The water spirit grips its polearm tightly... the flow of the water stops ten feet from Balter and the spirit - the water around them becomes still.
The impeded current builds into an unmoving wave - the water curls and swells like a giant fist.
It speaks the same words... "Blooood.. of my tormenterrrr!"
"That is a damn fine question, Hrafen. As long as banditry has run rampant around the Greenbelt, it could be any number of individuals."
Balter stares down at the spirit, instinct compelling him to lay a hand over his long sword. Despite his defiant gesture however, he takes a single step back, clearly unnerved. More so by the current's sudden pause.
"Who are you? What is your name?" he asks with a demanding tone.
It is some type of undead... a variety of zombie you've never experienced.
"Blood! of the Tormenter!"
He brings his weapon forward - a bluish steel ranseur - to world in both hands. The wave forms into a more defined fist, and shakes - as if enraged itself.
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
"It seems to be some type of undead creature, most likely created by a specific death which is why it seeks the blood of its tormentor," Durielle says loudly.
"I believe we need to decide if we wish to fight it or discover more about it. There may be a way to placate this spirit and give it rest."
Are we still at previous spell levels, or did we sleep and rest in town? I seem to have missed if it's the next day or not...
Yep, this is the next day.
"'Blood of the Tormentor' it is, then," Balter says dryly, trying to back away from the spirit. Clearly, it had some dominion over this water. Hearing Durielle's warning, he chuckles and grips the hilt of his sword. "Well, whether we want to or not, this one certainly wants to fight."
"Choosing to actively retaliate to its aggression and merely disengaging from its attacks are different categories of fight, Master Farshadow," Durielle says somewhat softer than before.
Whatever the oracle can see of this situation's past or future, she says nothing.
"Unless it can outrun a horse, we can simply choose not to engage it," says Marisol as she backs Prancer away from the river.
To the water-corpse she shouts back, "A name! Tell us the name!"
As Balter removes himself from the river the water zombie lowers its weapon, and takes a step forward on the water's surface. It then leans forward casting a chilling gaze at each of you. "Deliverrr dead spawn of Nugrah intooo my waters. I who was Davik Nettle will savor his slooow rot."
The fist of water rushes forward, and engulfs him. The current resumes flowing, and there is no sign of his presence.
"It seems that Davik" Vladimir says gesturing toward the water "has even less love for the Stag Lord than we do, assuming what Jence told us about the Stag Lord being the boy of Nugrah is correct."
Looking back at the waters he asks, "I wonder if Davik will allow us to cross with a vow that the Stag Lord's body is his once he has been dealt with, or if we should look for another location to cross the river?"
Just moments after the zombie Davik Nettle is gone, a man in white, gold, and red robes exits the dilapidated watch house on the other side of the river. He carries a staff topped with a large ring of keys.
He walks to the river's edge - not far from the bridge lowering device, and loudly inquires...
"Good day, travelers! What business have you on this side of the Shrike?"
"Good day to you as well!" Vladimir calls back.
"We are a group of explorers, commisioned to explore and map the Greenbelt." the swordsman says intentionally leaving out their mission to rid the region of banditry until a better read on the robed man.
"As good a reason as any good reason to cross, I'd say." He peers into the river, and jingles his key-staff. He holds the brake, then releases the latch on the winch-like device... the bridge unfolds - you see a network of gears underneath until it lowers into place. He then motions for you to cross. "Don't worry. He'll not show himself in my presence.".. as he assumes a stately pose.
Balter mounts Owlbear once more, glad to be out of the water and away from the spirit. Despite the stranger's reassurance, he eyes the river suspiciously as he rides after Vladimir, as though it might pop out again at any moment to wash them downstream. He regards the man with equal suspicion, more a force of habit than anything.
The man steps out onto the bridge - meeting then leading you for the last third of the bridge. "Oh it's nothing for a man blessed with divine power to drive away the restless dead. Master Nettle's been blasted with holy light more times than he care to remember." He steps over to the bridge-raising device and waits for the rest of you to cross.
"He does do a fair job of keeping bandits from our lands... I'll give him that."
Perception: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
"Do you know the history of this 'Master Nettle,' as you called him?" Marisol says with a curious tilt of her head.
Perception: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (13) + 15 = 28.
"Yes, the area does seem fairly quiet; look at all the bearded moss on the trees!"
Bluff: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (8) + 12 = 20.
Hrafen successfully conveys to the party that he has noticed that the man is wearing a false beard, and he finds that rather suspicious... dare he say bandit-like?. The man can make a DC 20 Sense Motive roll to also understand that is what Hrafen is saying.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 - 2 ⇒ (2) + 6 - 2 = 6
Knowledge (Religion) to ID who the man worships?: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (11) + 7 = 18
Vladimir smiles when he hears the man's comments about bandits. "Good to hear that you have no love of the bandrity in the region. Eliminating such activity is part of our charter beyond exploration. Vladimir Ducheski by the way." Vladimir says, extending a hand in greeting before becoming silent to hear the man's response to Marisol's question.
He answers Marisol. "A bit, Miss. I know a bit."
Hrafen's comment only gets a brief look of confusion.
He nods smiles slightly to Vladimir "Heh. Very good, Sire." , and takes his hand. "Well met Master Duchester. Could abandon my post for a saint's whisper, and lead you to Elmere, if ye wish. Be as good an excuse as any for me to get away."
1d20 ⇒ 5
Durielle breathes a sigh of relief to see the man bearing a cleric's robes emerge and give them greeting. She urges Whisper forward after the others and peers nervously at the river mimicking Balter without realizing it.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (17) + 8 = 25
As they draw closer, the oracle spies something curious about the man, and the visions she has of the man being duplicitous seem to be more than just random futures. Hrafen's carefully worded message confirms her growing suspicion, but, just to keep up the illusion, she turns her head to admire the trees.
As the man makes noises indicating his awareness of the undead spirit and even leading them to the town of Elmere, Durielle notes despite Vladimir's introduction, the apparent cleric does not in fact provide his own name. He even refers to the dilapidated building as his post...
Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (19) + 6 = 25
The man is certainly lying. No cleric of Abadar would ever exist alone in such a place away from civilization with no opportunity of advancement or wealth in sight. Here the man was in control of the only safe passage across a haunted river, and not once had he mentioned a toll or a donation to the Church of Abadar for its use! Whether or not he harbored evil intent, there was certainly no doubt he knew very little about the god he claimed to serve. Khargol had taught her much of the god's tenets before they had parted.
Khargol? What name is this? Durielle's vision blurred for a moment as confusion swept over here at the misplaced memory.
The haunted spirit below them had set her visions of time haywire as images of the past seemed stronger than those of the future. She was forced to push them away as much as she could. The undead's hatred was muddling everything terribly.
She shakes her head to clear it and takes a breath. Facing the man, she considers what to say. She is a terrible liar and knows if she were to attempt to fool him, she would most likely fail. So instead she speaks the exact truth.
"You appear to be a cleric of The Gold-Fisted, no? After our experience with the ghost of Nettle, I believe my nerves would be greatly calmed if I could lay eyes on a well-tended altar to Abadar. Are you willing to shows us to your shrine?"
She smiles, but has no doubt her naturally wan appearance in addition to the strain of her effort to keep the visions from her mind probably lend themselves to making her seem a bit ernest in the face of the ghostly ordeal.
I realize you may still consider this a Bluff, so I will present the roll, and you may add either a -1 for Bluff or a +3 for Diplomacy depending on how you choose to rule on this attempt to engage the mystery man in conversation.
Charisma: 1d20 ⇒ 15
"If you are willing to travel to Elmere, I'd be happy to show you to.. our shrine."
It starts to become clearer that he is attempting to avoid the need for a lie, and it's wearing him out.
"I'll explain on the road... away from Master Nettle. Come... my mount is just beyond the watch house."
1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14
I'm still here.
Thinking back on Topper Red's comments about being known in Elmere, Vlamdir asks, "Why are you so intent on taking us Elmere? I'm sorry, I must have missed it, what is your name again?"
He ducks around the corner of the half-burned out watch house. An old and overweight mare is at the hitching post. "Terribly sorry... My name is Ralmond Tinkler." He untethers his horse. "I am not actually a priest, but this is my job. All the good ones were taken... heh."
"Only thing that'll keep old Nettle from poppin up is making him think Father Hague is around... after Father Hague blasted him to bits. Didn't last long..." He grunts his way up into the saddle.. "Old Nettle rose the next day, but when Nettle catches sight of Father Hague or... someone who looks enough like him, Nettle's gone fast as you can blink."
"On your wondering on my intentions... was true to the word on that. Out here alone... and I'm a people person mind you. I s'pose if your not set on taking me up on the offer, I could just go on and tell Father Hague about you folk. Explorers and bandit killers... news enough for our town."
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8 --2 penalty shifts to Sense Motive
Vladimir turns back to the others, "What say you? Shall we go with Ralmond here or not?"
Ralmond shrugs at Balter comment, and responds as he tugs the false beard from his face. "It's worked so far... and if any bandits appear to be getting the upper hand on Nettle - which has happened only a handful of times - I ride to Elmere to alert our meager, but so far sufficient, militia."
He then smiles and bows slightly to Marisol "Let's be off then.. you should be able to keep up with Figgie." He pats and strokes his gunnysack-belly horse, and then "nic-nic" "Let's go home, Figgie."
Marisol urges Prancer to follow and says to Ralmond, "Do tell us a little about Elmere. There have been brigands and the like threatening all the villages around here. Have you had any trouble? Seen anything dangerous?"
"Oh... we do alright. I don't much like hearing myself complain really. Occasional problem with wild animals.. particularly from the south. No bandit troubles to speak of."
You travel less than a mile before you see Elmere on the horizon. There are about twenty buildings.. most are stone to shoulder height, and solely timber above. There are a farmlands to the south... planted fields on either side of a livestock grazing pasture. To your right - just before reaching the village, is a grove of few dozen apple and pear trees.
"How many of you are there in Elmere? Twenty or so buildings and significant farmland...a fair number I suppose." Vladimir says, making idle conversation as the group approaches the village.
You see many people working around the village.. cleaning, hauling, serving on the patio between a tavern and pub. They all are wearing similar simple "sack-cloth" outfits. "Meh... Deaths have outpaced births and strays as of late. Current number is just under seventy, I believe. Certainly can't imagine how we would've fared in the bandit lands." He shakes his head (looking at you with pity) "You must've been beset by those murderous thieves at every turn on the road here."
He gestures to one of the laborers as he says "strays". After his comments he dismounts, and hands the reins to another... a young man with an iron hook replacing a lost hand. The laborer bows his head and leads the horse to the stable.
Ralmond gestures to a chapel just beyond the village center. "Father Hague will likely be in the nave or his rectory."
"It is true, we have run across our fair share of banditry since we have been in the region. " Vladimir says, continuing the small talk with Ralmond.
Taking note of the "sack-cloth" outfits on the laborers and taking note of the hook-handed young man, Vladimir asks, "Given that you were dressed as an Abadarian, I assume that Father Hague is an Abadarian as well?"
"I suppose I could simply ask the man himself. Any place in particular where we should tie the horses during our visit?" he asks, putting emphasis on the word visit.
Durielle feels a deeply unsettled feeling as they enter the village. Perhaps it is just a lingering disquiet caused by Nettle's hatred. Perhaps it is the rather unorthodox means the village uses to keep the angry spirit in check. Or maybe it is the condition of the people they have seen so far. Durielle feels her inner concerns mirrored in the words Vladimir chooses to use. She recalls the the disquiet with which the Chafwinth Town Leader Olbrent Dover had spoken of Elmere. Looking around, Durielle felt perhaps she was able to understand Topper Red and his compatriots even more. If anything could have made her regret the conclusion to that story more, those sack cloth outfits were doing a marvelous job.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (2) + 8 = 10
She also pays close attention to their "priestly" guide's words and mannerisms.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
She does her best to recall anything else she may have heard about this town in the wilderness.
Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12
Ralmond Tinkler glances down at his robes.. "Hmm? Yes.. well.. yes." Two men step down from the dining and drinking patio.. not quite as large as Mulgin, but close. One youthful and muscular with short wavy black hair combed forward, and the second barrel-chested farmworkers build - beard and mustache one solid mass of greying hair.
"What's goin on here, Tinkler?" The younger one claps Ralmond on the shoulder.. "Bring home some strays? Eh?"
Ralmond shakes his head..."No no they are just visiting... where should they tether-"
"Not staying, eh? Too bad.. that." He moseys closer to Marisol and Durielle... "Could get you a contract here real quick... dangerous out there, you know? These boys keepin you safe enough? Look at the little one on the dog... heh.." He glances back to the bearded big guy and gets a quiet chuckle out of him. "He protect you from the nasty brigands out there?"
Vladimir smirks hearing the brute's comments to Marisol and Durielle. "I would be careful if I were you, 'friend', lest you discover that the two ladies do not need to be kept safe...they are quite capable on their own."
"As to the gentleman on the dog...he does just fine as well."
Turing his attention back to Ralmond, "I believe you were leading us to Father Hague?"
Durielle is embarrassed by the boorish behavior the men show to her and Marisol. Her pallid skin suffuses with the hint of a blush, and she seems a little off put, not knowing how to respond to such rudeness.
As if this is all for what it was waiting, her recurring symptoms strike and she begins coughing violently. She turns her ahead away from their newest acquaintances and spits blood into the dirt slightly dizzy. The look she throws to Marisol displays a misery and sadness that is hard to identify. Whether it is in reaction to the men's rudeness, the town's state, or her own plight isn't easily understood.
But what her companions can see is the cold determination hiding in the ever-present light of her silver eyes. Without her group of friends, Durielle knows she is weak. Patience is her best ally until things are clearer. Perhaps this Father Hague will allay the suspicions of oppression evident everywhere.
Marisol purses her lips at the rather off-putting commentary from the men -- do they not see that she is wearing armor and carrying a sword? Nevertheless, she refrains from an inopportune outburst. Keeping Prancer (her horse) close to Durielle, she spares a look to the elf woman, then carefully says to Tinkler, "Yes, let's see the religious leader of your charming community."
The young thug shrugs off Vladimir's comments, then makes an "go right on ahead" gesture toward the chapel.
"Get back to your post, Tinkler. We'll take it from here."
Ralmond nods obediently, and nods to you "Nice to have met with you.. take care now."
The young thug points to a fence on the side of the chapel as he heads toward the entrance. "You can lash your mounts there."
Vladimir nods toward Ralmond, dismounts, and ties Shadow to fence, waiting for his companions to do likewise before entering the chapel.