Following Marisol's comment, Vladimir adds, "Of course, that simply goes without saying." to Marisol as much as Durielle.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29 Well that figures.
So we're trading our life stories already? Balter thinks, the edge of his mouth turning upward ever so slightly as he listens to his companions. And we don't even have a campfire to tell them around. Well, at least we have ale...
"I was actually born and raised in the Greenbelt. My father had his own cabin deep in the woods. Perhaps the land did not truly belong to him, but the only ones who bothered to raise any arguments were the wild beasts and bandits. Neither bothered him much more once he introduced them to his bow. He met my mother by pure chance - they so happened to be hunting the same quarry. They raised me in that cabin together, and it is from them I learned almost all I know about surviving in the wilderness."
The small, nostalgic smile on his face remains for only a moment longer before abruptly vanishing. With some hesitation, he continues.
"They died. I was left alone, so I had to figure out the rest for myself. As soon as I was confident that I could step more than a mile away from my home without dying, I left that godsforsaken place behind. That was years ago. I am only here now because of the charter."
Bluff: 1d20 ⇒ 2
He glances at Marisol pointedly as he finishes, his lips pursed.
Marisol keeps a steady gaze on Vlad for a moment, then picks up her wine goblet, leans back in her chair, and crosses her legs as she sips at the wine again.
Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17 (+2 if you're into brunette ladies)
Durielle says nothing having been saved from responding by Marisol, and the somewhat awkward air that seemed to float between the woman and Vlad.
Sense Motive of Balter: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (18) + 5 = 23
Balter's abrupt story into the awkward silence is most welcome. It's as if he had sensed her own hesitancy in admitting her origins and bald-facedly told the same type of story. She supposed she should feel mocked, but the aura of his past showed a strangely chaotic strain tempered only by deep feelings from the half-elf. She felt a mirror of herself, even if the ranger's time was rife with a hatred instead of the sadness she herself felt. So instead, she felt as if he had come to her rescue, whether that had been his intent or not.
Sense Motive of Marisol: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
Durielle notices that Marisol has some kind of hesitancy about her, but is uncertain of its origins. She sees odd visions of the woman storming out, throwing her wine in Vladimir's face, or even bursting into tears. The probability of these events are all remote, and make Durielle ponder what those possible futures might have been about. But she is unable to discern what at this point.
Clearing her throat to draw the attention from some of the awkwardness, the oracle murmurs, "And I guess that leaves you last, Master Hrafen..."
Sense Motive Balter DC 2: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7 Cool...another "1" out of the way
Sense Motive Marisol DC 19: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26 And there's the "20"...Doesn't necessarily have to be a brunette for Vlad
Vladimir raises an eyebrow, hearing Baltar's story, but chooses to say nothing about it before giving Marisol a brief apologetic smile.
"What's there to tell? I grew up in Oppara, the Jewel of the Taldan Empire. I always had skill when it came to blowing things up with magic, and my hobby of brewing kept me on good terms with the soldiers that I worked with. After a while, though, I decided that I needed to spread my wings, and seek my own path in world; having heard that charters were being offered to try and 'tame' the Stolen Lands, I thought that would be a task worthy of my attention. The bandits have, however, proven to be a particularly stubborn bunch..."
Bluff: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27.
Marisol puts down her wine mug and picks up the bowl of stew, then blows on a spoonful through pursed lips as she listens to Hrafen's story.
"Quite a special band, we are," she says, bemused, "but I would expect nothing less."
"Perhaps in the morning," she says at length, "we can glean some answers from the injured priest. At the very least, he may remember where his attackers were, or what they looked like."
Sense Motive (Hrafen): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (4) + 9 = 13
"I should hope so," Balter replies as he takes a swig of ale. He sounds somewhat annoyed, though he is in fact glad that the introductions are out of the way. Durielle struck him as being the most interesting, if only because she had something to hide; the others had been far more forthcoming.
"He seemed barely lucid when I happened upon him. Used magic to heal his own horse instead of himself. I take it he is a priest of Erastil... not uncommon in a community like this, I suppose."
"Actually, we might as well ask the locals about him, too. If he's a regular visitor or resident here they might be able to tell us more."
Marisol gestures to flag down Wyelna so that she can ask that very question.
"I just had a question, actually -- the priest who came into town on horseback, is he a resident or a regular visitor? Is there anything that you can tell us about him?"
"Doc Aster. He's over here." She gestures to the southeast. "Next building over. He's our doctor and an animal doctor... helps with the farmin too. He can make water outta nothin from being a priest for so long... follower of Erastil. He's here most days, but takes to the road quite a bit. Oh and don't you worry about what you heard - him getting hurt... he can heal himself too with just his hand and some mumblin."
The tavern begins to fill up with farmers and youngsters - bringing the scent of turned soil and cheap soap. Wyelna excuses herself.
A man in a well-tailored but well-worn jacket enters - laid back demeanor and wine-buzzed smile.... He approaches the table, and nods to Hrafen. "How are you today, Master Vormenghast." The turns to the others and bows. "Good day to you. I'm Olbrent Dover... proprietor of the Chafwinth Inn and village leader. Ah! Ser Ducheski, how very good to see you again."
Wyelna heads toward him table with a mug, Olbrent speaks out to her "On the bar is fine... I don't intend to intrude on our guests here for long."
"Just be sure to let me know if there is anything you need. The door to the inn is always open. We have regular trade now with the North... anything that can be found in New Stetven or Restov can be here in three weeks - four at most... as long as it fits in the wagon."
"Thank you for the fond welcome and the hospitality, goodman Dover," says Marisol politely. She inclines her head to Olbrent. "I have no doubt you'll see us about your charming village for some time. With any luck we will be able to improve the safety of those same routes that connect your village with the rest of the countryside." She pauses for a moment and then leans slightly to one side in her chair and says, "Could you tell us a bit about some of your neighbors? Other villages nearby, and whether there have been any other problems with bandit activity in or near your lands?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (18) + 9 = 27 (+1 if he finds brunette Goth ladies to his liking, as usual)
Seeing the village's leader making his way over toward the group, Vladimir stands and with broad smile on his face says, "Good to see you again, Olbrent." Extending his hand to the village leader, he adds, "Although I am not sure how many times I have to tell you the Ser Ducheski is unnecessary. Vladimir or Vlad will do just fine."
Hearing Marisol's questions to Olbrent, Vladimir silently awaits any answer.
"Of course, Vladimir. I appreciate the gentle reminder."
Olbrent leans on the back of a chair to a nearby table - responding to Marisol, "We are the only settlement remaining not a stone's throw from the Shrike. There is a hunting lodge in the river valley... not much more than ten miles to the east - though we've not seen or heard from them in months. There are a few farms to the southwest... Yoesum, Quillor, and Blakey - they lie just west of Nettle's Crossing. Elmere.. is across the crossing... south bank of the Shrike."
"To my knowledge, Elmere has things under control for themselves, but the farms still suffer from banditry. The roads from here to Nettle's are unsafe." He makes a gesture and nod to Marisol to acknowledge her "With any luck..." statement.
Something about Elmere does not sit well with him.
Durielle can't read Hrafen's bluff even with a roll of 20!
The halfling's story seems no less plausible than any other, so Durielle has no reason not to believe him.
The oracle is pleased to hear the priest is likely to be fine, and it sounds like there should be ample time to obtain information. She pays Wylena for her meal and orders another wine.
As the village leader welcomes them, Durielle smiles warmly in return. "Thank you for your town's hospitality, Master Dover. As Mistress Marisol says, we hope to be of assistance to your town's security and remove the last traces of banditry from immediate surrounds."
Sense Motive of Olbrent: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
"You say that Elmere has things under control. Do you know how they are managing it? Perhaps they may be willing to partner with us in our endeavor to reach a similar goal."
Sense Motive (Olbrent): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
A concerned look crosses Vladimir's face as he asks, "Olbrent, you seem a bit hesitant in your estimation about Elmere. Are they in a similar situation to the one the Crossing found itself in? This would not have anything to do with the Stag-Lords's former lieutenant would it?"
Olbrent takes a moment before responding, "Ah. No no not that I am aware of, Vladimir... I've some personal matters with Elmere's leader... you must have caught my mild ire...." He smiles and gestures dismissively as he straightens. "Woelder Hague and I don't always see eye-to-eye, but I'd rather avoid spreading gossip seconds on meeting. I have no doubt if you can read me so well, taking measure of that man should take little effort at all... when the time comes."
He answers Durielle somewhat... "Who knows... If there is a way to keep everyone more safe, you won't see me standing in the way."
Vladimir relaxes a bit upon hearing the issue with Elmere is more of a personal matter.
"So it would seem we have a fair amount on our plates for the short term. First, see Doc Aster and see if he can provide any information about his assailants. After that it sounds as if we either need to deal with this former lieutenant or visit Elmere. I would think dealing with the bandits would be the priority" Vladimir says, asking the others for their opinions on the matter as much as suggesting a course of action.
~~Doc Aster's home
A mousey woman in matronly dress (dusty blue plain dress, apron, and head scarf) opens the door - just enough to fit her head through, and look you over.
"Master Vormenghast and some others....", she speaks over her shoulder.
She looks startled a moment as the door fully opens. An older fellow is standing there beside her.
"I'm awake. Come in." Inside is a kitchen and dinette area. The table is covered in unstrung bows, and arrow components in stacks and piles - as well as the tools to craft them.
"Theron Aster... this is Mim." He gestures to the mousey woman as he returns to his chair. He looks worn out (and sour-faced), but uninjured. Mim fidgets nervously with one of the three remaining chairs while her eyes flit to each of you - as if unsure how to offer chairs selectively.
Vladimir - you and Doc Aster have never met.
"Well," Hrafen says modestly, "I did help liquify a tribe of mites not that long ago, and have helped deal with the occasional bandit upstart; not much stands up to a face full of acid, or a brace of force missiles to the head..."
He rubs one side of his jaw - sore from clenching. "Yes... they know of you, Hrafen... One of their number made attempts to stay their hands, and spoke your name in his warning of reprisal." He straightens a bit, and makes eye contact with each of you. "Unless Master Vormenghast here counts himself as more than one man, they outnumber you by one. And not all are clumsy cretins."
Vladimir shoots a glance Marisol's direction after her forceful reply.
"I was part of the original group that came to the Crossing and dealt with Natty Tulnov and his ilk. We will be just fine, Elder Aster...or do you prefer Brother Aster? I believe those are the proper honorifics for your faith, assuming my memory serves me correctly."
"This group would not have been chosen by the Dragonscale throne and the Swordlords of Restov if they believed our little troupe was not up to the task of continuing the exploration of the Greenbelt. Vladimir says with a smile, in an attempt to settle any ruffled feathers before any pleasantries devolve.
He gives Marisol a solid nod of approval. He responds to Vladimir... "Brother is most appropriate.", followed by a sigh. "You know I was here a few days during Natty Tulnov's stay here. So caught up in my own matters, I left again never noticing anything was amiss." He relaxes a bit - though still worn out, the burden of settling this has been eased.
"Well... my visitors with most prestigious backers, on to business. If you've a map, I'll show you where the incident took place."
He points to the border of C,7 and D,6 on the road to Nettle's Crossing.
"Return my bow, and I'll reward you with this.. lightly used wand."
"Is there anything else you can tell us about them or your encounter with them, Brother Aster? Did any of them use magic? Bows or crossbows? Heavy armor? Anyone of extraordinary appearance?" Marisol asks intently. She seems focused on analyzing the problem that the bandits present and looking for a strategy.
"Bows, swords, club, and fist. Leather and hide." He shrugs "In my flight, my horse became caught in a foothold trap concealed in the tall fescue somewhere north... maybe northeast of the road. I witnessed no spellcasting, but the redhead smirker who warned his fellow thugs about Hrafen - by gear and by garb, looked the type who'd sling spells."
"Thank you for the information, Brother Aster, particularly the warning about the traps. We will have to keep a cautious eye open." He says with a nod toward Balter.
"The gods willing, we will return shortly with your bow after dealing with particular group of bandits."
Marisol glances at Vlad and gives a small smile of agreement, then says, "Yes, we appreciate your time and your help, especially when you are probably more interested in having some rest now. We'll prepare appropriately."
She looks back to Vlad and says, "Is there anything else keeping us from heading there and searching the area? If not, should we go this afternoon or tomorrow morning?"
Balter returns Vlad's nod. Traps were not quite his specialty, but he was familiar enough with their workings. At the very least, he would not walk headlong into them. Assuming that what they were dealing with was standard fare.
"Unless anyone is weary from travel, we should leave as soon as possible," he says, interjecting his opinion on the matter.