Almar nods:"It's true, everything including the foundations is just gone. As if someone took his time very, very carefully. But what about this Brinewall? Should that mean something to us? Do you suspect people from Brinewall might be behind this magic?"
Lisabett shakes her head. "If it was intelligent, it could have deliberately lead us away from the lake," Lisabett replies and frowns. "Something is... queer, here," she says and looks back towards town. "Yes, let's return. We should not purchase provisions in abundance if a handful of nuts and berries is what this land will yield for this village."
You have no trouble retracing your hike and manage to return to the caravan by early afternoon. Sandru is hoisting a sizable crate onto one of the wagons as you approach. Beads of sweat have gathered on his brow; it seems as if he has been working hard, apparently on his own. Though he seems not to notice you, he calls out a greeting when you get close. "Warm day, isn't it? Find anything?"
Almar and Raziel
"I will be honest." Ameiko continues. "I do not know what to think. The letter you retrieved from the cavern, in the swamp...it makes mention of Brinewall Castle. The place is said to be haunted, and yet it is what has haunted my thoughts since I read the words. To find this here, connected to this mystery, is...well, I do not know." She is silent for some moments.
"Forgive me." she begins again. "Raziel, you perhaps have not known me well these years that we have shared Sandpoint as a home, but you have known me. You know that I am not of somber mood. You know that I do not lose myself in worry." Ameiko stands, leaning over the table; her knuckles pressed against the grain of the oak. "But I tell you, there is something sinister that nags at me. Something that whispers to me when I am alone. Shadows that dance out of my vision as I turn. At night, I dream of a castle." She runs an outstretched finger across the parchment, tracing the Tien character as if studying the calligraphy. "To find this here..."
Setomi blushes and rushes over to try and help. Oh, I am so sorry Sandru! We did not mean to leave you with all this work to do on your own. What can I do to help?" Setomi stands uncertain by the wagon, looking for something to move or store.
Lisabett calmly places what little they have gathered on their excursion to the side, and while she makes no immediate move to assist Sandru with his charge, she does not intentionally obstruct his work. Her eyebrow bows with curiosity to see the young woman dash to the captain's aide, her blue eyes cool and reflective.
"A man of sense might have asked to share his burden. Allow him to enjoy what results of an excess of pride."
After speaking in her native tongue, Lisabett's face softens into a faint smile, briefly showing a dimple.
"We found a glen teaming with game, and none but a single arrow lying there," Lisabett replies. "If any of the locals have been hunting in these lands in some time, they are better sneaks than Miss Setomi. I pray you did not purchase provisions as of yet."
Almar looks intensely at Ameiko, considering his words carefully:"...might mean everything or might mean nothing at all. If you think this Brinewall castle to be so important we will explore it then. It may be we'll find some answers there. That doesn't explain who ar why this was left in place of those towers though"
Lisabett acknowledges Setomi's words with an incline of her head, then flicks her eyes to Sandru, briefly, and then just as quickly away.
"Forgive us for speaking in my milk tongue, Captain, we were simply remarking on the lack of assistants here," Lisabett translates... roughly. "Had you informed me, I might have... delegated," the word sounds distasteful coming from her tongue, and heavily accented besides.
Lisabett looks about the camp. "I will admit that I am curious what diversions the others have found," she continues. "The villagers did not appear to me... hospitable."
"They are just a few crates. There is little need to assign duties." Sandru answers. "I was not sure when the traders would bring them over, and I saw no cause for any others to wait with me. I did not purchase provisions. These folk seem unwilling to part with any food. I cannot blame them. Fear hangs thick here, and for good reason." His tone is grave, but he allows a smile.
"I cannot say for sure what the others are doing. My guess is that Almar is acting the bloodhound. Sorin wandered away from the inn not long ago. I saw Raziel speaking with Mother Koya earlier, but where they have gone, I cannot say. I am similarly without knowledge of Shalelu's whereabouts." The Varisian's smile grows broad. "Come to think of it, I'm really not much use, am I?" He looks towards the Tattered Scarf for a moment, then back to you. "Ameiko is getting worse. I have not seen her like this since...well, not for a long time. Even her father's death did not see her in this state. Surely you agree, Setomi?"
Almar and Raziel
"If Sandru will allow it." Ameiko replies curtly. "He has refused, despite his strange decision to turn his caravan north instead of seeing it through to Magnimar."
"If the fiend that you pursue, Almar, is behind this, then we will find ourselves at that castle," Raziel muses. "But these dreams of yours worry me, Ameiko. Although I am not a priest of Desna, I understand the importance of dreams. Your dream sounds like a portent that we should beaware of."
Setomi nods in agreement with Sandru's statement. "I know she is sleeping poorly, and not eating as much as she should. I think we need to confront her and find out what is wrong."
She gives a week smile to Sandru as she heads over to the Inn to try and talk with Ameiko.
Almar considers Ameiko's words carefully:"I think Sandru will lead the caravan to this Brinewall Castle if given reason enough. If there's a chance to hunt down the man in black I will lead you there myself, alone if necessary"
Lisabett watches Setomi leave, and a brief look of coldness passes between her eyes, as though a sudden breeze delivered a touch of frost to her heart. She does not return her attention to the captain at all when she continues to speak, lest he see the marked change in her reaction to any amount of attention being spared to the peacekeeper.
"There was a creature near the lake," she says carefully, "an... elk, unlike any elk I have seen before. We followed its track from the lake until it disappeared," Lisabett pauses and inhales, both to underline the effect of an animal's tracks disappearing from her sight and to center herself before looking upon the captain again.
"There is no hunting here because the people are afraid of something in the land. I would know the reason why, but I do not believe that they would speak to me freely," she continues. "You have a rapport with them, Captain, would you help me?"
The door of the Tattered Scarf creaks open. Setomi enters to find Ameiko leaning over a table in the common room, apparently in conversation with Almar and Raziel. Koya Mvashti sits quietly by herself in the corner. The three Ulfen men sit at the bar, conversing in Skald.
They are talking about prostitutes. Espen contends that none in Varisia have the right to demand coin for their trade.
Sense Motive DC 22:
Though he is seemingly engrossed in his third bottle of mead, you are certain that Ulrick is eavesdropping on the conversation between Ameiko, Almar, and Raziel.
Ameiko frowns at Almar. "If he had seen the atrocity in the cave, then maybe that would be enough. It is hard to say. But it is good to know that I may find your support. Know that you also have mine."
Sandru chuckles. "You perhaps overestimate my ability to communicate with the townsfolk here. They are fearful of all wanderers. I used to have friends in Galduria, but they have gone to Korvosa, I am told. Well, not Yuri. Yuri was killed on the northern road, they say." He is quiet for a moment.
"Ahhh...I will try, Lisabett. But if I know the way of a tradesman, you know the way of the wilds. If there are questions about the land, I would have you by my side in any such conversation."
Setomi stops as she enters the Inn to let her eyes adjust to the relative gloominess within the building. She scans the occupants, hearing the rough talk of the Northmen speaking of women, and the soft conversation of Ameiko, Raziel and Almar. She frowns as she looks over at Ulrick, who pretends to be only interested in his drink, but who is doing otherwise. Not sure how to proceed, she quietly takes a seat by Koya, and keeps an eye on Ulrick.
Raziel catches Ulrick evesdropping on the conversation, but says nothing at this time.
He could just be interested in the talk of dreams, he thinks, wondering which Ulfen had devoted himself to following Koya. Still, he might be a problem, concidering his actions so far...
Lisabett bites her lower lip harshly. "I have had... little success speaking with villagers since winter," she admits and casts her eyes down. "And if they are among the greater number who defensively assume that those with my blood, height and complexion are raiders, they'll be reluctant to speak to me at all."
Lisabett grips her hand into a fist, which is soon covered over with frost, and her breath mists in the warmth of the afternoon, but the moment passes quickly enough, and the frost never once touches her eyes.
"Forgive me, Captain," she says softly. "I am not unfamiliar with villages in peril, but... why do they remain where there is no food?" she shakes her head.
Haven't seen Sorin in a while. We didn't lose Sir Jolt, did we?
Almar, Raziel, and Lisabett
Ulrick drains the last drop of mead from his bottle and tosses it aside. It shatters on the wooden floor. "Apologies." the Ulfen says immediately, not taking his eyes off of Setomi. A moment later, he is kneeling, scooping broken glass into his open hand. "Do not mind me." he grunts in your direction.
"You perhaps fail to appreciate how reluctant they are to speak to anybody!" Sandru exclaims with a smirk. "Jesting aside, I think you are right. We should speak to the mayor."
"Quoaral!" He shouts for the Shoanti, then leans in to you and speaks softly. "Eyes like a hawk, that one, but he's been sitting by himself a hundred paces off since waking. Strange." Sure enough, Quoaral comes loping along from behind a building a fair distance away. Sandru smiles at his approach. "Watch the wagons, please." The Shoanti nods in response.
"Come, Lisabett." Sandru takes a few steps as he gestures at you to follow him. "You've brought up good questions, but I'll not seek answers all on my own."
Just want to say, OOC, I do not want for any female member of the caravan to be alone on watch with Espen ever again. Creepy.
Lisabett blushes and twitches slightly to move away from the sudden intimacy with the captain, but finds herself arrested by the strange behavior of the tribesmen. She had learned their language from a number that attended the caravan before, and while their tribal ways were far more savage than her own, they seemed far more... compatible with the Ulfen way than the gentle, peace-loving hospitality of the Varisian people.
What might he have seen?
With exceedingly long legs, and more than a little experience running in snow, Lisabett easily catches up with the Captain's stride, but remains behind slightly so as not to give the impression of equality, or worse... companionship. She spares several nervous glances at the residents as they pass, wondering who or what could possibly have cowed them into such terror of outsiders. Had they so little strength left that they would not even rise to defend themselves?
Almar looks at Ulrik, mildly annoyed, but decides to ignore him:"We were saying? About Sandru: I believe we can get him to agree to explore this Brinewall Castle if we explain the situation clearly. He's a reasonable man... and I believe you can be pretty convincing if you want to, Ameiko..."
The Galdurian building referred to as the "town hall" is an unimpressive sight. It is a single-story structure, badly in need of maintenance. Sandru knocks, but no answer comes from within. With little hesitation, he reaches for the iron handle and pulls the door open, mild surprise playing on his face. He steps inside, beckoning for you to follow.
Almar, Raziel, and Setomi
Ameiko smiles. "With some, I can be, but with Sandru-"
"Why would anybody want to go to a haunted hellhole like Brinewall?" Ulrick rudely interrupts Ameiko from across the room.
Almar raises an eyebrow, irritated at the brusque interruption:"So you are not just a clumsy hoaf, eh Ulrik? Since when did you start to eavesdrop on people? And since you raised the question about Brinewall... what do you know about it?"
"Only what everybody knows." the Ulfen grunts in reply. "That it's cursed. None but fools and angry spirits go through its gates."
Espen and Andres look puzzled at Ulrick's minor attempt at poetry. The former echoes him, however. "If you'd seen it, you'd understand. One look will tell you that something about that place isn't natural. There's a sure plunder in there, but just about any raider, sellsword, or treasure hunter will sooner piss themselves than enter into Brinewall Castle." Espen's dark tone breaks into a sudden laugh. "Gorum's Gold, I've seen it happen. With men bigger than Ulrick, even."
Ulrick smirks. "There's a reason to tread just about any place, friend. It just becomes a question of risk versus reward. Well, what's the reward? A man hired to follow has a right to know that much."
Espen and Ulrick look straight at Almar, but Andres's eyes drift towards Setomi in the shadows. If indeed he sees her, he says nothing of it.
Lisabett reaches and touches Sandru's shoulder gently to arrest him when she sees that no one has answered their report. She places her finger against her lips to plead for quiet, then casts the spell Detect Magic and moves forward with him.
Though Sandru smiles at your touch, it does not deter him from quickly slipping through the door, less quietly than you have urged him. Following after, however, you find the "town hall" seemingly unoccupied. The glorified office hosts a large desk with two chairs placed in front of it. Sandru sits in one, and smirking, offers you the other.
It is then that you hear the blast of a horn from without.
Almar, Raziel, and Setomi
The blowing of a loud horn from outside interrupts the moment. Andres and Espen immediately go for their weapons and stand at the ready; Ulrick is slower to do so.
The building creaks unhealthily, but over the splintering of wood and the groaning of sagging beams, you hear the call of a horn from somewhere outside.
Anybody can make this check, but Lisabett can do so untrained with a +5 bonus.
The Horn Blast: Knowledge (Geography) DC 15):
The horn blast that has sounded is likely an Ulfen raiding signal.
Lisabett untrained kn. geography +5 vs. DC 15 1d20 + 1 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 1 + 5 = 22 well, aint that spiffy.
Lisabett, touching the seat as she intended to speak, suddenly grips the back in her fist, and a wave of frost rushes from her fingertips down its surface and up her arm as she becomes suffused by her magics.
"Raiders," she hisses. When she looks to Sandru, the frost seems to be passing in front of her eyes like flakes of snow. "The hungry will not be able to defend themselves without leadership," she says, moisture spilling from her mouth. "We need to show them."
Sandru nods at you as he strings his shortbow. "Galduria has lost its barracks and guardsmen, but some surely still know how to wield steel. I'll find what able-bodied men I can and rally them." The Varisian stands. His cautious amusement of a moment ago is altogether gone. "But you, Lisabett, you find our comrades and get them in order. I hope I do not offend when I say you know the way of raiders better than most. Do not be afraid to take command."
Without awaiting a reply, Sandru pushes the door open and runs down the street.
But, wait! Lisabett's mind seethes as Sandru simply abandons her. 'Don't be afraid to lead?' This is not my home we are risking! At the very least, the man seemed to have enough sense to prepare a bow rather than pull his scimitar and expect to survive should he be ambushed by a number of raiders.
There is no cause to offer weregild for foreign warriors.
After a moment's more hesitance, Lisabett jogs to the Tattered Scarf, a javelin in hand, considering the lay of the streets between the mayors and the inn. Where are its weaknesses? Where would I send the best men?
Lisabett Perception 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
When Lisabett enters the inn, she is calm. The frost marching up her arm has receded, but there is still snow passing in front of her eyes.
"Raiders," she informs the group. "They cannot be very well prepared for this strike, else they would have been informed of our presence, and struck when we were divided, earlier."
Lisabett shakes her head and looks to Setomi, then finally to Ulrick and speaks in Skald,
"Move as quietly and carefully as you may, and discover which position they are favoring to attack from. We'll not miss the advance of their greatest warriors."
then looks to the others. "We will keep a tight, structured formation," she informs them with a tone of authority. "Chaos assists their cause, not ours. Lady," she allows her eyes to rest on Ameiko briefly, "your songs have the power to bolster us, no? We will require your aide."
Lisabett looks around a few more moments, and recognizes a lack near the lady. "Where is Sorin?"
As he hears the sound of the horn Amar jumps up from the table and draws his pistol:"And what now? An horn blast? let's check what's happening, people!", so saying the gunslinger goes out of the tavern weapons in hand.
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
Sorin assumes that anyone still on the first floor has heard the sound and will have the sense to get out of the building. He'll rush up the stairs (assuming their location is fairly evident) shouting, "The building is coming down! Everyone out! Hurry, hurry!
Though Sorin hears the horn the need to get anyone in the building to safety prevents him from thinking on it.
From where you stand in the street, you can see three riders on heavy war horses approaching. Two of them wear armor nearly identical to the Ulfen men in your caravan. The other wears thick hide and has a massive greataxe strapped to his back. It is hard not to notice that his eyes have no pupils as they stare at you through his matted, dirty hair.
The rider in front yells, his voice seeming to carry over every rooftop in Galduria. "We've near fifty men over the ridge, ready to burn your homes and make your children fatherless! But we come first seeking tribute! A chest from each house, and if we approve of your offerings, we ride back in the direction we came!"
The two well-armored men do not acknowledge your presence, but the one with the white eyes smiles savagely at you both.
Lisabett and Setomi
"Of course, Lisabett." Ameiko replies with a bow. "If my words can lift your spirits in battle, you shall have them."
"I have not seen Sorin." Koya Mvashti stands from her place in the corner of the common room.
"He left not long ago." Espen answers.
"But he is no protector of you, Mother." Andres continues. "He has abandoned you in-"
A booming voice from right outside interrupts Andres's complaint. "We've near fifty men over the ridge ready to burn your homes, and make your children fatherless! But we come first seeking tribute! A chest from each house, and if we approve of your offerings, we ride back in the direction we came!"
You hear a man yelling from somewhere else in the town.
Perception DC 15:
You are able to discern his words. "We've near fifty men over the ridge ready to burn your homes, and make your children fatherless! But we come first seeking tribute! A chest from each house, and if we approve of your offerings, we ride back in the direction we came!"
The house is leaning heavily, but the woman you had conversed with from below comes dashing out of one of the rooms. "None in here by me!" she cries.
The house lurches and begins to collapse. Reflex save, please!
Sense Motive DC 9 (everybody who hears the man's threat):
The one who speaks does not lie convincingly. There may be other raiders in reserve, but nowhere near fifty.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO the first natural 20 I rolled on a DC 9 check!!!!
Almar almost laughs at the pathetic lie the ulfen proclaimed with such pomp:"I've got another proposition for you: you leave now and WE don't kill you and the other mangy dogs who follow you, here and now. How do you like the sound of that? If I were in you I would turn tail now, before things get ugly..."
Lisabett steps forward, tilting her head slightly to the side as she regards her former captain's man. "How is that?" she wonders. "Has he suffered unduly since he lost his bed warmer? Or have you each become so inept and spineless that you would continue to follow him to this end?"
Almar moves forward with a decise stride:"So? What's your answer? We are not easily cowed and your lies are clear for all to see. You should go, now. And I intend this as a warning, there won't be any more"
A horrid grin spreads on the face of the wild man, though Bjorn and his other comrade wear a deadly serious look. "It is well known among us that you did no such warming, Lisabett. I assure you that the Captain has found great satisfaction in his companionship since you left. Where his happiness is lacking is in your continued existence. I would not deprive him of the pleasure of ending it himself."
I will need a Diplomacy, Bluff, or Intimidate roll to resolve this.
As you take the woman's arm, a great CRACK sounds beneath you, and the floor slants, knocking the both of you from your feet. You reach for the stairway in vain as you slide down the splintering incline. Your one chance may be the window you are tumbling towards: if you can get the woman to her feet (Strength Check) and jump through the glass with her (Acrobatics Check), you may yet escape the collapsing building.
Bjorn's grave demeanor breaks into a sadistic smile. "I cannot say why I ever saw you as anything more than a shrieking child. But we'll have our tribute, I think." He points at Lisabett, but speaks to his comrades in his native tongue.
"Sigard, help me wrangle the rat. And you, whatever you are called, take the heads off the rest of them. Perhaps death will bring an end to the wind blowing through their lips."
With a great burst of strength, you fling the woman up and through the window. The frame breaks under her weight, and she falls a short distance to the ground outside, hopefully safely. You are unable to escape the structure yourself, however, and as the roof gives way, you feel the crushing blow of a splintered beam come down on your chest.
Damage - 4d6 + 5 ⇒ (3, 1, 5, 4) + 5 = 18
You will be able to free yourself from the wreckage with a series of successful Strength checks. Sorin will be part of the same initiative.