At this point, I am seriously considering stealing one of those great axes for Lisabett to wield. It's thematic and she wouldn't be any less useful in combat for carrying one :P
Lisabett's eyes narrow when the Lady arrives on the scene. Of all the members of the party, Sandpoint's poor excuse for a peacekeeper is the last she wished to see. Ameiko did naught but remind Lisabett of her shame, and having utterly failed to prove herself in combat, the idea that she return to her captain to face his wrath seemed a kindness to continuing pretending to something she could never be.
"Nok" Lisabett sighs, rises and continues walking north.
Almar wears a grim expression hearing Lisabett's words. He nods at Raziel and mutters under his breath:"She acts out of spite, just like a child... but these are not things children should be meddling with"
The gunslinger helps burying the two deceased ulfen
Setomi looks at her friend, unsure what she should tell her. Her mother had been somewhat cryptic in her revelation of their past and that, like themselves, their name had been changed.
"As I told you, before my mother passed away, she imparted to me several important pieces of information. She also bid me watch over you, as you, like me, were the last of your clan. What I have not told you was in what capacity we were employed by your family."
Setomi takes a deep, steading breath before she says, in an almost whisper, "I am ninja."
Ameiko blinks, perhaps surprised at the confirmation.
"But why a clan of ninja dedicated to a family of glass-blowers. Setomi, I have guessed at much, but all that I am learning confirms my suspicions. I am grateful for your honesty...but, do you know any more than this?" She hesitates for but a moment. "And if the answer is no, will you help me to discover the truth, or bar my way?"
Sandru looks after Lisabett with concern.
"Let her go." Shalelu assures him, making no effort to keep her voice low. "She does not bleed, yet her pride is wounded. I will follow her. You return to the others."
Sandru shrugs and walks towards the two Tian women.
Almar and Raziel
I'll get the burial in order, but I'd like to keep things relatively close in time for the moment. Almar, Raziel, and Koya will all assist, it sounds like.
Setomi switches back to common when answering Ameiko's questions. "I do not know exactly who your family is, but they must have been very important for my entire clan to have accompanied them into this exile. My mother told me that we were honour-bound to protect your family...that our clan had been doing so for many, many years. But that is all she told me." She takes a deep breath and looks at her one-time best friend and smiles. "I could never stop you from doing what you wanted, Ameiko, you know that. Even if it was not a request from my mother, I would help you. Like you, I have questions about where we come from and who we are. Maybe more of our clans are still in the old country....I do not know, but I am more than willing to travel with you and discover the truth about our past." So saying, the little Tien girl steps forward and hugs her friend.
Lisabett continued in silence for a time, before the cool of the layers of frost began to chill her skin. Soon, she knew, it would begin to burn in her lungs and slow her progress. Lisabett knelt, and biting back a howl of frustration, called upon her nature magics and after clapping her hands above her head, summoned a gush of pure water to wash frost from her face and chest. Ice clung in places to tendrils of her striking blonde hair, eyelashes, and even her nose, but she scrubbed at these furiously with a large, scarred hand.
Among honorable men, Bjorn's indiscretions would have cost him dearly, not in blood, which no berserker truly respected, but in the coin they horded in ignorance. The practice of weregild was one whereby victims could find peaceful redress for injuries sustained by their household, from the killing of thralls to the murder of heads and their heirs. Mercenaries existed outside of this practice, and raiders had no more honor than whatever reputation they earned in their local battles for being monsters before the next greatest monster stood and broke that title. A raider would be dragged from the confines of the village to its furthest reaches and burnt, not buried, in a display meant to deter others from passing into the land. In the summers, when activity was highest, if the thane or jarl was particularly cruel, they would be disemboweled and hung on display. There was no place in a warrior's afterlife for weaklings who were treated in such a manner, Lisabett knew, but then, none of her party had ventured further north than their current position.
But Almar had lived better than she, and had the right to judge in ignorance.
Lisabett growled and created another measure of water, then shook her damp hair loose and rose, staggering a few moments. She recognized Shalelu following at a pace, acknowledged her with an inclination of her head, and continued to follow the road.
Ameiko returns the embrace. "I do you dishonor in even asking such things, Setomi. Your loyalty known to me, and deeply appreciated." She looks north after Lisabett. "Those men, it sounds like, have laid hands on her before...and worse. I fear for her...she is younger than us two, but has known such hardship. Yet she wears it more proudly than even you, Sandru." Ameiko addresses the approaching Varisian.
"What?" he asks, in confusion. "Are you both all right? I was with the archers. Did it come to fighting in the streets?"
Shalelu appears to be making no effort to catch up. She simply follows you.
Setomi steps back and looks to where the Northwoman headed. "I do not know if it is her heritage, or some tramua she suffered, but there is a wildness in her that seems barely contained. I fear for here, and wish to help, but I do not know how."
"Good sir, as you can see I'm not Ulfen," Raziel replies politely. "And I'd not want to take the time to construct a proper pyre or cairn, but leaving them out to rot would be impolite and attract scavengers and vermin. So I would bury them with a prayer that their souls not linger and make haste to their final reckoning."
Perception roll: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (19) + 9 = 28
"Now where did that Ulrick disappear to?" he mutters. "Just like him, to vanish at the hint of work."
Sandru's face twists in annoyance, but he seems to realize it as soon as it happens, and covers it with a smile. "I ask again, are you two unhurt? And the others? I heard the booming of Almar's gun more than once, and there was a tremendous crash too, of a different nature."
Almar and Raziel
"Ah, well, I don't know anything about any of that." the local man replies. "Just trying to be respectful."
Espen lets out a guffaw. "They would hang your empty head on a pike, fool! But you talk of respect."
The Galdurian man looks away, ashamed. He does not linger long.
Andres says nothing in response to Raziel's comment about Ulrick, though his grim demeanor does little to hide the fact that he is made unhappy by it.
Working together, you manage to get the men buried with an hour's work. Koya assists for a time, but she grows tired, and opts to stand back and begin prayer. Warm light flows from her as she chants.
Koya is channeling energy as many times as is needed to get present company (excluding Bjorn and Hrognir) to full hit points.
Channel Energy 1. 2d6 ⇒ (1, 5) = 6
Channel Energy 2. 2d6 ⇒ (2, 5) = 7
Channel Energy 3. 2d6 ⇒ (4, 3) = 7
Channel Energy 4. 2d6 ⇒ (2, 1) = 3
Channel Energy 5. 2d6 ⇒ (2, 3) = 5
Setomi looks slightly embarrassed, and giggles into her hand. "I am so very sorry Sandru. There was a minor scuffle with 3 northern barbarians, but we were able to take care of it, thank you for your concern."
Almar thanks Koya for the cures then starts searching for Ulrick:[i]"Were did that damned Ulfen go now? Has he turned cloak and ran back to his old master? Or did he just turn craven and ran away, scared of the prospect of exploring this Brinewall castle?"[/b]
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
"Thank you, but there is no need to fetch a priest." Sorin responds to the woman. "My friend is one and I have small gift of healing myself; I'm in no danger I assure you. I'm glad you were able to get to safety."
Sorin looks back at the collapsed building. Probably just an unpleasant coincidence but still...
Turning back to the woman, "I confess, I've never seen a support beam just give way like that. Has this sort of thing happened before?" Sorin smiles down at the woman, "Also, I would like to ask the question I originally came here to ask. The man who came here and harmed those poor girls and has set the whole town on edge, di you happen to see what he looked like? Has anyone?"
Lisabett found Shalelu's silence a blessing. The tumult of her thought was... derisive to say the least. Among warriors, women were the weakest, and among women, a witch was one to be bound and burnt alive at discovery. Lisabett felt despair as she recognized that she, who had no skill of a warrior, and whose magics failed, was less useful than the average whore.
Lisabett paused and knelt beside the trail several times, looking not only for sign of the scout's horse, but those of others, or indeed if any manner of predator or game had passed recently.
"Likely went for an ale, seeing as the dust has settled." Espen replies. "Can't say as I blame him."
Ulrick's large footprints are easy to spot, and they definitely do not lead back to The Tattered Scarf. It seems he went elsewhere in town.
Lisabett finds no sign of game and no tracks of predators. The hoofprints of the raiding party's horses, however, are plentiful.
Strangely, you have to travel some distance before you find evidence of a lone scout. The mercenaries did not send their scout close enough to Galduria to learn anything useful, but seemed to have sent one merely as a part of the routine. Sloppy work, uncharacteristic of your former Captain.
Sandru grimaces and gives a nod in your direction before hurrying back to the center of town.
"This sort of thing? The building? Why...no." The woman's eyes are still wide with disbelief and fear. "But the coming of that man, and what he did...why, that's never happened before either...so..."
She steps back and is silent for a moment. The tears on her cheeks dry and her voice sobers. "I was ill that night, so I took to sleeping while the other three worked. I woke when they started screaming. I called out, but then it was quiet. I should have been drawn to the hall, to see if I could help them, but I didn't open the door. Instead, I looked out the window. That's where he was. The streets were dark, but he glowed with a kind of light. Black robe flapping in the wind. I did not mark his face."
"By the hells, what did you do, knight?" The woman's quiet testimony is interrupted by Ulrick, who stands nearby, surveying the ruined house.
Lisabett, kneeling, sighed in exasperation. She shook her head, and spared a glance for the horizon and the relative time before turning back toward Gladuria. She reckoned that Shalelu would follow, as silent as before, and would require no explanation for the change in course.
Almar follows Ulrick's path with ease, coming upon the Ulfen nearby a collapsed building. Strangely, Sorin is there as well, accompanied by a young woman. She does not say a word at your approach, but stares at the Ulfen, transfixed.
"Forgive me, but that is what Lisabett calls you." Ulrick replies to the paladin. "How shall I address you then?"
Shalelu falls in step with you as you journey back to town. "What do your eyes discern, varlessel?"
Setomi heads back to her cook wagon and starts to get together the ingredients for a meal. Knowing that the locals are strapped for foodstuffs, she intends not to draw on their supplies, but will use those they brought with them. She also makes a little extra, stretching out the supplies so that maybe another 1/2 dozen people can partake of the meal.
Profession-Cook: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (14) + 7 = 21
Lisabett narrowed hers before answering Shalelu, fully aware the elven woman's eyes were greater than hers. "Gladuria is dying," she reported laconically, "and those men answered to no officer."
She walked a time with the archer in silence. "Will you teach me your language?" she surprised herself by inquiring. "The others... I feel no affinity for them, and oft as not we argue about tasks that could just as soon be completed without their knowledge."
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
"My name will do just fine," Sorin replies with a smile.
Seeing Almar standing back Sorin turns to hims and says says, "I came here to see if anyone had seen the face of the man who performed these atrocities but she," Sorin indicates the woman beside him, "was the only other person here that night and she was ill. No luck I'm afraid; especially with the support beam giving way bringing the building down on top of me."
Sorin turns back to Ulrick. "Were you looking for me? Did you need something?" Not waiting for a reply, Sorin turns to the woman, "Do you have someplace to stay? Will you be alright?"
Almar gives Sorin a flat stare, then he speaks in a cold state-of-fact tone:"He's tian, he wears black robes, he's some sort of magician whose magic works in places where it should not, and he can rip your soul out and eat it. I doubt you'll get a better description than this".
That saying the gunslinger departs, moving towards the vagons, but not before sending Ulrik a warning:"Ulrik... try not to have too much fun, I'll be expecting you for guard duty tonight... and don't go wandering too far, you might get lost and we might think you turned cloak..."
"I wasn't looking for you, no." Ulrick responds to Sorin. "I was looking for where the great, thundering crash game from. Finding you here is coincidence." The Ulfen follows Almar back towards the caravan.
"I'll be right beside you, friend." he says to the gunslinger. "And don't worry about the color of my cloak. You know what it is."
The men and women of Galduria have begun to step out of doors to see what has happened. They stand around, gasping at the collapsed brothel. The young woman who stands with Sorin seems utterly unaware of them. "No...I've nowhere to go..."
The site of the caravan is quiet; nobody is nearby, save for Quoaral, the Shoanti. He gives you little more than a nod as you approach, and says not a word to you as you cook. It is not too terribly long before Almar and Ulrick come into sight and approach the assembled wagons.
"Something afflicts the land. It seems to get worse as we travel further north. I cannot guess at the cause, though." Shalelu says, impassively. "Foolish mercenaries seem a simple enough problem, though I have rarely seen any act so brazenly. Galduria is known to be guarded...how has the town's strange plight so quickly reached the ears of raiders?" She does not offer further comment on these lines of thought, content to remain by your side in silence.
But she does answer your eventual question. "I will teach you the Elven tongue if you wish, but I tell you first to beware that its mysteries are not easily grasped. There are words that humans could study all their lives and never understand."
Keep the conversations going, certainly, but I'd like to start wrapping up the day. What are people planning to do with the rest of their evenings?
"Like Ulfen culture to Southern eyes," Lisabett muses in response to Shalelu's warning about Elven diction.
Back at camp, Lisabett does her best to ignore Setomi, not quite certain about her emotional outburst earlier, and strays extremely far from Almar, or at least so far as she can without being near to Ameiko. That she is beginning to feel uncomfortable in camp is quite obvious to anyone who bothers to notice.
When night falls, Lisabett waits until Sandru is alone to approach him.
"Captain. It is my duty to inform you of developments without. There is no game to speak of in any direction, and has not been for days. Mistress Shalelu suggests that this trend is unlikely to change. While it is not my preference, if we are to meet beasts in the field in the next few days, we should hunt them and kill them, else we find ourselves lacking strength completely."
Lisabett rubs her lips together and looks away. "Also, whether by nefarious design or some manner of mutiny, my former captain's lieutenants are operating their own raiding parties. Them we met earlier..." Lisabett inhales sharply and shakes her head, her fingers momentarily touching the scar beneath her left eye. "They spoke of offering me to him as tribute.
"They take unnecessary risks, which makes them dangerous. They are not above slaughtering entire villages if the blood takes them. I suggest you assign a member of the guard to attend the Lady Ameiko. If we meet a competent band, or indeed, these were simply a diversionary tactic of his to remain mobile during this drought, the peacekeeper presents an overwhelmingly attractive target..."
Setomi looted the two fallen mercenaries earlier. Assuming she didn't stash it all and run:
28 gold pieces
14 silver pieces
12 copper pieces
A crudely drawn map that seems to depict Galduria and the surrounding area; there is an "X" marked as "Camp."
"The locals say the land is cursed. I hope it is not true farther to the north, and that we find food, for I have traded some of our stores to help sustain Galduria. Do not fear, we have enough for the coming weeks." Sandru looks grim. "The mayor we were seeking earlier...I am told that he has fled. I say to you, Lisabett...I have traveled Varisia's roads for the better part of my life, and I have never seen it like this." He is quiet for a moment, but he looks directly at you as he continues. "If this warlord's swords are poised to harm the innocent, he will answer for it. I will need you to keep wary. Eyes ahead, and on the dusty trail we follow."
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
Sorin cocks an eye as Almar walks away. Gorum's beard, it's not like I can walk around asking people if they've seen anyone eating souls recently. We don't even know for certain if this is the same man or not. A Tian in black robes isn't enough to go on.
Sorin turns back to the woman and hands her 10 gold pieces. "Here, take this and stay at an inn. Hopefully, this will cover you until the town has a chance to settle back to normal." He bows to her, "My name is Sorin Nicussor and I'm glad I could be of service but now I must return to my friends."
As Sorin heads back to the camp he'll Lay on Hands three times on himself.
Lay on Hands3d6 ⇒ (1, 5, 5) = 11
When he gets back to camp he looks around. Even more somber than usual...
At some point, he'll go and talk to Ameiko privately.
"Ameiko, I'm sorry to intrude but you've been very out of sorts ever since we brought that chest back from the swamp. While I can understand the cause to a point it seems to have you down far more than I would have thought. It's...unsettling, to see you like this. Please tell me what I can do to help."
The woman accepts your charity with reluctance. "Thank you, Sorin Nicusor. I will always remember your heroism."
"I do not mean to unsettle you, Sorin. But you read the letter...you must understand, the questions are tearing me to pieces. I must have answers." Ameiko's voice, though quiet, wavers audibly. "If you wish to help, support me in this. Walk with me through the gates of Brinewall Castle."
By the time the balmy night gives way to Sarenrae's first light, Sandru Vhiski has been up for nearly an hour, checking every wagon axle and retying every knot.
By the time the sun is high above in the cloudless sky, your caravan is well on the road. Ameiko does not share a song with you this morning, as she has on other days, but her face wears a quiet smile; one you have not seen in some time. Koya, on the other hand, has her head bowed, and the expression upon her face is one of deep thoughtfulness and melancholy.
Shalelu rides in advance, beside Lisabett. It seems the elf has decided to stay nearer to the caravan for now, rather than wandering off on her own, as has been her habit of late.
Survival DC 20:
The Ulfen raiders that paid Galduria a visit yesterday have clearly fled. The hoofprints from their horses tell of their passage north.
I'd spaced the Childhood Crush check; I'm glad you remembered. Can we see one from Sorin too?"
The road is met by a river, which remains by its side as you travel north. The sun glistens off its surface, but you see no fish jump from the rushing water.
The caravan stops for a respite, but Sandru nevertheless looks exhausted. His mood has grown fouler with every step since you left Galduria. As you make preparation to continue your trek, he stands and addresses all hands:
"I would like to trade the bulk of our goods in Roderic's Cove, southeast of Riddleport, but there is some question of how best to arrive there. We could ford the river and make for Wolf's Ear and Ravenmoor. It is the better known path, and we would have more opportunity to assist the folk that make their homes there, but it will take considerably longer. We also leave ourselves on the open road; if these raiders we encountered are preying upon caravans, we would be quite vulnerable. Alternatively, we could head directly through the Churlwood. It would be more difficult to navigate, and is sure to harbor a number of hazards, but it would be faster, and would possibly give us the chance to more directly investigate the strange curse that seems to afflict the land. If the wilds themselves are threatened, the strongest evidence would likely be in such a place. I have my own preference, but I pose the question nevertheless. Which should we choose?"
Your resounding success with your Survival check warrants a little more information.
The hoofprints do not come near the water. Crossing the river would be the swiftest way to deter pursuit from you and your fellows, but the raiders seem not to have done so.
Almar considers Sandru's words carefully before answering:"I think we should take the shortest road through the woods. There might be danger there, but using the road seems like inviting those Ulfen riders to attack us again in the open. They might be mangy dogs, but they still have theeth to bite, if you get my meaning"
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
Childhood Crush1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
"I think the shortest route is the best as well," Sorin offers. "The possibility of danger exists either way but if we can stop whatever strange curse afflicts this region then it's better for everyone in the long run."
"True." Sandru nods at Sorin's words. "You two make a compelling case, and I will confess I was already leaning towards that path." The Varisian scratches his chin. "I'll put it this way then, if there are no objections, we change our course this very day and make for the Churlwood. If any of you have reservations, you'd best share them with haste. For now, let us continue."
Sandru gives the reigns a flick, and the caravan is underway once again.
"There are always dangers inherent with avoiding civilization," Lisabett says, her voice flat. Her eyes avoid looking at anyone directly. "Should our horses throw a shoe, or a wagon wheel break among the trees... who would know save ourselves?
"This of course speaks nothing of the dangers in fording the river. It has been confirmed by Mistress Shalelu that game is scarce. Should we lose even a part of our stores, it will be an exceedingly harsh blow to each of us. This belly of mine," Lisabett touches the flat plane of her stomach, "should already be twice this in this heat. The further north we go, and the more it sticks to my ribs, we will each of us have a very difficult time."
Lisabett sighs and rises. "If we must go by the wood, I would the guard remained close and allow Almar, the Mistress and I to scout properly. The going will be slower, but between us we should avoid hazards that may cost us days in repairs."
No worries. I just wanted to make sure that everybody had a chance to weigh in.
"She is right." Shalelu adds. "One does not simply march through the Churlwood. For my part, I would call this plan madness, but for the ache in my heart for the wilds. And yes, that is the best place to seek answers, but we must keep clear of the heart of the forest. It is not for us."
"Spare us the dramatics." Sandru grimaces. "I've been through those woods before."
"Fortunate for you that 'those woods' allowed you to pass." The elf replies coldly.
"Enough." Mother Koya has not spoken a word all day, but her voice holds grim authority. Sandru bows his head and Shalelu averts her gaze.
By the time you make camp for the night, you have changed course, and the wide road that has been your companion thus far is far from you. The warms winds blow across the open plain, and Desna's gilded stars light the heavens above.
Anything anybody would like to do before the day ends?