Copses of thin, ugly trees that have long since shed their leaves for the last time line the muddy trackway.
The trees seem to lean toward eachother, as if conspiring and whispering in the wind rather than reaching and striving for the thin, watery sunlight that washes over the land as they should. A vast silence reigns over the land; miles of untracked fields separated by beaten tracks, partially frozen in the early autumn frost, and wild moorland that stretches as far South as the Hungry Mountains and as far north as the Shudderwood.
It started raining an hour ago and has shown no sign of abating. A thin, persistent drizzle settles like a shroud over the land, falling from a sky like grey slate.
This is Ustalav. The grim, mirthless, darkness of Ustalav.
The letter arrived two weeks ago and yet it’s contents are indelibly marked on your mind even now. The words swim to the surface as you make your way along the partly cobbled track.
Please come to Ravengro immediately.... Petros Lorrimor..... passed away...
Finally the small village of Ravengro materialises out of the mist.
Quick bit of exposition, where you are when you receive the invitation, how you react and so on? You can then move on to arriving in town for the first time, possibly running into eachother as you seek lodgings or whatever you want to do. The funeral is set for tomorrow.
I will put up a map of Ravengro as well shortly, the lettered and numbered locations will be detailed as you progress through the book.
Today a smaller corpse joins the rest, although this one breathes and moves. It stands tall and shatters the silence with its strides, crunching apart the ice and splashing up the puddles with its footsteps.
Zed emotionlessly scans the horizon and the sky. In truth he was grateful for the rain. It may have made the chill even worse, but he didn't mind that so much. The clouds blocked out the burning sun. Besides, it was a good day for rain. It's not everyday your oldest friend in the world passes into the Boneyard. He absentmindedly feels the letter in his coat pocket for the dozenth time. Petros...I hope your passing was peaceful. His mind goes back to when he received the letter...
Zed was in his home, having a quiet supper by himself. He had been contemplating getting a dog to keep him company, but he had yet to find one that wasn't unnerved by his presence. Perhaps a cat, they are more indifferent. But then a knock on the door shattered the silence, and after wiping his hands he rose and answered it. A grim-looking messenger with a note. A note that pierced through Zed's normal stoicism and sent him reeling. He knew the professor was old, but he didn't think the Lady of Graves would call him yet. He felt a great remorse; there was so much more he wanted to talk about with the old man. But, when one's time comes, one's time comes. There is little to do about the strings of fate. He added a cold cup of oldlaw whiskey with his dinner, drinking in memory of Petros, already knowing that he wouldn't miss the funeral for the world. While it did deeply effect his mood, Zed's longevity had somewhat dulled him to the passing of friends and family. May he be judged wisely.
His mind stops wandering as the mist clears enough for him to see Ravengro. The trip from Kavapesta was long and uneventful, leaving him to ponder his own mortality for the thousandth time. As always he was left at an impasse yet again by circular logic. But with the matter of Petros's death back at hand his mind was ripped back into the present. I wish the details of the note were more forthcoming. Horribly vague. Still, there was nothing to do but find a place to sleep and learn the news of the town. Perhaps he could learn what happened before the funeral commenced. Pushing on through the drizzle, Zed goes to find the nearest inn.
When the letter arrives, Constantin is at his home - a tiny room rented in a questionable part of town. For a self-professed scholar, a letter is a slightly unusual but not unheard-of event. After he reads the contents, Constantin slumps back in his rickety chair and lets out a heavy sigh.
So thus is how it ends, he thinks. You saved my life, old man, and I never could repay that. Now all that's left is to see you off to the Boneyard.
He looks down at the elaborate letter once more and thinks, Quite an elaborate arrangement. Why even go to the trouble of tracking me down? Yet these abilities I've developed have not given me the foresight to know what any of this means.
He glances about the cramped room, at the meticulously-organized notes and the bare furnishings. Nothing to keep me here, he decides as his gaze settles upon his small collection of oddities and hand-me-downs scavenged from his years of odd jobs. To Ravengro it is, then. And may death treat you with the dignity you deserve, professor.
He rises from the chair and sets about packing his meager possessions for the trip.
Days later, as he arrives in Ravengro, the patter of drizzling rain rolls off his heavy cloak. Brown and with leather padding stitched to the shoulders and elbows, the cloak is rugged and and travel-worn. He leans occasionally on the haft of a spear, which he uses more like a walking stick. Occasionally he steps to the side as a horse or coach passes by. To the casual glance he seems like little more than a vagabond, but anyone who comes close can hear the rustle of armor and tell that his steady gaze of dark eyes carries a wariness that shows a familiarity with danger.
~ Village of Berus, County of Ardeal ~
Grey afternoon, and the taproom at the Forlorn Dove is half full with the usual sort - a smattering of locals among a crowd of muddy drovers and weary tradesmen... all trying to milk some profit from prosperous Berus. The dirt-speckled farmer trying to foist a box of tired radishes on the proprietress is beneath their notice - which is exactly the way the farmer and the shopkeep want it. They haggle intensely over the radishes. In the exchange of bids and counters, the farmer briefs her on the results of his mission and the proprietress passes along the latest intelligence.
In the end, more out of pity than any compelling need, the proprietress tosses a canvas pouch with a few coins at the farmer and takes the beets, warning him they better make as good a soup as he promised. The farmer bobs his head obsequiously and mutters flattering assurances, trying to stave off her venom as he makes for the door with all haste. The door swings shut before her temper is spent.
As he strikes out across the moors surrounding Berus, the farmer frowns. There was something more in the pouch than coins - that wasn't right. In the small stand of trees, Raj retrieves his gear and sloughs off the farmer's persona along with the peasant clothing. Dressed and armed as himself again, he opens the pouch, pockets the coins, and pulls out the death letter. It's a terse read.
Raj leans heavily against the tree, loss and sadness striking him in a way it hadn't since he was very young. After awhile his grief gives way to determination. It's an old debt, Doc, but it still needs settling. The work will have to wait. Raj smooths the letter and puts it inside his armor for safe-keeping - the first step in a long trip.
On the outskirts of Ravengro, Raj halts briefly and stretches tired legs causing his leathers to creak. He pushes the sodden, woolen cowl-scarf from his head and squints at the drizzling slate sky. Another fine Ustalav summer, he thinks with a grim smile. He replaces the cowl and follows the road into the village center glancing at the locals in passing, looking for hard eyes or the hint of a smile.
Hoping to dry out, he heads for whatever passes for the village's pub or inn.
Sense Motive (getting a feel for the local attitude): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
A slight figure slowly makes its way along the wet, muddy road and into the small village, pausing momentarily to have a look around at the buildings along the well-trodden path.
So this is Ravengro...
As the rain continues to drizzle down, Hazel shivers and pulls the hood of her cloak down just a little farther over her face.
Figures it would be raining.
Pulling one of her feet free from the mud and the muck with a loud squelch, she continues on her way, eyes continuing to scan the buildings for any signs of an inn or tavern. As she walks her mind wanders back to the day the letter had arrived for her. Despite the dreary weather, she can't help but grin as she remembers how put-out the courier who delivered it had been. But as a follower of Lady Starsong, she couldn't very well sit in one place when the road called to her, right? It had taken him nearly a week to locate her, finally catching up with her in Whistledown.
He really could have behaved a bit better than that...this Councilor Hearthmount obviously gave him a generous sum to find me, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered at all. Besides, he looked like he needed the exercise anyway.
The contents of the letter had come as a surprise. Of course she remembered Professor Lorrimor - how could she forget? He'd made the poor choice of being out past dark, near to one of Riddleport's seedier neighborhoods and it had nearly cost him his possessions and possibly his life as well. It had been quite lucky for him that Hazel had been passing through on her way back to her lodgings and in retrospect, it had been lucky for the both of them that she had managed to get the drop on the thugs before they knew she was there. Though they got away, she had at least managed to give them a good beating and hopefully second thoughts about accosting anyone else for their coin. After a brief conversation wherein they exchanged names, they parted ways, the Professor promising that he would never forget her or what she did for him. Truthfully, she hadn't expected to hear from him again and her curiosity had quickly turned to sadness as she read the contents of the letter. That had been a week ago.
And here I am. I wish it were under better circumstances, but it's still good to be out on the road. I wish Briana were here though; she always wanted to travel. And G-
She suddenly frowns and gives her head an angry shake. No, this wasn't a sightseeing trip and this wasn't the time to dwell on things...or people...best forgotten. She had business to see to. As her eyes finally spot what might be a small tavern a short distance up the main path through the village, her mind inevitably drifts back to another day, not so long ago, where she had received another particular letter.
She sighs. When it rains, it really does pour, doesn't it?
Galus urged the tired nag along the muddy track with as much urgency as he dared. Despite the chill in the air and the rain that washes over him, making his thin cloak stick to him like wet paper, he was sweating profusely.
He needed to make this funeral, needed to pay his respects to a man who gave him the greatest gift he had ever received in his life. And what a life it had been, of strife and hardship since Cara ripped her way into this world, screaming in protest. If childbirth was such a miracle why was there so much pain? And blood.
Cara had always been a sickly child, a product of the difficult birth, the cut-wife had told him. But Gods how he'd loved her. Life on the streets was no way to bring up a child. He cringed inwardly at how many times he had left her squalling in some dark alley just to lure some kindly folk to pass by before they found themselves nose to point with his knife. But how else could he have fed them both? All he'd every wanted was to give her a chance.
Professor Lorrimor came upon them late in her fifth year. They had turned to begging by then outside their lowly lean-to and unlike all the others who passed by, he stopped. But he didn't give them money, he gave them medicine. It was too late of course, but the way she had been coughing made him realise that this passing doctor had given him an extra few weeks with his girl. How do you repay a man who does that?
He needed to pay his respects.
He entered town from the south, passing by simple houses and shops as he neared the lights of the town centre and after tying his nag up outside, enters the tavern.
The tavern you seem to be gravitating toward to is called the Outward Inn
The Inn is relatively large for the size of Ravengro, though you suspect that many of the rooms they offer for rent are rarely filled.
Currently, only half a dozen ruddy faced men occupy by the bar, two on stools and four sitting huddled around a table near a fire that looks in danger of burning out.
The barman is a large, barrel-chested with a prodigious belly. He reminds you a someone who might have once been an imposing muscular figure but the years have melted his musculature into a slab of fat. He has a bristling moustache that sits like a fat worm beneath his nose and is currently idly wiping down the bar.
He nods at each of you as you enter over the course of the evening.
Zed steps into the tavern, taking a moment at the entrance to scan the room. The dhampir is tall and gaunt with well-defined muscles and broad shoulders. His skin is pallor, his head completely bald, and his eyes are an unnerving ghastly white. His ears are slightly pointed, almost like a half-elf, and his facial features are thin and gaunt. He wears a black inquisitor's coat and on his back is an odd metal weapon.
He steps further into the tavern, moving with a careful, fluid grace. He stops in front of the bar and slightly inclines his head to the large-bellied man. "Good evening. I wish to rent a room for the night, possibly more depending on circumstances. I would also like something to eat as well as some spiked tea." Zed pulls out his coin purse and raises a brow expectantly.
Once more, I find the answer, and it is death Kazamir thought with a resigned sigh. He closed the neatly-painted door of his sobbing client's townhouse behind him and walked slowly through the Caliphas evening mist to his home.
Arriving there, he found the letter waiting for him on the hall table outside his flat, casually dropped there by his landlord, no doubt.
A few minutes later, he was sitting by his small fireplace, last of his good red Taldan wine in a goblet in his hand, drinking a toast to the departed Professor.
Petros...what finally caught up to you? Age? Disease? Something worse? He sighed again, shaking his head, downed the wine, and rose to prepare his luggage.
Fifteen days in a rough road carriage had done little to raise his spirits. He paid the surly coachman, eager to see the back of him, and hoisted his backpack up to have his first look around at the round plaza, apparently at the center of Ravengro. He was not sure where the Professor's house was, and thought it rather late to pester his grieving daughter, so he looked around for some sort of inn or tavern.
Than man that steps into the tavern is best described as...nondescript. Average. Unremarkable. He shakes the rain off of his travelling cloak, steps to the side of the door, and scans the room with a little more than average care. Seeing the tale, pale, pointed-eared figure speaking to the barman gives his eyebrows the tiniest lift, but he schools his expression back to neutrality quickly.
He steps near to the bar and waits patiently for the pale man to conclude his business. When he has his turn to speak to the barman, he also requests a room, supper, and coffee, if it is to be had.
"Also, sir, if you could direct me to the residence of Petros and
Kendra Lorrimor, I would be much obliged." he finishes, preparing to turn to find a table.
Zed's hauntingly white eyes flick over to the human as he mentions Lorrimor. It appears the professor had more than one friend abroad. I wonder how far his influence spread. Although the man appears no more than a common noble or some similar sort. He holds his silence, not wanting to bother the man. He had it in mind to keep mostly to himself if he could. Ravengro was not used to his kind, and it's best to keep a low profile whenever possible.
In stark contrast to the pallid man who stepped through the door some minutes ago, a darker stranger now enters the Outward Inn. He heads straight for the bar, paying little attention to the gathered patrons. He wears a deep brown, loose fitting, burnoose of Varisian design that ends just above his mud-spattered boots. Beneath the burnoose, he wears an even darker suit of leathers. A nearly black, sodden cowl-scarf covers his head and most of his face. Oddly - considering the dangers of Ustalav - he apparently carries no weapons at all.
The stranger pulls off the Varisian cowl to reveal an equally Varisian face - dark hair, sharp dark eyes, olive skin, and the shadowy stubble of a three-day beard. Starting at his hairline, two jagged parallel scars carve down his face, bracket one eye, cut across his nose (tearing a small divot of flesh from the bridge), slash through the cheek on the other side, and trail out going down his neck. Something made a valiant effort to tear the man's face off. The ugly and long-healed scars do nothing to improve the man's forgettable looks.
Raj regards the shopkeep, especially the almost hypnotic moustache, and leans on the bar. From a pocket in his burnoose, he pulls a thin stack of coins - four copper - lays them down on the bar and asks, "This'll buy me anything to drink worth drinkin'?"
Sleight of Hand: 1d20 + 5 + 2 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 5 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 27 +2's for small weapon, baggy clothes, and sheaths
The stout barman looks up first when the gaunt, pale skinned man walks in. His rag stops mid-swipe on the bar's already clean surface but after examining the man for aoment, resumes it's course.
When asked for a room and board he doesn't answer for a moment, as of he is once again taking measure of the man before him. His thoughts are interrupted when another stranger appears in the Outward Inn, this one dressed more like a gentleman.
Yes, I can provide you both with rooms, sirs. Just the one night you're staying is it? he asks the pair, seemingly assuming they travel together.
He moves to Stoke the fire in the place and puts a pot of water on it to boil for the tea and coffee. For the scarred man who takes his place on one of the stools he says;
Not much for four copper truth be told, friend. But what I got ye can have.
He scoops the coins up and pours a tankard of thick, dark ale that despite being the cheapest thing in the house, is actually pleasant indeed. As he pours he regards the gentleman again:
I'm sorry to tell you this, sir but if you're looking for Petros I'm afraid he passed away, two weeks ago now. In fact his funeral is tomorrow up in the Restraints there.
Certainly not the worst reaction. At least he is polite. Zed gives a small, sad nod. "Yes, that is my business in town. I am here to pay my respects to the man. He and I were old friends. I think I will only be staying tonight, and then attending the funeral tomorrow before departing." He places the appropriate coinage on the table, not bothering to correct the assumption made about him and the gentleman.
The door opens once more and yet another unfamiliar face graces the Outward Inn. As they pause to scrap the worst of the mud off their boots, the hood covering most of their face is removed to reveal what looks to be a petite young girl, probably in her mid to late teens. Light brown hair falls to her shoulders in layered waves, adorned by a simple four-pointed metal pin. She wears what looks to be a suit of scale mail armor over a simple brown and white traveling outfit. In addition to her pack, a small shield is strapped to her back and what looks to be a starknife hangs at her side. Shaking the rain from her cloak, her dark brown eyes scan the room before settling on the bar.
Walking over to the bar, she pauses to gaze curiously at the collection of men already gathered there, her eyes passing over the plain man and then the heavily-scarred one with a slight raise of her eyebrows. When she looks at the pale gentleman, her eyes widen and she looks as though she is tempted to speak.
Hazel, remember your manners! It's not polite to stare at people and here you are, gawking at this poor man - he's probably ill!
Instead, she offers an awkward, apologetic smile before turning to the man behind the bar. "Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to have any rooms still available would you? Just for tonight is all, I would imagine. And a hot meal, if you have anything available. Maybe some soup?" she adds. "My belly is empty and my bones are cold, so something warm like soup would solve both problems," she chuckles, her tone friendly (and slightly hopeful).
"Just for the night, thank you," Kazamir responds. Hearing the barman's apology and the pale man's response, he dips his head respectfully.
"Unfortunately, that sad news did reach me, and I, too am here to pay my last respects at the Professor's funeral. .
Hesats himself at a table off to one side to wait, nodding politely to the other patrons.
Raj tastes the cut-rate ale expecting little... and is pleasantly surprised. He raises his tankard to the barman in silent acknowledgement. Nursing his drink, he listens to the barman, the gentleman, and the pale fella exchange words.
"...he passed away, two weeks ago now. In fact his funeral is tomorrow..."
"...I am here to pay my respects to the man. He and I were old friends..."
" I, too am here to pay my last respects at the Professor's funeral." He seats himself at a table off to one side to wait.
Unfortunately, the gentleman appears interested in sitting alone. Before the pale man can leave, Raj pushes out the stool next to him with a practiced foot. "There's a seat here, if ya want it." The young woman's entrance eclipses whatever else he was about to say.
Bad, bad luck.
A good memory was necessary for Raj's work. Even if it weren't, it's hard to forget the face of someone who buried a starknife in your gut as this woman had. But the real question was could she remember him? He runs through the memory and weighs the odds. It was dark, she was dealing with multiple enemies, and they had scarves wrapped around their faces to guard their identities. It seemed likely she didn't get a good look at him. Having said that, he drinks his drink and keeps his face angled away from her and considers escape routes.
Zed pauses as he realizes he's surrounded by people that all equally mourn the passing of his friend. He may have been my only friend, but I certainly wasn't his. I suppose that only goes to show how lucky I was to have been so close to him. Slowly, he sits down in the offered chair, adjusting the club-like weapon behind him to avoid it bumping into the bar. "I appreciate it. Especially since the establishment seems to be getting busier by the minute." He offers a long-fingered hand to the weathered man. "I am Zed Ulmin, agent of Pharasma. Are you also here because of the professor?"
I think I'm going to have Galus have been in the bar from before Zed came in
Galus watches the exchange at the bar, the man at his table hadn't objected when he had sat himself down, looking for the warmth of the fire more than company.
Still, even as his black cloak steamed on the hook beside the fire his belly grumbled at the smell of the soup being rustled up for the newcomers and he wished he had enough to pay. But he didn't though, barely scraping enough for lodging.
He pulls himself up, his ill-fitted clothing sitting uneasily on his big frame.
Came to pay respects myself. he says. Ummm... you all friends of the Doctor? he asks the others. I came as fast as I could. Thought I wouldn't get here in time.
He looks to the scarred man and then to the pale, whose skin is almost like tissue.
Cara was flushed and red before the end. But he looks about as close to death's door as I've ever seen. Maybe Lorrimor was treating him.
Turning to look at the large man who spoke, Hazel nods. "Not a friend really, more like an acquaintance. Seems like the Professor had quite a few," she replies, glancing around at some of the other men who had spoken of Lorrimor. "But yes, I'm here to pay my respects too. To be honest though, I never really knew much about him. It's a shame," she sighs.
She cocks her head to one side, a look of curiosity on her face. "What about the rest of you? How well did you know the Professor?"
"Professor Lorrimor and I spent much time doing research together. Our experiments were enlightening and enjoyable and has helped me greatly in my endeavors. I am truly sad the Lady of Graves has called him back, but I know he is in good hands." He gives a small, sympathetic nod. "I have only just arrived as well. It was quite the trip." As the spiked tea comes back he gives a grateful nod and places the appropriate coinage on the table. He takes a moment to let the cup warm his half-wet hands and the smell to coil around in his nostrils, then sips a bit through thin lips. Marvelously polite. A few long looks, but to expect anything less is folly. Perhaps I will keep this inn in mind when I'm in the area again.
A creaking carriage comes to a halt in the mud, the drizzle pattering upon the roof and driving the teamster even further into his bundled coat. A old woman, nearly at her sixtieth summer but with hair fully white, steps out and into the mud, swaying a moment before steadying herself with the carriage door. "Thank you, my dear boy." She smiles warmly at her driver, the poor man's wide-brimmed hat dripping from the rain, and offers him a few coins for his trouble. Recovering her trunk from the carriage, she clumsily drags it to the threshold and raps upon the door.
"Kendra? Kendra, dear, it's your aunt Vala." As the door opens and Vala sees the younger woman, her eyes immediately brim with tears. "Oh my dear child, look at you! You're a grown woman!" It had been years since Vala had seen her dear friend's daughter, and the two embraced in a mix of happiness and sorrow. Unable to stop her tears, Vala let Kendra lead her into her home, pulling her trunk behind.
Kazamir rises from his lonely table to approach the others.
"Might I join you?" Assuming so He takes a seat at Rajuna and Zed's table.
In response to Galus's and Hazel's questions, he answers" I was able to render the professor a service, one that he returned tenfold. I truly owe him my life and my livelihood. While I have not seen him for years, his letters have always been a pleasure to receive. "
"Kazamir Rhuul, by the way, of Caliphas" he adds, fingertips to his chest to indicate he is naming himself.
@the Lorrimor household
Aunt Vala! the woman exclaims in surprise as she pulls open the door. I wasn't sure if you would receive the invitation or if you would be well enough to travel.
The woman is in her mid twenties with a pale complexion, dark eyes and chestnut red hair that currently tumbles past her shoulders over her night dress.
Let me help you with that and then I'll put the kettle on, you must be exhausted after your journey.
As the evening wears on, the innkeeper brings the ordered food, apologising for the lack of bread with Hazel's soup.
I get it fresh from Millie every morning but the farm hands usually put a dent in it when they come in after the fields. I've got some crackers if you like?
He passes by the remaining table of men and leans over, saying something quietly. One of the men reacts angrily by the looks of things and slams his mug on the table. The innkeeper's moustache bristles and with barely a growl the man backs down from whatever the dispute was.
When asked if he was attending the funeral, Rajuna's first instinct is to deflect the question. Misdirection and secrecy were part of the job. But unless he planned to attend the will's reading and funeral in disguise, he couldn't avoid the question. And, really, Doc's death is a personal matter, innit? It isn't business... at least not yet.
He listens as introductions are made and stories shared among the growing crowd, inserting his own only when there is a lull. "Can't say if Doc felt we were friends, but we helped each other out from time to time."
"Kazamir Rhuul, by the way, of Caliphas"
Raj smiles at the introduction, "I'm Rajuna - of nowhere in particular." He whistles appreciatively, "You've come straight from Caliphas? That's a long way." the scarred man's smile doesn't extend to his eyes as he keenly watches the barman's second whispered exchange with some of the locals. He smells trouble. As the barkeep approaches, Raj quickly drains the rest of his tankard and hands it to the barman, while using it to cover his other hand grabbing the man's wrist with enough force to emphasize his point.
At a volume pitched to carry across the room, he says, "That was a fine pint, friend! I'd love another." He slides his eyes towards the locals' table then back to the barman and sub-vocalizes in a tone that shouldn't carry beyond his companions, "Is there a problem? Those boys were grumbling before and you've exchanged words with'em twice now. If there's gonna be trouble, I'd appreciate knowin' before it happens." He releases the man's wrist and plunks down his last four coppers for another tankard.
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
Seeing the exchange, Kazamir casts a cool eye over the arguing parties, trying to observe without being observed.
Whatever of the following are appropriate...
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
Stealth: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (8) + 4 = 12 to observe subtly...
Raj nods and gives the barman a tight smile, which comes out looking something like a grimace, given the heavy scars that pull at his mouth. "Fair enough - I come from a small village meself." When the barkeep is out of earshot, Raj shares a glance with Zed and growls, "It's good to be appreciated."
Courtaud for me. Galus says, looking enviously at the food and drink the others have. Long way to go with just a nag for company.
A heavy backpack sits on the floor at Galus' previous table. He reaches over and drags it next to him, being careful not to dislodge the battered greatsword strapped to the back of it.
Well, not just a nag for company. he says, indicating the sword. Dangerous roads out there. I spent every copper I had on some tin-pot old armour and that blade there, all just to make sure I got here.
He...ah....he gave me something I can never return so... at least I can be here.
He clears his throat, obviously not used to groups.
Courtaud, Caliphas. It seems he got around during his time, helped a lot of people. Galus muses.
He casts another long look at Zed. It appears he is trying to decide something before saying;
Sir, I'm sorry to pry in somethin' that ain't my business, but are you sick? You look awful pale.
Noting that a small group seems to be forming, Hazel grabs a chair and and pulls it up to the table where Rajuna, Kaz, and Zed are sitting. "Mind if I join you as well? It's a sad occasion that brings us here but we may as well try to make the best of it; share some stories and the like?"
Hearing no objections, she grabs her bowl of soup from where it rests on the bar and moves over to sit with the others. "Thank you and don't worry about the bread," she calls to the barman, "I like crackers better anyway!"
Settling in at the table, she digs in to her soup with gusto as she listens to the others make introductions. "Hazel Stokes, also of nowhere in particular," she says when her turn comes around. "Though if you really want to be particular, formerly of Magnimar I suppose - though the letter that brought me here reached me in Whistledown." Pausing between spoonfuls of soup, she holds up a small butterfly pendant that had slipped underneath her armor. "Needless to say, I don't stay in one place for very long," she grins. "As to how I met the Professor, well...let's just say that there are hopefully some former cutpurses out there that learned a lesson about stealing from the elderly," she adds. "I'm not really surprised that he remembered me, but I'm a little surprised that he wanted my presence at his funeral since I didn't really know him."
As they continue to eat and chat, Hazel's attention is also drawn by the exchange between Raj and the barman. She had been too busy being focused on the conversation to pay much attention to what the other patrons were doing and so she turns to give them a curious look before turning back to the table.
"Try not to worry about it," she comments. "We're not doing anything wrong by being here, right? Although..." her eyes shift to the large man with the rather shy demeanor and then to Zed. "I have to admit that I'm curious as well, Mr. Ulmin - you do look ill. Hard trip getting here?"
Zed raises an ear to the conversation at the other table, but keeps his eyes forward.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (3) + 8 = 11
Unless they get unruly, I don't care to make a scene about anything. Zed shrugs as the others bring it up. "Words mean nothing, let them talk." As the big bellied human inquires about his health, Zed smiles. Perhaps the most innocent and honest way the subject has been brought up. He takes another sip from his spiked tea and sets the cup down. "It is no illness, but a much more permanent affliction. Perhaps some of you have heard tales of the charismatic vampires that prey on the easily manipulated. Sometimes they sate their lust on human women, and sometimes those women are impregnated." He gestures to himself. "And such is the result. Neither dead nor living, but something in between."
Coat turned up, battered hat askew, another out-of-towner arrives, quickly shutting the door behind him. The fact that the carries a lengthy spear makes it obvious that he has come along a dangerous road. He takes up a seat by the fireplace, trying to dry his dark cloak and to warm his rain-spattered hands.
He turns down the high collar of his coat and his eyes flicker across the other men near the fire, but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He wipes rain from his face and briefly closes his eyes to compose himself, like a man haunted and trying to find his center.
His pack clatters to the ground next to his chair with a soft thump, and he leans his spear against the wall next to the fireplace and rummages through the pack, then straightens up, counting a small number of coins in his hand, before he closes his hand over them and cranes his head around as if to look for suspicious or greedy glances in his direction.
"Try not to worry about it," she comments. "We're not doing anything wrong by being here, right?"
Raj debates if he should respond then does so with reluctance, speaking quietly. "This isn't Whistledown or anywhere else in Varisia, Miss Hazel. Fearful folk in Ustalav are always close to grabbing pitchforks and torches. Right or wrong don't come into it." He lapses into something of an apologetic silence.
"And such is the result. Neither dead nor living, but something in between."
Rajuna's brows raise sharply at Zed's announcement. He watches the locals' table closely to make sure they aren't listening. This was the sort of statement that ended with rampaging mobs. He considers all that the pale man had said and nods. With the ghost of a smile, he concludes, "I bet you and Doc had many interesting talks."
JZ - what alignment was the Professor? I'd like to characterize him at least somewhat accurately if we end up swapping tales of the man.
Zed sips his spiked tea again, feeling the warmth of the cup. "Yes. Most our of discussions were about that, as well as my father." He reaches under his armored coat and pulls out a holy symbol to Pharasma. "But I am not a product of my birth. The apple could not have possibly fallen farther from the tree."
He makes a staying gesture at the upheld symbol, as if it's unnecessary. "I don't doubt it, Zed. I expect you wouldn't a' been Doc's friend if that weren't the case. What I saw of him, he was picky about the company he kept. That's good enough for me."
"But what are they afraid of?" Hazel replies to Raj. "I know...a little bit about Ustalav's history, but surely things aren't still that dire here, are they?" She shakes her head. "It doesn't make sense..." she muttered. As she starts to turn her eyes back to her meal once more, they briefly alight on what she can see of Raj's face. For some reason, she got an odd niggling feeling in the back of her mind when she looked at him, one of familiarity - as if she should know him from somewhere.
Don't be silly, you'd remember meeting someone like Raj. He probably just reminds you of someone else that you know or met along the road.
When Zed divulges his true nature to them Hazel's eyes widen, clearly having expected a mundane tale of illness or other physical hardship instead of this. A thousand different questions bubbled up to the surface of her mind but instead of being able to ask any of them, all she could do was choke on the bite of soup she had just taken.
"S-sorry, w-went down the...wrong pipe!" she squeaks, coughing explosively. As her coughing fit fades, her eyes settle on the holy symbol that Zed pulls out from under his coat. "Well, that answers most of my questions right there," she whispers. "But now I have to ask - what other sorts of research did the Professor engage in?" she queries as she gazes at Zed with a look of fascination. "Are there many others like you-oh gods, I'm staring again, aren't I? I'm sorry," she sighs.
Casting about for a distraction, her eyes settle on the newest person to walk through the door. "Hey, he doesn't look as though he's local either," she whispers to the others, eager for a change of subject. "Think he's here for the funeral too?"
Zed gives a shrug, sipping at his tea again. "Curiosity is natural, and it doesn't bother me. You can stare and inquire as much as you want. The Lady of Graves supports the spread of knowledge."
"Not all of the research projects are mine to divulge, but primarily what he and I worked on together is understanding the abilities of undead. Their anatomies, what powers them, their weaknesses, how to kill them. It helps that...I'm a subject of study on the matter." He tucks his symbol away.
"My kind are few are far between, but there are others. I don't know how many exactly, as most of us tend to hide our true nature to avoid persecution. But they are out there."
Galus doesn't seem to know what to say in response to Zed's revelation on his heritage. When he brandishes the symbol of Pharasma, the big warrior mutters a few words. It's amazing how quickly you turn to religion when faced with the prospect of death, either your own or that of someone you love.
He decides to change the subject somewhat;
My invitation came from someone called Kendra. A daughter I guess. Anyone else met her?
He too eyes the man who took his seat beforehand fire.
Yep, friends all over Doctor
The Outward Inn tavern is point K on the map by the way. We will get into other locations after the funeral tomorrow.
Speaking of which, I am happy to let this RP scene-setting go on as long as you continue to find it interesting but when you're ready to move on to the next day and the funeral let me know
The latest stranger's eyes linger on Zed briefly...
Knowledge: Local: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14
...then flicker back to his attempts to dry his damp traveling gear.
Know/rel: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
I seem to remember hearing about beings like this... Kazamir muses, listening to the conversation around him.
He turns to Hazel, speaking gently; "What are they afraid of? Many, many things, madam. While things are not so Dire as when the Tyrant reigned, many folk in other parts of the world would still call the normal state of affairs in Ustalav 'dire'. They fear the new and unknown because, time and again, experience has shown them that there are, indeed, monsters in the dark.
No offense intended," he adds, nodding and raising his cup to Zed.
A little later in the conversation :"No Galus, I have not met Kendra, but yes, she is the Professor's daughter."
I'm ready when everyone else is...
"...experience has shown them that there are, indeed, monsters in the dark."
Raj casually nods in agreement, liking Kazamir's concision. "Galus here spent his coins arming up for this trip," He idly taps a finger against the side of his ruined face, "...an' I didn't get this from shaving."
Raj quickly shifts the subject by getting the barkeep's attention. "What's a room cost, friend? Do you let folk sleep on the floor in here once you close up for less?"
I'm good with moving on but I'm happy to let folks wrap things up in whatever way works for them. Giving Constantin a chance to engage if he wants to would be nice... although he could go for the 'mysterious stranger' showing up at the funeral just as easily.
The scarred man digs deep into his burnoose and pulls out the last of his money... three silver coins sit in his dirty palm. He gives a gallows chuckle and hands them over. "'preciate the break, friend. I owe you one. I wasn't looking forward to sleeping outdoors tonight."
LOL. JZ, did you pick that price after consulting my character sheet? ;P
Kn. Religion (Ulmin?): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
"I see..." Hazel nods thoughtfully in response to Zed. "You've got a lot more patience for being stared at than I would have," she says, looking slightly sheepish. "Thank you for humoring me."
At Kazamir's words she simply shivers. "Monsters in the dark...I'm not sure that I want to know."
When Raj comments on Galus having spent his coins on arming himself, something finally clicks in Hazel's mind.
Wait, I bet he probably doesn't have any money left for food, let alone a room.
"Galus? Do you want some of my soup? There's plenty left and I don't think I could eat it all if I tried! And I promise I'm not sick either," she grins.
That might work better than if I just offered to buy his meal...at least I hope so.
I'm having fun but I'm gtg whenever; I can always backfill/flextime stuff for Hazel if need be!