Happy Mani’s Day!
Lief and Elana made it back to the temple without incident and delivered their sad news of Fredica’s death. The High Priestess of the temple was called and she interviewed Elana privately at length. Lief waited patiently for the results and then Elana reappeared outside the private chambers of the high priestess seemingly much calmer. She saw Lief and approached him.
“Thanks once again for coming to my rescue even though you had nothing to gain. The high priestess has told me to get some rest today and I resume my duties tomorrow as a full acolyte. The high priestess asked to speak with you”
“Uhh. Thank you. Do you always talk so rapid-fire?”
“Sorry, I get nervous sometimes with all the importance. My background is not one of high standing, very low in fact. I get nervous around people who are higher born than I.”
“It’s alright, I am just a cobbler in the militia. I went to that cave seeking a fortune, but I now sense the guiding hand of Sensua in it.”
“No doubt, I just wish Fredica would have come home alive.”
“Yes, I will probably be better after the funeral. Right now I am more in disbelief.”
“It will be OK, with time. If I can, I will find a way to make Barthon pay for what he did.”
“I hope so, he has caused the pain and death of so many.”
She touched his face and kissed his cheek and walked away.
Lief approached the door of the chambers of the High Priestess. He knocked. A deeper female voice came for him to enter. Inside was the High Priestess of the City of Brightblade’s Temple of Sensua. She was sitting at her desk in her white robes trimmed with gold. She was a tall woman with a striking figure that was little concealed by the robes of her office. She looked very much like Fredica with blonde hair and blue eyes. She stood to greet him.
“Hail, brave warrior. Lief Crispen is in not. I am the High Priestess of the Temple of Sensua in Brightblade. In this chamber, however, I am only Erica Gemsmith.”
“Gemsmith? Like the Gemsmiths from the north side of town?”
“The same, I am the second girl of my parents and the fourth child overall. I chose the temple ten years ago seeing my parents already have an heir to their gemstone empire.”
“High Priest…I mean Erica. My condolences on the loss of one of your own people. I only wish I could have done more. It puzzles me that Sensua spared me and not Fredica.”
“Your mother is the answer to that. She had completed the ritual for your protection. Sensua cannot act without a closed circle of the ritual, at least not without great cost to herself. Or at least actions that embody faith in her strength. Fredica for all her bravery was rash in going to find her friend by herself. Had she come to the leaders of the temple we would have sent her out with help and made sure she completed a ritual to protect Herself before she left.”
“I see. So Sensua has limits to her power?”
“More like conditions. Worship of all the gods requires a transaction of faith of sorts. Fredica in her love for Elana forgot that. She acted on her own and paid for it with her life. Gods also favor those who are devoted to them, Sensua is no exception.”
“In any case, I want to donate the gems I found in the cave to the temple in memorial of her. She deserves that much I think for bravely trying to rescue her friend, brash though it may have been.”
Lief handed over the gems to Erica and she smiled.
“Thank you, hmm. a moonstone, a bloodstone, and an amethyst. Small gems but worth a bit to the temple. This is a noble gift indeed. Thank you.”
She turned and placed the gems on her desk.
“I do wish to speak to you about something else. I need an adventurer for a task and I think you would fit what we need given your experience.”
“What’s the job?”
“I need you to return to the cave you found and explore it further. There is something from the temple that I believe Barthon stole. If it is not there, perhaps you will find some sort of clue as to where Barthon might be hiding and find it there.”
“I would like to get another crack at that wizard. He has hurt quite a few people, particularly women. But given the transactional nature of this, if you forgive my asking, what is the payment to me.”
“I have heard from my informants that the Crispen Family is looking to become a noble house. That requires land and title. Given you are the heir to the family, I offer my favor in gaining those things. I also offer you back these gems you gave as well as an opportunity to avenge Fredica. I also will offer one last thing, but I want to hear your answer first.”
“I accept your terms but do ask one thing.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Fredica came in handy before she died healing my wound. I would like, if possible, one acolyte to accompany me for both support and healing.”
“Done. I will speak to Elana about accompanying you. It would be fitting for her to aid the one avenging her former lover.”
Lief nodded, “so what is your last boon now that I have accepted.”
“Land and title require more than a favor of one of the high priestesses of the gods. It requires actions that lead the nobility to think you belong with them. I offer you this. Become a paladin of Sensua’s vengeance. Strike down those who have harmed her worshippers and earn their favor as well. I offer to bring you into the paladins myself.”
“That’s is a good opportunity, but has a cost to me as well.”
“Your instincts do you well. Yes, the cost is renouncing your previous ties. The guild and the militia would have to be left behind. Although your friends in them would certainly remain. Sensua’s paladins are totally devoted to her.”
“You speak of vengeance and an oath of vengeance. Why this oath?”
“Because for too long I have watched this Barthon and some like him get away with their crimes. They take lives, destroy love, and end lines of fertility. These things Sensua despises. Her worshippers cry out for justice. I want you to be one of those bringers of justice.”
“Let me speak to my mother about this. The decision would affect my family so it needs to be a family decision.”
“Very well, that is proper. Speak to your mother. Fredica’s funeral is tomorrow. I trust you will attend. You can give me your answer then.”
“See you tomorrow then.”
Leif went home to the shop and found himself at the same table he had made his decision to follow the map. He had piled the coins he had found on the table. His mother told him she would take half and secure a promotion in the cobbler’s guild for herself. This would allow her to better use the guild’s resources should the family require them. The other half Lief could use to find better equipment for himself.
Once Lief laid out what the high priestess had offered to him. Anna looked solemn. She then explained that after doing the ritual for his protection Sensua had appeared to her in a vision. She had told her to encourage him to follow the temple’s wishes. She reminded him that with her rank increase, the guild’s resources would still be his through her. As for the militia, she doubted that they would object to him becoming a paladin. The opportunity presented to advance was just too good to pass up. Lief in the end realized this was the best course for him.
The next day was Fredica’s funeral. Her naked body was on display on the altar. Underneath the altar was wood and oil that would burn for her cremation. Her nakedness was symbolic to all and every follower of Sensua knows the saying about coming into the world naked and leaving it the same way. In death, Fredica was still beautiful. The magic darts had left no mark and so her body was still flawless. The High Priestess herself conducted the funeral giving hommage to Sensua to take their departed sister into her arms. When the funeral pyre was lit the words were simple – “Accept our sister in flame. Flame that represents life, flame that represents the passion of love, and flame that brings new life. She is gone from us but may Sensua hold her in her loving arms.”
The fire burned for some time. It is a moving thing to watch a person be consumed by the flame until their ashes are mixed with those of the wood and oil below. Fredica was gone.
Elana stood on Lief’s right and his mother Anna was on his left. Both were crying although Elana was the tears of grief of a lost love. She was practically sobbing. Lief remained strong for both of them, but he too was moved. He was angry that such a beautiful person had been cut down so young and the one who did it was still alive and probably doing vile things again. Barthon would pay for this funeral on his own. Lief was surprised at his anger, but he then realized it would fuel what was coming next.
The funeral eventually ended and the few in attendance began to move away. The High priestess left for her chambers and as prearranged Lief followed her. She ushered him in and then closed the door behind them and locked it. Looking at Lief’s puzzled expression.
“I don’t wish to be disturbed while we conduct this business. It’s too important.”
“So, you have spoken with your mother. Have you reached a final decision about the opportunity to become a paladin?”
“Yes, we accept your offer. I will be Sensua’s hand of justice.”
The High Priestess looked very happy. Her smile beamed at him.
“Good, then there are a few things to do. The Oath Ceremony is a public thing and only when I feel you are truly ready. You need to finish this business with the cave and recover the item. That is the quest for you to prove yourself worthy to me. But you also must be blessed as a Squire of Sensua. That is not public but is important to close the circle for you to tap into Sensua’s power. I cannot speak about how this will manifest with you personally, Every paladin is different.”
“Close the circle? So I need to perform the ritual?”
“Yes, but you don’t have to leave to do that. I prefer to bless all the squires I commission personally. Are you ready?”
“Yes, I am ready.”
“Draw your sword and kneel”
Lief drew his blade. For the funeral it was the only weapon or armor he wore preferring his better-made clothes for such occasions. He knelt.
“Hold the sword out with both hands.”
Holding it sideways with his one hand on the hilt and the other on the tip of the blade; as he had seen knights receiving a commission, Leif presented his blade. The High Priestess touched the blade.
“Sensua, bless this squire. May his quest prove he is worthy of your lordship and may his conduct please you at all times. Protect him and guide him. May he always know your life and love. Arise, Squire Lief Crispen, paladin of Sensua.”
Lief stood and sheathed his sword.
“Now, let us close the circle and complete the ritual.”
The High Priestess released the shoulder clasps that held her robe and the white and gold robe cascaded to the floor around her feet and she stepped out. Lief caught his breath as the implication of “I like to bless all the squires I commission personally” hit him. Her naked body was beautiful and athletic. Her breasts were small but perfect. She approached him and put her arms around his neck and kissed him. His hand instinctively fell to her waist and pulled her close.
Sometime later he found himself with his naked body entangled with hers. She was cuddled close to him and sighed a pleased sigh.
“Lief, be careful. I don’t want this to be the last time I bless you. Although you seem to have blessed me in return. You are very good at this for someone so young.”
“Mother insisted I learn from the clerics in the house of love how to properly please a woman in bed. I want to make mom happy, so I tried to be a good student.”
Lief grinned, and she grinned back.
“You instructors did well. Are they still here?”
“Yes, one is at least. Adept Rosa, the dwarven woman.”
“She taught you? That must have been interesting.”
“I suppose, there were other assorted Acolytes but she was my main instructor. Lovemaking to her was both a skill to learn and a passion to develop. I learned from her that the package doesn’t so much matter as the desire to love and be loved. Besides, she has nice curves. Shorter and thicker curves but they are nice just the same.”
“That she does. Hmm. You’re going to make a great paladin, Lief. Just don’t get yourself killed before your Oath.”
“Yes, High Priestess. I shall do my best to not let that happen. Sensua willing”
Lief and the High Priestess spent the night together, made love again, and he left early that morning and headed home. He was coming back later to prepare to journey to the cave again.
In Dungeons and Dragons, downtime is a simulated time where the results or consequences of the last adventure are engaged or dealt with. There is also the opportunity to grow and develop, invest, build, learn, etc. Lief had the opportunity to decide what to do with the treasure he gained and make a few connections.
NPCs or Non-Player Characters are essential to a good story. They are the player’s family, connections, business associates, friends, etc. Lief has a few, but his moving from being a normal cobbler to an adventuring paladin is going to change all that. Not so much that he loses these relationships. but that they change in nature. Lief may be leaving the Brightblade MIlitia but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t ask them to aid him in a pinch. There is also the tactic of maintaining a connection through family with Anna becoming the lead for the business and guild.
I rolled a temple patron and my second character rolled as a cleric so the connection was obvious as to how to connect these two ideas. Lief catches the eye of the High Priestess (perhaps for more than one reason) and she begins to test him as to his readiness to become a paladin but also starts giving him missions to help the temple as well.
In my case, Sensua herself is also an NPC. She acts in the world within her requirements and parameters. She has taken an interest in our heroes and seems to be ready to help them.
The next adventure will be used in part the second solo adventure in the 1983 Basic Set, but with an additional character and thus adjustments to the strength levels of the monsters. There are also the conversion issues when dealing with 1st edition basic rules and 5th edition, but it’s not too bad as D&D has not changed that much in its basic form.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.