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The Architects of Betrayal (TAB) 15: Meanwhile, Back In The Forest . . .

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Be warry, warry quiet . . . I'm hunting wogues!
Pictured: A Vice Presidential Bird Hunt

In a one on one with Dave we continued the adventures of Tanic and the bumbling cultists.

After a refreshing stay at Neverwinter's finest lodging facility Tanic headed out for more bloodletting and loot and all those fine things.

Without even bothering to get his tracking curse removed. Apparently he felt that such a medical procedure was not worth the cost. Just putting more money into the pockets of greedy HMOs and drug companies, etc. etc. So, with only slight grumblings muttered in the direction of the inflated prices charged by herb gardeners he set off in search of his next quest.

I'm not sure exactly what he was after. I doubt anyone could be.

Fortunately, the Baphomet cultists lying in wait could care less about such trivialities. Unfortunately the Fuddies were no better at the art of concealment than anyone else up to this point. And considering the perception check roll Tanic used to spot the ambush from more than a hundred feet away I can't help but think they were standing in the road looking directly at him.

That is not how I had written it!

Of course one could assume from Tanic's natural proclivities that his first response would be to stealth into the woods and backstab said Fuddies. I mean, after all, the only thing better than cleaning blood from one's blade has to be selling the gear said blood's owner once possessed right? I think he actually found the act of cleaning the gear whilst ruminating upon its value quite therapeutic.

/*DM's note: These 3 level 5 cultists would have made a serious fight for the level 6 Tanic, but not an impossible one if he'd chosen it. Besides, I'd decided that it would take a full minute (ten rounds) before Khelban (who'd been keeping far closer watch on the group than any of them expected) would show up to save the day.

So, whatever his choice, all Tanic had to do was survive for 10 rounds in order to avoid being captured and sent to Baphomet's level of The Abyss. A quite stiff, but far from impossible accomplishment.*/

So there Tanic was, staring down three lower level cultists. They, of course, could only see him through the tracking signal, being (from their perception rolls anyway) quite blind. It was a bit amazing that they could find their thumbs. Which you would have thought would only make them a more enticing target would you not?

But what does Tanic do? One look and he bolted straight back the way he'd come.

With a startled roar the 3 Fuddies gave chase. But they could never catch him. So what to do, what to do? I could have just let the chase go for ten rounds and hope that Tanic failed a reflex check stepping into a puddle or leaping over a log. But 5 rounds passed without any such fortuitous die rolls. Wait; I know!

I'll have the third of the trio of level ten cultists from the original encounter (you will recall there were only two present) be in charge of the other three. He'll be the one that alerted them to prepare an ambush as he saw the rogue leaving Neverwinter. And I'll have him coming down the same path. Eureka!

Sadly the anti-paladin must have been the one that taught his recruits the art of the bumbling ambush for he was no more hidden from Tanic's vision (even with a -5 penalty for paying most of his attention towards the other three). Tanic veered off to the other side of the road with perfect timing (damn Dave's reflex rolls) denying the level ten cultist a chance at a quick grab. He tried of course, and ended up face down in the mud (damn my reflex rolls) for his trouble, cursing quite loudly.

So what now? Well, friends, I learned a long time ago that there comes a point when continuing to try after having failed so many times leads one down the path towards pathetic. So I just let the last 3 rounds go. Khelban (whom I'd built as a Level 20 cleric/wizard, level 10 Mystic Theurge; it should be noted that we'd adopted the gestalt multi-classing system for this campaign) ported into the chase, and unleashed a flurry of spells. In one round he cast a quickened Lightning Arc that killed two level fives, a Disintegrate that killed the third, and a Hold Person on the level 10.

Afterwards, Khelban took Tanic and the remaining cultist to a Harper safe house. He was gone for some time, presumably interrogating the prisoner. Meanwhile Tanic found himself locked in a well furnished room; a prison, but a well furnished prison. He could have attempted to pick the lock. Perhaps the recent demonstration of the wizard's power was enough to keep him in check. Lord knows it wouldn't last.

Eventually Khelban graced him with his presence. The honored feeling lasted only as long as it took Tanic to realize that he too was being questioned. The wizard started off asking about the insanity of heading out by himself, knowing he was being tracked by the agents of one of the most powerful demons in existence. Tanic had no answer. A truly rare occurrence; I treasured it.

"Why did you leave the group?" Khelban asked. "Do you realize how hard it is to keep you safe when you insist on splitting up? Do you have a death wish?"

"I was afraid that if I remained with the group I'd kill one of them," Tanic replied bitterly.

"And would that person have been the gnome?" Khelban asked surprisingly.

"No," Tanic replied, brow furrowed in confusion "the half elf." He then went on to explain the number of times she'd simply left him and others near death to attack a foe, before asking "Why would you think it would be Quagrim?"

"There's something odd about his aura," Khelban replied distractedly, meaning the gnome's alignment. "It seems to flicker now and again." Then he looked directly at the rogue saying "You seem to have become fast friends."

"You could say that," Tanic replied uncertainly.

"Well, you're friend might be in serious danger," Khelban replied, clearly fishing.

"Is there anything I can do about that?" Tanic replied uneasily. Of course he didn't want to send his friends into trouble. But the idea of going back to the group, and sitting on his volcanic rage at Calith indefinitely seemed a Sisyphean task.

"You seem to be rather expert at stealth and perception," Khelban observed.

"I like to think so," the rogue replied, chest puffed up like a peacock.

"Come," Khelban commanded loudly. At his word the door to Tanic's gilded cage opened, expelling the three Harpers Tanic had attacked so callously back in Waterdeep. "I'm giving you a chance to help your friends, and possibly find out what is going on," Khelban explained solemnly. "I want you to take these three and tail them. Try to keep them out of trouble, but don't be seen. There's something odd about this group, but I can't put my finger on it."

"Gladly," Tanic replied standing up and facing his past adversaries. "Well, it seems we'll be working together," he said, addressing them for the first time. It was clear that they weren't thrilled with this recent turn of events, a situation that only heightened Tanic's amusement at the very same. What a dick.

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