A week and a half? Ouch. I won't let that happen. I just know that healing is one of Raziel's specialties, and I'd like to give him a chance to do this thing. In the meantime...
You stand in a filthy cell, rusted iron bars all around you, forming a tight cage. A single lanterns hangs above, squeaking as it rocks back and forth slowly. From the edge of the darkness, a shape comes. It is the creature from the swamp; though you saw it for only a split second, every detail is familiar to you. The hairless, leathery biped has a face dominated by grotesque and unsettling whorls and slits instead of actual features. It walks into your prison, its form splitting and then merging once again as it passes directly through the bars. The creature's skin ripples, and it suddenly becomes the man in black. He laughs in your face, his open mouth a black void, sinister and alien.
You reach for your weapon, but it does not rest at your hip. You look down and realize that you wear only tattered rags. Your eyes dart back up to the man and find him gone. You are hardly alone, though. A score of candles shine from beyond your cell in all directions, illuminating faces in the dark. You turn in a circle as you scan them, and you begin to recognize some of the men as members of the Carrion Crows. The glassy stare of their dead eyes seems to penetrate you, but it is the gaze of Koras that sickens you to your core. He is among them.
Inspecting the room more thoroughly, Sorin finds a recessed staircase that he originally overlooked. It is particularly narrow, and cluttered with debris. Whatever struggle happened here seems to have found its way upstairs. At the base of the stairs is a broken flower pot. The plant that it held lies beside it, still living. A Knowledge (Nature) check might tell you how long it has been out of the soil.
Also in the front room are three doors. The rightmost is ajar and a dripping sound comes from within. The middle door has a few loose feathers directly in front of it. On the other side of the bench stands the third door, which doesn't seem particularly noteworthy beyond the fact that it appears sturdier than the others at a glance.
Sorry I missed all the action.
Raziel hurries over to Almar. He invokes Sarenrae's power, and a glow fills his hand, which he places over Almar's wound.
Then he prays, and again Alomar receives Sarenrae's healing. But Almar's wound still looks serious, so Raziel prays over him again.
Rebuke Death: 1d4 ⇒ 1
Cure Light Wounds: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
Boy, the dice don't like Almar. Let's try another CLW. I'll use the Shield of Faith to power the spell.
CLW: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (6) + 1 = 7
Almar gets a total of 11 points back.
I'll assume Raziel got to Almar on what would have been the first round. That means he's at -2 hit points (after losing 1 additional HP on his turn), so 11 points of healing puts him at 9 hit points.
Almar's heart had stopped, but Raziel's touch starts it beating again.
Your eyes snap open. You're back in the swamp. Raziel Holhiem kneels over you.
This appears to be a dining room. A large, low wooden table sits in the middle of the room. An overturned basin lies on the table's edge, droplets of water still trickle from it and travel down onto the floor. A single chair lies underneath, knocked aside. In the corner is a wood-burning stove. The stack of wood next to it has been upset, and short logs litter the floor.
There is another door to your right. It hangs open, and food debris seems to spill out from it.
Lisabett stiffens, her filthy hands gripping at nothing. She wishes to move up and provide for Sorin aide, but as Brother Holheim's efforts with Alamar continue I imagine it takes several rounds for the priest to get the gunslinger on his feet she is unable to look away fully.
"Sorin, what do you see?" Lisabett inquires again, her musical Skald accent heavy under duress. "Have you discovered Master Proudstump?"
"No," Sorin shouts so she can hear, "but the house is a goodly size, it may take a little while to explore it all. There's an upstairs as well. Whatever struggle initially took place here either began or ended there."
Sorin walks over to the door on the right, expecting it to be a small pantry of some kind, and examines it more closely. "Is Almar okay? I could use a hand in here."
"Holy hell! What..." as the gunslinger is cured he almost jumps on Raziel at the shock of his near death experience.
Almar needs a few seconds to understand what happened, then he stands:"Thanks Raziel, I tought this was it for me but you saved me. I was expecting something but that creature was way too quick... I take from the fact we are still breathing you dealt with it though?"
Almar will move cautiously towards the door with the others as soon as possible
Lisabett's eyes widen and she cringes when Sorin so casually mentions that Alamar is indisposed, as she was being so careful to skirt around the issue to any who might have been listening to their conversation, but deflates with a sigh when she sees Alamar spring to life.
"Aye, Sorin, they will be joining us momentarily," Lisabett replies.
When Alamar and Brother Holheim approach, she gives the guardsman a smile. "I am... relieved that you are well, Almar. Please, if you may assist Sorin with his search, I will remain without as a sentry," she says. "My eyes are not particularly suited for searching, but I should be able to forestall an attack from without should one be forthcoming."
"And what if some creature just as speedy overcomes you, Lisabett?" Raziel inquires. "Best that we should stay together, lest one of us fall to another of those creatures, and it assumes our likeness."
Raziel replays the short action in his head. It had happened so fast, even with the group of them expecting attack. If not for Sorin...
And now Sorin is out of sight, although he sounds alright.
He peers out into the swamp again, before turning back to enter the house... after Lisabett.
Raziel doesn't want people splitting up. He's a bit worried that Sorin is out of sight, and doesn't want Lisabett alone either. If Lisabett stays outside, so will he.
The other door in the dining room does indeed open into a pantry. Foodstuffs are strewn about and crushed. Something tore through here ferociously, and not more than a few days ago; the greens stored here are still fresh.
Almar walks through the door into the front room. He sees Sorin to his right, examining another room. Two other doors face him, as well as a compact staircase in the corner.
Lisabett regards Brother Holheim for a moment, puzzling, then nods. "I had not considered that possibility," she admits softly. "Perhaps if we both enter and close the door after ourselves?" she suggests. "We may hope that this door will stave off an assault while we prepare ourselves to meet any that intend to harm us."
Lisabett moves into the house finally, and after Brother Holheim enters, closes the door after them. If it is possible, she will bar it with a javelin to maintain their security.
You can see the three doors in the main room (the one Sorin went through is open, the other two are closed), and the staircase. Though the latter is almost concealed, Sorin mentioned that it was there, so it's easy enough to find.
Lisabett's Perception 1d20 ⇒ 16
Lisabett does not drop her stiff air of protection as she strides coolly into the main room and approaches the staircase. She looks about her, placing her feet carefully as she walks.
Sign of struggle, she muses as she advances. Aye, likely the demon came upon the resident within, and the Warden fought to protect his shelter. If the Warden yet lives...
Lisabett survival (to track the any signs of struggle through the house) 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (13) + 4 = 17
Lisabett notices a plant lying at the foot of the stairs, loose from its broken pot. She scans the staircase, one step at a time, trying to make sense of what happened. Up near the bend in the stairs, there is a single, upright pot. Perhaps somebody had knocked the other ones onto the stairs to complicate chase.
Lisabett pauses and looks to and calls down to her companions. "I believe that Master Proudstump lives.
"Master Proudstump?" Lisabett inquires. "Master Proudstump, myself and my companions mean you no harm. You would not recognize my voice, I am certain, but Brother Holheim of the cathedral at Sandpoint and Sorin Nicusor have accompanied me here. If you've need of their assistance, please make yourself known to us."
Proudstump 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (16) + 9 = 25
Almar 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17
Lisabett 1d20 ⇒ 16
Raziel 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
Sorin 1d20 ⇒ 7
Proudstump 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (5) + 13 = 18
There is no response. You wait for several moments, trying to focus on the tiniest noise, but there is nothing except the wind outside. You concentrate again, thinking you might hear something, but you are reminded that an old house is full of creaks and groans. It is impossible for you to discern anything.
And then there is the sound of a sob, and you notice a frightened pair of eyes at the top of the stairs, peering down at you. The halfling's face is red, and his cheeks are wet with tears.
"Either there's more of 'em and I be doomed either way, or you're near the sweetest sight I ever seen."
Almar entered the house armed and determined to avoid another attack and the one that almost felled him, seeing the halfling the gunslinger keeps his distance and keeps his guard very high:"So you would be mr Proudstomp, the owner of this place, right? I'm asking because something wearing your face almost gutted me downstairs before my companions here dealt with him... so there's any way you can prove you are who you are? You'll escuse me but I'm not in a trusting mood at the moment"
Perception check:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
Sense motive check:1d20 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 2 = 5
Lisabett bites her lip when Alamar responds to the Warden's words with aggression. A cool chill runs through her that causes her to clench her filth slick hands on reflex, but she cannot ignore and will not rebuke the guardsman's caution.
"I am called Lisabett. I've no intention of harming you, Master," Lisabett assures the halfling. "Your home shows every indication that you fought valiantly against the demon, and I applaud your efforts to protect your shelter from an assault from without.
"We are no thieves to assault you when you are at your weakest. Would you join us below so that we might resolve the issue of your identity peacefully?" Lisabett suggests pointedly.
Lisabett Diplomacy 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
"Sorry for this here show." The halfling indicates his face as he wipes tears from his puffy eyes. "Amazin' what bein' trapped in one's own home does to one's mind." His expression sobers. "And it's amazin' what being holed up prayin' will do for one's trust too, for yesterday morn, before all this, I was like to trust as little as possible, so I understand ya. If you're after a paper that'll say who I be, I got nothin' but a faded deed to this place. What I do got is Brinestump Marsh, and I'll tell ya, nobody knows it better'n Walthus Proudstump, ai."
He begins to cautiously walk down the stairs, hands raised, all the while eyeing Almar's drawn pistol. He steps with a heavy limp; he is clearly wounded. "I want to believe your kindness, miss, which I suppose is good 'cause it seems I ain't got much choice. You want to figure out who I be? I yield to whatever ya got in mind. Only tell me...ya say the creature's dealt with. What do ya mean? Is the damn thing dead?"
Lisabett descends the stair behind the creature identifying himself as Walthus Proudstump, gesturing to Alamar with a nod she hopes communicates that she is ready to attack this creature should he attempt any hostilities.
"Aye, Master Proudstump. Your own Sorin felled the creature in an impressive display of heroism, and after it melted into so much filth," Lisabett glances mournfully on her stained hands.
Coming down from the adrenaline of battle, and seeing her companion laid low, Lisabett trains her mind to recall details of the encounter. The creature that had posed as Walthus Proudstump had reacted when Lisabett had cast spells! Lisabett gives a firm nod to Alamar, and begins flowing through the somatic forms of her magic, her frost laden breath misting on the air before her. From her position behind the halfling, she begins casting Detect Magic in Skald, lest he recognize the language and concentrates on his person.
When Sorin first hears the halfling's reply he is surprised. He lives? A blessing surely but I thought the creature would have certainly killed him. Perhaps it needed him alive...
Sorin walks to the base of the staircase nad looks up at the halfling. "Greetings sir, I am Sorin Nicusor, servent of Shelyn. As to your initial guess, the second one was correct." He smiles broadly.
"Please tell me sir, how long had that creature kept you imprisoned for? What did it want?" Still smiling, Sorin brings up Detect Evil. He's not expecting to detect anything but he wasn't expecting that the creature to leave anyone alive either.
Almar silently follows the Halfling and his companions with his gun still out of its holster but a little reassured by "proustump" apparent meekness. "He seems to be an honest to the gods halfling... bbt the other one seemed one too, untill his skin rippled and he gutted me..."
"So it's dead then. Thank Desna...and...ummm...Shelyn too. And thanks to ya too, kind Sorin. And the rest of ya." The halfling reaches the bottom of the stairs, but he winces in pain and sits on the lowest step. "It came upon me late yesterday afternoon, as I was tendin' my garden. Now I be decent in a scrap, but I didn't see it comin', so it had me in a bad place right off. I hurt it though. Me and the snakes. They're dead, for sure. The creature didn't care for them one bit, squealin' some horrid noise as they were sinkin' their fangs in. While it was distracted, I made for my upstairs room. It's hidden."
"Been up there since, listening to the beast thrash and rage below, maybe lookin' for me. Been lickin' my wounds so to speak. Been sure of my death until just now." He gets emotional again. "Sorry. I don't do this. I just..." His voice trails off.
Lisabett ceases concentrating on her detect magic spell and sinks down on the stairs behind Warden Proudstump.
"If he were one of those creatures from without, it is likely he would have attacked had he recognized that I was casting a spell," Lisabett says over his shoulder, addressing Alamar. She softens her tone and smiles at the weakened Warden. "Master, might you have a basin so I can wash the creatures filth from me? If you would like, I will assist you with attending your pets."
"Of course. In the dining room. Behind ya. While you're in there, maybe bring me the bottle of brown liquid that lies just inside the pantry? Potion of sorts." Walthus Proudstump spits to his right and makes no effort to clean the spittle off the floorboards.
"Now I been still for your investigatin', so maybe it be my turn to ask. What business do ya got in Brinestump, ai?"
Got internet sorted today; I don't really mind you just narrating what happens after Shalelu finds Alazandaru I suspect it will be easier and allow a faster catch up with the group. That and even though I have internet now i've just moved to a new country so catching up with many spoilered posts might be difficult.
"We will make camp within a small grove near the bluff." Shalelu does not turn to meet your eyes as the two of you climb the rocky trail you descended not an hour ago. When you reach the top, you see that Berev has gone, but the other two horses remain. Shalelu says nothing as she approaches and takes the both of them by the bridle.
You walk with her to a nearby clearing and watch as she builds a fire. She does not ask for help. She does not say anything. Only when the burning logs have begun to spit embers into the night air does she acknowledge your presence.
"I do not guess at your purpose in the swamp, but whatever your plans, you will agree they went awry. You have learned, at the cost of a life, that Brinestump Marsh is no place for cowards. And yet, you are not one. Your eyes are fierce, and I can hear your heartbeat from here; it is not a fearful one."
She tilts her head, as if listening. Her gaze stays on you, and her eyes are bright through the firelight. She stands suddenly. "There are matters that must be attended to in the shadows cast by the moon. You may not follow me, but you are free to enjoy my fire. This camp is safe. Come the morrow, your path is your own." Without another word, she slips silently off into the darkness.
You awake the next morning to find the fire doused. The horses are gone as well, and there is no sign of Shalelu.
You lift yourself to your feet and silently step through the trees, eventually finding your way back to the road within sight of the bluff. There, at the northern end, are four people beginning their descent into the swamp. The golden hair of of one of the men is striking even from this distance, as is the glint of the sunlight on his armor. Sorin. And the priest, Raziel, behind him. The two strangers accompany them.
They disappear from view.
Lisabett gives a cheery smile, displaying her dimples and nods, rising and brushing passed the halfling. She is somewhat dismayed by the devastation in the dinning room, but grateful to be able to wash the demon's filth from her hands. They are fairly trembling with her efforts to get the stain off, and she recognizes that she is trembling as well. Watching Alamar fall was a blow she had not prepared herself for. Always in the back of a warrior's mind there is the possibility that one's companions will join their ancestors on the field of battle, but... to be laid low by a demon that assumed faces and deceived?
Lisabett remains at the basin for a few moments more, attempting to compose herself, then goes to collect the bottle that Master Proudstump indicated. Potion of sorts, he had said... Lisabett opens the bottle and smells the contents
Lisabett Perception 1d20 ⇒ 20
and will confirm with Brother Holheim whether or not Master Proudstump should be consuming them before she hands the bottle over.
"I had considered you may wish to monitor his diet, since he is clearly unwell," she says. "He called this a potion."
Lisabett easily finds the basin, but it is overturned. Checking the pantry, however, she finds a store of fresh water and washes the filth from her hands. Strangely, it seems to dissolve as soon as it leaves her skin. She finds the brown "potion" easily. It has no label, but it seems to Lisabett and Raziel both that it is alcoholic rather than magical.
The halfling whimpers. "But that is what's best connected to my wellness, ai."
Suddenly, you hear a horrific scream, and you feel as if needles pierce your ear drums. The cry fades as quickly as it sounds, but the disturbing memory of it is etched into you mind. Your head begins to throb. It came from ahead on the path.
You proceed carefully, but not without haste, and after a few minutes, you come to a weather-beaten, sagging house. The door is closed, but voices come from within.
Sorin grabs the bottle from whoever's holding it and opens it. "You know, brewing and fermenting can be seen as kind of art; at least, that what many of the dwarves I've talked to have said."
Sorin talks a hefty gulp. There's a brief pause before Sorin's face seems to go slightly white and his right eyelid to twitches a few times. "Ah...that's an...*cough*...interesting...technique. *cough*" He hands the bottle to the halfling. "I'll leave your "medicine" to you but remember, some cures can be worse than the disease."
"Warden Proudstump, I hate to pester you after you've been through an ordeal but we were sent to gain information regarding the current goblin menace. The townsfolk and sheriff grow more concerned by the day. We were led to believe that you might posses important information in this regard. Can you help?"
Almar stays silent considering the interior of the hose. After a while, when convinced about Proudstump, he adresses the halfling directly: "So tell me, mr Proudstump, was this the first time you met the particular horror that attacked you? Any chance we need to face others of its kind? And I'm sorry to have to ask this after the traumatic experience you underwent, but we are actually here to collect information about the goblin tribes of the Brinestump. Apparently they are armed with dangerous weapons and are attacking caravans in a particularly bold fashion. As you may immagine the town of Sandpoint isn't thrilled about this and sent us to deal with the pests. Once and for all. So if you can give us any help, it would really be appreciated".
Started writing before I saw sorin's post. I think we may reinforce each other questions. As a side note, is the exp being recorded only by the DM at the moment?
Lisabett retreats to a position from which she can see the outside, and the party, assuming the air of a sentry. If there is a window she can look out of and out into the swamp and see whomever might approach the door, she will attempt to conceal herself beside it so that she will not be seen from the outside.
Lisabett Stealth 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
"I have two questions, Master Proudstump," she says from this position. "Have you seen the party of mercenaries that proceeded us, and what immediate dangers lie to the south?"
I am tracking experience separately. I plan on telling you when you level, if that's all right with everybody.
"There's a little swampwater in that brandy. Brandy kills the algae in the swampwater, and the swampwater takes the edge off the brandy." Walthus takes a deep swig from the bottle. "Aaaaaahhh. Thinkin' there was a minnow in that gulp."
"As for the creature, I never seen anythin' like it, but I got a good idea of where it came from. There's a witch makes her home in the south of Brinestump Marsh. We leave each other be, but she has all kinds of strange under that roof of hers. Thinkin' on it, I ain't seen her for a time."
"But you're here for goblins, and I ain't surprised. Been makin' quite a ruckus of late. They ain't fond of me, but neither are they fond of snakes, and they stay away from here, knowin' I have a'plenty. Or I did. I should check and see if any survived. Anyhow, you'll find the goblin village to the south of here, at the end of what ya Sandpoint folk call the Old Fish Trail. I be on the New Fish Trail, they say. Ain't many fish around of late, though."
"Mercenaries? Can't say as I've seen any. Don't usually get sought out myself, though, so that might not mean a thing. Dangers, though, seen a'plenty of them, ai. Folk say there is a monster in the waters here, and I be thinkin' they're right, though I never seen it yet. Probably Old Megus is behind that. You'd have to ask her, though. She ain't real nice though."
"Oh, and there are some shipwrecks in the mire. Been there for years, but don't ya be goin' near them. Somethin' evil about them, likewise the cave to the south. Ya stand near and listen close, ya hear the whispers of the dead. I stay away and always have. Some parts of Brinestump it ain't worth bein' warden of, ai."
And now I'm back in the States. This traveling long distances isn't easy.
Raziel listens to the talk about the swamp and where the creatures in it may reside. 'Goblins may be our main concern,' he thinks, 'But there are many other things here we have to watch out for.'
Thank you for the information, Master Proudstump," he says after the halfling has informed them of what may lie ahead. "Would the best path to the goblins be to retrace our steps and try the Old Fish Trail, or is there a path from here we could take?"
Lisabett retains her place beside the window. At the mention of the witch in the swamps, she inhales sharply, and her exhale frosts the surface of the window.
Not far enough south for my tastes, she muses, her eyes narrowing. Her fingers curl as they are want to about her spear, inured to holding it in the most inclement of weather, as an icy spike of fear trails down her spine. That creature recognized me, if he were a servant of this witch, very like she could as well...
"Megus is the name of this witch, this mother of monsters?" Lisabett asks, her musical tone hard. And her home lies to the south...
"So the fishermen were right about a monster," Sorin muses.
"I've sometimes heard that creature such as goblins can be attracted to areas or people of fell power. Perhaps the close proximity of the goblins, the witch, the cave and shipwrecks are not a coincidence."
There's certainly more going on in this swamp than I ever knew...
"Warden Proudstump, we should probably be departing soon and I realise that you might be loathe to leave your home but, for your own safety, might it not be best if you returned to town for the time being? At the very least, I'm sure the Sheriff would like to hear the tale of what has happened here."
"Know you Irrisen, Brother?" Lisabett responds, stiffening. "Once her lands were ours, until Lamashtu, mother of monsters bestowed on Baba Yaga the power to enslave our people, and corrupt their hearts.
"Every child in my lands is taught to fear witches. They and their monsters don the skins of men, and lure children from their homes and devour them."
Lisabett looks up from her sentry at the window and into Brother Holheim's eyes. "If this witch can commune with her brood, she likely is aware of my presence, now. If she be our enemy, my presence could compromise our mission."
She looks to the others in turn, and her breath escapes in a misting cloud. "When I dragged that demon to the swamps, it became one with the water, as though it were born from it and were returning," she observes. "If this witch has the ability to carve monsters from the very swamps, we can expect more of these creatures."
Edit: Forgot my manners. Welcome back, Raziel. And Alamar, I know my sorc is cute :P
"I have heard of Irrisen, Lisabett. I also know that it lies a distance to the north, and that not all who are named witches are in league with Baba Yaga," Raziel comments. "But you plainly fear that the witch is after you, and not us. Is there some reason for this, or do all witches hate the Ulfen so much that their very presence make even more a danger to us?"
Lisabett pales under Brother Holheim's interrogation and jerks her head to continue looking out the window, seeking to avoid being confronted by the priest directly. "The demon recognized my spell casting, first from within the house when I protected myself, and again when I cast to identify his illusion," she states. "It would have attacked me if Alamar had not stood between us, and Sorin cut it down with his second blow. Its actions are evidence of sentience and purpose. Ignorance of its origins and its motives is..." Lisabett trails and exhales, frightening! "unnerving."
"I'm sure half the people in Sandpoint could recognize spell casting, and Sorin stood before you with Almar off to the side," Raziel replies. "And Almar had called it out as not being Master Proudstump. In fact, it ignored Sorin and you to attack Almar directly."
"There is more to this than you are saying, that is plain. But we came here to deal with goblins, and not to question you. We will just have to keep extra alert for other dangers, that is all."
"So, what should be our course now? Directly to the goblins, or rest to renew our magics?"
Hope you had a good trip, Raziel!
"Appreciate your concern, friend, but my home is here, and here I'll stay. And I never be readin' into coincidence. Some forgotten things get stuck in a swamp is all. Goblins been doin' a bit of remindin' of late, though, and you want to beat them back down. Well, you won't be hearin' objections from me. Do as ya like in Brinestump. Ya got the warden's blessin'!"
Walthus Proudstump stands. "But beyond any of that, there is the small matter of a debt. Ya see, I owe ya my life. For that, my roof is always yours. Ya can stay here long as ya like, whether you're investigatin' the marsh or not." The halfling unfastens the cloak from his shoulders. "What's more, I want ya to have this. It ain't much, but it ain't nothin' neither. It'll protect ya." He folds it and hands it to Sorin. "Don't much care who of ya wears it, but I be insistin' that ya take it. Won't hear a 'no' on that, ai."