesn't quite understand, or is just mad rambling."

Darella steps down alongside Azog and says, "He may be mad, he may not be. Speak of a bow and arrows to those who know of swords only and what are you but mad?" she then closes her eyes, before appearing to relax and saying, "We don't know of larvae burning, or torn patterns. Whatever has torn you so, whatever cuts through the world, blood for coin doesn't have to be the only way to bring force to your side. Ask, and you may find allies against that which you are so desperate to stop."

Coolly, Alteri watches the Newcomer ranting at the 7ft tall Yrch. Addressing the thug leader, she lets the Orc do his Orcish thing to ask the man, "This, is the one who hired you?" Dry as a Veyshanti desert the dark-skinned fellow might have hailed from, her voice is.

She works to loosen her sword in its scabbard, making a show of finely honed muscles that she appears more than willing to employ at this point. "I suggest finding work at the Explorer's Guild next time, neighbour. They tend to ensure the employers aren't raving lunatics." The Eldanar is taking it that this person is crazy and negotiating is bust. She'll give Darella room, but that room is swiftly shrinking into inexistence.

Sharna pages: You know, I just had a crazy idea. If he's been there and watching all along... I look up into the trees. Is there webbing? Cocoon? Anything of the sort?

You paged Sharna with 'There are some strands of web, but not what you would expect to be the big one here, if that is where your mind is going.'

GAME: Darella rolls diplomacy: (19)+8: 27

"This far from the walls, it is possible they do not call Alexandria their home and thus do not have access to the same Guild." Quint tells Alteri, still stiff-backed in his saddle as he watches the madness spill out of the bald fellow. He tips his head in a shallow nod at the mercenary captain, offering mildly "Your employer is clearly not of sound mind. I would recommend stepping aside. If a peaceful resolution is possible it will be found."

<OOC> Mab says, "You can roll diplomacy, but you're going to have a penalty with a member of the party waving a sword around and being intimidating."

GAME: Quint rolls Diplomacy: (20)+11: 31

The Newcomer hisses again at Azog, low in the back of its throat. "You would pluck justice from the sticky web and seal with fire and sword." He says, somewhere between fear and anger. He's starting to back off from Azog, though. His eyes focus on Darella, and there's a disconcerting moment where they seem to focus /again/.

"Too late. Too late for prevention. The patterns which have been woven are of blood. Too much blood." His voice is starting to crack with sorrow rather than anger. He visibly sags. To Darella he continues, no less energetically but with less heat in the tone; "You think my heart bleeds less than old warrior's when children plucked from web of home and skewered on sharp steel? To squeal and beg and cry? You want yours and I want mine but mine are gone and where is justice for the dead?"

As the dark-skinned man rants and raves, the leader of the thugs, sweating profusely, draws his sword, and tries to square up to the much bigger orc. Until Quint's speech is heard. He hesitates, and starts to step aside. He still looks very unsure of himself. "I took his coin." He says, with genuine uncertainty in his voice. This sure isn't making much sense to him, either. "Can't let you lot just, barge in and hurt the poor sod, can I? Even if he's off his rocker..." He trails off. The rest of his group don't look too sure either. Are they still going to get paid for this? What, exactly, have they gotten wrapped up in?

Azog lets the man back down, and the guard as well, or back away at least, and he ceases his advance as the man's ravings seem, for a moment, to make more sense. His face twitches, though, at what he's putting together. It doesn't really make sense to him, even when the pieces start fitting, because orc druids, while they care for nature, understand that hunters have to hunt. Though, in his tribe at least, they didn't hunt exclusively for sport. "He killed your animals?" Azog asks brusquely. "Human children? Or bears and deer?" He's not actively at least, which may make the guards less nervous.

<OOC> Darella says, "What do I detect, if anything from the area around me due to detect magic?"

<OOC> Mab says, "Give me a knowledge/arcana check."

GAME: Darella rolls knowledge/arcana: (18)+7: 25

<OOC> Mab says, "He's under the effect of a minor transmutation aura."

<OOC> Darella says, "Ok, so we're either looking at a polymorph or some sort of physical enhancement, though It's obvious that it's a polymorph effect OOCly since you said that guy was Darius."

<OOC> Mab says, "... I did not ever say he was Darius."

<OOC> Darella says, "Conversely, I understand that it's honest insanity and not an enchantment."

<OOC> Darella says, "Would I know what sort of spells could produce a transmutation aura or would I just know, "Transmutation"?"

<OOC> Mab says, "You've pretty much covered the basics. Polymorph, enhancement."

<OOC> Quint says, "Schools from the school of Transmutation?"

<OOC> Quint says, "*Spells from"

<OOC> Darella says, "Right, so I would probably sooner think that it's an enhancement spell rather than polymorph 'cause polymorph would be just plain out of place."

<OOC> Mab says, "Atually."

<OOC> Mab says, "On a 25, and given the broken speech patterns."

<OOC> Mab says, "It is possible that he is not a human naturally. That would explain a great deal."

"There is a question I'd like to ask." Darella says as she faces the man who had hired the thugs, "What do you really look like? I can tell that you're different from your usual self in some way, and I'm starting to wonder if it has anything to do with your appearance. Now, if you don't want to reveal that then it's not something I'll press but... There is no sign of Darius, I can tell something is different and I would sooner assume that it is either you, or you are someone that we would recognize quite easily without magic."

Alteri nods slightly to Quint, "Granted." She is still not impressed with the thugs' choice of employers. The jumble of words rattles confusingly in the fighter's head. She cannot make head or tail of what he is saying, and words were never her strong suit. "Who?" she asks the dark-skinned man. "Who is, or was, yours?" Maybe getting that solved will give a point of reference to the rest of his words. She tenses when the thug leader draws his sword. "Easy now, no rashness, yes?" Her hands are kept away from her blade, supporting Azog's backing down. Between Darella's circular questioning and Alteri's more direct one, hopefully the dark-skinned fellow is able to answer one of them.

"If we wanted to hurt anyone, we would have done so already." the shadows of the forest whisper. Sharna detaches herself from her the shadows, stepping from the trees and into the flickering light of the campfire with slow, measured strides. Her hands are where they can be seen and all weapons are sheathed... for now.

"The boy? He's a young fool. Hotblooded and not thinking enough. He is, however... irreplaceable, as flawed as he may be." Sharna says, addressing the dark-skinned man, trying to remain cool and composed in her voice and posture. "You're holding all the strings, spider-mage. You can stop the bloodshed, or you can force everyone into more of it. More violence. More death. You don't really want that, do you?" Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?!

"Animal." The dark-skinned man repeats. "Human." He says, again. Some of that anger has returned. But Darella's words seem to make sense to him. He speaks very slowly, very deliberately. "He." And the back of the man's robes opens up, blossoming like a flower with a thick and bulbous back end, encased in chitin. "Killed." And his arms meld and melt, another three pairs growing out from his torso. "My." And his mouth splits, his features warping in a truly horrible, unnatural fashion. "Family." Clacks from between mandibles which seem much more used to speech, distorted as the common tongue is by the ill-suited body.

The spider is easily the size of a man, having inverted itself into being, glossy red inhuman eyes observe the gathered humanoids. It is tense. Suddenly, it rounds on Sharna, horribly aware that it is surrounded. The creature's voice is mournful. "The web is woven! How do you propose to unspin the spun and make whole the torn pattern? All the richness of Ea will not bring it back."

The leader of the thugs looks utterly horrified for a moment, and then raises his sword, suddenly, in the direction of the spider, "WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE GODS IS /THAT?!/." He shouts, and his panic seems to spread like a wave amongst his men...

<OOC> Mab says, "You can give me a knowledge/arcana to know what it is, incidentally."

GAME: Darella rolls knowledge/arcana: (15)+7: 22

You paged Darella with 'It is an Aranea. Generally peaceful, live in colonies of 2-6 in high trees where they study magic. Can naturally shift between giant spider, half-spider, and human form.'

Azog actually takes a step back when the man changes into a spider. A huge spider. He rounds on the mercenaries, demanding, "This is who you serve?" Azog's already had issues with ants and almost died, and he's not favorably inclined at all towards spiders in disguise. Though he's never met, nor even heard of ones that are smart enough to hold a conversation before, however rambling. "You can't unweave a web," he admits dourly. "But you can weave a new one. But not if the boy comes to harm. If the boy comes to harm, it all ends. We may even be able to help you, to find a safe place for you to raise a new family. But you must choose to weave a new web that leaves ... er, two-legs in peace as well. What will it be?"

"No! No. Don't do anything." Darella says, backing away from the thugs towards the spider creature while waving her arms in a defensive manner before she says, "It's alright... We don't need to spill more blood where it has unnecessarily been spilt already." she then slowly turns to the giant, spider-like creature and says, "It's alright... I know what you are, and I think we understand what happened. I know the Dalborn family has many hunters, and they don't always understand what they hunt do they? You took Darius in revenge for the slaughter of your family, didn't you?"

A sharp word and very strong hand is all that prevents Alteri from being thrown off her mare. The whites of the animal's eyes are obvious as it tries to rear, snorting and reacting to the revealing of a predator. A large one. In contrast, the Highborn appears cool, though her jaw tightens. "Gods send this one doesn't phase..." she mutters. Then she barks to the thugs' leader, "Calm yourself and your men!" Negotiating with spiders is beyond her ken, and she knows it. Instead, she works to get between at least one archer and the spider-person-thing. Hopefully, one of the more diplomatic members of the party can find the words to see this through without bloodshed. By one of the others, she means everyone but herself, of course.

Quint continues to watch passively, turning Brannigan at an angle -- ready to brace the polearm against a charge from the monstrous creature should the need arise.

"If you do this, no matter what happens, there can only be more death." Sharna says, though she does swallow rather hard at the second sight of the enormous spider. She's... not a big fan of spiders. It's taking all her willpower to give a pretense of being nonchalant. "You have to stop. Hell, you're both fathers - the..." Ivory brows furrow as she brings to mind the words they'd been refering to Lucius with all along. "... old warrior might understand the magnitude of your sorrow - but only if the boy's returned safe."

The leader of the thugs is momentarily taken aback by Azog's words, and he looks ready to give the order to kill it... but when Darella /and/ Alteri move to get in the way, he hesitates. Once again, he feels completely out of his depth. He's not really following what is going on. But, his loyalty to money outweighs his natural inclination to kill things that look different to him. A wise and honorable mercenary. "Hold! It still paid us well, didn't it?" He shouts. There's nervous muttering.

The spider bobs its body in what might be an accepting manner to Darella. It picks its way back across the ground so it can view the gathered humanoids in one place, every movement alien and unnerving. When it speaks, it does so slowly, and carefully. "No hair on head harmed; has been crooned and coddled like child of mine." It babbles, in this form, its voice is almost melodic. Lilting and musical. "Not enough to move away. To ransom is tradition; to bargain worth against worth for crimes. If I give and he goes and he pays nothing for his macabre dance of steel and death then what worth have they? They must weigh on his heart as heavy as mine or else he'll harm others in turn when called."

Azog squints at the spider as it shifts. Spider traditions? Alexandria has more strangeness than a month of drunken binges. "If Ransom is your desire," he says, moving to the back of the cart, towards the chest, "then mayhap you shall have what you wish." Particularly if he doesn't entirely understand the concept of varying degrees of wealth. "The boy's father has assembled a ransom he feels worthy of his son," Azog says, though perhaps he'd have assembled more if he really intended to pay it. Azog lifts the lid briefly enough for a flash of gold, then slams the lid back down. "You may take it, but we must see the boy safe and unharmed first."

"I have a better idea. Ransom won't prevent a slaughter like this from happening again, the best thing in this case would be to actually get these two to talk about what happened." Darella says, "Perhaps Darius may not be able to make any sort of promises on his family's behalf, but his father may be able to. You have the ability to take human form, for however long. Perhaps you may be able to come back with us for a short time and negotiate a more appropriate settlement that could ensure peace for the Dalaborn family as well as what family you yourself might find later... Though I believe that Darius would have to come back as well."

Senses on edge, Alteri works to keep an eye on all the thugs, in case one decides listening to their leader just isn't worth helping A GIANT TALKING SPIDER. At the spider's assurances to the boy's safety, she exhales a slow breath, taking the melodic babbling at face value. Turning to glance sharply at one of the more nervous bowmen, she nudges her protesting mare, who wants only to get -away- from here, to impose their bulk between the creature and that wavering arrow. Glancing to Darella and what she says, the Eldanar grunts, muttering to herself, "This could get complicated." but she straightens in her saddle, "I will personally ensure your safety if you choose to meet with the boy's father." she calls to the spider-being.

"This scenario will serve as an object lesson." Quint counters, shaking his head briefly. "If the creature is satisfied by delivery of the ransom there is little sense in complicating matters further, taking it from its home, and smuggling it into the city." He lifts the tip of the ranseur and rests the weapon against the saddle again as the situation defuses. "The boy's father was terrified at the loss of his son. He will be overjoyed and relived at his return. If the boy requires further instruction in consequence that can be meted out through proper authorities." Perhaps the monstrous thing is the one wronged here but the bearded human has no interest in bringing it into the walls of his home. He has no way to tell what might happen in that case.

"The old warrior is badly injured. He can't come to you, else he would have, and we can't really speak on his behalf." Sharna endeavors to explain to the eight-legged creature. "This is what we got." A gloved thumb flicks to indicate the chest. "You can have it for the boy. Or you can come along, bring the boy, and speak to the old warrior yourself if you prefer." Who may or may not kill you and mount your eight-eyed head on the wall, she thinks to herself, but does not say it aloud.

The creature seems to consider the options before it for a few moments. It bobs and sways on the spot, and then it shoots a sticky strand of web up into the trees above, and begins to wheel itself up there. "I will return with him." It promises. "I can be human. I can walk on two legs and speak not a word. Until I will speak with the father of the boy who burns and cuts and has so much hate when stroked and prodded and chided for the sins that lay thick and syrupy on his tongue and he will accept that..."

It wings off into the trees, apparently still talking to itself as it does so. The thugs look uncomfortable for a few moments, and then the leader clears his throat. "Well. Either way, looks like our job is done. You've got the trade down. So. We'll be going." And they begin to pack up their camp. A job where they didn't have to use their weapons seems like a good job to them.

After about fifteen minutes, where presumably the spider is scuttling back to its primary web, it comes swinging back with the boy tucked under one arm; firmly gummed up in sticky strands. He lays him down with exaggerated care, and in a few sick moments, has regained human form. At which point he looks back to Quint.

"You can deny me if you will. My men are gone my bargain gone my hand extended with no weapon or barb. But one thousand by one thousand was a start to soothe what has been lost. I would give up all that for brief and peaceful words to make the broken weave meaningful."

Azog waits impatiently. He's actually a bit miffed that the mercenaries are going, he was looking forward to a good scrap with them. But since the spider is returning, he'll stow his shield on his back and get the wagon turned back around, probably much to the horses' relief. He waves farewell as the mercs get going post-haste, and waits, eventually relieved to see the spider return with the boy. He'll get out of the wagon to pick him up bodily and place him reasonably gently in the back of the wagon without actually cutting him loose, though he does look the boy over for injuries. "Shhhhh," he mumbles under his breath. "Stay calm, we're taking you back to the city. We'll get these off as soon as the spider is safely dealt with."

Darella smiles at the creature's acceptance of the situation and says, "Very well, I suppose we'll go back to Alexandria much in the same way that we came... Thank you for agreeing to this, whatever your name is, I think that everyone will be much happier than they would be otherwise once you and Lucius reach an agreement."

The departure of the thugs is a welcome thing. No telling where loyalties lie, when one discovers one's employer is not quite what they seemed. The few sick moments when the spider returns to human form sets Alteri to a few hard swallows. Thankfully, Stupid has calmed down at least. Turning to the paladin, the slightly pale Eldanar murmurs, "If speech will see this through with both sides soothed..." She eyes the once-more man, and the boy safely delivered unto them. "He, at least, is true to his word thus far. If he reneges, it will be my blood spilt first."

Like Azog, she makes no move to free the boy. Honestly, if he had behaved, things would not have come to this point. He is safe, is he comfortable? Who cares. Keeping pace with the dark-skinned 'man', she is both guard and prison warden to the creature for the foreseeable future.

Sharna would look pale if only her skin allowed it in earnest. She hops into the back of the wagon herself, adroitly, keeping a wary eye on the man-spider - but like the others, not moving to undo the bonds on the boy, lest he do anything rash. "Come on, then, spider-mage." she calls, gesturing for him to climb aboard. It's going to be a weird journey, that's for sure.

<OOC> Mab says, "In conclusion - Lucius will be horrified by what his stupid son has done when the situation is explained to him. Communication is, obviously, difficult between all the parties concerned. Eventually, though, a compromise is found. Lucius forces Darius to swear to never fight unless his life or the lives of others are in danger... which of course, means no more hunting, no more questing to prove himself, and much more time locked up studying.

The Spider, which doesn't give a name at any point, will leave the city when its work is done. If anyone asks, it will explain, in a roundabout way, that there is another group far to the north that it knows of, and it will go there for a time."