Vladimir allows himself a crooked half-smile as he nods in agreement with Marisol and Hrafen's assessment. "That is certainly the hope, Hrafen."
As Marisol packs up and grudging shifts back to her adventuring gear, she says, "Anyone else get the feeling that it's time for us to track down and confront Dovan?"
She glances around the village and says, "They seem well-organized, and everyone here is laboring under a contract of indenture for services rendered. It's safe enough, though... something about placing a value of pennies on days or years of human life sits a little wrong with me."
Vladimir chuckles a bit, seeing Marisol's dismay about having to shift back to her traveling gear before letting out a brief sigh. Well that was certainly pleasant while it lasted...
"Yes, Marisol, I believe you are right. We should see what we can do about Dovan and his ilk soon. All waiting around will do for us is give him time to prepare for our arrival."
Returning comment to Marisol's statement about the village, "There is still somethig unsettling about this place, and Father Hague for that matter. I understand indentured servitude, and it certainly has its place, but it seems to me that the exchange rate between the time paid and the service rendered is a bit off."
"Agreed, but no-one seems to be being outright mistreated; things are harsh, but it is a harsh environment that they are living in. Hopefully, once the bandit problem is settled, we can revisit the situation. For the moment, let's focus on finding Dovan."
"Yes," says Marisol as she removes her earrings and packs them away, "I agree, Hrafen -- the hardships here may well be a reaction to the pressures from outside. Let's find Dovan!"
(Presumably that means getting in some hexploration?)
"Agreed. Let us be on our way before we are assessed another exorbitant fee for staying here." Vladimir says, gathering his gear and going out to the stable to ready Shadow for travel.
"You get watch next time," says Marisol to Vlad with a touch of humor. "If I spend too many nights without sleeping, I tend to start losing track of the day."
Vladimir smiles, noticing the humor in Marisol's tone. "Perfectly fine with me, milady. If you will recall I offered to take last night's watch."
You ride the eastward trail away from Elmere, and by all accounts, in the general direction of the riverside watchtower Dovan and his band has claimed. After twenty minutes of travel, the river comes into view. On the near side of the river, there is a simple stone building (20'x 25') with open horse stalls on the near side. It sits on a low hill facing the river... just off to the left of the trail. Where the trail meets the river, you see remains of a pier - now a couple posts and wooden scrap on the bank.
From what Stueben Pfaelof has indicated to you, this is the East Watch.
You see the glint of a spyglass, and soon the little fellow using it. You hear him call out Stueben's name, and see him point in your direction. Stueben waves you over.
Stueben introduces Mxylbilnik - the sole gnome of Elmere, and tells you his brother is resting from night watch.
As Stueben speaks with you Mxylbilnik stroll among you - peering at your gear with his hands clasped behind his back. A couple times he starts to reach out to touch something, but catches himself and re-clasps his hands (with a glance to Stueben as if expecting a scolding). "You'll need to cross the river. We can distract Old Man Nettles for a minute without too much risk of serious injury.... Welcome to leave your mounts here if you'd rather travel on foot."
Mxylbilnik adds "-or cross by boat..."
"Ah yes, 'Bilnik has a boat. Assuming you're intending to cross discreetly, you will want to cross upriver. The watchtower is visible not far downriver... little more than a half-mile."
Turing his attention to his companions, Vladimir asks "Which route do you think? I am leaning toward letting these good folk distract Nettles and moving on from here." leaving his thoughts on Elmere commerce unsaid.
Balter does not sleep easy, even with someone to stand watch all night. Classic paranoia, but sleepless nights were not exactly something new to him. Nonetheless, he does eventually manage to settle down. That he opens his eyes the next morning is a staunch indication that someone hadn't stabbed him in his sleep. Mxylbilnik makes him uneasy for reasons entirely unrelated to imaginary assassination attempts. A few times he could almost swear that the gnome was trying to touch one of his swords - it just wasn't going to happen.
The ranger nods in agreement with the choice of route. "But perhaps we should just take some of those false beards with us," he remarks dryly, not relishing another encounter with the spirit. "Just in case."
Mxylbilnik is a ruddy, weathered, unkempt and scraggly gnome - with stained hands, clothing... and carries an oily scent. He appears to have some years on him, but judging from the musculature of his bare arms, he is still physically active.
Stueben wakes his brother Wilnstad - a shorter, less fit version of Stueben... with the visage of a slow thinker. They suit up in light chain, while 'Bilnik takes around to the other side of their watch house to a penned in area... "It's in me workshop." where you find a small woodcraft area. The wide canoe-like boat is upside-down and propped up over his most central workbench and tool cart.
"Bilnik climbs up onto the bench to unfasten the supports. "Meh. Room for most of ya in this here boat. Four sit in there right. Be a bit tricky if'n you wanna cram all'a you in there."
Stefan and Wilnstad are armored and mounted at this point. Stefan rides alongside you as you head to the river's edge. "Much luck to you. 'Bilnik? Watch for the sign." He taps the banner tucked into his saddle, nods, and they ride upriver.
The gnome nods, and extends his spyglass.
This point in the river comes soon after a fairly steep descent of rapids - which 'Bilnik refers to as the "Shattered Falls". The river is a little wider here, but the current is as mild as you've seen so far on the Shrike. That said, the current is nowhere near calm.
Three successful strength or survival checks DC15 to row across. DC will be 16 with everyone aboard... 17 with Archibald.
(If boating, each failure of 5 or more carries you further downriver where the DC increases by 1 - to a total of +3)
If swimming, three DC15 swim checks to cross.
Marisol gets onto the boat with some trepidation, but is quick to pick up an oar and try to help guide the craft before it is caught in the rapids.
Strength check: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (16) + 3 = 19
"No time like the present." Vladimir says, boarding the boat and grabbing an oar in an attempt to make himself useful.
Survival: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (5) + 5 = 10
Having little success, he mutters "Gods...I would so much rather be on horseback..."
You find yourselves fighting the current more than making progress across the Shrike. Vladimir over-corrects with his attempt to right the boat, and the rushing water catches the prow - turning you the wrong direction as you drift downstream.
Mxylbilnik is looking upstream with the spyglass - yelling out the Pfaelofs' progress... his raised voice is shrill enough to cut through the rush of the river. "Still at parley!.. woop... fightin' now!"
He turns back toward you, and blinks.
"Chivalry b'damt! Missus was doin' fine on de'oars!"
gimme 2 good rolls DC15 str or survival, +2 from aid another actions (one per row roll) DC10
Survival: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8 And the dice have gone ice cold...
"Damnit!" the normally more formal swordsman yells as he looses grip on the oar.
You reach the far bank. A few moments after you pull the boat ashore, you see 'Bilnik with his spyglass lowered giving you an all clear wave.
The lowland area around you is so filled with ferns and fat-leaved reedy bushes you can't see where you are walking.. the fronds and ferns come mid-chest to Hrafen. Within the green gulch are toppled trees - black and rotting broken limbs rise from the waist-high foliage.
To your left (north and upriver) about 200 feet, there is a rocky climb alongside the "Shattered Falls" rapids of the Shrike River. From what you'd seen on the horizon arriving here, this is the highest elevation in the area.
Dead ahead (east, perpendicular to the river) about 80 feet, there is a dirt slope (about a 60 degree incline) beyond the toppled trees. The crest of the rise is about twenty feet lower than the rocky climb to your left.
To your right (downriver and towards Dovan's watchtower) the terrain rises very gradually, and the river bends to the east. The foliage appears similar, but in sparse patches. There are clusters of boulders, and copses of saplings.. and you see a collapsed stone-block structure (no more than 250 sq. feet) - about 150 feet away.
I'll take any perception, know nature, survival checks with your next posts.
Not enjoying the waist-high foliage, Hrafen takes his cute little lizard familiar from his shoulder, and carefully places it upon the ground.
With this prompting, the lizard expands massively, turning into a human-sized dinosaur with massive claws, and a mouth full of sharp teeth.
You have to love 'Mauler' familiars ;-)
Hrafen then promptly jumps onto its back, satisfied that he will no longer be at a height disadvantage.
Marisol raises an eyebrow at Hrafen's suddenly-expanding dinosaur familiar.
"Should we try to get a look from the high ground? Maybe we can get an eye on the tower," she says as she points to the rocky cliff. "Or perhaps we can get on top of that ruin and see something from the walls."
Perception: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 2 = 10
Survival: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 1 = 19
"What did you need the dog for?" Balter asks Hrafen with a slight grin, already having a good idea of what the answer was.
He looks to the climb and frowns. "If we can get onto that cliff, we'd be able to see everything. Of course, it's always possible that someone else had the same idea."
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14 +2 if this counts as forest.
Knowledge (nature): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Survival: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11 +2 if this counts as forest.
"Quite true, unless there's some way that we could hide and still get a look at the terrain," says Marisol. "Unfortunately, I don't have the skills or the magic to do so."
Vladimir blinks repeatedly, astonished by Hrafen's new friend. "How long have I known you, and this is the first I have seen this?"
"Still, it might very well be worth the risk to try and get a view from the cliff."
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15
Knowledge (Nature): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
Survival: 1d20 + 5 - 2 ⇒ (13) + 5 - 2 = 16 (overbearing expectations)
(overall around a 45degree ascent, but extremely rugged. Two DC5 climb checks. If you fail, succeed on a DC10 Acro(balance) or tumble .. 1d6 non-lethal .. miss Acro roll by 5 or more = 2d6 non-lethal
"Fair enough, friend." Vladimir says to Hrafen with a nod and grin.
Vladimir sniffs at the air, "That is not a pleasant smell at all, almost smells like someone is trying to brew something from garbage."
"Any thoughts, Hrafen? Seeing as brewing is one of your specialties."
Following the short conversation, Vladimir moves upriver toward the rocky climb.
Climb DC 5: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9
Climb DC 5: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (19) + 4 = 23
Climb: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13.
Climb: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (11) + 4 = 15.
Hrafen's dinosaur mount easily makes it up the steep incline.
"I am not sure, Vladimir, let me take a closer look..."
Profession(Brewer): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21.