DM-Tareth's Modified Kingmaker Campaign

Game Master Tareth

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Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"Of course," says Anwel, slowly and quietly. He bows his head to Andrea, and his hair falls in white gossamer whisps in front of his eyes. Of course she had responsibilities, and of course she had lived through hardships. Not just the danger of the journey, or the labor of building a new life at the trading post, but she had alluded to some past tragedy as well. Anwel, by the simplicity of his words and the sincerity of his tone, tries to let her know that he is alright with her silence and would be alright, too, if she ever deigned to share her story. He owes her that much for her own quiet acceptance of his—or part of his anyway.

Anwel picks up his head in time to catch Alexis' smile, and the light in her eyes. He returns it quickly, before she turns around to hurry to the wagon. He sees Stellan start to say something, and then stop, but does not himself move. He had said what he wanted to say. If Alexis wanted to speak further, she knew where to find him. It was odd she felt the need to apologize though. As far as Anwel could tell, she had done nothing wrong, or even untoward.

"I agree, Stellan, we need a better name for ourselves than 'charter bearers,'" he says, responding to Stellan's unspoken criticism of the clunky terminology. At the witch's insistence that he examine something, Anwel turns, and, seeing the bloody parchment for the first time, tucks his hair behind his ears to get a better look. The parchment itself looked new-made, white and supple, with soft edges. The ink was a smooth blend and the penmanship and blotting were meticulous. It might have been the work of a metropolitan scribe. Writing like this was a symbol of status, a way for Akiros to remind his subordinates, beyond his choice of words, just who was in charge.

Then there were the words themselves. "There are several suggestive points about this note," says Anwel, peering as close to the message as Stellan's personal space would allow. "There is a clearly defined hierarchy among our enemies, complete with ranks and corresponding mandates. A captain is responsible for a defined portion of territory, possibly a quadrant corresponding to a cardinal point, but probably as much as half the map. There is no captain of the west to seek this shrine or make contact with Tartuk." Anwel points out the name, which appears much further into the manuscript. "See this reference to 'my instructions'? It is possible that this chain of command is Akiros' invention, that things were more informal when Dovan was in charge.

"What should Akiros send to ensure his instructions are carried out? Not further instructions, surely? He is probably referring to an agent, garbed in black. Thus the blackrobes do not constantly watch the captains, and are dispatched specially, as Akiros requires it. This is suggestive, but can point in many different directions. Perhaps the blackrobes are few, and cannot be risked in the field. Perhaps they are incompetent outside a narrow specialty, and Akiros keeps them away from the captains to maintain their mystique. Or perhaps he does not trust them not to plot against him if they are out of his sight for long." Anwel smiles wolfishly, his eyes narrowed. "Should we happen, at any point, upon an unwatched captain, it might be possible to win their obedience, through persuasion or even through impersonating a blackrobe and passing off our desires as Akiros' for a time."

"These fragments in the middle all seem to refer to the same place, a shrine of Erastil located somewhere west of Kressle's camp." Anwel turns to Stellan, and to his surprise the note has changed hands while Anwel was examining it. He pulls away from Imon, embarrassed. "Anyway," he says, gesturing at Imon, Thad, and Warren, "at the risk of stating the obvious, the interlopers are us, or more precisely, your lot. And Tartuk is either a headman among his people or in a position to seize power, possibly with blackrobe aid."

"This mention of a relic seems out of place," says Anwel, a little quieter and less confident in his reasoning. "A relic would seem to go with a shrine, but Akiros does not pair the two rhetorically, as so careful a penman and wordsmith should do if they are connected. Without a better idea of what it might be, however, the most we can do is look for the shrine and not be too surprised if we find no relic. If we do, there are three options for securing it from Akiros: move it here, guard it there, or destroy it. But that is a decision and a discussion for another time." Thad, at least, worshipped the Stag, and the quicker Anwel passed over the possibility of having to destroy one of the god's relics the better.

Anwel pauses for a moment, thinking about whether or not to continue. That he and Akiros referred to their mistresses by that appellation is surely a coincidence. Still, not going over that last bit of text would attract more attention than leaving it be. "As for who this mistress of Akiros is, we can only speculate. To say that it is Lissala is probably not too far off the mark."

He spreads his hands wide. "Many of these probabilities would become virtual certainties if the parchment were cleared up. No doubt the Deepsilvers have chemical solvents that can do the job, and magic can be helpful in situations like this." Anwel snaps his fingers and hisses an unintelligible, whispered word, and the dirty dishes he'd left by the washing pot began to sparkle in their sudden cleanliness. "But either method might harm the ink. I should not like to try before copying the words we can read." Well, Anwel already planned to spend his evening at a drafting table, copying the map to a clean sheet of parchment and writing a letter to Kressle. "Maybe Kressle will remember more after rest and sleep."

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

There must be a more secure way to pass orders... Maybe later. "Interesting, I don't really think the extra stick at the end was really required given the situation. Erastil's what do you suppose? His relic or some more vague like order."

I have I heard anything about Erastil in this area? knowledge local or history: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (15) + 6 = 21
Can I make out any more of the orders with a linguistics roll? Linguistics: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9
Passing on the note "I'd be happy to stay behind, Thad might be needed to remove another of these control devices." I know this is a mechanism to get rid of Thad for a bit, but I can't see Andrei not offering
Hmmm, Warren seems to assume he's in command.
"Warren's suggestion seems sound. Andrei says looking around the others to check for objections. "We have been awake and travelling for some time so we should get some rest soon."

Historically Erastil has been worshiped by some of the inhabitants of the Stolen Lands. This is not surprising due to the number of hunters, farmers, and others who live off the land. Some scholars site evidence that at one point the area was a center of power for Old Deadeye, but that has long since changed. Over the years as the region devolved into chaos and wildness, most of the gods followers were either killed, converted, or driven out. The last real effort to reestablish the Elk's rule was during the last effort by Taldor to colonize the region. This, of course, failed terribly with the complete destruction of the original colony by a combined force of bugbears, goblins and trolls.

Local legends still exist about that last Taldoran colony and how a group of settlers had discovered an ancient place of worship dedicated to Erastil. The legend hints of lost treasures and relics, but the actual whereabouts of the shrine were destroyed with the colony. It is believed that some of the Fae who live in the area, may know where it is located. But being Fae, it simply isn't in their nature to share that knowledge with mortal men.

Stellan returns about halfway through Anwel's analysis and listens as he finishes and Andrei comments. "I hope Kressle can shed more light on this myself but she is spent for now. I'll check in the morning, maybe she'll be up to it then." Stellan adds, "Have we learned anything about Lissala that we can follow up on? This cult for instance, is it an society of wizards and sorcerers or can it channel divine, abet dark, blessings?"

Stellan stops stuck by a thought, "Besides this shrine of Erastil, that Akiros is worried about, is there anything, any legend perhaps, of something a dark power might want here specifically? Sure land and followers are good but is there something more, a place of power or a gateway, perhaps?" Stellan snorts, "I know, I just should ask Aikros to explain his master plan, like what happpens to heroes in a bard's tale."

Stellan talks to Andrei, "I think Kressle is more trusting of either Thad or I, and I'm not as good a guard, and am your main healer now, but I'd be willing to stay instead. I think I or Thad can get the most out of what she knows, sooner than later. Thad would make the better guard though, his ability to see the evil, and deal with it is greater than mine. I guess it's up to him."

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"Tempting as it is to join the bandwagon volunteering to guard Kressle," snarks Anwel, chuckling at Stellan's joke, "I think I shall accompany Warren to this shrine. If it is west of Kressle's old camp, it is probably somewhere in the Narlmarches. My magic will be stronger under the canopy, and if the expedition meets fey it will be glad to have an elf along, and one who knows their tongues."

Anwel's face goes thoughtful. "If Akiros' goal is indeed to seize a place of power or artifact, it need not be nearbly," he muses. "There are objects and places of power scattered around eastern Avistan: the Sovyrian Stone in Iadara, the portals of Sevenarches, the Star Tower in the Veil of Shadows, the observatory at Skywatch all come to mind. It is entirely feasible to claim a base of operations here, gather followers, and mobilize them against one of these targets. Doing so might even be easier than seizing territory governed by some power or engineering a coup." This, of course, is his mistress' plan for the Vale of Shadows. Anwel wonders if he is projecting onto Akiros, ascribing him Anwel's own orders.

"One more likely to to tell us the plan than Akiros," he says, "Assuming he knows it, is Tartuk. His is the one name we learn from these orders, and that is the lead I believe we should follow."

To what language does the name "tartuk" belong? What, if anything, does it mean? Linguistics: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24
To what tribe might Akiros be referring? What is its name? Its territory? Its culture? Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
What is the territory of the western Narlmarches like? For what is it known? Any landmarks? Knowledge (geography): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (8) + 9 = 17

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

"I think as many of us should come as possible. We don't know what we are heading into, so I think the more, the merrier."

"Well, we leave at first light. We have yet to be surprised with four eagle eyes aloft."

Warren hoods his eagles for the evening and stays up to speak with the legacy and new charter-holders. He is not a man of many words.

Smiling at the elf, "So Anwel, magic that works under the canopies. Would that be nature magic like mine?"

Warren speaks to the rest. "We are here to start something new; not another Brevoy. What we do and how we act will shape what is to come. And we will respect the land."

The name Tartuk is often found among the wild goblinoid or other speaker's of that language such as hobgoblins and bugbears. A rough translation would equate to Demon Knife.

There are numerous small tribes of goblins in addition to hobgoblins or bugbear tribes that inhabit areas of the Stolen Lands.

The western portion of the Narlmarches is known to be a bit more wild as the forest rises up into the Emerald Rim Hills. The hills are believed to hold deposits of silver and iron but the few attempts to prospect in the region have not ended well. The midland forest in a dense growth of oak, beech, fir, and dense thickets of nettles, thornbushes, and other scrub vegetation. Game is abundant and water sources numerous as several creeks and small rivers drain out of the western hills into the swampy lowlands further south. As little of this region has been mapped, there are few known landmarks.

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"Let me answer your question with a question, Warren," says Anwel. "Would not nature magic work just as well on plains, moors, or savannas, assuming they were not built upon, as it would under the eaves of a wood?" Anwel has only the vaguest idea whether that is true or not, but being shown up on the theory of nature magic seems less dangerous to him than revealing the precise nature of his own. He has not forgotten that Stellan, Andrei, Udo, and Gorax accepted his abilities only after witnessing or hearing about their use against Happs. Somehow Anwel doubts that sparing the others from having to pick bits of congealed food from their dishes when they return from this new expedition will be good enough.

"But I suspect we will have ample opportunity to find out," he says, trying to change the subject. "Wild game and fresh water should be abundant in these woods, and if necessary we should be able to stray for many days. It may take that long to find this shrine without guidance. Seeking guidance, by hook or by crook, from Tartuk or his people might take even longer.

"Tartuk means something akin to 'demon's knife' in Goblin." he says, his voice slow and hesitant, like he's not terribly confident. "I have heard of tribes of goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears in these lands, but not enough to know which are Tartuk's people. Furthermore," he admits, "my knowledge of that language is very imperfect. It was only by chance I knew that word. Does anybody know Goblin? Or possess the magic necessary to understand it?"

Stellan sees Anwel's efforts to direct Warren's attention away from his magic's exact nature and is just as eager to avoid that topic for himself. Stellan does answer Anwel's question fully though.

Stellan says, "I do not know the goblin tongue, Orc is as close as I get." Stellan continues slower, "I could prepare a divination that would allow me to understand any spoken or written words. It wouldn't last long and it does not give me the power to speak in another language."

"I agree being together is good, but I'm a bit concerned for the people here, Imon; we are facing a far more intelligent and organized opposition that I thought when I heard 'bandit'." Stellan shakes his head wearily, saying, "We aren't hunting bandits, not really, we are hunting a would be king. This is a war, and I'd remind you that as ridiculous as that seems, Brevoy, and its parts, and many other lands, were founded by nothing more than ambitious pirates, bandit chiefs, or warlords."

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

Andrei smiles at Anwel as if there was unspoken joke between them "Anwel, have you dealt with the fey before? I've heard they are notoriously difficult to talk to. I only say because it might be useful to do so. One of the stories I have collected mentions that the last colonist to this land from Taldor was wiped out by bugbears and kin after finding a ancient temple of Erastil. Now this was a long time ago so the bugbears are unlikely to remember where it is by fey live a lot longer and may be able to help us if wanted to."

Warren is obviously unhappy with the evasive answer.

"I guess you prefer to keep you abilities and magic secret."

Warren looks at Anwel and Andrei. "After letting Happs go, I must say I find myself reluctant to trust you. I do not know your reasons for keeping secrets, but I do not want unknown magic at my back; the magic I have seen recently is dangerous and dark. Most of the reasons I can come up with to keep secrets are most unsettling. The hungry bandit has been open and honest about who and what he is."

Pointing to Imon: "We have a true lawman from Brevoy. He too, has been open and upfront, despite the fact that his support for the law of Brevoy is unpopular."

Warren crosses his arms: "We came to serve the settlers and the land. I do not like secret agendas."

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

Andrei looks at Warren surprised "You don't trust us for doing what yourself have done by letting a bandit have another chance? While we did not come with these settlers it does not make us any less trust worthy than you. Ask Oleg and Svetlana anything you like of actions or if you prefer a man of the law ask Kesten or if it made any difference to you I Andrei Avotrus personally vouch for Anwel." Andrei says defensively

"Sorry to say this but I do find your accusations a little hypocritical, when we first arrived I asked for your and your companions stories and offered mine in return but no one took me up on the offer. Now you complain about us keeping personal matters personal. Anwel, and the rest of my companions have proven themselves to me and if you let them they well prove themselves to you and I hope the say can be said of you." Andrei continues full of emotion.

Andrei takes a deep breath and then looks ashamed, and continues more carmly "I'm sorry Warren that was uncivil of me, please accept my apologies. Give Anwel some time and respect and when he trust you he'll tell you what you want to know, but for now know that his heart is for the people and land same as all of us."

Stellan is alarmed at how quickly events are deteriorating, "Please, just let there be peace, Akiros has allies enough already, he does not our disunity as a further aid. Everyone has their own motives, even if they don't know it. Few in the world are wholly selfless. Travel with us, you will soon observe for yourself how much trust to give and you will recieve." Stellan continues, "Mine are simple, I wish to make a life for myself in this land, and aiding these fine people to do the same goes wtih that; I wouldn't call that totally selfless but I surely seek their safety."

Vinur wakes to his friends distress and comes flying over a bench, sliding to a stop besides Stellan. He barks at everyone, wagging his tail, in that canine way that indicates he wants to be friendly but he must protect his packmate.

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"Thank you," says Anwel, simply and quietly, his face still and somber and pale as a death mask. He does not know what else to add. Before Andrei and Stellan had spoken, he had been prepared to defend himself before Warren. A tirade now, though, would be unnecessary and ungrateful to his friends, even if he wouldn't have put it like they had.

The worst part of the whole situation was that Warren was more right about him than Andrei and Stellan were. He had been given secret orders. These people, even Warren, figured prominently in his own secret plans to countermand them, plans they could not know about yet for their own safety and piece of mind.

"Warren," he says, "it is good that you do not trust easily. You might live longer. All I ask is that you reserve your judgment until you have seen what I do with the arts I have been taught, what I refrain from doing around these people we all serve, and why. Get to know me, and let the labels come after." Slowly, Anwel raises his hands to his shoulders and puts up his hood to show he is done with the conversation. The heavy, black cloth nestles around his ears and scalp in a comforting embrace.

"If you will excuse me," he says, turning towards the cellar where he is accustomed to spending nights at the trading post, "I have work to do before our early start tomorrow."

Warren looks unconvinced.
"I will not risk my life to learn your capabilities 'on the fly' and how to best use them. If Anwel and Stellan want to keep their abilities secret, they can be done in the vanguard of the group. We have fought as a team and not a collection of individuals and barely survived. Our implicit trust in each other got us this far."

Warren adds, "Sad stories are a copper a dozen. I am an orphan, but that doesn't affect what I can do. My mother was a Brevoy noble and gave me up. Here is her picture. If you recognize her, I'd appreciate some information."

Warren produces a locket with a faded drawing of striking women with long brown hair. He speaks to Andrei:

"Now that I have shared my story, I don't feel any better, but I do feel less hypocritical now. And you offered your story, but your two companions were conspiciously silent and have been evasive, especially about magic. Forgive me if the dramatic exit makes me trust even less."

As he scratches the feathers of his eagles then hoods them while observing the canine pup Warren remarks, "If only people would be more like animals."

The remainder of the day passes uneventfully. The settlers and reformed bandits continue the work of establishing a more secured temporary settlement while the charter-bearers prepare for tomorrow's journey.

The evening hours are spent around the table and fire with many of the settlers sharing a 'tall tale' or two as well as getting to know Anwel,
Stellan and the others they haven't spent as much time around.

The night is much the same and passes with no alarms or other incidents and the party wakes to another spring morning. Crisp, cool, and clear with a little frost coating the water buckets. As the warblig of robins and first rays of sunlight in the east signal the new day, the smells of baking bread, brewing tea and kaffe, already fill the air. Svetlana and Andrea, knowing the group was planning an early start, are up early to make sure nobody sets out with an empty stomach.

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

Continuing from Warren’s post
Andrei smiles at Warren, pleased that Warren took his comments like he intended and not as harsely as they sounded when he played them back in his head. He was quite surprised at the strength of the urge to defend his companions. Andrei takes the locket and looks at it carefully before returning it.
Andrei should from his background recognise anyone in the Surtova ruling family and Sarrona Lebeda for any one else Knowledge Nobility or local (both the same roll): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17
"Thank you for sharing and I quite understand your concerns but given the situation we will in effect be adding you and Imon to our group for the purposes of this mission. We will have a day or so to get familiar with each others strengths and abilities before we even reach Kressle's camp site and then who knows how long until we find this relic and there are other things that will need to be organised as well. For now know that Anwel is able to incapacitate several enemies at once if they are close, set… things on fire, detect and identify magics cast on us and protect a few of us against physical blows and Stellan and I have a limited ability to heal. I am also capable with the sword but I fear could not stand before either Udoeak or Gorax long if they choose to show me up.”
Taking a seat ”However those things are less important.” he takes out a book and a pen. ”I already have much to add to the story from what I have heard from Oleg and Kressle but I feel there is much I am missing, but first let me tell you of our story in the stolen lands so that you might start to understand us.” Andrei spends sometime going over what happened to Anwel and Udoeak and the others, he is a skilful story teller but keeps mostly to the facts. With the exception of any personal information about anyone but Andrei anyone can read our old gameplay thread or the timeline summary (link in Andrei profile)
May I assume that someone fill us in on your adventures, minus anything particularly personal?

The next morning
Smiling as normal sits down to eat ”Svetlana and Andrea, you have out done yourselves again that smells great.” Turning to his companions, ”Stellan, you probably don’t need to scout if you don’t want to. Warren’s eagles will probably see any threats before they get too close, but you want to catch game for meals or just stretch your legs don’t let me stop you. Warren, my companions and I do not have enough horses for us all to be riding, if you have enough spare horses around it certainly would help speed things up if we could borrow them?”
to incapasate

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

The Evening of 6 Pharast, 4709

DM - Tareth:
Anwel leans back against the door as it settles into the threshold, letting himself relax in the darkness and solitude and silence. He keeps one hand on the latch so it does not close entirely. After a minute or two he opens it slightly, letting a sliver of light peek in from outside. He descends the stairs carefully, the hem of his robe sweeping around his feet, guiding himself by the half-light. By it he can see just about to the upended crate and three-legged stool he'd used as a study the last time he was here.

He sits down at the stool and feels inside the crate with his feet. Papers, old maps for which Anwel will someday need a bigger archive, rustle at his touch. He smiles. That is good. But the maps can wait. That was the biggest project he had set himself, and would take the longest. First, he could get a simpler matter out of the way. It takes him a little while to remember precisely what Kressle's orders from Akiros had said, and where the gaps were, but he is reasonably pleased with the result. He can always check them again at supper. It is Imon, is it not, who has them now?

The letter Anwel pens to Kressle is a little longer, but takes less time to write. It turns out a bit different than he had planned, since Thad would be around and would probably read her mail whether because he considered it his duty as her guard or because she needed someone to dictate it, and since Warren was accelerating his plans more than he would like. But that is alright. Assuming Thad will be dictating lets Anwel add another wrinkle of security against being scryed on while writing it. On the outside he writes, in Taldane,


Commander Kressle and Thad Tanner

Please do not open until 12 Pharast, or until signs of the charter-bearers' return appear on the horizon, whichever comes first.

Inside he writes, in the most archaic form of Elven he knows, and with disgraceful penmanship,


Dear Mister Tanner and Commander Kressle,

First, Commander, please excuse my introducing myself to you in a letter. Ursula and Stellan were concerned that having too many people near your sickbed at once would impair your healing. After hearing your story I developed my own concerns. Namely, you might not take kindly to a pale elf in a black robe after what you have endured!

Now, to both of you, there is something I would like to reveal. If you have followed my instructions the other charter-bearers will have learned this information at about the same time as you, and when we return we should all be on the same page with regards to who I am and what I represent here. Please do not think too harshly of me when you read it.

I am a slave. I received my most recent and extensive magical training from my mistress, a Shadowcountess of the Umbral Court of Nidal. She sent me here. Far to the south, in western Galt, there exists a cabal of shadow mages studying a place where the Plane of Shadows can emerge into this realm. My mistress wants me to grow in power and prestige as a charter-bearer here, and more, so that eventually I may come to control them in her name. I do not know if they are connected to Akiros' group*.

I do not wish for this to come to pass. Despite what you may think of the power I wield—I hope to demonstrate its worth to your friends on this trek, Mister Tanner, as I have to mine—I really do wish the best for this land and the people here. I do not want them, or the people I am supposed to be co-opting, to fall under the influence of slavemasters and worse. And I want my freedom.

What this means is that I must appear to do my mistress' will as long as I can until I can count on being strong enough to deny her should she come to claim me. I would be honored if you both would be a part of the latter.

I hope to see you both again soon,
Kemmodhon Anwel Lossio

P.S. I realize that my position may bias me in the matter of your sentencing, Commander. As such, unless she needs an advocate, Mister Tanner, I think I ought to recuse myself from any further input you request from the other charter-bearers regarding that matter. You know my position anyway.

*In "canon" Golarion (read "Plague of Shadows"), Arcil, their lich leader, is supposed to be destroyed some time in 4711, the year in which Kudos was setting his game. I planned around that. But do what you like. I trust you.

Refreshed from his time alone in the dark, and relieved from the decision he had reached, Anwel is much more relaxed and mirthful at supper than he had been at lunch. The twilight hour helped too. Remembering Andrei's question from before Warren had started in on him, Anwel told them a story from his river journey south. He had gone walking in the woods and it had become time to make camp. He came to a clearing, but when he tried to build a fire from deadfalls and lay out his bedroll, the trees had fled as if in terror, leaving the place exposed to the wind. This happened again and again, til the at last one had stayed behind. It had offered Anwel a concoction—Anwel never did find out what was in it—and they had drunk and danced the night away. Anwel never found what he was looking for, though.

He also manages to get some more work done. He checks his copy of Kressle's orders against the one Imon has, and makes a few corrections. He suggests that the lawman hand the original copy over to the Deepsilver brothers so they can work on cleaning the blood off to expose the rest of the message, now that they have a fascimile. And he collects, copies, and hands back any pieces of map Imon and Thad are willing to give him. He does not ask Warren.

DM - Tareth :
Back in his cellar, Anwel spends as much time as he feels he can spare collecting and piecing together all the maps they had managed to collect into one master map, then copying that to have a copy to take into the field and add to. He is forced to finish by candlelight, though that does let him close the door against the cold. It does seem that these other charter bearers at least had some decent surveying equipment. Before they leave he must ask Oleg.

Yeah, I know we have the map already, but I wanted to acknowledge the work getting done.

Anwel is a little disappointed that he did not get to study the spellbook he and his friends had found in more detail, but he thought he understood most of its secrets by now. And he could not have transcribed those secrets into his own tome even if he did have the time. His inks and quills were not up to the job.

The morning of 7 Pharast, 4709
Anwel, as is his custom, rises before the sun. He had spread his bedroll on a couple wooden planks laid side by side and had rested comfortably enough. His books were laid open on his makeshift desk, and his shadow and soul were brimming with magic by the time the sun peeped under the door. He feels ready for anything.

Spells Prepared
1st - Color Spray, Mage Armor, Shadow Weapon, Shield, Vanish (shadow)
0th - Mage Hand, Mending, Prestidigitation

"No, no," he says at breakfast, sipping his thin tea and savoring the burning on his lips and tongue, "I heard what Warren said yesterday. Me and Stellan in front. I will be glad to give him an action by which he can judge." He puts down his mug, a cocky smile on his face. "What is this, Andrea? Peppermint? It's nice."

After breakfast, Anwel seeks out Thad and gives him the letter he had written. Anwel speaks to him in elven, a serious look in his eyes.

DM - Tareth and anyone who speaks Elven:
"Please," he says, "I conjure you by the Stag to open this letter, and to read it for yourself and for Kressle, but only after five days have passed or unless we are spotted coming back before then. There are things in it you ought to know, that your friends will know too by that point, but I do not want to interfere with her convalescence. Promise me?"

I don't know whether it's entirely fair to Thad to ask him to make a decision when he's not around. All I can do is trust Tareth to make the right call.

Anwel then goes to see Oleg. "Before we go," he says, a little hesitantly, "I was wondering if the surveying equipment I had ordered came in? See Kudos' thread. I am afraid I have exactly as much to pay you with as when we left, what with Brevoy paying us such a grotesquely large salary," Anwel smiles at what is becoming a well-worn joke, "but if they are here, perhaps we could have them on credit? The western Narlmarches are all but unmapped even by the standards of the Stolen Lands, and I would hate to lose the opportunity."

Stellan is glad for the matter to drop for the moment. He goes about the small settlement, looking to help where he can. He checks on his horse Hjarta, and plays with Vinur for a while. Finally he retires early for the evening.

Getting up the next pre-morning, he communes with Vinur and prepares his spells.

I'll stay with the defaults spells for now.

Stellan buys provisions for his horse, say 100 lbs. 10 lbs per day. He pays the five silvers for that and replaces used trailfood. I thinks about 3 days was used. So I'll deduct two gold, tell me if you want it different.

Stellan finishes any other preparation, then checks on Kressle. How is she doing, is she awake? Can he ask her to clarify the missing info in the orders or is she still to weak for questions?

Heal 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26 Check up.

At Warren's statement and Anwel reply, Stellan nods. "If it helps build trust, I'm more than willing to scout with Anwel, with a suspcious Warren at our back. If we forage along the way we will move slower, but that could be good as it will give Anwel more time to make his maps, hopfully cramp free." Turning to Anwel, Stellan says, "I noticed you spent the rest of the day and much of the night scribing in the cold. How is your hand? I might be able to abate some of the pain, if you like."

Waves at Gorax, "Hi, you've been quiet lately, don't worry we'll soon be away from here and all the temptations of demon ale."

Hope Gorax fixes his computer problems soon, we are losing players far too fast for such an excellant campaign. Sorry to see that you've lost all but one of your original players, Tarenth; you deserve better luck, but don't worry, I plan on hanging around for some time.

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

Imon looked over his gear before setting out. His bow was in fine condition, as were his arrows and knife. When he moved on to his armor, he almost lost it when he checked the pockets. He frantically searched through them, until he found it in the same pocket as the note that Thad had given him, the one they'd pulled off the body of the robed man. Imon had no idea what the note said, it was written in some strange language he didn't know. He found no reason to hold on to it, so he asked Anwel who these Deepsilver brothers were, and offered it to them as suggested. Afterword he returned to the letter that he'd been so terrified of losing. Shockingly, it said the same as it had the last time he'd read it, in fact, Imon could recite the letter by heart, but he still read it often enough.

The next morning, he sat with the others and listened to them, irritation growing within him over Warren's bullheadedness. He wondered what had caused the man to trust Imon so much as to make him a charter member, and yet doubt the loyalty of these others. At the same time, Imon understood that it came down to battle. Imon had happened upon them in the middle of a battle, and had offered his bow to their cause as soon as he'd discovered that they had common cause. That must have made the difference, because Imon had offered less information about himself than Anwel had, even now.

He felt the need to join in the conversation, but realized he had no idea where they were headed. "I hate to be the one asking this, and I apologize for not paying more attention at the time, but where is it we are headed today? It seems this matter with Kressle has stolen my focus."

Yeah, that was me admitting that I haven't been paying attention. I'v been kind of feeling like the third wheel for a little bit, and not watching what's been going on unless Imon's name came up. Thanks Anwel, for bringing up the note and giving me cause to look up that note and find reason to get involved again. Also, I'm coming up with my own Dark and Troubled Past, because I realized that 'cowboy cop' doesn't really cut it anymore, now that I have a character that is willing to kill prisoners, and believes that bandits can only be redeemed in death. . .

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

You're welcome, though I think some of what you're feeling may be my fault to begin with. I talk way too much, especially for the character I'm playing, though if I could offer a defense for that behavior it would be that the game should be kept lively and that everyone's gotta do their part. Good luck on your journey of self-discovery!

"Worry not," says Anwel. "Bits and pieces of a plan have been mentioned, but I do not think our itinerary has been laid out in full before now. It is good that you mentioned it." Anwel pauses for a moment, then decides not to bother pulling out the map he had drawn yesterday. It was too small to be a visual aid for everyone, and the terms in which they would be speaking were broad enough that it woudn't be necessary. "Our ultimate objects are an abandoned shrine to Erastil and a relic that may or may not be connected with it. Both are located somewhere to the west of the camp Kressle commanded and which you and your comrades routed." His voice implies no judgment, as might be expected from the position he'd taken the day before, but merely a cool acknowledgement of the event.

"I think that is the logical place to look for a sign," he says. "What that sign might be, I do not know. Tartuk might have sent some of his people - goblinoids of some type - to rendezvous with Kressle at the site, and they might still be there. We might find tracks to follow. Or we might have to strike out blindly." Anwel smiles oddly, with one half of his mouth. "We learned of you by spotting some kind of magic or chemical signal high in the sky. Maybe fortune will favor us again."

I'm also talkative, even if not as much as Anwel. ;) I've worried in the past of over-talking and overwhelming some players, but in this sort of sandbox game there is a need to find a reason to talk and/or act for one self. Stellan is a simple sort of soul at heart but has enough complex quirks to keep him wanting to say or do something all the time, and while Stellan motives are simple his odd past is full of people that have very complex designs indeed. Just add one or two other motives, either opposed to others you have or deeply reinforcing and you will have lots of reasons to get involved.

Stellan laughs at Imon's joke, "Yes, everything gets stolen in this lands, even one's thoughts." A mock shiver passes, "Now I've scared myself, that may be too true."

If you choose to think about it, you haven't seen Stellan really shiver even once, during the evening or morning chill.

At Anwel explanation, Stellan nods, "That does remind me, was it your party that made that very noticable signal or someone else? If another did it, we are all too likely to find out who that signal was for and why, in the least desirable way. Oh well, we start by finding this temple or more trouble on the way, so far there's been no shortage of the latter."

Stellan keeps busy with preparation until the party assembles to leave, Stellan will be in the vanguard.

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

Imon couldn't help but smile at the others, though he wasn't entirely certain why. "I don't know that I've ever heard the name Tartuk. I assume that he is a goblin of some sort?"

When Kressle's camp was mentioned, he added, "I don't think I ever actually saw her camp, we ambushed them on the road. And no that I think about it, we might have given some kind of large signal. At the time, the blood was rushing in my ears in preparation for battle, so I guess I didn't notice, but we did use some sort of signal we pulled off a bandit patrol to signal Kressle and her band. That might be what you are talking about.

Andrei and Warren:

Andrei smiles at Warren, pleased that Warren took his comments like he intended and not as harsely as they sounded when he played them back in his head. He was quite surprised at the strength of the urge to defend his companions. Andrei takes the locket and looks at it carefully before returning it.

Andrei should from his background recognise anyone in the Surtova ruling family and Sarrona Lebeda for any one else Knowledge Nobility or local (both the same roll): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17

I'll have to let Warren answer the Knowledge Roll, as no names are listed in his background :).

When Anwel approaches and hands Thad the letter his expression turns from one of surprise to seriousness. Hearing Anwel's request he nods thoughtfully while looking at the envelope and it's written instructions. After a few moments, the paladin nods and says quietly, "I'll keep this safe and abide by your wishes." He offers a quick smile and adds, "Mysterious as they may be."

Offering a hand in friendship he says, "Good luck on you're journey and may Erastil watch over you and the others as you do his good works."

Stellan looks up from saddling Hjarta and says to Imon, "Anwel thinks so, he's guessing that Tartuk means something like 'Demon Blade' in Goblin, now that I think of it 'tukur' means dagger in Orc, a slightly related language."

I know Anwel said 'Demon Knife' but people don't always quote accurately do they? :)

Spotting Thad near Kressle, Stellan waves saying, "So you've decided to stay then, May the spirits of the land protect and guide you, and of course your god, the Father of Forests watch over you."

@DM_Tareth: I did check on Kressle and wanted to know if she could answer a few questions as listed in an earlier post. I did roll a 26 on the heal. Did I find out anything?

I would think Warren's mother would be recognized as a Surtova, but the faded drawing should not reveal much else. I wanted a tie in as soon as possible.

Warren watches the exchange between Anwel and Thad with interest. He calls Anwel on it, "Anything I say, I can say in the open. I do not trust those who keep secrets."

He looks at the assembled group. "The itinerary is set: we are headed to Kressle's old camp then west to look for the shrine and the artifact. If you would like to ride, that is fine--I do like to walk and feel the ground beneath my feet. We will be moving at a scouting pace, so there will be plenty of time to map the way."

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

After a moment's hesitation, Anwel clasps Thad's hand in his own. It is warm, like Svetlana's had been. He must seem cold to everyone he touches. "Thank you," he says, earnestly, but with a smile to match the other elf's, "for your promise and your blessing. May you feel his hand among you here as well." Anwel is pretty sure that that isn't a blessing used among Erastil's followers, but he does not know any authentic ones and cannot think of anything better. Stellan's is probably more appropriate.

"I do not suppose nature ever taught you patience," says Anwel bitingly at Warren's words. "You will learn what you wish to know, I will make sure of it, but only when you are ready. My biography is not like prey, to be stalked when you are hungry and eaten at once."

Stepping into the tent Stellan is can see that Kressle has improved significantly after a night's rest. Although still quite weak, she is much more alert and feeling less pain. Her wounds are healing, however, she will always have a vicious scar on her chest where the charm attacked her and Thad was forced the frantically carve a way to reach the deadly device before it could achieve its goal. Consulting with Ursula, both agree that Kressle will likely never have the same strength and stamina she did prior to the charm's attack.

Kressle offers a small smile to Stellan as he asks about her orders from Akiros. "They did get a bit...smudged." She says with a short laugh. Turning serious she says, "Honestly, there isn't much else to add. When Happs failed to stop the settlers and their escort, Akiros wasn't happy. He sent that bloody creepy elf who went by the name of Carver to provide assistance." She nearly snarls out the last bit before pausing for a minute and taking a few deep breathes to regain her composure.

"Anyway, a lot 'o good the robed freak did in the end." She concentrates for a few seconds, searching her memory for what else Akiros had mentioned in his note. Finally, she says, "The rest of it was a bit of a puzzle to me. There've always been rumors of an old shrine to Deadeye up in the west hills. But I've never seen it. I remember being a kid and a couple of old timers talked about how a shrine was sacked and burnt to the ground years ago, but I got the sense Akiros was looking for something even older."

She shrugs her right shoulder slightly. "I figured we'd start looking near the old set of standing stones atop Arrowhead butte. There's some caves and other hideaway's up there that could'a been something more back in the day I suppose."

"As for Tartuk, I'd stay out 'o his way if you can. He's a nasty piece of bugbear flesh. Runs the western half of the Narlmarches along and up into the hills. He's always telling how his past kin led the final drive to push out the last round of settlers. A natural ally of Akiros' and certainly meaner. Wasn't really anyway I was going to team up with him other than to not have him think I was trying to carve into his territory."

"That's about all I know. I don't think Akiros really knows what he was sending us after, but he said we'd know it if we found it."

She pauses again for a second and turns her eyes away. Her hand brushes up against Stellan's arm for a second as she swallows nervously a couple of times. When she turns her gaze back to the Ulfen, she says quietly, "I thank you and the others for my life. I...I...did not think..." She turns away again, trying to proudly keep the tears welling up in her eyes from falling. It is easy to see the skin on her neck flush with embarrassment.

At that point Ursula steps in offering the woman a comforting arm and some tea. To Stellan she says quietly, "That's probably enough for now, she's weaker than she looks. I'll make sure she recovers and I don't think she'll be causing any more trouble."

Anwel wrote:
Anwel then goes to see Oleg. "Before we go," he says, a little hesitantly, "I was wondering if the surveying equipment I had ordered came in? I am afraid I have exactly as much to pay you with as when we left, what with Brevoy paying us such a grotesquely large salary," Anwel smiles at what is becoming a well-worn joke, "but if they are here, perhaps we could have them on credit? The western Narlmarches are all but unmapped even by the standards of the Stolen Lands, and I would hate to lose the opportunity."

Oleg slaps his hand to his thigh. "I'd nearly forgotten." He disappears into the house only to reappear a few minutes later with a cloth wrapped package. The outer wrapping a stained and even torn in a couple of places, but otherwise seems intact. He says with a nod toward Warren and Thad, "Thanks, to those folk a bit of our last shipment made it through. Apparently some critter of the Stag Lord had waylaid the wagon and killed most of the guards. They drove the beast off and salvaged what they could. Your package happened to survive all the trouble."

He hands the equipment over and waves off Anwel's concern over payment, "No need to worry, friend. Your credit is good with me after all you and the others have done these last few weeks."

With that he hurries back into the house after Svetlana calls his name in a loud slightly exasperated tone. "Ooops. Forgot I was supposed to be helping with cider kegs."

Stellan completes his examination of Kressle, sadly noting the massive damage to health suffered by his patient. He confers briefly with Ursula who concurs that while Kressle will get better she will not recover fully without a miracle or major magics.

Stellan sits by Kressle, though she is weak, he sees her wake from a pained slumber. After assisting her he asks if she is up for a few questions since the orders had been blurred. In a soft but unwavering voice she gives the information missing from the orders, while Ursula shoots Stellan dirty looks.

"Thank you Kressle, that will help, we will pick up for now the burden of redemption, for you just regain strength, we will all need it in the days ahead."

At Ursula's quiet words, Stellan says, "I agree, I just needed a little more infomation, and I'm sure she is willing to walk a better path now, if she can believe that kindness does exist in the world."

As Stellan strides out, he catches the conversation between Warren and Anwel. "Hi, Warren, give little get a little, the open road and sky will let much light in."

Stellan waves at all those going on the trip, "Gather up, on the subject of enlightenment, I've found out a little more." Stellan waits while they gather.

"Okay then, first the aid Akiros sent was an elf called Carver, that sounds like a appelation to me not a real name, and I'd me more disturbed by it, if we didn't know what we already know. An old shrine to Erastil, in the West Hills was sacked and burned years ago, can't imagine anything of value in an Erastil shrine, but what do I know? Anyway it seems an older place was what was being looked for. I guess that mean looking into the deep woods through overgrowth, but who wants easy? We can try looking in the area around Arrowhead Butte, there are standing stones and caves and suchlike, a good place for a lost temple or site."

After Stellan's voice starts to go hoarse, Gorax brings up some water, "(Cough) Thanks Gorax, It seems that we were too optimistic about ol'Tartuk, he's not a goblin but a mean Bugbear, and leads the ... tribe I guess, that he claims led the final attacks that drove the last major settlement attempt out. He runs the western Narlmarch and some adjoining hills."

Stellan pauses, wondering if he should add this but trying not to hide anything, he continues, "He's even meaner than Akiros, which is hard to believe possible. Last but not least, Akiros did not seem to know what he was looking for, just 'you'll know it when you see it' whatever that means. Could be worse but not much, I think we need to move as fast as we can; time is not our friend."

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

Turning to Warren "I don't mind you walking. However it is quite conceivable that we might be in a hurry at some point. Maybe we won't and your horse will not be ridden but if there are enough horses we should have one each." I believe we had 2 horses in our party are there enough other horses for one each?

Turning to Oleg "Thank you again for your hospitality Mr Leveton." then turning back to others, "Everyone ready? Good let's get moving, Warren do you want to get your eagles in the air. Sorry but do they have names? I should really have asked earlier."

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

Oleg disappears before Anwel can thank him for the package and the credit. He says "thank you" anyway to the open air, then blinks at the package for a moment before deciding to open it. It's made of oily wool and secured with butcher's twine. Anwel takes a few tries to undo the knot, but eventually the wrapping falls away and he is left with the equipment over whose absence he's been grousing since he and Udo had arrived at the trading post.

At the base of it all is a heavy book bound in black leather. Its spine is embossed with a griffin and the Taldane words Nores' Almanac, 4709 Edition, all filled in with a shining, metallic ink. Atop that, forming a kind of nest, is wound a coil of cord, knotted in regular intervals. Nestled in the cord is a slate that has been scored to create a grid, and pierced in one corner so that several pieces of colored chalk can dangle safely without being lost, and a small brass sextant, its surface dull but intact and ready for use.

I've added these to my inventory, along with the debt I owe Oleg. The sextant, cord, and map making kit are priced in the PRD at 500, 1, and 10 gp respectively, and I figure 50 gp is fair for the almanac.

"One moment," he says to Andrei, sounding a little giddy, "I have to put these away." Anwel lowers the new items gently to the ground and slings his pack off his back next to them. The almanac goes with his spellbooks and map in the waterproof bag. The sextant is delicate enough to get rolled up in the bedroll. The slate is clearly meant to be used on the go, so he will hold on to that and copy what he records onto the paper map in the evening; the cord can be secured to his sash easily enough.

"There," he says, satisfied, putting his pack back on. "Now we'll be able to really map our progress by the sun, moon, and stars instead of guessing at it, and Imon and Kesten won't have to haul us all back to Restov for neglecting our mandate." The others have heard this line often enough to know Anwel's kidding, but he winks at Imon just to be sure he knows too.

His face becomes noticeably more thoughtful as the thought of really being able to map the region is displaced by the impact of Stellan's words. "Any information about Akiros' minions is helpful," he says, quietly. Eighty years ago he would have been shocked at the thought of an elf cultist of a Thassilonian goddess, but he knew better now. And if there was one, there might be more; if there were more, it would be easier to pose as one. "I agree, Stellan, that sounds like an assumed name," says Anwel, thinking out loud. "It is certainly not an Elvish one, though there is the slight possibility that it could be translated from our tongue. Trying to impersonate him directly might be an unnecessary risk, depending on how many people know his fate, but if all their names are of that kind it should not be hard to invent one."

Now that I have it trained, let's see what Knowledge (religion) reveals to Anwel about Lissala. I'm particularly interested in any information about how her followers are supposed to behave: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20

Anwel turns to Imon and Warren. "Do either of you think you could carve a convincing replica of one of those amulets out of wood?" he says. "If what Stellan says is true, Tartuk's people will be exceedingly dangerous to approach, especially as ourselves. And yet we will probably have to pass among them, or at least through their territory, to get near Arrowhead Butte or the shrine itself. It might be safer to do so in the guise of bandits and blackrobe, at least for a time. And such a disguise would be harder to penetrate if we could at least seem to have one of their tools at our disposal." Anwel takes a deep breath, then plows on. "There are ways of making such a deception more convincing, but I must have something material on which to work."

Let's find out a little more about Arrowhead Butte. From which direction/by which path is it best to approach it? How will we know when we near it? Is it in Tartuk's people's territory? Knowledge (geography): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23

"I'm sure there are objections to be raised against this plan," says Anwel, a queer look on his face somewhere between an ironic smile and a derisive snort, "no doubt including Warren's newfound suspicion that I am trying to create an amulet for myself even though I know barely any necromancy and already told Andrea and Alexis that I am an illusionist." He says this in the same sarcastic tone he used to joke about Imon hauling them back to Restov, though with a darker edge. It might really be true. "But there are days of travel before us yet, and we might gain some new information between here and the camp. We do not have to decide on a plan now. But we should begin thinking about what we want to do."

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

Imon shook his head, "I've never been much of a craftsman, and I didn't get a good look at it before it was destroyed."

Interestingly, Imon didn't seem to have any objections to any part of the plan so far.

"Well, Anwel, you can continue your deceptions with Tartuk. You can wear their insignia and tools. As for your motives, you have made it clear they are to be kept secret."

Speaking to Andrei and Imon, Warren shows them how to hold the gloves up to signal the eagles to land without ripping flesh from the handler. "If something happens to me, you need to know how to handle them." He gestures to the bigger of the two eagles, "This is Tuney, he has learned to whistle his own tunes since an eaglet." Pointing to the smaller eagle, "Montey here I bought from a domesticator of birds. He is learning to enjoy being constantly free to fly through these wild lands."

Anwel wrote:
Now that I have it trained, let's see what Knowledge (religion) reveals to Anwel about Lissala. I'm particularly interested in any information about how her followers are supposed to behave: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20

Unfortunately, there isn't much new information available here. Both Thad and Tityanna had a bit of knowledge around Lissala.

Lissala was a goddess of Runes and Fate who demanded strict obedience and duty from her followers. During her rein she was often portrayed as a being with a serpentine body and woman's torso.

The Cult of the Black Hats was one of the most powerful and reclusive groups of the goddesses followers. But little about their ways and internal workings were evet recorded. The cult was so named because of the black felt hats and ceramic black masks worn by its members. It certainly dates back to the days of ancient Thasillon and the worship of Lissala. The spell, commonly called the Hand of Unwavering Faith, was often used to enforce strict discipline among lower caste members of the cult.

From what you are able to recall, the spell when cast on a victim, made it lethal for that person to betray in any way an oath they have taken. In the cult the oath was most often handed down by the leaders and typically designed to be very open-ended. Thus giving the leadership complete control over their subjects.

It was believed that Lissala was banished from existence during the fall of Thassilon. However, there have always been myths and rumors that she and her followers still exist somewhere within the multiverse. Although, many of the same stories follow the other denizens of that long dead pantheon.

Anwel wrote:
Let's find out a little more about Arrowhead Butte. From which direction/by which path is it best to approach it? How will we know when we near it? Is it in Tartuk's people's territory? Knowledge (geography): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23

Cal, one of the other reformed bandits, is able to give a basic description of Arrowhead Butte. "It's easy to spot 'cause o' it's jagged summit. Jus' head west from Kressle's camp. Usually there's plenty o' game trails an' what not to follow. Couple o' days on horse to get up there."

He nods at the mention of Tartuk, "Yup, the bloody minded son o' three legged ape runs the whole western Narlmarches this far north. Arrowhead is certainly part 'o his territory. If'n it weren't for Kressle he probably would'a moved a bunch o' his filthy goblins into these parts a while back. If I was you, I'd keep a sharp eye out for raiders. Once word is out that Kressle's out, the territory will be up for grabs unless the big man himself steps in."

Andrei: There are plenty of horses for everyone, although they are not combat trained.

Stellan and Ursula slip out of Kressle's tent leaving just you and the bandit woman alone. As you settle in to begin you prayers, the dim interior is lit once again by the bright morning sunlight as someone else slips inside.

Tityanna, stands staring at you and the bandit woman, a soft silvery aura surrounds her slim form. There is something...more...about her presence. Power fills the air and the stifling air is suddenly filled with the scents of wildflowers and ancient pine forests. Her voice has a slight distance and ethereal resonance to it that you've never heard before. Her hand points toward Kressle who is sleeping soundly and peacefully despite being awake only a few moments ago.

"Champion, that one is not to be your concern. Leave her to the care of this servant. I have need of you elsewhere."

Tityanna turns to look at you, her eyes glowing brightly with silver energy. Looking into them is like looking into the depths of time, seeing the world through the oldest trees of the world.

She speaks again. "You're work in this realm is only begun. Journey to the west with your companions. Seek the sacred grove and renew it's withered spirits. Find the Seed of Life and keep it safe from those who would return a great evil into this world."

With the last words still lingering in the air, the power disappears. The oracle's eyes blink rapidly as if she was waking from a deep slumber. "Oh!" She says, noticing where she is. "Thad. I...I thought...." Her voice has the same slightly strained quality that it's carried ever since the loss of her hearing. Taking a deep breath she regains some of her usual composure, "I thought I should check on Kressle. Perhaps I could offer help in healing the woman."

While the party prepares to leave, you all notice a soft silvery light emanating from the tent where Kressle is resting. After a few heartbeats, the light grows brighter and the scent of an ancient forest and wildflowers fills the air. You feel an electricity in the air that causes a tingling to run along your skin, but also fills you with a sense of peace and wonder at the vastness of the world. Then just a suddenly the feeling is gone, along with the light.

Everyone is under the affect of a Bless until the next sunrise.

Elf Paladin 2

He wants to tell her. She was so magnificent, he wants to tell her everything about how Erastil spoke through her and charged him with seeking the relic. If he could have just opened his mouth and done so he probably would have... but by the time he considers writing it down and how he will explain it to her, he figures that Ol' Deadeye probably knows better than he does. If Tityanna doesn't remember what happened then there's probably a reason for it. He nods to the oracle, smiles, and offers a simple "Thank you." He leaves Anwel's still sealed letter at the foot of Kressle's cot.

After exiting the convalescent tent he only makes a quick stop at the larder to draw provisions for the journey before saddling up his horse and joining the others. He seems slightly bemused.

"It seems that Tityanna is best suited to watch Kressle, I'll be riding with you lot to the grove."

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"I am trying to keep you alive," says Anwel to Warren in a tone cold as the Crown of the World he had never seen. "Which is neither a fact you seem to appreciate nor a courtesy you seem to want to return. But as we have established, I am happy to take an arrow or twenty for you in the van. Abuse that however you like." Anwel sneers, appreciating the irony that the only person who seemed to relish the prospect of his impending pain more than his mistress and himself was Warren. And at least she cared whether he lived or died.

As though the thought of her were a kind of signal - though why this one should be so and none of the other times he had worried about her should is beyond Anwel - a light begins to shine from the inside of Kressle's tent, showing her, the bed, Thad, and a woman Anwel does not know in silhouette. It is unobtrusive but somehow insistent on being recognized. Anwel, however, does not recognize it. It is different from anything Anwel has seen in decades. The closest he can think of is the penitent ecstasy his mistress' hired Sister of Bones had managed to conjure within him. She had let him dissolve his failures in a blood-red miasma. This light felt more like a stern demand to confess and make restitution. Whatever it was, it was not all-knowing; such a feat was impossible. Again, seemingly in response, the light faded, and Thad stepped out of the tent, declaring his intention to accompany them.

"Well, that is good to hear," says Anwel, thinking quickly and trying to keep his face and voice mildly optimistic. His letter had been addressed to both Thad and Kressle. If Thad was coming along, he would not keep it - he and Anwel could talk on the road, so Thad would leave it for Kressle. Well, that was not absolutely terrible. Unless Anwel missed his guess, no one who remained, including her, could read the ancient tongue. What would Kressle do with an illegible scrap? If Anwel was lucky, she would keep it and hope to get it translated when they got back. More likely, it would end up thrown in the rubbish heap or burned. Either was acceptable, really, so long as it was sufficiently destroyed. He would have to check when they got back.

Yeah, I totally believe it's not going to get mislaid and turn up in the hands of someone I'll really regret. Because there's no such thing as conservation of detail :)

Once he is reasonably sure that there is no point worrying about the letter, Anwel's tone gets much more businesslike. "Still, if you've been at Kressle's sickbed all morning, there are things you should hear. I have been talking with Cal, who has graciously decided his year and day is better spent briefing me on our enemies than raising walls or digging ditches." A moment passes where Anwel lets a brief smile escape towards the now faraway back of the former bandit, then it's back to business. To everyone who has known Anwel a while, his sarcastically making fun of someone he likes is hardly noteworthy. "Arrowhead Butte, where Kressle was planning to search for the shrine, apparently lies deep within bugbear territory. It should be easy enough to reach from the camp you raided," he says to Thad, "since apparently most of the game trails leading west from there take one to its jagged summit eventually." To illustrate, he marks a jagged summit standing amid a forest on the unscored back of his slate, an "X" on the eastern march of the forest to represent the camp, and an "O" near the rightmost edge of the slate itself to represent the trading post. "But I no longer think we can count on reaching the old camp unmolested.

"Tartuk, the bugbear leader, is aggressive and expansionist. If the site has remained unoccupied, Cal thinks he could have claimed and occupied it. If it has not, well, that means another captain, blackrobe, and retinue to deal with at the very least, because they will have beaten the bugbears to it. We should be extremely lucky to reach it and pass through unopposed." Anwel remembers the silver glow from the tent, and the feeling that had come with it. Maybe their getting lucky is not so farfetched after all. "And if we do manage to reach the place," he continues, a little more thoughtfully, "we still have to get through bugbear country, and will need to either go undetected or with a show of force great enough to warn them off. Risking regular and determined attack by them in their own territory seems pointlessly dangerous. A party this large cannot hope to approach our destination by stealth alone. I have made the case for the others that we could masquerade as bandits and a Black Hat handler while in Tartuk's demense, if certain conditions are met."

Thad presents a complication in Anwel's planning. On the one hand, if he agreed to it his abilities would be invaluable in bringing the ruse off. On the other, he was even less likely, in Anwel's hastily formed estimation, to agree to it than Warren. "Said conditions include the procurement of facsimiles of a Black Hat mask and a Hand of Unwavering Faith. Again, the others know this, but the fake Hand can be ensorcelled so as to seem real while bearing no taint; though I was not sure we could test it before you said you were coming along. Nor could we count on the materials. None of us know what the things look like," he says, indicating Stellan, Andrei, Gorax, and Udo, "and neither Imon nor Warren were ready to carve convincing fakes."

Sorry for the endless recap, but realistically Thad shouldn't know any of this and it might be more convenient to read it all in one place than to have to trawl back through the thread (and incidentally, more of my endless exposition). Plus, I had the results of knowledge checks to relate. And now, just to be ironic...

"Sorry to push all this information, not to mention my opinions as to our course of action, on you at once," he says, turning to examine the horses that had been prepared for them at Andrei's request. He seems drawn to one in particular, a blue roan mare with a black mane, tail, and fetlocks. He pats her on the nose and speaks a few words in Sylvan. She looks at him with big, black eyes as he gets ready to mount up. "But the sooner we leave, the better."

Warren waits for Anwel to finish. "We go now. You can continue talking on the road. Just follow the eagles."

Glad to see Thad coming along, Warren smiles: "Glad you can see the shrine. I can't wait till we get the relic for you."

Warren looks around for their healing item.
I don't know who has our healing item, but we definitely will bring it.

Stellan sees a glow come from the area Thad and Kressle are in. He is dumbstuck when a wave of contentment flows over the hold. Stellan listens to Thad, as he tries to recover from his astonishment. Then Anwel interupts his thought with another long-winded explaination. Wryly shaking his head Stellan just follows Warren comment with, "Best we be on our way then, it seems as the gods are as impatient to find this Temple as the mere mortals are." Stellan scoops up Vinur puting him in one of the saddlebags, then mounts Hjarta ready to lead out the group once everyone is mounted.

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

"So what happened in there? I saw light coming from the tent, and now feel strangely optomistic about our odds." Imon was clearly not accustomed to anything that could be called divine intervention. It did seem as though he was ready to get moving though, as he was preparing the horse that he was to ride.

Elf Paladin 2

Thad takes in Anwel's briefing as they prepare to leave.

He considers the information and the tentative plan. He knows where they can find a mask- they had never buried the blackrobe they'd ambushed in the forest... and it would be easy enough to cobble together a passable imitation of the Hand. The real issue would be getting this lot to pass as bandits. He knew he could cover his shield and play the role, if it came to that, but the others? Everything about the group from their bearing to their equipment screamed of a well equipped group of adventurers. He tells it as he sees it.

"I don't think we could pass as bandits, not to anyone who'd spent any amount of time in these parts. And having someone wear one of those robes and masks might do more harm than good. There's allies in these woods as well as enemies. When we were coming up this way a band of grigs visited our camp in the night- have you heard the stories? Forest spirits, all of this tall," Thad spreads his hands a foot or two apart, "they warned us about a couple of things and played a little trick on the bandits we captured. They're the ones to thank for Cal's exotic look. Anyhow, if we're seeking out a shrine where the Old Powers are still strong then it might behoove us to look for allies along the way instead of scaring 'em off."

Imon wrote:
"So what happened in there? I saw light coming from the tent, and now feel strangely optomistic about our odds.

The paladin seems reluctant to discuss the details of whatever happened in the tent and is clearly eager to depart. "I received a message. The relic we are seeking rests in an ancient sacred grove, and it is known as the Seed of Life. It is... very important that we reach it first."

Knowledge (Religion): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24 - Have I heard of the Seed of Life before?

Thad, Knowledge(Religion) DC20:
The Seed or rather Seeds of Life are legends out of the deepest past when Erastil first helped man emerge from darkness. The tales told among the old men say that Old Deadeye helped lift the people of Golarion out of darkness, starvation, and despair by giving them three seeds. Each seed when planted would grow into a tall tree bearing a bounty of sweet fruits and nuts. From these trees the people would not only gain nutrition, but also enlightenment. One tree offered the knowledge of love, one the knowledge of health, and the last the knowledge of courage and justice.

Alas, the gaining of this knowledge did not come without a price. With love Erastil's faithful also learned the ability to hate, with health, destruction, and and with courage fear, slavery, and injustice. Gods such as Norgorber and Rovagug manipulated and used the people to discovered and then corrupt or destroy the trees.

Yet some believe that a few remained faithful to Erastil's vision and rescued some of the pure fruit from the original trees. These new Seeds of Life were carried away to places of safety. There they remain hidden and ready to be replanted and once again provide food and enlightenment to the faithful.

Male Human Bard 3 (Arcane Duellist); HP: 4/30 AC: 15/11/14; Saves: F +3, R +4, W +1; Init: +1; Per: +4

Andrei opens his mouth and the questioning look on his face makes it clear he has more questions for Thad but then thinks better of it. "Sorry Warren, but that sounds like the hurry along I was suggestion horses for. Everyone mount up we better get moving as quickly." He pauses and thinks and says slightly quieter and with a grin on his face. "Well not exactly the hurry along I foresaw but a compelling one anyway" Andrei mounts as gracefully as possible and urges the horse towards gate.

I knew there was a skill I forgot, oh well this will give me a good excuse to take ride next time we level up.

Stellan sees Andrei as eager to get started as himself, opens the gate up, and rides out to the lead with Anwel, Andrei just behind until time opens the distance. He has nothing more to say until the mid-day break.

male Human Bard (Detective) 2

An incredulous look crept across Imon's face as he listened to Thad's explanation. "A message? What do you mean?" He suddenly seemed to understand what was going on, and then added, "Do you mean to tell me that the gods have weighed in on our side in this?"

Setting an easy but fairly swift pace, the group makes good time south along the now familiar stretch of road between Oleg's and the Thorn River Ford. The sun is shining and it is a pleasant spring day in the Greenbelt. Numerous small birds flit between the bushes while the occasional deer is glimpsed grazing near the protective cover of the forest. Early wildflowers are already providing a splash of color on the plain. The pink and yellow blooms swaying softly in the spring breeze.

Travel is easy and there are no incidents as the sun passes its midpoint in the sky.

I assume you are moving fairly quickly through this early stretch since you've all traveled this road before? If you are taking any precautions, stop to hunt, or other action, just post what you're doing.

Male Elf Shadowcaster 4

"Only one god, I should think," says Anwel, "if that is indeed what we are dealing with." He keeps one light hand on the reins, letting the roan pick her own way over the path for the most part. His slate is wedged in between the saddle and the horse's back, and every so often Anwel makes a mark on it with his free hand. He will take a sighting of the sun, and of whatever landmarks they've passed that are still visible, during their rest breaks to determine their location. These sightings, plus another of the moon against the backdrop of stars in the evening, he can then copy from the slate to a piece of parchment in the evening, so that the slate can be used the following day. Anwel also, in his examinations, keeps an eye out for potential threats to their safety: signs of humanoid movement in the trees, discarded items that might have come from bandit or bugbear. They are still some ways yet from the river and the ford, but it could not hurt to look.

Perception: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
Are there beings that would gain something from posing as a god, particularly as Erastil, in this instance? Who are they? What might they hope to gain? Knowledge (religion): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24

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