"We followed Black Bjorn from as old as we could lift a spear, raiding the coasts, up and down Varisia. When three ships had been sunk, Bjorn sold the rest and bought us horses. We did honest work, as such work goes. But one night, there was a game of chance between Bjorn and the Captain, who wasn't our captain then, and at the end of it we were to swear to him or die. And so we swore."
Moving forward, I'd like some skill checks for each day. We'll move one week at a time, pausing for random encounters.
Everybody: 3 Perception Checks (I'll count Almar's latest as the first of his)
I don't think I made it clear, but you only need the listed checks per week, not per day. I will use the rolls as posted above, however, and put together a weekly report for each of you. You may continue to roleplay at any time, and we'll assume it happens during your travels.
Once I've got Sorin's, I'll post the happenings for the week.
So what I'm doing is taking the averages of your rolls, but also noting which your highest ones are, and keeping those in mind as I narrate the course of the week. In Sorin's case, his Diplomacy rolls reflect how well he is getting to know the captive over the course of seven days. Other checks are more routine, so I have called for fewer of them.
As the days continue, the horses seem to become accustomed to the new pace. They are weary at the close of a long day's traveling, but Lisabett's words seem to calm them, and when the sun rises, they are ever ready to press on.
Setomi's cooking rises to new heights, despite Sandru's increasingly tightening grip on food rations. Game is scarce, and any animals you come across seem weak and sickly. Their meat is welcome all the same.
Sandru has directed the caravan to deviate from the main road in places, and it is clear to you that few use these routes. Those that come this way do not seem to do so with wagons. Hooves have left their mark, but not for some time.
Early in the week, you become aware of something through the trees of a nearby wood. There is an single elk moving parallel to the course of the caravan. As you stare at it, though, you realize there is something very strange about it, though you cannot be sure what. A moment later, it is gone. It is the strangest thing that you see this week; most everything else is fairly routine.
The hunting is getting better, though Sandru's eyes gets more and more worrisome as he sees what small amount of meat and foraging you bring back to the caravan. Even though summer still commands the midday, the mornings and evenings are getting colder.
The first night, as you begin to journey, Mother Koya sits near you as she makes her prayers to the stars. Andres seems not to be nearby, though you suspect he does not lurk far away. The old woman says little to you, but she does smile at you, and you are certain that she is watching you.
A voice has begun to speak to you. The night after you approached Mother Koya about Lisabett, you felt a strange presence in your dreams. The following night, it spoke to you as you slept, its words unintelligible, yet menacing. On the second day of the week, you heard the voice just past noon, issuing from the edge of the nearby woods. Yet when you looked, you saw nothing. The voice came back again a few days later, this time at dusk. Still you see nothing.
Your Skald is improving noticeably, and the vowels that once sounded strange to your ear now come from your own mouth. On the third day, the captive scout begins to sing a song quietly, and you realize that you understand every word. It is a simple song, intended maybe for children. The young man seems almost happy, and he is taking to Sorin.
It has taken some time for you to adjust to the limitations of the caravan's cuisine, but by this week, you repeatedly demonstrate your skill. Your food even gets Espen to smile.
Sandru has been sending you on night patrols as of late. Though you discover nothing of note in your first week, you feel as at home in the shadows as ever. If some being does intend to steal up on your camp unawares, you are certain that you will be there waiting for them.
Though his eyes still stray to Lisabett periodically, your captive has begun to open up to you. On the first few days, he listened quietly to all you had to say or ask, and responded quietly when prompted. On the fourth day, he started asking you questions, and that has not ceased. The young man seems curious to know your whole history, and the tenets of your faith.
On the seventh day, he asks you why the Tian woman is always watching you. You turn to look, but Ameiko and Setomi both seem absorbed in other tasks. The captive starting laughing at you that day, and he still giggles well into the evening.
Almar keeps doing his work as the man in charge of security. The Elk's mysterious behaviour and aspect puzzle him, but without solid evidence to point out what exactly was odd about the creature he shruggs the event away and dedicates himself even more assidiously to making sure the Caravan stays safe and everyone does his part.
Lisabett glances at the mother, her expression wistful.
"She has shown me my ends," Lisabett says to the woman. "And neither of them entail reaching your age, Mother."
Lisabett lifts herself up and speaks to Andres.
"I know you will continue to keep the Mother safe."
Lisabett continues to withdraw from the group, speaking on occasion to Warden Proudstump and Qoural while attending the animals, and generally avoiding Sandru except when delivering what little she manages to forage. It rubs in an open wound that the prisoner finds a cherished place in the caravan having named her witch, further proving that the efforts she has gone to mean nothing to a single one of her companions.
At the end of the week, Lisabett abandons her bodice. The garment never fit correctly, and now losing rather than gaining weight, it has become more cumbersome to don than is rightly worth the effort. She keeps the laces, however, finding them useful.
Raziel continues his daily routines, not wanting this strange presence to interupt his actions. But he does speak with Koya about these threats, just incase she has any idea of what it might be.
'If it wants to menace me, I must have power it fears,' he thinks to himself.
Despite Lisabett's attempted withdrawing from the group, Raziel still continues his nightly Skald lessons with her.
With fewer supplies to work with, Setomi invents new and creative ways to use the small amount of game that makes its way to the cook wagon. While no one has yet to go without, having another mouth to feed has certainly placed a strain on their already dwindling supplies.
Her nightly watch has gone well, and she has taken to keeping special watch on their 'captive', as well as Lisabett. The woman shuns her food and has become even more withdrawn. Setomi continues to see her as a possible threat, especially after her little 'outburst' at the nords funeral. She never really trusted that man, and she continues to berate herself for not following her instincts. It had been within easy striking distance of Amieko many times!! What kind of protector was she if such a creature could easily fool her and gain the trust of this group?
"I must be more vigilant!! Trust no one and always keep my mission before me! And why is the Paladin looking at me and Ameiko??"
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
Sorin does nothing out of the ordinary, apart from regular duties and taking care of the prisoner, during the first week. He happily talks to the prisoner about Shelyn and any of the other good gods if the man is curious.
He can't help but shoot glances at Ameiko and Setomi from time to time but never notices anything unusual. He wonders if the man is having sport with him.
I neglected to mention the captive's name. On the third day, he reveals it to Sorin, well in the earshot of others: Haedr Bonnison. He does not give you his exact age, for he claims not to know it, but thinks of himself as 'younger than twenty winters.'
The quickened pace of the caravan seems also to have heightened the awareness of those that guard it. The accounts you receive from the night watch are ever more detailed, and most members of the company seem always to be scanning the countryside.
Koya does not answer you but with a sad smile, though she continues to pray nearby you as the nights continue. By day, Sandru watches you ever more closely. He has within him greater authority than in those days when you first knew him, but he is also colder, and melancholy where before he was joyful. It seems he rarely speaks to anyone in recent days, save to give commands.
Koya is most troubled by your mention of the strange voice, yet she is not surprised to learn of it. She claims not to know of its origin, but she is certain it is a foreboding of woe to come.
Sorin's glances towards Ameiko are frequent, now that you think on it.
The captive finds the concept of a 'goddess of beauty' to be ridiculous, but is nevertheless fascinated to hear of her.
On a bright day, a week removed from Ulrick's funeral, you become aware of riders trailing your caravan. They do not approach you, but seem to hang back.
edit:Almar notices the trailing riders and easily spots Shalelu among them. He quickly passes word around:
"Pass word around: We have 12 elven riders on our trail, and Shalelu at their lead. So don't do anything hostile. Seems like she's back with others of her kind. Let's see if the caravan can do some business today"
Lisabett Perception 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11 rock on.
At the end of the week, Lisabett speaks at Sandru under the pretext of removing the harnesses from the horses on his wagon.
"If the lady no longer brings a smile to your face, you must find something different," she says, hauling one of the harnesses over her shoulder with more effort than it has been previously. "I know that my face never brought you happiness, now. So much as I can I am making room for you to pursue whatever that may be."
At Almar's word, Lisabett looks to their train, and swallows hard. Of the folk of the caravan she felt closest to Shalelu, who was also the only of her kind among their number, forcing her to consider what it is about the former Warden and Qoural that disposes her to conversing with them more than the others.
"She has found where she belongs," Lisabett comments, and resumes her scouting duties.
"What to say to that? Would it be a stain on my authority if I were to profess your worth to me, as an ally and as a friend?"
When Shalelu rides to you, she comes alone, and does not look happy. Stealing a glance back at the other elves, she turns to you. "You were not easy to find, yet too easy." Her bright eyes move to each of you in turn. The way the elf surveys your company, it seems almost that she does not know you. "Before they approach, they wish to speak to 'the one who is cursed.' They will not tell me who that is, nor will they share with me the reason for such a meeting."
Almar is ready to welcome the newcomers. Surprised only Shalelu shows up he listens to her speech with perplexity:"The one who's cursed? I thought you meant to bring us some of your kind interessed in our goods... instead you bring us more dire warnings and suspects. How charming..."
"With all the dire warnings that I have heard on this journey, I would suppose that would be myself," Raziel says with a sigh. Then he gives a shy grin, and continues, "I guess it wouldn't be much of a curse if if people didn't bring it up every so often, would it?"
"That the beast that named me witch still breathes is testament to my care for you," Lisabett replies to Sandru. "In my lands, men are flayed alive for lesser insults. You stood for me when I had nothing, and I will not soon forget."
Lisabett colors at Shalelu's suggestion, and keeps her face and eyes cast down. She was a moment from enlisting herself before Brother Holheim speaks for himself.
"You'll not go alone if you will have me," Lisabett offers knowing that Shalelu cannot speak her tongue.
If Sandru is any less bewildered by Ulfen culture than he was months ago, his expression gives not indication.
"You?" It is clearly a question, though there is little surprise in Shalelu's voice. "Very well then. Come with me."
The hands of the elves do not move from their sword hilts as Raziel approaches. Their eyes are fixed upon him. One of them takes a half step forward. His finely groomed auburn hair bears no burs or twigs, and looking upon his raiment, you would not guess that he has ridden through woods and over plains. His eyes seem to shine in the sunlight. "You have answered our request quickly. Do you admit to what you are?"
Almar seems worryed at the elfs apparently ready to judge Raziel so he speaks to Shalelu in a soft but decisive tone:"Take care, Shalelu, Raziel is one of us, I'm sure you'll make sure no harm comes his way. We are all weary of fighting after all, aren't we?"
Lisabett shakes her head as Raziel goes, and looks to Sandru.
"Walk with me a while, and keep that sour face," she says, "I want to keep them within range of my spell if they try to flee with our priest... And I promise I will speak more on this if Brother Holheim will allow me."
"I have received warnings and premonitions, so it may be I," Raziel replies truthfully. "But if it is another, it would not suprise me. The term 'cursed' covers much ground, and one might apply truthfully it to any member of our caravan."
"All that aside, is there some warning you wish to pass on, or is this curiosity that compells you?"
Sandru walks beside Lisabett, carefully eyeing the elven envoy. The other elves return his gaze as they scan those of your caravan. Their eyes do not linger on Setomi as she crouches in the shadow of one of the wagons.
The lead elf is silent for a time as he studies Raziel. Just when it seems as if he will not reply, he speaks. "We have received an omen as well, that there is one that is cursed, who travels northward. One that is cursed, whose path the very wilds shrink from. One that is cursed, as father and grandfather were before." His voice drones on almost lyrically before coming to silence. His deep green eyes stare directly into Raziel's. "But we would be certain that this is you. We have but made guess that it is one of your number, by the report of Shalelu Andosana."
"I never-" Shalelu begins.
"It is not the time for you to speak, esselliel*."
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
Sorin frowns and walks to where the elves are.
"Perhaps I have been spoiled by Shalelu's example but I expected better courtesy from the elves. My name is Sorin Nicusor, servant of Shelyn. I have now shown more courtesy than you who, but for the presence of Shalelu, come upon us as bandits in the woods. You have not given your name, nor stated your purpose clearly yet you stand here with vague accusations veiled with menace."
"Raziel and Shalelu are our companions. They are not servants for you to order about nor to speak or be silent at your command."
"One can never give a human cause for offense and not hear of it. So it is said, and so I agree." The elf turns his eyes to Sorin. "I am called Noestral, and these are those that ride with me. Be assured, we have not come this far to accost you, nor assault you. We wish to trade, yet we would converse with the man that is cursed and knows it. If it is as he says, we would that you continue your travels, and that the next cycle of the moon would find you far from here. We have coin enough to make you able."
"Please Sorin, this is something that I should handle," Raziel quietly says to Sorin. "These noble elves merely wish to speak to me, and trade with the caravan."
Dipomacy to attempt to difuse the situation: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (2) + 10 = 12
Turning back to Noestral, Raziel continues, "I never knew my father, so it is news to me that his line carries a curse. I have only received hints and warnings, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what this curse is."
The elves seem to have turned their attention entirely away from Sorin. "We have spoken what little we know of it. These few clues sung to us upon hearing Shalelu's account. Thus we came in search of you. And so you may not learn the nature of this curse from us, though you can save our land from its touch by continuing north with haste. Agree to do so, and we shall take from your caravan that which burdens you unnecessarily, in exchange for wealth and arms which may aid you on your journey. Make the agreement, or refuse it, for we have nothing besides to discuss."
Male Human (Varisian) Paladin of Shelyn (Warrior of the Holy Light) 3
"This curse must have been what Kasha was talking about. Her Harrowing mentioned something like, "you don't know you have it", "leaving Sandpoint will not help you escape it", and "it will strike at the worst possible time"...or things to that effect. Knowing it's a curse isn't really helpful, though. It's like saying something is "magic"; by itself it doesn't really mean much."
"Shalelu, do you have any idea what they were talking about? They claimed to know nothing except omens and yet they knew that both Raziels' father and grandfather were likewise cursed."
At Sorin's words, Shalelu turns her venomous gaze away from the elves. "They did not treat me as kin of their race, nor did they share word of this 'omen.' They said naught of it until we were upon you, not an hour past. It seemed they simply wanted to trade."
The elves seem to confer for a moment before retrieving wrapped bundles from their horses. Soon after, they approach the caravan, going right to Sandru Vhiski. "Show us the goods that burden you, and we will come to some arrangement."
Sandru spares a glance toward Lisabett, then nods, and leads the elves to the first of the wagons.
If there are no objections, I'll proceed with the trading. Basically, you will be left with your food stores more-or-less replenished, and will also come into some gold and items.
Lisabett steps out of the way of the elves, some color on her cheeks for holding the other magics for too long. While they are engaged in trade, she sets up the troughs for their teams water for their mounts, but does not attempt to interfere with their animals in any way, or the trade.
I just wanted to make sure everybody was down with trading before I had the elves depart.
The elves are more than generous with their terms. They carry a good deal of gold, and part with it easily. They also bear strange foodstuffs, many of which Setomi has heard of, but has never chanced to see. There is a large variety of purple roots, preserved perhaps by magical means.
Right before the elves part from you, they lay down several bundles upon the ground. Noestral gives a simple nod of the head, and his band walks with him back to their waiting horses. Not a minute later, they are gone from sight.
Six beautiful daggers, with gilded hilts and jewels in the pommel
An ornate hunting horn
A flute made of rough tree bark
Two rapiers in silver scabbards
A small white stone, perfectly round
A leather-wrapped tube with glass lenses on either end
A starknife, forged of translucent crystal
Sandru waits until the elves are out of sight before he turns to Raziel. "What did they want with you, Brother Holhiem?"
"They informed me that I carry some sort of 'family curse', and wish me to depart from here to the north as fast as I can, so as to take my 'curse' away from them," Raziel replies.
"If you have fear of my 'curse', or wish to travel in another direction, please lend me a horse so that I may keep my promise to the elves."
Raziel's response gives Sandru pause. "No, we'll not have that." he says, after a moment. "You are one of us, and I've no intention of sending you forth alone." Sandru smiles, though his troubled thoughts play upon his furrowed brow.
Lisabett pokes through the bundles, but is reluctant to take anything from them. The tube with lenses she recognizes, but quickly passes. A useful tool, to be sure, with sight further than a scout with far less risk. Certainly not a tool that meant to reside in her hands. She suggests that they collect the bundles and see to the contents when they have rested for the night, as identifying items will cut into their sunlit travel time.
"Indeed, we have tarried for too long." Sandru agrees.
Not ten minutes later, the caravan is underway once again. With the weight of the cargo lessened, the horses seem to move double the pace. The sun is warm today, not hot, and there is a palpable sense of relief among your company. The food supplies you've gained should last a good while.
Shalelu rides with you again, but shares not a word.
Moving on to the next week...
3 Perception Checks (I'll count Almar's latest as the first of his)