Toramin looks at the tengu and proffers his hand. "Toramin Trealamhgabha."
Pazeek's time in the ranks of the lowlanders that now own his services has been, in a word, dull. Understandably, they're not terribly keen on letting him roam at will, sticking his beak into every little thing they've got going; they might be paying him--and quite nicely by his standards--but that's not on the same peak as trusting him. His fraying patience hasn't been helped any at all by the anxiety over the fate of his flock's abducted members either, but his superiors insist that he wait on the arrival on one of the Aestherics' more skilled teams of agents. And so he waits, as bidden.
The only breaks in his monotonous daily routine are training, dodging attempts of varying subtlety to gain information on the flocks and their history, and mucking about with a staggering assortment of very dangerous and toxic compounds, some of which he deigns to sell at only slightly more than cost to his new allies. Really, he's on the verge of striking out on his own, and the Aestherics be damned, when word finally reaches him that this team is due. His liason guides him to the meeting scant moments before everyone arrives, and Pazeek watches their entry with glittering black eyes from the shadow cast by his jingasa.
He listens to the introductions with a slight tilt to his head, fixing the names in his mind, before responding, beginning with the distinctly egg-shaped elf-blooded spellchirper. "None of that there 'Mister' stuff, name's Pazeek," the robed avian offers as he rises from his seat to briefly wrap the extended hand in cage of talons. Releasing the hand after a brief twitch, Pazeek then does the same for the limb offered him by the dwarf, still speaking. "And doubtful that I know anything more than you lot. Been treated like a feathered mushroom since I joined, kept in the dark and fed plenty of s&!@. Not that I begrudge that last bit," the tengu adds with a rasping chuckle that ends with a firm snap of his beak. "Since I'm a recent addition to the ranks, it's expected they don't want to give away too much too soon." A talon pointed over his shoulder in the direction of council's members identifies the 'they' to which Pazeek is referring.
Stepping back, Pazeek tips his face-concealing headwear off to rest against the back of his neck, a drawstring under his scarred beak keeping it in place. Under the odd hat is a brightly colored band of fabric wrapped around his head, which the tengu takes a moment to adjust before answering the question posed by the fancy-looking member of the group. "Why I'm here is a bit of a story, but the short of it is this. My flock got splashed by that mess in Grastle Hollow, and I'm the only one free to do something about it. Starting asking questions, and got netted by that lot," And again, a talon over the tengu's shoulder is aimed at the council. "Who offered me a fair bit of aid solving my problem, and good pay besides, if I'd be a swordbird for them." Taking his seat with a relaxed slouch, Pazeek then points to the group before him. "Just had to wait on some specialists to arrive before getting on with business."
"Good to meet ya", Bjorkus rumbles as he shakes the tengu's claw next. "Bjorkus. I'm the backup to Toramin's hammer when things get hairy."
The bull pauses to consider the newcomer and then glances at Heff.
"This next job's got to be real dangerous if they're sending Geoffrey and Pazeek here along for the ride - unless Pazeek's the spy we've been hurtin' for. What could be worse than Yenrick?"
"Bjorkus is no one's back up. His sword is the most deadly we have."
knowledge (nature) DC 10: 1d20 + 9 + 1d6 ⇒ (1) + 9 + (4) = 14
That can't get much worse
”Rilka Featherfeet,” Rilka says with a curtsey since she is wearing a striped woolen dress. ”I hope in the future we can have a longer tale about the events in Grastle Hollow and how that impacted your flock.“
She offers her hand and studies his face. ”I haven’t worked with a tengu before, so if there’s anything I need to know, don’t hesitate to tell me.”
"Though it isn't the sword that is as deadly as the actions his bravery allows him to take with it," Dalton added to Toramin's lauding of Bjorkus. Even if they are a bit hasty sometimes.
Pardon my long-ass exposition post here, but this seems the best time to lay it out.
When the bull-headed mountain of meat approaches to introduce himself, Pazeek's gaze slide up, and then up some more... and then up further still, until he at last makes eye contact, pupils contracting to reveal rings of warm golden color. "Damn, but you're a big one," Pazeek mutters half to himself. After listening to the accolades heaped upon the large figure and exchanging grips--and checking to see that his talons came back intact--the tengu nods his head politely to the small female. "A pleasure to meet the both of you as well," he replies before addressing their respective comments regarding him. "And no, I'm no spy. I can sneak well enough, mind, but my skills are most suited to killing people and breaking things."
Switching his attention to Rilka, he continues. "If you had worked with us before, I'd be rightly surprised to hear it. The fact is, we don't much care for lowlanders or their affairs, and prefer to stick to our own for the most part. Grastle Hollow is about the only place where there's any sort of interaction between the flocks and the lowlanders, and that's limited to business." Reaching down, he picks up a sheathed weapon and stands up to draw it so the others can get a good look at it, revealing a rapier of adamantine, made with exquisite skill. "Tengu are pretty skilled at just about any craft you can name, it's damn near in our blood," the avian says as he shows off the blade's quality. "But weapons and armor are what we know best, and it's no exaggeration to say that much of the best arms to come out of Grastle Hollow in recent years came from forges and workshops of the flocks." Sheathing the rapier, he sets it down beside his seat carefully, then fixes his gaze on the party. "We do sell raw materials, adamantine most desirable among them, but it's mostly finished product that we provide, and that makes our reputation, at least to those in the know."
Taking his seat again with a slight adjustment of his robes, he runs a hand down the length of his beak with a weary sigh, talons tracing across the scar that marks it so prominently. "And that reputation is what leads to our current problems, in fact, and the long tale she wishes to have told," Pazeek says while nodding toward Rilka.
"You see, tengu are quite in demand for our various skills, but our disinterest in any affairs save our own means we don't hire out. Or at least, not the way that lowlanders would prefer we do. There's a few young birds like myself, adventurous sorts looking to make a name and some coin, who work out the Hollow as guides and guards. But that's about it, and those services are purely for short durations. We don't get involved with lowlanders beyond that." With a snort of amusement, he gives the group a knowing look. "I'll wager that you lot didn't see so much as a molted feather, much less the bird that lost it while you were in the Hollow handling things. And that's because it wasn't any business of ours to interfere with. We would have been just as content to deal with the new rulers as we were with the old under the same terms, after things got settled."
Pazeek's amusement quickly fades as he continues to speak, giving way to tightly-controlled rage that only expresses itself in the way that his talons score the surface of the table next to him. Again and again, the long, sharp digits scrape across the material, leaving furrows that deepen with each pass. "As it happens, that particular relationship wasn't considered good enough. They wanted, demanded, tribute of the flocks. Access to our mines, the labor of our best crafters, our best talons and spellchirpers under their orders, and more besides." Looking at the table he's been unconciously ravaging, Pazeek pulls his talons out of the knuckle-deep gouges before clenching them into tight fists and placing them in his lap. With a clear effort of will, aided by some controlled breathing, he assumes a veneer of calmness, though it's a fragile thing. "Our elders told the representatives of Grastle Hollow's new masters that they, and those who sent them, could go f#*# themselves, their forebears living and dead alike, and their gods too before the flocks would give them anything but death for their presumptuous demands." The tengu then chuckles, a low, evil sound that holds little amusement in it. "The representatives were sent back to Grastle Hollow just alive enough, and intact enough, to relay that message. Any parts that weren't required to sustain their lives beyond that stayed with the flock."
Staring down at his clenched fists, Pazeek falls silent for several moments. When he abruptly resumes speaking, the tengu's voice is flat and emotionless. "Barely a week after Grastle Hollow's control was restored by an unknown party to those it was taken from," he says with a glance toward the Aestherics' agents. "The flock that speaks with the lowlanders on behalf of all tengu living in the mountains, my flock as it happens, was attacked. A mixed force of giants and nongiants assaulted our lightly guarded interior nests, using powerful magic to bypass the defenses that would normally stop them. Unsuspecting tengu were captured before any proper response could be mustered and dragged away as captives when the attackers used that same magic to withdraw. Among those taken were a number of artisans that my flock's elders believe were the main targets of this action, the others taken to ensure compliance."
With a deep breath, Pazeek shakes his head, trying yet again to restore his fraying self-control. "At the same time, a caravan well to the east of Grastle Hollow, of which I was a member along with my uncle, was also attacked. My uncle, who is considered a mastercrafter among the tengu and the only one of their rank to be found among the lowlanders, was taken while I was left for dead by the leader of the attackers. Before the shock of my injuries forced me into unconciousness, I heard the name 'Villichi' spoken, and mention made of this Villichi awaiting my uncle's delivery in Grastle Hollow." Talons once more tracing that eye-catching scar on his beak, Pazeek continues his story. "By the time I recovered and made my return to the Hollow, everything was over and done with, of course. Villichi was gone, and no sign of my uncle to be found. And members of my flock, more kin among their number, gone as well. My flock was in no position or condition to do much about either, dealing as they were with the aftermath of that attack, foremost being some rowdy neighbors who think that this is a good time to pile on while we're apparently vulnerable."
Leaning back in his seat, the tengu--clearly drained by recounting he has given--brings his tale to a close. "My bumbling attempts at digging up information in Grastle Hollow apparently got the attention of someone working for the Aestherics, who rounded me up, asked me some questions, and then sent someone else to approach my flock's elders with an offer of assistance. Whoever they sent was able to speak fast enough and convincingly enough not to get delivered to Grastle Hollow from distance of several hundred feet above it, and managed to wrangle a very tentative alliance of sorts. And so I, being at loose ends and already in their grasp, am sent to the Aestherics to observe the fulfillment of their end of this arrangement while also serving as a token of my flock's future portion of same."
Toramin is quietly amused both by the tengu's boasts of his people's craftsmanship and their obvious misunderstanding of the politics of Grastle Hollow. The people who threatened them were criminals, not the leaders of that city with whom they did business. Perhaps keen insight is not amongst their fabled qualities.
"I am sorry to hear of your people's troubles. What help has Heff promised you?"
Would a spy admit to being a spy? she thinks. I don’t think he’s playing mind games with me. He does seem sincere.
Rilka’s nods her head in appreciation for the rapier’s craftsmanship. For a moment she imagines herself wielding it against that creature they fought in the sea.
Rilka indicates her open book and pen, non-verbally asking the tengu’s permission to take notes as he starts his tale.
When Pazeek mentions not seeing a feather in Grastle Hollow she nods in agreement. At the mention of Villichi’s name and the giants, Rilka can imagine the carnage all too easily.
She glances at Heff and the others, when Toramin asks his question.
Regardless of their stripe, mortals seem to have various problems caused by others they seek others to resolve. I suppose when your perception of time is limited, this makes sense. For Takaral and his ilk, they were more likely to outwait benign issues. I suppose a more active role would be best to fit-in - even among these tengu. Talented, though too acute.
The construct's eyes went to Heff as Toramin provided the segue for them.
Wow, that's a lot to respond to. I don't really know where to start.
Bjorkus shrugs when the tengu denies being the spy he was hoping for. "Killin' people is handy too. The way our deep cover operations keep goin', the more blades the better as far as I'm concerned."
"You must've done something right or impressed someone to get this far. From what I've seen the Aestherics tend to kill or brain-scramble fools that get too close to learning about them", he explains.
"From what I've seen the Aestherics tend to kill or brain-scramble fools that get too close to learning about them."
"Options are still on the table! Well only the latter, of course." Heff says with a wink as the last member of the Hand's Council comes to join them.
Pazeek, here is a post giving an intro to the Hand's Council as well as some of the follow up dialogue you may be interested in.
As Alia takes her seat, Heff gestures and with swirling colors, blasting winds, and a cold air, a gorgeous image of the western mountains appears. With another gesture Heff has the area zoom in to overlook a tengu village, the whole thing still as if some sort of three-dimensional painting.
The tengu village has certainly seen better days. Many buildings are damaged, and there is an invading force of giants holding the natives hostage.
"Pazeek's village. Among other things, it is one of Grastle Hollow's largest supplier of adamantine. During Villichi's takeover of the underground, there was also a takeover of nearly all surrounding adamantine suppliers. Most were freed once you took Villichi out of the picture, but due to the reclusive nature of the tengu the Grastle Hollow military and mercenaries and underground did not come to liberate them as they did with the other suppliers."
"The scouting has been done. Villichi made deals with the local giant tribes with either threats or diplomacy, and they were his main body of force outside of Grastle Hollow, controlling the flow of adamantine. The ones holding Pazeek's village are mostly hill giants, lead by a trio of cloud giants, who ultimately answer to a mysterious giant that we haven't learned much about but shouldn't show his/her face. Therefore, this is mostly a "Kick down the door" mission. Not much subterfuge required."
"But it's also a delicate situation due to the reclusive nature of the tengu, which is the reason Pazeek is here. Pazeek is to guide you on not disturbing the natives. We have decided to not place any hard restrictions on what you can or cannot do, as we trust your judgement to decide on what must be done. Pazeek will advise you when it becomes necessary."
"Fairly straightforward mission. Kill and/or drive out the invaders, liberate the locals. Any info gathered is a bonus. Questions, comments, concerns?"
"In fact I'm more like your brother than not, devoted to the work. But it feels as if everything I've been doing lately has...been like trying to push a mountain. What small good I do is overshadowed, and sometimes it just gets worse."
Geoffrey remains silent and still as Ianna beings to scan him with her trio of spells. But after a moment he speaks again after taking another drink. "What happened in Xilres? The worst of it, but far from everything that's been nagging my conscience..." He takes another drink and looks off. "How do we really know what the greater good is?.."
Ianna detects nothing that gives her great alarm. No diseases (what kind of terrifying disease would infect a paladin of Geoffrey's power anyways?), no controlling magic or any other kinds of lingering magic that set off any red flags, and no insanity or other major mental breakdowns. However, she does pick up some developing alcoholism.
The detect disease was a round about way to see if he were a paladin in good standing. So symptomatically, I'm seeing exhaustion and hair loss related to stress and guilt. I think a Restoration would take care of both, right? I'm reading hair loss as mechanically similar to Cha ability damage. Otherwise, she might need to use the 3rd party Lesser Regeneration. But if a priestess of a goddess of beauty and healing cannot fix that I'll eat my hat. :-p
When she has finished her diagnostic prayers, Ianna invokes her goddess once again. The paladin is bathed in a shower of green and golden light that eases the physical signs of his stress and renews his physical beauty. Restoration, if appropriate.
She then leans back and gives the paladin a frank but sympathetic look. "My brother told me of the steps you took to prevent those infected by a magical plague from spreading the disease to the healthy. That must have been a difficult choice. How do we know the greater good? The honest answer is that often we do not. The best we can do is to make choices that minimize those harms we can see and that maximize the good we can see.
Sometimes, you will make mistakes. Could you have saved more loves with different resources, more time, and greater information? Yes. Undoubtedly. But many live today who would not, if you had not acted. This is the great burden and test of leadership.
You need to ask yourself whether you did the best you knew how in the circumstances. Not even the blessed gods can foresee all ends. Are you trying to hold yourself to a standard that not even the gods attain?
You are beautiful, Geoffrey, not because you are perfect but because you have devoted your life to being better and to making the lives of others better as well.
Worry not if you fail; worry if you stop trying."
The priestess pauses briefly before giving Geoffrey a knowing, sad smile. "Even if there have been moments when you have failed to try, you should still find a way to forgive yourself."
"Anyone want to wager with me that a rune giant is involved? Also, where are my sister and Geoffrey?"
Pazeek tips his head to one side as he considers Toramin's question, deciding how best to answer it. "For myself, personally? Pay, and whatever shiny treasures I can pry from the grip of my foes. Our foes, rather, and with due consideration for the usual sort of arrangements involved in such things," the tengu quickly amends. "For my flock? Aid in recovering our abducted members and--" Seeing the image brought up by Heff's magic, he stops in mid-sentence, pupils contracting sharply and beak dropping open as he takes in the sight of his flock's home--and, most notably, that its circumstances have changed rather considerably since he last saw it, just prior to joining with the Aestherics.
Pointing at the image with a talon, he manages to rasp out a question. "This, when did this happen? This had to have happened after the raid I just spoke of, but when?" Turning his shocked gaze to Heff, the feathered brow furrows sharply. "How long have you known about this, and why didn't you tell me before now? If I had known, I could have--" Again, Pazeek cuts his words abruptly short, slumping in his seat with a miserable chirp. "Nothing. I could have have done precisely nothing. Not alone." Sighing heavily, he straightens up and gives his head a hard shake. "Right, your words make it clear that you're still willing to assist my flock, even if this wasn't what any of us had in mind. So less time spent chirping like a fledgling fresh from the egg, more time spent planning and doing." Examining the image closely, Pazeek frowns thoughtfully, then leans forward to point out several individual tengu. "All of those were among the tengu taken during the raid. They must have been brought back after the village was taken to be put to work."
Does the magically animated map hint at how many giants we're dealing with.
"Do we know anything else about these giants other than their color?" Bjorkus rumbles as he considers the occupied village. "If they were workin' with Calios, maybe they haven't got the message that he's gone from Grastle Hollow and out of power. The giant we met outside the city was pressed into service - these might not be any different", the bull offers in suggestion.
"But if it has to be a fight we should go in with a plan to win. Does your village have secret weapons we should know about that we could use to turn the tide of a fight? I assume any kinda militia was wiped out when the giants showed up."
The mechanical man extended a hand towards Pazeek in consolation. "You are not alone now. Together, we can retake your lands from the giants."
Though his statement had nothing to do with the people living there, the Tengu flock was actually Takaral's main reason for interest. I've never visited with them before. Adamantine workers are talented; this will be a sight to behold indeed.
"But if it has to be a fight we should go in with a plan to win. "
"If there are truly but a few giants as it seems, disabling one would give us a strong position to parley with the others." Dalton nodded to Toramin. "But I wouldn't bet against a dwarf's instincts with giants. We must assume they have friends."
Dalton didn't usually care for violence, but here it seemed the surest and safest (for them) way to accomplish their goal.
[b]Takaral, it would be best if you stayed in their village. They might have a spotter of sorts in league with the giants there. You're better-suited than anyone but Splitbeak to find out, and he's a bit too close to this whole thing anyway.[b/]
Hearing Bjorkus' speculation on the giants' motives, Pazeek can't stop the croak of disgust from leaving his beak. "Admirable as it is that you strive to give others the benefit of the doubt, you could not be more wrong in this case," the tengu says, eyes still fixed on the image of his home. "There is nothing save utter loathing between us and those oversized meals. It's been that way since we arrived in the mountains and set up our nests, our fields, and our mines and rebuffed their constant and feeble efforts to claim lordship over us and all that we do."
The question Bjorkus asks after causes the tengu to grow still, save for his eyes, which roll slowly away from the magical image to look up at the bull-headed warrior. Speaking slowly and carefully, Pazeek answers. "If we have secret weapons, and I tell you about the secret weapons, then they aren't secret weapon anymore, are they? You Aestherics may be willing to help my flock with this, but that doesn't mean we're obligated to tell you everything that there is to know about us. Rather much like how you keep much of what there is to know about your group concealed from me. And wisely so, I must add."
His eyes returning to their previous focus, the tengu continues speaking. "To answer your other question, the term 'militia' doesn't mean quite the same to us that it does to you. Every tengu is trained to use weapons, no exceptions, though some are better than others at it. Our militia is just those tengu who aren't assigned to any other tasks in a given month. To wipe it out would require the total extermination of the flock, down to the last fledgling. That's one of the reasons why, in spite of our small size and somewhat low numbers compared to lowlanders, we're able to hold the territory that we do; every last bird this side of the egg and the pyre is fully capable of being a threat."
"The giants are well aware of this, mind, and they're almost certainly keeping control over the flock by threatening our fledglings and our eggs. Anything less than that, and they'd be mobbed, slashed to bloody ribbons, and eaten before they could escape to safety. So, removing that threat is something we definitely want to do." Sighing, the avian stretches to relieve some of the accumulated tension in his slight body, then nods toward Takaral. "I just hope that this liberation comes about without subjecting my flock to heavy casualties in the process."
”Did your sister return home last night?” Rilka says quietly to Toramin.
To Pazeek, she asks, ”Do you have any rivals like orcs or ogres in the region? Or even a rival tengu flock? How frequent do avalanches occur in your area?”
Rilka studies the image Heff created, ”Three cloud giants in charge. A force of mostly hill giants. Plus a mysterious leader Toramin is willing to wager is a rune giant. Hmmm,” she makes notes in her journal. ”I hope we can convince the giants to leave with minimal blood shed, especially for the captive tengu.. They might be reluctant to do that. Once more adamantine plays a role in events. Maybe Villichi had orders issued in the event of his defeat.”
She looks again at Pazeek, ”Does your village have any special forges for the adamantine?”
"I wager that because of that mysterious geas and of course Malose, or whatever his name is."
Untrained Bluff Check: 1d20 ⇒ 1
Any section marked with an asterisk indicates that Pazeek isn't being completely forthcoming. He's not lying, by no means, just not telling all.
Rilka's barrage of questions leaves Pazeek briefly at a loss for words as he struggles to keep track of them, but his brain eventually catches up and he begins giving her answers--though it's glaringly obvious that he's not telling her everything that he could in regards to most of her questions. Though he knows she's just trying to figure out potential threats to herself and her companions during this coming mission--the general direction of her questions makes that quite clear--Pazeek isn't willing to compromise the safety and security of his own by revealing all to these lowlanders. No, he'll give her the sort of information she could gather on her own just by talking to the backwoods types that sometimes enter Grastle Hollow to trade and resupply, or that'll she'll learn anyway upon entering his flock's home and being given even the slightest chance to look around.
"Ogres are treated just as we do the giants, and act the same for their part. Orcs, and most other races living in the mountains, generally leave us alone and we do likewise. There are some disputes that occasionally get violent, of course, but those are settled quickly enough with little loss for either side." Croaking softly, he absently preens the feathers around his neck for a bit before he resumes speaking. "Kobolds we actually get on rather well with, and some of our best mines were designed and delved by their tribes. We have an outlook on life and what it takes to survive that is remarkably similar."
"As for rival flocks? There are none," Pazeek says decisively. Gaze straying once more to that damnable image and what it shows of his own flock, the tengu's words are delivered with a somewhat distracted air. "There may be flocks we have disagreements with, certainly, but these disagreements are always tempered by the fact that we are tengu. There aren't enough of us to afford the sort of self-destructive infighting that you lowlanders seem to revel in at every opportunity, not when we are relentlessly pressed by enemies such as those," he says with a twitch of his beak at the gathered giants. "The survival of the flocks, all of them, is more important to us than any lesser considerations."
"Avalanches? Those are pretty rare, because we work very hard to locate potential sites where they could occur and render them harmless before they send a load of snow or rubble blasting down the slopes. Of course, we can't monitor and clear everywhere, so we generally stick to those areas where our nests are located. In the case my own flock, we provide that service to Grastle Hollow as well, for a modest fee."
The last question the small female asks causes Pazeek to twitch and then freeze for a moment before he answers with a single word. "No." He reminds himself that, technically, that wasn't a lie. The forges where their most valuable mineral resource is worked aren't special, not at all.
"Anyone want to wager with me that a rune giant is involved?"
"That would be our bet as well, but we doubt they will get involved."
Heff looks to Pazeek with sympathy. "Ah we thought you knew the extent of it. Yes, but our deal certainly extends to freeing your entire tribe."
He turns to Bjorkus. "Not a whole lot, just that they originally answered to Villichi but now are taking the resources for themselves instead."
"We estimate somewhere around fifty hill giants. As Pazeek says, his people should help you drive them off. You shouldn't have to fight a small army by yourselves. But the details of the execution of the plan are left to you."
Geoffrey looks mildly better after the restoration spell, but not as if it cured any sort of significant ailment.
As Ianna gives her take on the ethical dilemna, Geoffrey stares off with a frown, taking another drink. "With all of our magic and wisdom and divination powers, we can't find the greater good? I'm not an ideologue, I don't expect perfection. But damn...I've seen the most well-meaning decisions turn into horrors." He curls his lip. "Incompetence is not an excuse. Inability would be one thing, but we humanoids wrap ourselves up in political games and pointless struggles that end up destroying the lives of the least fortunate among us. It's all I can do to keep them from going at each other's throats, much less actually working for the common good."
Geoffrey drains his drink, standing up with a slight wobble to fill the glass again. "Our suffering is by our own design. Not by random chance, or by the cruelty of the gods. It is the fault of our fellow man. Perfection? Of course we can't attain that." He sets the decanter down with a quick bang. "But we can do better than this...this farce."
It's an argument from incomplete data, by it's very nature it cannot give certainty. I'm guessing alcoholism is not a disease in this world?
Ianna leans over and deftly takes the cup from his hands. "That's not helping you, Geoffrey. Moreover, it's causing you some amount of harm."
She pauses for a moment; her heart sore from the paladin's pain. "There is no easy answers. We can approximate the greater good. Things can improve; I've seen it. I've done it. My confrontation with Calios taught me that hope and beauty can flourish despite the wickedness of men. But things can also get worse through wickedness and inaction.
I have no neat theodicy to tie the world in lace and ribbon.
Yet, there is still so much beauty in the world. I see the ugly, by I rejoice in the beauty. The work never ends. That is why it is so important to guard your joy, Geoffrey. To find solace, hope, beauty, and joy in the midst of such turmoil.
I sense that you carry a weight of guilt and anger with you. They feed upon each other, Geoffrey. They are valid emotions, but they are crushing you. Face them and let go. For your own good and the good of other, please, lay those burdens down. Let me lighten your load. Know that I and the blessed gods love and cherish you."
Ianna stands up and kisses Geoffrey on the forehead and embraces him. When she does there is an after image of a much more beautiful and divine woman embracing the paladin. Absolution I don't need the mechanical benefits of this spell, but the flavor benefits -- "You purge impure thoughts from the target’s mind and fill him with exultant relief at the forgiveness of his sins" -- may just be what he needs. Talk therapy is often augmented with a little help.
Does the map indicate where the villagers are being held?
"Any clue where the giants might be keepin' the prisoners? We're gunna need to free them and secure the youngin's before we can drive these sods back into the mountains."
Bjorkus frowns at the bird-man's assorted half truths but keeps the discussion moving. "It sounds like we're on our own to get this done. That's disappointing but we're used to workin' that way."
Is the image clear enough to get a good description of said building?
In response to Birds of a Feather spoiler:
Takaral stepped back from the feathered refugee a moment. "Would you trade the secrets you mentioned for ensured survival of the flocks?" The inquiry was flat, not with antagonism or gloating.
"Not the time for that," chided Dalton to his companion.
He directed his next inquiry to Heff and Pazeek. "What do you feel the best way to find where these enemies' operations lay is?"
Heff waves a hand at the image. "The cloud giants often stay in the same building as the captives, but also are seen around the village. If you could take them out and free the captives, I'm sure after that you could work together with Pazeek's people to get rid of the rest of the giants."
Pazeek is about to respond to Takaral's query when Dalton beats him to it, leaving the tengu silent for a few beats. Rather than let this distract him any further, the tengu points to the central building where many of the giants and their feathered captives are gathered, entering and exiting through a rather large hole knocked into the wall at the top of the stairs. "This nest serves as the center of my flock's governance, trade, and education. It is where our elders live and work, where the fledglings are taught before their apprenticeships take place, and where we store much of what we buy and sell prior to final delivery." Frowning slightly, the tengu pauses in his description, then lets out a distinctly annoyed croak, followed by a snap of his beak that conveys a similar sense.
"The interior is somewhat difficult to describe, I'm not a builder and don't know the fancy terms they use, but it's open in the center from floor to ceiling for its entire length down the nest's center. The floors above ground level are almost entirely open to that central space, with few solid interior walls save those needed for the structure's integrity, or security. There are a number of bridges within that span the central area at each level to allow for fast passage from one side to the other." Indicating the doors flanking the stairs then, the tengu continues his briefing. "The door to the left leads to the kitchens, pantries, and baths, along with a number of other rooms used for various things needed. The one on the right, however, doesn't open into the nest itself at all, but is simply a quick way to get around this area without having to go through it," he says while directing a talon to smaller annex on the building's right side.
Turning his glittering eyes to Dalton then, Pazeek address his question. "If I understand your question correctly, I'm all in favor of vigorous interrogation with hot things and sharp things, and things that are both at the same time, all applied as needed. But I understand lowlanders generally frown on that sort of thing for some reason, so I suppose something less bloody would be required. Maybe magic of some sort, or we just leave a survivor or two to follow unobtrusively."
Ianna feels there is still something lingering there, but also fears that continuing to press the issue right now may do more harm than good.
Is Pazeek attempting to look like he’s not being totally forthcoming in order to hide something else? Is he that devious? Rilka wonders as the tengu answers her questions. No, no, I don’t think he’s purposefully trying to mislead me like that. She writes down what he says, thanking him for the answers.
”As an aside,” she addresses the council, ”where are the richest adamantine mines located? Villichi may have sent agents to these other places to secure adamantine for his plans.”
She sketches the map projected by Heff. ”50 hill giants,” she mumbles. ”Three cloud giants.”
Rilka chuckles at Pazeek’s description of vigorous interrogations.
Doing a knowledge roll to determine whether she knows any lore about food poisoning giants. Not enough to kill them; just make them ill and easier to fight.
1d1d20 + 9 + 1d6 ⇒ (3) + 9 + (6) = 18
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 17 ⇒ (4) + 17 = 21
Angry. He is so angry. If anything breaks him, I think it will be that. He expects a return on the work. It is sad; but, sometimes, there is none. Though depending on how it is expressed, anger can be a good thing. At least now he is aware of both his thirst and his anger.
"Of course, Geoffrey," Ianna replies brightly, not letting him see her worry. "Just remember that if you need to talk, then I am here to listen. I may not have all the answers, but I can still listen."
Ianna doesn't push further than this. She doesn't want to push further. Spiritual healing is rarely immediate.
"Whether there is one or if there are fifty, hill giants will fall like rotted trees in a windstorm. The cloud giants could pose a greater threat, perhaps. With Rilka's potions and Bjorkus' songs, they too will be ground to dust. Having some amount of wind magic to counter their innate gifts might be wise, Dalton."
After being long silent, Ianna speaks up. "I'm less concerned with killing wicked giants, than I am with making sure that they cannot hurt the Tengu hostages. I know little in the ways of war, but could an obvious assault be timed with a rescue attempt? We do not want the bulk of the giants falling back to the main building."
Untrained Bluff Check: 1d20 ⇒ 20
When Rilka and Heff discuss the location of adamantine mines, Pazeek does his best to avoid looking at a particular location easily visible within the image that Heff has created. Specifically, a single nondescript building, only two levels in height and set well apart from the collection of nests that make up his flock's home. It overlooks what appears to be quarry which the tengu dug out to build their nests.
After pondering the suggestion offered by the dwarven female--Pazeek doesn't recall getting her name, and remminds himself to do so later--the tengu shakes his head slowly. "I believe we should focus more on a stealthy approach that locates and secures the eggs and fledglings the giants must be using to keep the others under control. Any obvious action would only serve to put the giants on their guard."
Pointing to a number of giants moving alone or in small groups through the maze-like tangle of streets and courtyards formed by architecture his people prefer to use--and frowning as he notes the casual destruction the invaders inflict in their passing--Pazeek continues. "If you could supply a bit of magic to mask our approach, as well as any sounds and sights of battle, we could eliminate these isolated targets in passing."
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (16) + 8 = 24
Rilka glances at Pazeek and then the image then continues on talking with Heff. "So long as someone is looking into the adamantine. I knew it was important, in general, but not how important it was to Villichi."
”I like quiet,” Rilka says with a grin. ”Stealth is a good thing. Securing the eggs and fledglings is even better.” She makes some notes as Pazeek points to the image and describes his desires.
Ready to move on when the rest of the group is.
Hearing the question from another whose name he doesn't recall getting, Pazeek chirps thoughtfully while running a talon across his scarred beak. Finally, after what appears to be some considerable internal debate, the tengu--with reluctance readily apparent in both tone and demeanor--answers. "Yes, such protections do exist, though not across the entirety of the plateau upon which my flock's nests are built." And here, he pauses to sketch a line around the main cluster of buildings with a talon, the distance between the line and the outermost walls roughly two or so bowlengths (120-160 feet).
"That, roughly, is the extent which they cover. Further, they're not very powerful wards, meant really only to deter casual breaches past our outer defenses." Feathers flattening, he continues laying out the details of this particular facet of his nest's defenses, necessity dragging the information out him word by word. "As evidenced by the initial raid, those protections can be overcome, whether by a sufficiently skilled spellchirper or just very potent magic itself." Shrugging, he looks at those gathered around the table. "Since I'm no spellchirper myself, however, I couldn't guess as to the strength of the wards. So if that's the way in you want to use, you'll have to decide for yourselves if you have the skill or spells required to get past them."
|Älia the Wise|
The tengu wastes no time nodding his acquiescence. "Go right ahead and do so, if you'd like," he adds, just to make it absolutely clear. At this point, there's really no point in worrying, he reminds himself; the protections have already been breached by foes, so his flock's rescuers and tentative allies might as well follow suit. Besides, it's not as if the tengu could actually stop them from doing so in any event, so he may as well be gracious about the matter.
[dice=Untrained Bluff Check]1d20"I believe we should focus more on a stealthy approach that locates and secures the eggs and fledglings the giants must be using to keep the others under control. Any obvious action would only serve to put the giants on their guard."
"Some of us are accustomed to being covert. Others of us are ... challenged in that area." Dalton really didn't feel like rehashing the history of Akropash with this newcomer, but the results were clear there.
He turned to Geoffrey. "Right on top? I don't exactly feel like being on one of their shoulders! Are you sure this isn't simply overeagerness after using a pen all day for many months?"
Geoffrey chuckles. "Perhaps. But if our mission is to take down the leaders, why bother trying to sneak through on foot where a hundred things could go wrong, when instead we have the resources to just drop on them? We put Rilka and Pazeek in an hour or two ahead of time to spread the word so the entire village starts fighting after we drop in. That way they'll be disorganized and without any orders." Geoffrey says casually, reminding the party that his rise in the military was due to his strategic prowess.
Rilka nods her head at Geoffrey’s suggestion. ”If we defeat the leaders there’s a good chance the rest of them will attempt to flee. Is the rapier your main weapon, Pazeek?” The halfling looks at her other companions.
”Toramin, what do you know about rune giants?” she asks. ”Dalton have you prepared any fly spells today? Or anything that might help us in fighting multiple giants?”
Find out if Rilka knows any relevant giant information.
Knowledge (nature): 1d20 + 9 + 1d6 ⇒ (3) + 9 + (1) = 13
ohhhhh not much, lol.