Once Deirik, Eirik, Ygvard, and Boldulf are comfortably out of Bergen with the unconscious Lord Voldash, they stop to discuss their next steps. Ygvard points out that Voldash knows one of them is a magic-user and may use that information against them to Lord Krogan when they turn him in. He's also fairly certain that Voldash can surmise who it is, seeing as he was the only one who did not dive headlong into melee combat. So the conversation then steers towards that presumption: "Do we kill Voldash, against Krogan's wishes, and say we had no choice to protect our secret? Do we hand Voldash over and plan our immediate escape? Do we wait to see if Voldash reveals us and, if so, fight our way out? or do we preempt Voldash by telling Krogan ourselves?"
They all progress to the North, away from Bergen and back toward Halderton, while they continue to debate these questions. Ygvard is especially concerned since he's the source of magic, and feels fairly confident that Krogan will kill him when he founds out. To take his mind off his concerns, and also to satisfy his own curiosity, Ygvard begins secretly reading the book he took from Voldash's temple santuary. He only does so when they have camped for the night, and even then, it's off on his own away from the others.
The secrecy is not only to prevent Voldash (who, since waking, has been a model prisoner) from seeing him reading and further increasing the likelihood that Ygvard is identified as the channeler, but also due to the contents of the book and how the other Men of Mjarn would react if they knew. The book is called The Tome of the Shadow. It's written in Norther, Sarcosan, and Dark Speak. The story it tells paints the god Izrador in a sympathetic light. While it's easy to dismiss those notions at first, the timeline that's presented in the book exactly matches the historical events of which Ygvard is aware. Could this book simply be lies built on truth? or is this book the little known actual truth of Izrador's presence and intentions here on Aryth? A shred of doubt manifests itself in Ygvard's mind regarding the true nature of Izrador...
As they continue their way North, the men see a band of bugbears accompanying a number of Dornish slaves approaching their path from a crossroad and turning South. Voldash chuckles from behind his gag as the men grab him and run into the brush just off the road. Unfortunately, the bugbears do spot the men and menacingly call them forward. Eirik steps up to the bugbears, who immediately question him on his origin and destination and under whose authority he operates. Eirik skirts the truth by saying they're escorting a prisoner to the authorities who are currently in Halderton to the North. The lead bugbear squints his eyes, unsure of how much of Eirik's story he believes. He then tells Eirik to prove he's a loyal Shadow agent by killing one of the Dornish slaves he has in tow. Eirik is faced with a dilemma, does he kill this slave to maintain the lie or does he attack the bugbear and risk his life and those of his kin? After thinking it through, Eirik draws his blade and moves towards the closest slave. With a flash of his greatsword, he slices... right through the bugbear's throat!
Boldulf orders Sergei, his wolf companion, to tear Voldash's throat if he tries to escape, then runs into the fray to assist Eirik alongside Deirik and Ygvard. The bugbears are formidible and do some real damage to the men, but are eventually defeated. Once the fight is over and all corpses have been decapitated to prevent them from rising, they release the slaves to return to their home. After the slaves have left, Deirik turns to Eirik, in front of Ygvard and Boldulf, and questions his actions. Was he trying to get them all killed? Was one slave's life really worth more than the four of theirs?! These questions would resound in the heads of both Deirik and Eirik as they wonder about the proper mindset of the other. Ygvard has enough on his mind with how Krogan will react to his illegal magical abilities. Boldulf worries over them all.
The rest of the journey back to Halderton is physically uneventful, but mentally exhausting for the men. To put at least one of the issues to bed, they eventually the decide they will use all of the good favor they've gained from what they've accomplished on Krogan's behalf to argue Ygvard's utility as a channeler under his command.
When they finally make it back, they see the people of Halderton busily making good progress on additional fortifications of the town under the watchful eyes of Krogan and his orcs. Unfortunately, they see no sign of Tianna or her friends and realize they are too late to save them from their fates. The men approach Krogan with their prisoner in tow. Krogan turns and smiles, welcoming back each of them from a job well done. He turns towards Voldash and welcomes him, condescendingly, into his service before having him escorted away to be carefully watched by some of his orcs. Krogan then turns to the Men of Mjarn and invites them into his tent to discuss the details of the mission.
As Deirik explains the sequence of events that ended with the capture and return of Lord Voldash, Krogan listens intently but happily. The men can see they've made their benefactor proud. So they begin to steer the conversation towards the other topic.
Deirik goes on to say, "My Lord, as you well know, not only have we stopped Voldash's forces from retaking Halderton, brought you back a large contingent of hobgoblins to bolster your forces, captured Halderton's rebel leaders on your behalf, but we have now delivered Lord Voldash to you alive. None of these missions would've been successful without Ygvard."
Krogan seems slightly confused, "I can understand that. You are an elite group of men who've put yourselves at my disposal, and have proven to be incredibly effective and efficient at the tasks I put before you."
Deirik then replies, "Well, you see..."
Ygvard interrupts, "My Lord, what Deirik is trying to convey to you is that I... that is, I'm a magic user. A channeler." Ygvard winces, while the rest of the men place their hands near their weapons and brace themselves for what happens next.
Krogan's face relaxes, looks Ygvard in the eyes, and simply says, "I know."
He then turns to address the other men, telling them they should conclude any business they have in Halderton because he intends for all of them to make their way back to Alucard shortly, while completely ignoring the shocked look each of them, especially Ygvard, shares with the others.
Players Commentary: So, I was like the ONLY person who wanted to be even remotely "nice" to Voldash. I had no idea what Krogan wanted to do with him, but I figured tying him up like a stuck pick with a sack over his head was no way to treat someone who may or may not have intel that could harm us. Secondly, the Bugbears. Well, ok, let me explain Eirik a bit.
So, Eirik is a Wildlander, which is basically a non-magical version of the Ranger. He's tough, fast, sneaky, and deadly in a fight. What he's NOT is good at talking to people. Since the events with the Hobgoblins, he's been learning a crude version of Goblin, which fortunately the Bugbears spoke. When they showed up, Eirik thought talking to them would be a GREAT idea. They're all on "team Shadow" after all, and he can speak the same language. Also, after the recent events, it was apparent to all of that we weren't only on "team Shadow," but quickly joining "team Evil."
So, he tried to talking to them as "part of the team" but then came the decision--Eirik had to prove he was evil, or else. The smart thing to do would be to kill the prisoners. Hell, it would have been a mercy. Well, the smart thing would have been to not speak with them at all, but it was too late for that. At this point, it was possible that Eirik would have killed them, furthering his slide to darkness. But, I honestly wasn't sure. And this is when implemented something I had learned from solo gaming--an Oracle.
See, in Solo gaming, you use an Oracle or a chart of some sort to see what's going to happen. You can even use it for PC's, as a sort of PC Emulator (useful if you are, for example, playing a module). So, I assigned Eirik stats in Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos, and rolled for it. If he rolled well for Evil, he would kill the prisoner and further condemn himself. If not, he would refuse and risk the entire party.
What can I say, I like it when the character does what they would do, not what I want them to do.
So, Eirik instead killed the bugbear, and his soul remained his. For at least a little while longer.
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