Corruption of Azim

Chapter 10

Abduction

The tavern of the Blue Drake was filled with the aroma of breakfast. About half of the tables were occupied with guests of the inn, merchants, and townsfolk. A quiet buzz of casual conversation filled the air. Dustin nursed his drink as he sat at the bar.

“Here’s your breakfast, Dustin.” The innkeeper’s daughter presented the food with a shy look and longing eyes. Then after glancing behind her she added, “I brought you the best of the bacon, an extra share of eggs, and this wine. Please enjoy!”

Dustin thanked the girl. A little flirting goes a long way around here, he thought. The girl was obviously afraid of her mother finding out about this crush, so getting free room and board would be a little more complicated.

As he ate, Dustin watched the door. He was hoping that the Elf Elandra would show up; he knew that she frequented this establishment. While waiting he wondered what to say to her. He knew that she was avoiding him, but couldn’t figure out the reason why.

After the food was gone he nursed his wine and reflected on the recent happenings. Two nights ago after leaving his newfound rogue ally, he’d secured himself in his room and fell asleep. He awoke mid-morning and visited the kitchen before lounging about the mayor’s parlor. It wasn’t long before he heard weeping. Soon Renferell entered, his face red and moist with his sobbing.

“Jacob, whatever is the matter?” Dustin inquired.

“She… she’s gone! She left!”

Dustin sat upright, “Who’s gone?”

“Lady A—Amberly!” Renferell replied between sobs.

The next several hours were spent in consoling the mayor over his loss. Renferell wanted to send out search parties, but both Jorn and the captain of the guard dissuaded him. Dustin though the cleric seemed particularly suspicious. He kept looking away and avoiding eye contact when questioned.

When he had a chance to slip away for a few minutes, Dustin sneaked into Shandra’s room. The bed hadn’t been made yet and the sheets had been thrown rudely to the side. Walking around to the other side, he found part of a leaf and a partial muddy boot print. Someone came in here straight from outside.

He sat down on the bed for a moment to think. His hand rested on something hard. Pushing back the bed covers he found a masterwork silver dagger. I doubt she would have willingly left this behind, he thought.

‘Lady Amberly’ was gone without any further trace, leaving Dustin confused and slightly concerned. When he first heard she was gone, he feared that she was trying to beat him to looting the treasury. But the dagger and Jorn’s guilty looks led him to believe that she had been abducted. He felt some small concern for the lovely lady, but he was more worried that this might come back to him somehow. Would she sell him out?

In all of this there was one major upshot: Renferell had taken to him like a best friend.

In the afternoon he took leave of the mayor and rode back to town. He visited several taverns in search of ‘Amberly’ or Elandra. Neither could be found. In asking around, he found out that Elandra visited the Blue Drake quite often. So today Dustin’s only plan was to wait around the Blue Drake to find this lovely Elf.

After an hour or two, the tavern door opened and Elandra walked in. Dustin quickly hid his face and hoped she wouldn’t notice him and run. He used a little mirror to watch her. The Elf sat down at a table and pulled her chair up close to a merchant. He seems pleased to see her. She’s got her back turned to me, so now’s my chance!

He approached her from behind, laid hold of her arm and sat at the vacant seat next to her. Elandra didn’t try to pull away, but both she and the merchant stared at their intruder. The Elf seemed very alarmed.

“I need to speak with the lady in private, sir. So scram.” Dustin emphasized his command by snapping his fingers to light a little bit of phosphorus powder. The burst of flame was bright, but not painful. It accomplished the purpose; the merchant departed speedily without a word.

“What do you want with me?” Elandra asked.

“Apologies, my dear, but I can’t have you running off on me. You’re far too beautiful and it hurts my feelings.

“I just need to ask you about Lady Amberly. I know that’s not her real name, but she never told me it. She did tell me that you were her friend and that her husband, Tyrus, is out of town.

“She’s disappeared and I suspect foul play. Do you know where she is?”

Elandra looked surprised at Dustin’s candor. Then her eyes turned hard. “How do you expect me to trust you? I know I’ve seen you before in Lysidia in Jonathan Riker’s manor! Who are you, and why are you after me?”

DM
Karasu, please roll a Diplomacy check for Dustin. You may also make a Knowledge (nobility) check to see if he remembers/knows of Elandra.

I determined that Dustin would try to catch up with Elandra to try to find out any info on Shandra’s disappearance and try to get in the Elf’s confidence. Not to mention that he’d probably love a shot at hooking up with Elandra. Beyond that, we could use a plot device to get Dustin integrated into the party.

How will Dustin respond to Elandra’s questions?

Karasu
Though I really enjoyed the post, I think there’s a minor character issue here. I don’t think Dustin feels enough loyalty to Shandra (yet) to methodically search her out without some harder evidence that she didn’t just fly the coop. In fact, he might be suspicious that Shandra used him to help her get the password, then ran off in the middle of the night to find her husband and beat Dustin to the big haul. In short, he might be more interested in trying to hire a few unscrupulous people to beat her to the loot.

If there were something more concrete, some evidence that made Dustin believe there were foul play, he might do exactly as you suggest here. But even without any evidence, he’d probably also frequent the taverns and keep a lookout for Elandra or Shandra, just to discover what became of the tiefling. But he probably wouldn’t be so straightforward and serious about confronting Elandra, unless he had a good reason for so doing.

But, to answer Elandra’s question, here are the dice rolls:

Diplomacy: 5 (roll) + 4 (mod) = 9
Knowledge (nobility): 10 (roll) + 5 = 15
And, for good measure to see how well Dustin can read Elandra: Sense Motive: 3 (roll) + 1 = 4.

“After you? The same reason any man would be: to get a better view of your glorious backside.”

He takes a sip of the wine he brought over from the bar. Dustin then drops the facade and levels with Elandra: “I’m no one, though Riker may very well be my father.”

He’ll let that sink in for a moment: “Or my father could be your date who just peed his pants at my magic trick. Or the next man who walks into this tavern. Whoever he is, he or I will die at the other’s hands. Does that earn your trust?”

If he remembers who Elandra is and what her relation was to Riker, he’ll continue: “If you know Riker, you must know my mother, Drusilda. Now, what’s a pretty face like you doing in a place like this?”

Eryx
I may have a way to fix the situation. With the mayor so inconsolable, I’m sure he would have dragged Dustin to her room at some point. Shandra had hidden her belt and dagger under the bed. If Jorn and his compatriots didn’t think to look, Dustin could have found them in a moment where the mayor was distracted. Or maybe Dustin ran in when Renferell first started wailing. Jorn would have trundled the mayor off to a good breakfast, and Dustin could look around briefly. This would also help him get in with the group. Imagine it:

“As evidence, I give you this,” as he hands Tyrus his wife’s dagger.

Something like that. Then we only need to retcon a sentence or two here, that he found the dagger, and the rest of this could proceed as you have outlined, Blackwolf. Oh, and by the way, this is awesome. If Asmodeus ever finds out how it all went down . . .

DM
I really liked your idea Eryx, so I retcon’d it in above. I hope this addresses your concern, Karasu. Like I said above, Dustin’s extra measure of loyalty is as much a plot device as anything else.

“After you? The same reason any man would be: to get a better view of your glorious backside.”

Dustin took a sip of the wine he’d brought over from the bar. Then he dropped his facade and leveled with the Elf. “I’m no one, though Riker may very well be my father.”

He let that sink in for a moment. Elandra’s eyes were wide with wonder and perhaps a bit of fear. Dustin continued, “Or my father could be your date who just peed his pants at my magic trick. Or the next man who walks into this tavern. Whoever he is, he or I will die at the other’s hands. Does that earn your trust?”

As he stared at the beautiful Elf, a memory stirred. Suddenly he realized who Elandra was and why she was afraid of Riker. “Oh! You’re the one who ran away! I remember now. Since you know Riker so well, then you must know my mother, Drusilda. Now, what’s a pretty face like you doing in a place like this?”

After mentioning his mother, Elandra visibly relaxed. “What am I doing here? Worrying too much about days long gone, it seems. You’re Drusilda’s boy? I can see the family resemblance. You always were a handsome young thing, but I daresay the ladies must flock to you now.”

The Elf took a long look at Dustin. At last she seemed satisfied that she could trust him. “The ‘Lady Amberly’ is really named Shandra. I haven’t seen her for two days. How did you meet her, and what do you know about her disappearance?”

Dustin gave her an abridged version of what happened at the Mayor’s fort two nights before. As he explained his suspicions about Jorn, the Elf nodded her head in agreement.

“The Braithwaite family has served the Isley family for many years. They are almost as prideful as the nobles they serve. Shandra said he had been watching her closely. If he found any reason to distrust her, he may have gotten rid of her to preserve the reputation of his master’s family.”

“Well he certainly didn’t take to Shandra or myself,” Dustin replied. “I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.”

“Jorn is just a servant, not a soldier. So if he did get rid of her, he wouldn’t have been able to use the guards. That leaves two options: the Darkrunners or the Outcasts. If the Darkrunners have her, they’ll ship her off to the Far Waters Prison Colony or sell her into slavery to a distant nation.

“The Outcasts are a local gang. If they were involved, they’d probably turn around and sell her to the Darkrunners. Their leader, Grosh, is always on the lookout for some coin. But they might have just killed her instead.”

“Either way, that’s no way to treat a woman,” Dustin joked darkly. “How do we find out if either group was involved?”

Shandra sighed. “There’s a tavern called the Bleeding Barrel. Grosh spends a lot of his time there. That would be the best place to start, but I can’t go there. I have… an understanding with the Outcasts. I don’t go near them, and they don’t bother me. If you’re willing, you’ll have to go to the Bleeding Barrel yourself.

“Will you do that for me? Help me find Shandra? I’m sure her friends would appreciate it, and I think you’d get along well with them. Besides,” she said with a wanton look, “I can make it worth your while.”

DM
Will Dustin take up the quest?

Karasu
Dustin switches into his dirtiest wrong-end-of-town accent: ”’Kay, love. I’ll pop into the Bloody Barrel for a pint. Point me the way.”

‘Mr. Ashe’ will dress down for the occasion and wear his grubbiest clothes. He’ll also go by his childhood name, Ren, in the Bleeding Barrel—no sense letting this all get back to him if things go south. Once there, he’ll immediately swagger up to the nearest half-orc and say he’s got a “business proposition” for a Mr. Grosh but won’t be talking without a bloody ale in him first.

The accent and name are genuine, but since Dustin won’t be totally truthful talking to Grosh, I decided to roll this skill check—Bluff: 6 (roll) + 9 (mod) = 15 total.

If there are no half-orcs about, Dustin won’t stand idly by. He’ll loudly chat with the bar patrons and try to start some general revelry, perhaps buy the friendliest of them a drink or two.

Dustin switched into his dirtiest wrong-end-of-town accent. ”’Kay, love. I’ll pop into the Bloody Barrel for a pint. Point me the way.”

Shandra smiled and gave him instructions on how to get there. She then told him that she’d stay at the Blue Drake waiting for his return. Seeing no point in delay, Dustin stood up and headed out the door.

His first stop was the Black Horse Inn where he had taken lodging the night before and stashed his belongings. Rifling through his things, he found some grubby traveling clothes which he hadn’t bothered to wash since arriving in town. He put these on then headed over to the Bleeding Barrel.

The tavern was dark and stank of odors which Dustin didn’t want to identify. But he was used to places like this. He had learned the speech of the low, seedy parts of Lysidia in places like this. But the tavern was nearly deserted.

A dwarf wearing the colors of the Knights Justicar was sitting at the bar drinking from a very large mug. Dustin couldn’t help but think how out of place this Dwarf was. He won’t have the information I need, Dustin thought.

Looking around, there were only two other patrons. One was a gray bearded, homeless-looking fellow who had fallen asleep at a table. The other was a young man who had a sharp scar running from his nose down across his cheek near the mouth. He wore brown leather armor over a dark green tunic.

Dustin walked up to this young man and introduced himself using his childhood name, Ren. The man seemed welcome to chat, especially as Ren spoke as one of his own. His name was Dain. Dustin took note of the two shortswords Dain wore on his back. This man looked the quintessential thieving rogue.

After a little small talk, Ren ordered drinks for himself and his new friend. Then in hushed tones he started asking about the illicit side of Fallerun.

“I ‘ear them Outcasts run all the interesting games in town, aye? Better mebbe than Darkrunners even.”

Dain held up his hand and gestured toward the Knight Justicar. The Dwarf had just finished his drink and was paying the barkeep.

“Aye, they say,” Dain replied once the Dwarf had left. “Ain’t a thing happening in this town without Grosh knowing how to wring some coin out of it.”

Dain then spoke casually about how Grosh had a hand in the black market and associated with the Darkrunners. The half-orc’s crimes apparently ranged from extortion and blackmail to assault and murder.

“That right? You know where I’d find ‘im? I’ve a ‘business proposition’.”

Dain cocked his head to the side. He sat still for a moment, then stood up. He motioned for Ren to follow him and then walked out of the tavern.

DM
Will Dustin follow Dain? You suspect that he is an Outcast himself.

Karasu
Dustin shrugs, downs the rest of Dain’s drink, vigorously tousles the hair of the unconscious man, and steps out of the Bleeding Barrel after the scarred thief.


Dustin shrugged, then downed the rest of Dain’s drink. He stood up to follow, but before leaving he mischievously decided to vigorously tousle the hair of the unconscious man. The sleeping patron did not awaken, but Dustin was dismayed to feel something sticky in the hair that transferred to his hand. With a curse he tried wiping his hand on a table and some chairs on his way out the door.

Outside he saw Dain walking down the road toward the southwest edge of town. Dustin followed at a respectful distance. His hand was still a bit sticky, but there wasn’t time to waste cleaning up.

Dain was leading Dustin into the slums of the town. And I thought the rest of the town looked worn. Most of the buildings in this part of down were uninhabited and badly broken down. It seemed like a monument to Renferell’s incompetence.

Dain stopped at an intersection and waited for Ren.

“You shouldn’t go any further than this alone,” he instructed. “The Outcasts don’t take kindly to intruders in their territory.”

Dustin nodded in reply. Then he followed his guide again as they made their way down a narrow alley. Keeping a watchful eye, Dustin noticed an archer on a rooftop. He also thought he saw someone watching from a second story window, but he only caught a glace of movement.

Soon they stopped in front of one of the buildings. At first glance it didn’t seem remarkable in any way, but then Dustin noticed a few signs that indicated this building was well used. The porch steps and door were dark with mud and water tracked in by foot. There were notches in the railings which appeared to be knife marks. And there were also scraps of food on the porch which had yet to be scavenged by birds or dogs.

Dain opened the front door and entered. The scarred thief waived a greeting to a pair of lackeys which were waiting around the room inside. He then led Ren up some stairs which creaked at every movement.

The upstairs was a large open room. A long, square table filled one corner of the room. A deck of cards was partially scattered along its surface. Some barrels and crates filled another portion of the room. But what stood out was a half-Orc sitting on a fine cushioned chair which clearly did not match the rotten decor set by the house. Interesting luxury item, thought Dustin as he suppressed a chuckle.

“Dain! What’s this rat you’ve got following you?” the half-orc asked.

“Dis is Ren. Says he’s got a ‘business proposition’ for you. He’s a might interested in our work,” answered Dain.

“And so you just brought him straight here.”

“Aye. Seems enough like one of us brigands, and I’m a sucker for people who buy me drinks. ‘Sides, if he gets nosy, just, you know, kill him.”

“Ha! Well, let’s hear this proposition then!”

DM
Dustin feels confident from Elandra’s description that this is Grosh. He knows that he’s in a dangerous place, but he’s had enough experience on the rough end of town in Lysidia to know that he’ll be OK as long as he doesn’t piss them off.

How will you reply?

Karasu
Dustin stared at his hand a moment with a disapproving grimace. (I rolled a Knowledge check to see if Dustin could identify what is on his hand. Sadly, I rolled a 3, so it’ll probably have to remain a mystery.) He then seemed to remember himself and addressed Grosh with the slightest touch of deference.

“I figure a man such as yerself is in good with the mayor. Ye can imagine I’m loathe to even mention it, then. But I think ye know deep down in yer pockets that gold is a better ally than them politicians. And here’s a proposition for ya: What would ye say to keeping yer good standing with Renferrel but making off with his goods too? It’s somewha’ more than I can carry meself. And if ye don’t like the plan, ye can pretend ye ne’er saw me.”

“I ain’t got no gold,” Dustin adds, looking at all the cutthroat men, “just the promise of it.

Momentarily distracted, Dustin stared at his hand with a disapproving grimace. Then remembering himself, he addressed Grosh with the slightest touch of deference.

“I figure a man such as yerself is in good with the mayor. Ye can imagine I’m loathe to even mention it, then. But I think ye know deep down in yer pockets that gold is a better ally than them politicians. And here’s a proposition for ya: What would ye say to keeping yer good standing with Renferell but making off with his goods too? It’s somewha’ more than I can carry meself. And if ye don’t like the plan, ye can pretend ye ne’er saw me.

“I ain’t got no gold,” Dustin added, looking at these cutthroat men, “just the promise of it.”

Grosh laughed heartily. “I like this guy,” he finally said. “He gets straight to the point, and that point is money.”

“Not to mention with Velaine leaving town, we could use—”

Dain was interrupted by a scoff from the half-Orc. “We don’t need that woman. She owes us for that girl, whether she thinks so or not. If she doesn’t want our help, fine. But we don’t need her.”

Then turning back to Dustin, he continued, “Renferell definitely has deep pockets. Deep enough that he should be payin’ us more for what we give him. You might say he owes us.

“So what’s your plan then? The mayor keeps all his real money in his fort. That’s no easy place to get to, what with all the guards. How do you plan on liberating it from him? I’m all ears.”

DM
Grosh certainly seems eager to hear Ren’s plan.

Karasu
Ren visibly relaxes, stands a little more casually and speaks more conversationally: “Well, I got an insider. There’s a woman I know, if ye get my meaning, who’s hangin’ on the arm of the mayor nowadays. She fancies me, if ye catch my drift, so she’s willing to help me grab the loot. She also knows some secret word that moves a bit of magic in his lordship’s basement, guarding the gold, ye see. I’m sure she can raise hell, and create a lil’ diversion. I ain’t seen her these past two days, but sure she’s just sweetening up the mayor, if ye know what I mean.”

Dustin will watch very carefully for any outward sign that Grosh knows about the Lady Amberly. He’ll pause here to see if his plan makes any sort of impression on the half-orc.

DM
Please roll either a Bluff or Diplomacy check (whichever you prefer) to see how well you communicate this story (how believable it is). You’ll be gaining a bonus due to the truthiness of the tale, but you’ve got to “sell” it.

Karasu
Bluff check: 11 (roll) +8 (modifiers) = 19.

Ren relaxed visibly and shifted to a more casual stance. In a more conversational tone he explained, “Well, I got an insider. There’s a woman I know, if ye get my meaning, who’s hangin’ on the arm of the mayor nowadays. She fancies me, if ye catch my drift, so she’s willing to help me grab the loot. She also knows some secret word that moves a bit of magic in his lordship’s basement, guarding the gold, ye see. I’m sure she can raise hell, and create a lil’ diversion. I ain’t seen her these past two days, but sure she’s just sweetening up the mayor, if ye know what I mean.”

Grosh’s face fell. Although Dustin didn’t speak Orcish, he was sure that the string of words which followed were all curses. Then he looked at Dain.

“Have they already left? Go!” Grosh commanded. “See if you can catch up with them! That girl is more valuable than we thought! That idiot Velaine!”

Dain rushed down the stairs, leaving Ren behind with a confused look on his face.

“Your woman was that lady courting the mayor? Well, there’s a reason she’s been missing. The Darkrunners have her. So unless she shared any of her secrets with you, taking Renferell’s money is not likely to happen.”

DM
You’ve now confirmed that Shandra was taken by the Darkrunners! Based on Grosh’s commands to Dain, you suspect that they’ve already left town. Dustin would guess that they’d try to smuggle their prisoner out of town during the night to avoid suspicion.

What will you do next?

Karasu
The look of confusion on Dustin’s face is an act. The subtle look of annoyance is not. “Eh? Darkrunners? Who’s this Velaine? Why’d ya take her?”

Dustin will wait and see if Grosh is forthcoming in providing any answers.

He then seems to calm a bit: “Apologies, but this is a might bit of a blow. Without this girl in with the mayor, I just lost somewha’ large amount of gold, not to mention someone ta keep me warm on cold, autumn nights.”

“Is’t possible ta bring her back? You get her back to Fallerun, and we may ‘ave some gold. If no, it’s hopeless and I’mma gonna go back to the Bleeding Barrel to cry into a pint of their bitter beer.”


The look of confusion turned to an act as soon as Dustin realized that Shandra had been taken by the Darkrunners. But the subtle hint of annoyance was not.

“Eh? Darkrunners? Who’s this Velaine? Why’d ya take her?”

“We didn’t take her, though I wish we had. Then at least we would have gotten something out of this.”

Grosh slumped back into his chair and slammed his fist against its arm. Then he explained, “Velaine is the shrok who leads the Darkrunners here in Fallerun. They took her from the fort two nights ago. Apparently someone in Renferell’s circle called them in.”

Ren seemed to calm down a bit. “Apologies, but this is a might bit of a blow. Without this girl in with the mayor, I just lost somewha’ large amount of gold, not to mention someone ta keep me warm on cold, autumn nights.

“Is’t possible ta bring her back? You get her back to Fallerun, and we may ‘ave some gold. If no, it’s hopeless and I’mma gonna go back to the Bleeding Barrel to cry into a pint of their bitter beer.”

Grosh sighed a “hrumph”. Then with a wave of his arm, “Go then. The Darkrunners are nothing if not quick and efficient. I doubt that Dain will catch up to them, but if he does we’ll be looking for you.”

Ren understood the command that he’d been given. With a crestfallen look and a gesture of deference, he went back down the stairs and left the building.

DM
What will Dustin do next? He feels it’s unlikely that he could catch up with the Darkrunners at this point. Will he return to tell Elandra or do something else?

Karasu
That didn’t go nearly as well as I’d planned, thought Dustin as he threaded through the streets to the inn where he’d been staying. He changed back into his finer clothes, then made for the Blue Drake where he’d met Elandra previously. This quaint town had begun to annoy him somewhat. All the interesting women seemed too caught up in political machinations, or involved with men wearing far too spiky armor.

The thought of all that gold in Jake’s treasury began to cheer Dustin though. It was like the golem worked for him now, keeping it all safe and sound. He’d have a quick chat with Elandra, let her know Lady Amberly was probably well on her way to Far Waters by now, and then head to the fort to help Jake grieve for the one who got away.

He also wants to run into Tyrus again, just to see the look on his face when he discovers his wife’s skipped town against her will. Dustin smiled. That would make for an interesting day.

That didn’t go nearly as well as I’d planned, thought Dustin as he threaded through the streets back to the inn where he’d been staying. This quaint town had begun to annoy him somewhat. All the interesting women seemed too caught up in political machinations, or involved with men wearing far too spiky armor.

At the Black Horse Inn he changed back into his finer clothes. Then he made for the Blue Drake to meet back up with Elandra. Along the way his thoughts turned to all of the gold in Jake’s treasury. This began to cheer him. It was as though the golem worked for him now, keeping it all safe and sound.

Thus Dustin was in a better mood on arriving at the Blue Drake. On seeing him enter, Elandra excused herself from the company of some men and motioned toward an empty table away from the other guests.

“Well?” she asked once they had sat down. “Did you find out anything about Shandra?”

“I’m afraid our Lady Amberly is well on her way to Far Waters by now,” he responded in a solemn, yet slightly callous tone.

Elandra cursed then leaned her elbows on the table while burying her hands in her face. After a moment she sat back up and said, “So the Darkrunners have her then. This will probably put Asmodeus in a foul mood, and I’m sure Tyrus won’t be happy either. Oh well — I try not to get too involved anyway.”

Dustin didn’t know who this Asmodeus was, but he thought he might just want to see the look on Tyrus’ face we he finds that his wife had been taken against her will. He smiled. That would make for an interesting day.

“Well, so sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think I’ll be off now,” Dustin said with a shrug.

“Wait,” the Elven woman said, stopping Dustin short of rising from his chair. She glanced to the side and pursed her lips. Dustin guessed that she was trying to decide on something.

“Are you interested in a little underhanded business? I don’t know how much Shandra told you, but a friend of mine is trying to oust the Mayor from power and hurt Bernard Isley in the process. Well it turns out that tomorrow morning Renferell’s mother should be arriving in town, unless something were to happen to her…”

“And would this friend be named Asmodeus?” Dustin queried. “Didn’t you just say you weren’t going to get too involved? Or perhaps there is more to your relationship than mere friendship?”

Elandra smiled. “Let’s just say he’s an old friend. I know he’d be interested in this, but he’s away. Besides, I wouldn’t mind hurting Isley and there just might be some money in it for me.

“So what do you say? I can’t do it alone, and I don’t have anyone else to trust.”

DM
Apparently Elandra wants to somehow prevent Elizabeth Isley from reaching Fallerun in the morning. Dustin realizes that she’s really putting herself on a limb by trusting him this much, although he suspects the Elf has cunning to match her beauty.

What does Dustin think about this? How will he respond?

Karasu
“As nice it is to feel needed, elven maiden,” says Dustin, “there are a lot of mights in your plan. Might hurt Bernard Isley, might have some money in it. I’m sitting on a load of treasure and taking it certainly would hurt a bumbling nobleman where it counts.”

Dustin’s mind also flashes back to seeing the painting hanging in Renferell’s treasury. He’d really like to get to the bottom of that. “So if you want to convince me to steal away Jake’s poor old mother, you may have to sweeten the deal. As you must know, that’s the first rule of seduction.”

Dustin almost gets up to leave, but then drops back in his chair and glances at Elandra as if he’s seeing her for the first time. “This old flame of yours—he wouldn’t be the kind of man who doesn’t mind a little risk and can keep quiet if it fills his pockets? Now that I think about it, maybe the two of us could come to some sort of arrangement here. I might help you kidnap the old lady if you get Asmodeus to help me a bit later.”

“As nice it is to feel needed, elven maiden,” replied Dustin, “there are a lot of mights in your plan. Might hurt Bernard Isley, might have some money in it. I’m sitting on a load of treasure and taking it certainly would hurt a bumbling nobleman where it counts.”

Dustin’s mind flashed back to seeing the painting hanging in Renferell’s treasury. He wanted to get to the bottom of that mystery, and he wondered if this Elven consort might know anything.

“So if you want to convince me to steal away Jake’s poor old mother,” Dustin continued, “you may have to sweeten the deal. As you must know, that’s the first rule of seduction.”

“Well,” Elandra said with a detached candor, “you asked why I’d risk getting involved. I never said anything about what you’d receive. It might have some money in it, but it definitely will hurt Isley. He’s always been fond of his big sister.

“Unfortunately, it sounds like your mind is already made up.” The beautiful elf turned away slightly with a resigned look in her eyes.

Dustin almost got up to leave, but then dropped back in his chair. He looked at Elandra as if seeing her for the first time.

“This old flame of yours—he wouldn’t be the kind of man who doesn’t mind a little risk and can keep quiet if it fills his pockets? Now that I think about it, maybe the two of us could come to some sort of arrangement here. I might help you kidnap the old lady if you get Asmodeus to help me a bit later.”

“Yes, I’m sure that Asmodeus would be more than pleased with such a deal. I promise you won’t be sorry. Asmodeus has a cold and evil heart, but he won’t back-stab you like the Outcasts would… as long as you don’t cross him, that is.

“We’ll need to make an early start in the morning, long before dawn.” The Elf’s tone shifted into sweet, melodramatic tones. “I’ll be so nervous if I don’t have some companionship to keep my mind off the danger. You’ll get your view of my backside, plus more. How’s that for sweetening the deal?”

DM
EDIT: I have now retcon’d the section above to account for Karasu’s adjusted dialog.

Dustin feels confident that Elandra has leveled with him. You may also make a Sense Motive check to see if you can tell if she’s lying or planning to betray you.

Plus she’s offering to sleep with him. What now, Dustin?

Karasu
Elandra’s transparent offer actually turns Dustin off. He wants to seduce, not be seduced. Could there be more to Dustin than we thought?

“Ah, well, seduction is a slippery skill to master, m’lady. I’m sure you’ll improve in time.” He takes a good long look at her, up and down. “Anyway, I’ll see you bright and early in the morning to put this plan into action. Have a good night.” He bows with a half-concealed smile, then saunters out of the tavern.

DM
Well played, sir. At this point in the narrative, it’s only about 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I’d like to move on to the morning’s events, but is there anything that Dustin would do in the meantime? Visit Renferell, perhaps? Anything worth noting in the narrative?

Karasu
No, I think I’m anxious to see what happens in the morning. We’ll just assume that Dustin spends the rest of the day doing something frivolous and inconsequential.

The arrangement — a trade of services, really — sounded good to Dustin. But Elandra’s transparent offer of a romantic encounter put him off somewhat.

He leaned back in his chair with a half shrug. “Ah, well, seduction is a slippery skill to master, m’lady. I’m sure you’ll improve in time.”

“Wait? Wha—” Elandra stammered, suddenly flustered. “I—I wasn’t trying… that is, I could if I wanted… Oooh!”

Dustin took a good long look at her, up and down. “Anyway, I’ll see you bright and early in the morning to put this plan into action. Have a good night.”

She exhaled sharply. “You’re a lot like your mother, you know?”

Dustin bowed to the Elf with a half-concealed smile. Then he sauntered out of the tavern.


The rest of the afternoon was spent in the kind of frivolity that Dustin was wont to enjoy. He dropped the idea of visiting ‘Jake’ to help him grieve for the one that got away. He guessed that the mayor would likely be busy preparing for his mother’s arrival; a guess which was confirmed when he asked a young boy where he was taking a wheelbarrow full of flowers.

Dustin took an early leave of the taverns that evening so he could get plenty of rest. The morning promised to be interesting.


“Wake up, pretty boy.”

A gentle shake and the whispered command roused Dustin. By the light of a small candle, he saw Elandra standing over his bed. She was dressed in leather armor which was far more elegant than the usual fare. He guessed it was custom made for her. A pouch was slung along her waste and on the belt were two long daggers.

“Still working on that seduction, I see,” Dustin joked. “Sneaking into my room was a nice touch, but I’d have suggested lingerie rather than armor.”

“Very funny,” she replied with a smile. “Get dressed. It’s time to get moving.”

Once dressed, they crept out of the Black Horse and headed along the road to an eastern gate. There they found a single guard sound asleep. Elandra led Dustin along the outside of the town wall to a place where she had prepared a horse and cart.

Now that they were away from the town, Dustin asked about their plan of attack.

“Lady Isley will be riding in her carriage; driver on top and a bodyguard of some kind within. There should also be two or three soldiers escorting on horseback. We should kill the driver first, so they don’t go anywhere. I don’t know about the bodyguard, but the soldiers shouldn’t be too much trouble for a Midnight Murderer, right?”

Dustin was duly impressed. “You’re well informed,” he complimented as he helped her onto the back of the horse. “I never would have guessed that this little run-down town would have such detail available.”

“I have my ways,” Elandra answered. “Long distance couriers employed by the Isley family have personal needs like anyone else. I attend to them on occasion.”

Seeing that the cart was full of hay, Dustin decided to jump in. He sprawled out while the Elf started them on their way.

“I take it this luxurious cart will be the replacement for Lady Isley’s carriage?”

“That’s right.”

“And how will be get this carriage to stop for us? A simple ‘Halt’? I’m sure they’ll be keen to avoid any trouble on the road.”

“Well, I was thinking that you could play the molester and I could be a damsel in distress. I’d run toward them, jump onto the carriage and kill the driver. But I admit it’s a hastily formed plan. I’m open to suggestions.”

DM
Does Dustin have any suggestions or questions about Elandra’s plan? Did Dustin bring all of his gear (e.g. a backpack) with him, or just the essentials?

As you can see, I moved the story right along. I hope you don’t have any objections. :)

Karasu
Dustin would have only brought the essentials: his weapons and armor, and things he can easily carry on his person. All the combustible hay around him is feeding his pyromania.

“As much as I love role playing, rather than risk life and limb in a struggle with the driver, why not bar their way? I’ve got a trick up my sleeve that will make them stop short in their tracks.”

If Elandra agrees, Dustin intends to cast Flaming Sphere directly in front of the mother’s carriage. Killing the driver will be much easier when he’s startled and singed.

Dustin thought about it for a moment. All the hay surrounding him fed into his pyromania and gave him an idea.

“As much as I love role playing, rather than risk life and limb in a struggle with the driver, why not bar their way? I’ve got a trick up my sleeve that will make them stop short in their tracks.”

“A trick, is it?” Elandra stated more than asked. “Well, if it stops them then it would be perfect. Just don’t startle the horses with this trick. I don’t want to go chasing down a runaway carriage.”


The two rode down the road southward for a couple of hours. Elandra wanted to be well away from the town. Dustin dozed off and on in the back, being awoken occasionally by bumps in the uneven road.

At dawn they began looking for a suitable location for an ambush. They found an area where there were trees growing very near the road on one side. On the other side the ground sloped downward sharply and was dotted with large rock outcroppings.

They led their horse and cart away from the road to a suitable hiding place. Then they hid in the trees and waited.

It was hard to gauge time while hiding, but Dustin felt like he’d waited an hour or two before they saw a dark shape moving along the road in the distance. As it grew closer they saw a carriage flanked by three escorts. The sound of hooves and rolling wheels faintly reached their ears, then grew louder as they approached.

Dustin watched for them to get close enough. Soon they had reached the edge of the trees. Show time! he thought with a grin, and began casting a spell. In the middle of the road a large flame erupted and formed into a Flaming Sphere. Horses and men cried out as they brought themselves to a sudden stop.

DM
Dustin has successfully stopped the carriage and escorting soldiers. The Flaming Sphere is about 10 feet in front of the horses attached to the carriage. Two guards on horseback are on the side of the carriage with the trees, the third is on the other side. Elandra is hidden in the trees near where they stopped.

Please roll initiative. Give me your surprise round actions (1 round), and then 3 normal combat rounds.

Karasu
Initiative: 17 (roll) +3 (DEX modifier) = 20 total.

Dustin mentally nudges the flaming sphere forward into the horses and carriage driver. (Damage roll: 5 + 2 = 7 total.) After that, he wastes no time. In an instant, he unsheathes his longsword and sickle, commanding the latter to burst into flame. He silently runs into the fray, a grin on his face and fully enjoying the pretty, pretty flames.

He’ll go after the closest horseman first, cutting the horse out from underneath him. After that, he’ll continue dealing death until the man doesn’t get back up again. If Dustin should be hit, he’ll power attack the next round (subtracting 3 from attack rolls and adding 3 to damage rolls).

Attack Roll 1 (longsword) vs. horse: 19 (roll) crit! +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) +1 (masterwork) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 24 total. Damage: 8 (crit) +7 (roll) +2 (Str) = 17 total.

Attack Roll 1 (sickle) vs. guard now: 13 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 17 total. Damage: 2 +3 (fire) = 5 total.

Attack Roll 2 (longsword): 11 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) +1 (masterwork) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 16 total. Damage: 5 (roll) +2 (Str) = 7 total.

Attack Roll 2 (sickle): 15 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 19 total. Damage: 5 +2 (fire) = 7 total.

Attack Roll 3 (longsword): 1 (roll) 4 (BAB) 2 (Str) +1 (masterwork) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 6 total. No damage.

Attack Roll 3 (sickle): 5 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) -2 (two-weapon penalty) = 9 total. Damage: 4 +2 (fire) = 6 total.


With a mental nudge, Dustin sent his massive ball of fire forward into the horses and carriage driver. The horses scrambled to move backward, but the carriage only lurched a few feet. Then they pulled forward in their fright, thrusting the driver into the flames. His desperate attempt to shield himself with his arms did no good as his clothing caught on fire.

During that instant, Dustin silently ran to battle with weapons unsheathed and his sickle, Red Claw, alight with magical fire. He had a menacing grin on his face as he enjoyed the pretty, pretty flames.

He ran straight up to the nearest horseman and slashed the mount with his longsword. The horse reared back from the vicious strike, leaning the rider into Dustin’s swing of Red Claw. The sickle cut and seared its way through leather armor and forced a cry of pain from the victim.

The rider managed to stay atop his horse during this attack. He then drew his sword and slashed at Dustin. But the strike was too high and was easily avoided. Darting across the animal’s flank, Dustin whirled his weapons in fluid arcs. The two strikes brought the rider tumbling down from his mount unconscious.

A loud cracking of wood caught Dustin’s attention. Glancing behind him, he saw that the carriage horses had broken free of their flaming restraints. They had pulled the carriage to the side just away from his Flaming Sphere. The driver had fallen to the ground where he lay unmoving, smoldering under his cloak. The horses galloped madly away down the road.

Good, Dustin thought. Elandra’s attractiveness would be much diminished by complaining or yelling.

Focusing back on the horsemen, Dustin found one of them dismounted and charging with sword held high. A broken arrow was lodged in his side. Apparently Elandra had shot him and he’d broken the shaft. The Elf was nowhere to be seen though.

The battle grin that Dustin wore was wiped off his face by a successful strike along his left thigh. The enemy was deftly using sword and buckler to deny Dustin opportunity to strike. But he was so focused on pressing his attack that he didn’t see Elandra rush up behind him.

The Elf sunk a dagger into the escort’s back. The man fell on his face in the mud. These escorts are more for show than for battle. Leather armor for riding instead of plate—these are no career soldiers.

The third horseman, also dismounted, had come running around from the other side of the carriage. Seeing his ally slain, he charged toward Elandra. Dustin stepped toward the foe and brought his weapons to bear. But the determined guard sidestepped the attack. His sword cut Elandra across the arm and clipped her cheek.

Elandra made a feint with her dagger. Then when the man glanced behind him at Dustin, she drove the icy blue blade into his stomach. Dustin followed up with a sweeping longsword strike. Then Red Claw bit into left shoulder and Dustin pulled the enemy to the ground.

The three escorts had been handily dealt with, and the carriage was without horses. “That was easy,” Dustin remarked with a shrug.

Elandra’s gave him a slightly patronizing look. But before she could chide him, the door of the carriage opened. Here comes the bodyguard. A short, bald man emerged from the carriage. He wore the distinctive attire of a monk; his were blue-gray in color and were trimmed with blue feathers. His legs and arms were wrapped with white cloth, and he wore light bracers. He had no weapons in his hands, but Dustin knew that wouldn’t matter.

The Elf cursed.

The monk stood at the ready, but did not advance. He looked relaxed. His steely gaze watched Dustin and Elandra. Dustin was bothered by the feeling that this monk didn’t regard them as a threat.

DM
Good work on taking out the escorts (I did take the liberty of rolling a fourth attack roll for Dustin to finish off the 3rd one). Luckily the horses broke free from the carriage rather than dragging it wildly behind them.

Dustin is currently at 25/32 HP, and Elandra is at 17/25. Please give me your next three rounds of actions.

Karasu
Undaunted, Dustin sheathes his weapons swiftly, then begins to slowly advance on the monk while simultaneously sending out a hail of magic missiles. After two rounds of this, he’s hoping to be within fifteen feet of his bald nemesis. Once there, he’ll stop and cast burning hands, sending the cone of fire straight into the monk’s chest. Then he’ll bare his weapons again and stand at the ready. There’s fire in Dustin’s eyes.

Magic Missile 1: 3 +1 = 4.
Magic Missile 2: 1 +1 = 2.
Magic Missile 3: 3 +1 = 4.
Magic Missile 4: 3 +1 = 4.
Burning Hands: 3 +3 +2 +3 = 11 total.


But he didn’t let the feeling deter him. Undaunted, Dustin sheathed his weapons and then slowly walked toward the monk while dispatching a hail of Magic Missiles. The monk stepped away from the carriage and braced himself to take the damage from the magical attack.

Meanwhile Elandra readied her bow and fired twice. But the monk hardly even looked her direction as he deflected the arrows with his bare hands. Reaching into his robe, he pulled out a small vial and drank it.

Feeling that he was close enough to his bald nemesis, Dustin stopped to cast a spell. Flames enveloped his hands, then as he thrust them forward a large cone of fire shot out at the monk.

Unbelievably, the monk evaded the heavy flames with a roll that brought him toward the sorcerer. Nimbly the enemy sprang to his feet and closed in for an attack. Dustin quickly drew his weapons, but the monk was already upon him. A roundhouse kick landed hard against his exposed side, followed by a headbutt that left blood trickling down the side of his face.

Elandra moved into a flanking position, dagger at the ready. Dustin couldn’t help but wonder briefly if that cut across her cheek would turn to a scar. That would be unfortunate. The Elf came in for a strike, but the enemy merely pushed her arm aside.

Dustin gave his enemy a hard look. His eyes were lit up with determination. This monk was a formidable foe, but not unbeatable. Dustin could tell that the monk was hurting from the magical attacks. We just need to land a few good blows before he can pummel us to death. This guy kicks like a mule!

DM
You are now in melee combat with the monk. Elandra is directly opposite you, flanking him. She remains at 17/25 HP, while Dustin has been beaten down to 12/32.

Please give me your next three rounds of actions.

Karasu
Another flaming sphere winks into existence just five feet to the monk’s left and immediately rolls into him. Dustin is ready to cut into him as he attempts to dodge it. He’ll use both weapons, powering attacking the entire time.

Flaming sphere damage: 2 +2 = 4 total.

Attack Roll 1 (longsword): 4 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) +1 (masterwork) -2 (two-weapon penalty) -4 (power attack) = 5 total. Damage: 8 (roll) +2 (Str) +4 (power attack) = 14 total.

Attack Roll 1 (sickle): 18 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) -2 (two-weapon penalty) -4 (power attack) = 18 total. Damage: 4 +4 (fire) +4 (power attack) = 12 total.

Attack Roll 2 (longsword): 11 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) +1 (masterwork) -2 (two-weapon penalty) -4 (power attack) = 12 total. Damage: 2 (roll) +2 (Str) +4 (power attack) = 8 total.

Attack Roll 2 (sickle): 14 (roll) +4 (BAB) +2 (Str) -2 (two-weapon penalty) -4 (power attack) = 14 total. Damage: 5 +5 (fire) +4 (power attack) = 14 total.


Concentrating on a spell, Dustin caused another Flaming Sphere to wink into existence just to the monk’s left. Immediately he caused it to roll over onto the enemy. The monk tried to evade but was caught in the flames.

The fire caused the monk to step away toward Elandra whom he then targeted. A powerful uppercut hit her in the stomach and lifted her off the ground. She went limp and dropped her weapon. While still in mid-air, the monk followed up with a kick that knocked her away from combat. Dustin cringed a bit when he saw her land hard on the ground like a rag doll.

Closing the short distance between him and the enemy, Dustin swung his weapons with all his might. The monk easily stepped away from the long sword, but Red Claw took a searing bite out of his arm.

The other arm caused a problem however. A fist landed on Dustin’s chest like a cannonball. His vision blurred slightly. Knowing he was in trouble, he took another pair of powerful swings at the monk. But they were too slow and frenzied. The monk used the powerful swings to get an advantage. Stepping up chest-to-chest with Dustin, he grabbed both arms and pinned them.

Dustin laughed and cursed to himself. He realized he’d gotten a bit carried away. This opponent was a little too good. The monk stared at him with cold green eyes and the same expression of disregard as before. Dustin’s leg, chest, and head were all throbbing. Now I’m just another headbutt away from defeat.

But the monk’s expression turned to wide eyed shock. The enemy fell forward into Dustin and they both tumbled to the ground.

When Dustin opened his eyes, he saw Elandra standing over them with a dagger dripping with blood. She was holding her arm tight against her stomach, but her eyes watched the monk carefully.

After a moment Dustin asked, “So, do you want to help get this guy off of me or what?”

DM
Dustin’s heavy use of power attack caused a few misses which would have otherwise hit. Luckily he was not alone. Elandra was injured pretty badly though. She’s at 7/25 HP with 6 non-lethal damage. Dustin is at 2/32 HP.

What will you do next? It looks like the monk has been defeated, but you’ve still got to obtain the prisoner.

Karasu
Once Dustin gets to his feet, he flashes Elandra a smile. “Looks like I got a little carried away in the, ah, heat of the moment.” He cleans the blade of Red Claw in a white handkerchief, then ties the bloody garment over his nose and mouth, almost blanching, to obscure his identity. “So let’s abscond with this old lady.”

He hurries over to the smoldering carriage and flings the door open, intending to say something incredibly witty to its occupant.

Once Dustin was back on his feet, he flashed a smile at Elandra. “Looks like I got a little carried away in the, ah, heat of the moment.”

This remark elicited a laugh from the Elf. She then reached into the pouch at her side and drew forth a pair of red vials. She tossed one to Dustin then drank hers. Following suit, he removed the stopper and poured the contents down his throat. He immediately felt the pain from his wounds lessen slightly.

“It’s not much, I’m afraid,” she said. “But better than nothing.”

“It takes the edge off,” he responded.

Then Dustin gathered up his weapons. He cleaned the blade of Red Claw in a white handkerchief while looking over at the carriage. Realizing he should use some kind of disguise, he tied the bloody garment over his nose and mouth, almost blanching, to obscure his identity.

“So let’s abscond with this old lady,” he said then hurried over to the still carriage.

Flinging the door open, he looked at the sole occupant. Having seen her before in Lysidia, he recognized Elizabeth Isley. The aging woman was still quite lovely. Dustin’s mind flashed back to one of the pictures he saw in Renferell’s treasury which depicted a young version of the noble lady.

“Pardon the intrusion, madam,” Dustin began. “but I couldn’t bear to miss the chance to drop in on the famous Lady Isley. We’ve gone to some pains to secure you alternate transport.”

The woman was shocked to see Dustin, but maintained a dignified manner. She clutched the blanket which lay on her lap. After a moment she spoke in a harsh but fearful tone.

“I don’t have much money with me, so I suppose I will be the next person on the list of your murders.”

Dustin climbed into the carriage and sat on the opposite seat facing her. “Why, who said anything about money or murders? We value your life, madam.”

At this point Elandra appeared at the door. She was wearing a simple black mask that covered her entire face. She held out what appeared to be a yellow egg toward Lady Isley.

“Eat this,” she commanded.

Elizabeth hesitantly took the egg and began to eat it. As she ate her eyelids seemed to droop and her head bobbed a time or two. Before she could eat the last bite she had slumped over in the carriage fast asleep.

“You couldn’t have given me a mask?” Dustin asked.

“You didn’t ask. Nor did you wait long enough for me to offer. I’m going to go get the horse and cart. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

DM
The potion that Elandra gave Dustin wasn’t very effective, but he is at 6/32 HP now. Once Lady Isley is loaded into the cart, it will be time for you to return to Fallerun. Is there anything that Dustin wants to do while Elandra gets the cart or on the way back?

Karasu
Yes, Dustin wants to search the carriage, the monk, and the riders for anything of value or interest. Once that’s taken care of, he’ll torch the bodies and carriage, just because he can.


Content to relax and wait, Dustin leaned back in the seat. But in so doing, he noticed that the seat cover was loose. Further investigation found that the seat opened up revealing a storage compartment. He was pleased to find that the Lady Isley was storing coins, gems, and jewelery.

Curious, Dustin then moved the incapacitated Elizabeth from her seat so he could open it. The second compartment wasn’t as exciting as it only contained spices and other foodstuffs.

Climbing out of the carriage, Dustin examined the bodies of the monk and riders for anything of value. The feathers worn by the monk were pretty, but of dubious value. On his wrists were fine bracers adorned with the images of blue eagles. Dustin suspected these bracers to be magic. The riders had a little money on them, but nothing else very interesting.

Elandra trotted up with horse and cart while Dustin was making a pile of loot.

“And to think you doubted whether there’d be any money in this!” she said with a laugh.

Together they pulled Lady Isley out of the carriage and hid her in the cart under the hay. Since Dustin hadn’t brought his pack, he was forced to place most of the treasure in the cart as well. The rest Elandra tucked into her pouch. Dustin noted that the pouch seemed to hold more than it should. Must be magical. I wonder what else she’s got hidden away in there.

Once they were ready to travel, Dustin took care of one last thing: satisfying his desire for flame. Casting a final spell, the sorcerer poured fire out from his hands over the carriage and dead bodies. Then he stood for a moment watching the flames which had caught onto his targets. He knew that the bodies would only burn for a few moments, but the carriage was set to burn down.

Finally he pulled himself away, mounted on the horse with Elandra, and the two made their way back to Fallerun. Dustin was pleased with the events of the morning. After working solo for so long, he thought having an ally wasn’t bad at all.

DM
I think that will wrap up this chapter unless you’ve got anything else specific you wanted to do. They’ll return to Fallerun to hide Lady Isley away in a place Elandra has selected.

Dustin earns 1225 XP. There was 1043 gp of coins, plus the gems and jewelery. Let me know how you want to divide that up with Elandra.


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