Mothman's Age of Worms Redux

Game Master Mothman

Age of Worms
Whispering Cairn Entry

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Since the beginning of history, humanity has measured time in Ages. Ages of Enthronement, of Destiny and even of Anguish mark the human tally of years, giving a sense of order to the events of past centuries. But one age has yet to occur – an age of fear, of decay, and of writhing doom. Witty bards and wrathful preachers know it as the Age of Worms, weaving it into the peripheries of their passion plays as a mythic era of destruction that could begin at any time. Astrologers, diviners, and the servants of Fate know more. The canniest among them fear that the Age of Worms has already begun…

Diamond Lake; a muddy smudge on the map of the hills east of the fabulous Free City, its inhabitants predominantly miners and labourers, serious folk who spend most of their lives toiling below the ground. When not working, the miners congregate along the Vein, a seedy road lined with ale-houses and brothels.

Idle chatter around the Vein speaks of a trio of richly dressed adventurers who arrived in town a week ago. The confident heroes of Greyhawk spoke of hard won battles on their journey to Diamond Lake, and their intention to explore the long abandoned Stirge Nest Cairn on the lake’s distant southeastern shore. It has become a running joke amongst the locals to feign interest and admiration at such intentions; most know that said cairn is oft explored by the community’s youth, who always find it completely devoid of marvels and perfectly harmless.

However, the adventurers’ arrival has sparked a renewed interest in certain quarters, of the scattered and seemingly empty cairns and tombs in the vicinity. If adventurers from the Free City believe there may yet be treasure to be found in the Stirge Nest Cairn, does it not stand to reason that some of the other cairns around town might hold undiscovered passages – and hidden treasures? Several locals have been taken with the idea, dredging their memories for talk of viable cairns and ruins in the area … and one evening, in the taproom of The Feral Dog, a plot is brewed…

Stanley and Verrik:

Some ten years ago, a teenage Verrik Jentoft was the leader (by virtue of being the oldest and slyest) of a gang of local kids in Diamond Lake.

One day the group was playing in and around a shadowy ravine on an abandoned mining plot about an hour’s walk outside of town, when one of the kids stumbled into a crevice hidden behind some bushes and disappeared from sight. It turned out he hadn’t fallen into an old mine shaft … but what appeared to be an entrance to a forgotten cairn.

Clearing away some bushes, an ancient entry archway was revealed, framing a dark tunnel entrance from which issued a faint sighing and whispering breeze.

In theory, a previously undiscovered cairn could mean great treasures … and also great danger – ancient traps, undying tomb guardians, undead. In practise however, most cairns had been looted decades, even centuries before.

Discrete enquiries around town suggest that Verrik’s gang had probably re-discovered The Whispering Cairn – and unfortunately for the young would be treasure seekers, it had been explored and looted before, long ago … although half believed rumours held that many of the original explorers had died in the depths, and that there may be treasures within still. Grandparents had hazy memories of an expedition from the Free City that had sought to explore the Whispering Cairn, though whether they had any success – or indeed returned – no-one quite knew. Parents remembered cautionary tales of a local kid who may (or may not) have died or gone missing in the Whispering Cairn.

Treasure or no, the cairn became a secret that Verrik’s gang held, a rite of passage of sorts. The children all swore to keep the cairn’s rediscovery and location secret, and to be a true member of the gang they had to venture within, alone, and carve their name into a wall of the cairn’s first chamber. To be truly part of the inner circle, they had to spend a night in this chamber. It was in this way that one of the youngest hangers’ on, Stanley Sydell became accepted as part of the gang.

No one ever saw any evidence of traps or tomb guardians, but then none of the gang ever ventured deeper into the cairn than the first side chambers. It was generally agreed that the place was haunted; there were those strange whispers and sighs, and sometimes a flickering green light could be seen from the main passage that led deeper into the cairn. There was evidence that wild animals laired in there sometimes, though the gang never encountered any animal they couldn’t scare off.

There was a member of the gang who’d never dared the cairn at night, a girl called Kaela. It was an ill-kept secret that she had a crush on Verrik, but he was rather uninterested in her. Her friends suggested that if she spent the night within the cairn, he would be impressed enough to notice her. It’s thought that’s where she was the night she disappeared.

Of course, no one in town (least of all her family) suspected where she might have gone, except the gang, and they were scared – especially Verrik, who thought he might be blamed. He made the group all swear again not to reveal anything about the cairn, and given that they were all scared to be held accountable for Kaela’s disappearance, they agreed.

The gang stopped going to the cairn, and eventually most of them stopped thinking about it. Years passed, children grew into adults, old friendships faded. Only two members of the old gang still thought about the Whispering Cairn at all…

Your experience of the Whispering Cairn and Kaela’s disappearance weighed heavily on you, and probably helped shape your outlook on life. For many years you regretted not telling someone your suspicion that Kaela had disappeared in the cairn – not to get anyone into trouble, or to relieve your own conscience - you were blameless in the affair after all, but just because it might have brought her family some closure. But being blameless didn’t mean you wouldn’t be blamed, and when the girl’s family left town a year or so later there seemed little point.

You stopped associating with the gang after that, but Verrik always seemed to be around – you suspect at first he was just keeping you close in case you told someone about Kaela, but in the end the two of you formed a strained friendship of sorts, despite your differences in age and outlook. You were surprised when wild, adventurous, undisciplined Verrik became a Sheriff’s deputy, but like to think that it might have had something to do with your influence … not that being a law-keeper in Diamond Lake is a very noble undertaking. But Verrik’s not as bad as most of the rest of Sheriff Cubin’s crew. Verrik’s company was somewhat refreshing compared to the Cult of the Green Lady, whom you were forced to associate with as a youth thanks to family members being part of the cult.

Although you came to worship Wee Jas, you could never quite reconcile the Cult’s adoration of the Green Lady, and remained suspicious of their real goals in Diamond Lake. Your association with the cult did however lead you to develop the skills and abilities to heal and help the folk of Diamond Lake, and to develop magical (if non-clerical) abilities of your own. It also led to some friendships, such as with the wild girl Ellanterra, who had been adopted by the cult and trained as a warrior.

You never forgot about the Whispering Cairn, and had often idly thought about returning one day to explore the place – possibly to recover Kaela’s body if it indeed remained within, or maybe just before the Cult of the Green Lady (who tried to find, catalogue and either explore or barricade all the old cairns hereabouts) got to it. The time never seemed right though, and you knew that if the place really did still hold unexplored chambers you would need to be very prepared to face whatever might still wait within.

Then, one day, Verrik approached you with a plan …

After the girl disappeared, the gang kind of fell apart. You knew it wasn’t your fault, but others wouldn’t see it that way, so you made sure none of them ever told anyone about the cairn. Young Stanley seemed like the weak link, so you made sure to keep a close eye on him. The kid was something of a stick-in-the-mud, but eventually an odd sort of friendship developed between the two of you. You stopped spending much time together, but you knew he was someone you could rely on if you needed to … and when he started learning magical healing, he certainly became someone useful to know.

You never really saw yourself as a law enforcer, but being a Sheriff’s deputy in Diamond Lake didn’t exactly require you to be a paragon of justice, and it was far better than toiling in the mines. Stanley might well pride himself on helping the locals, but you did too, in your own way … and if you took a few bribes along the way, and looked the other way when you had to, so be it. You certainly learnt some useful skills in the Watch … breaking and entering, back-stabbing, lying, picking pockets …

You thought often about the Whispering Cairn – what if there really was treasure buried down there somewhere? Enough to get a better life, find a better place. It didn’t seem likely … most of those places were looted years (decades, centuries) ago. But from time to time someone found something good in a cairn that had been explored a dozen times before.

That’s what those adventurers from Greyhawk seemed to be hoping in regards to the Stirgenest Cairn across the lake. Of course, they were kidding themselves – that place had been delved more times than an old whore at the Emporium, and cleaned out more thoroughly than a rube at Lazare’s. But if people still thought there might be something worth finding there, why not the Whispering Cairn? Of course, if there is still something to be found there, it would have to be hidden and protected – probably traps, maybe constructs or bound outsiders, maybe even undead. You’d need help, muscle, healing … and your old mate Stanley could help with at least one of those …

Stanley and Verrik:
So over a few drinks, a plot to explore the Whispering Cairn is hatched. You both have your own reasons, and both seem to agree there may be something worth finding (though are you looking for the same thing?).

You’ll need help; if there are any unexplored areas of the tomb, there’ll be traps, even guardians maybe. Verrik can probably deal with traps and locks and Stanley can well cover healing should you sustain any injuries. Muscle and some skill at arms aren’t hard to come by in Diamond Lake, but its finding someone you can trust … Verrik knows a guy, and Stanley has someone in mind too – perhaps two someones. Undead are a concern; Stanley has some ability to deal with them, but a full blown cleric would be better. Stanley doesn’t much trust the followers of the Green Lady, but Verrik knows this odd cleric of Obad-Hai – doesn’t know him well, but enough - who is always hanging about the Dourstone Manor – maybe he’d be interested in the job.

It is agreed; tonight, or the next day, Verrik will contact Adovan and Tyvall; Stanley will contact Ellanterra and her mentor Dohrlok. Anyone who is interested is to meet tomorrow night at the Feral Dog, a local tavern, to discuss the details and hash out the rest of the plan.

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You’ve lived near and in Diamond Lake longer than most think, given your youthful appearance. You never wanted to be a miner, especially after what happened to our father, but given the scarcity of elves in town it was natural enough that you ended up working for Ellival Moonmeadow. You never made it to his inner circle though; you’re not from his homeland, and your mother doesn’t trust him for some reason. Working as an enforcer and runabout has its moments, but its not exactly fulfilling, and your mind has turned to other vistas of late.

You’ve heard of the Whispering Cairn; you vaguely recall as a young child hearing that someone was going to explore some hitherto little known cairn … you don’t know what ever happened with that, but it seemed as though everyone forgot about the place for a few decades – humans have such short memories.

Years later, when you were in the elven equivalent of your mid-teens, you used to sometimes play with a boy who was obsessed with the place – said he had found it and even been inside. He died around the time the Red Plague swept through town. You can’t remember hearing about the Whispering Cairn since then.

Until today, from an unlikely source.

Your job often puts you in contact with the Sheriff’s office – for good or ill – and of all the deputies, Verrik is by far the least worst of the lot. He’s even had your back once when a rival gang decided to come after you when you were on your own, and you returned the favour a week later when they went after him in retribution. Since then you’ve made a habit of keeping each other informed and have formed a degree of respect for each other’s abilities.

You’ve heard about the adventurers from the Free City who hope to find treasure in the Stirge Nest Cairn – and laughed behind their backs along with most of the other locals. But now Verrik’s got this crazy idea that there might actually be treasure in the Whispering Cairn – and he knows where it is (well, the cairn, perhaps not the treasure). He’s willing to tell you all about it over a drink tonight at the Feral Dog.

Your young life has seen many changes and potent events: a hard yet mostly happy childhood amongst your people; the first hints of your power; excitement and fear over talk of a great raid against the city folk; the night of smoke and blood when your home was destroyed; being brought to the grey, brown, noisy, smelly town of Diamond Lake; seeing the lovely yet cold Amariss for the first time; crossing the lake with her; living with the cultists in and around the Cairn of the Green Lady; training as a warrior; feeling your power – and your rage – grow; meeting the dwarf Dohrlok, training with him, trying to temper your rage with discipline.

Perhaps the strangest times are just beginning …

Yesterday Amariss spoke to you; “I had a dream this last night,” she said. “In my dream, the world balanced on the edge of a dagger. To fall one way would mean that things continue much the way they are now – good, evil, light, dark, law, chaos, in relative balance. To fall the other way would mean that the world would be plunged into an age of writhing doom.
“In my dream, it was you Ellanterra, who held the dagger. I believe that this dream was sent to me by our patron, or perhaps even the Ruby Sorceress herself.
“A change is coming, things stir, and I believe that you will have a part to play, for good or ill, in events of import. I want you to begin to take leave of your duties here at the shrine, focus on your training, and be alert for the call of destiny.”

Today, you had a visit from your friend Stanley – an associate (and you think one time member) of the cult. He said that he and some friends were planning on exploring a cairn in the area, one that may not have given up all its secrets. They could use someone who could fight. If you were interested, Stanley said, you should meet him and his friends at the Feral Dog, a tavern in town that night to discuss the details. He suggested you could ask Dohrlok if he was interested too.

You had never intended to stay long in this dreary place called Diamond Lake, but the local church of Wee Jas – or the Cult of the Green Lady as they call themselves here – had requested you train one of their wards, a young human girl. The girl had power, strength and some skill, but no discipline. You took on her training to challenge yourself, but after some weeks have found that the girl really does have potential and seems to respond to your style of training. You have even become somewhat fond of her.

Today, Ellanterra came to you, saying that she had been asked to join an expedition to explore a cairn somewhere in the area, to lend her arms as a warrior. The invitation had been extended to you also. You are agreeable to this; such cairns may hold traps and guardians against which you can test yourself – further, Ellanterra’s training is not complete, and it would be remiss of you to let her go without your guidance. You are to meet the other members of this expedition at a drinking establishment across the lake in town, with the unpromising name of ‘The Feral Dog’.

Strange times and strange signs of late. There have been rumours of strange undead seen around the hills south of Diamond Lake, towards the Mistmarsh – zombies that seemed most resistant to blades and bludgeons.

Some rangers and a priest of the Lodge verified this rumour a week ago. They had run into one of these strange zombies, crawling with green worms, and found their weapons did little to stop it. It somehow turned one of their number into a creature akin to itself before the cleric was able to take down the pair of them with the Shalm’s holy power.

Moiryn has been worried about her father. He is withdrawn and worried she says, more than normal. He has never been warm with you (or with anyone much other than his daughter), but you see it too. He meets with strange folk behind closed doors, Moiryn says; a military looking human with one eye, and strange cloaked people who seem to be neither dwarf nor human.

You have seen some of these strange folk around town, they are certainly not locals. Taller than dwarves but shorter than humans, they swathe themselves in dark cloaks and deep cowls. You have tried approaching them, but they always slip away, leaving behind on occasion a large black feather or two in their wake.

Nogwier spoke to you two days ago – you have been at the Lodge for longer, but he is more in tune with the Shalm and you respect his wisdom. “The Shalm’s song is dark of late,” the old human said. “There is something wrong – something more wrong than just the mines and miners – beneath the earth. Someone needs to go into the dark beneath the stones and see what is there. I am better with trees and rain Tyvall … perhaps this is your task? Think on it … dark times are coming … writhing times …”

Now today, back in town, you have been approached by a human man you are somewhat acquainted with, a member of the town watch by name of Verrik. He is less corrupt than most of his fellows (past or present) and you have liaised with him a time or two over the past few years, on business for the lodge or to try to assist Moiryn or her father. He asks if you’d be interested in exploring a cairn – the Whispering Cairn – to help in case he and his companions run into any undead threats or require healing. Normally you’d have little interest in such a thing – it is unlikely that such a venture would be useful or profitable, with most of the cairns having given up their secrets and treasure even before you arrived in the area … but could there be some connection here to Nogwier’s words? You agree to meet Verrik and his companions at the tavern The Feral Dog (far from your favourite place) tonight to further discuss this proposal.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

Dohrlok scans the taproom. The various drunken sots sprawled across the tables fail to raise his interest, but he catches sight of her and shoulders his way forward. Nods a silent greeting to her and leans on the table, coolly assessing the others with her.

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

Adovan enters the Feral Dog, as usual from the back, weaving through the busy kitchen with a nod to the women working there. It's a bad habbit, but one that's kept him out of trouble more than once.

From the door to the tap room, he scans around until he sees Verrik, then spends a few minutes watching to see what else is going on.

Female Human Bloodrager (spelleater) Normal: AC 15/11/14, hp 11/13 AC 13/11/12, hp 15/17, rage 4/8

Yes, she knows of the Feral Dog. She's seen it, but only from across the street and in passing. To enter has never crossed her mind. She's heard tales of girls that go in such places alone.

She finds herself standing across the yard, looking at the dingy noisy place. Nothing left but to enter. She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders, and heads in, massive hammer over one shoulder.

She slips through the crowd easily, slip of a girl that she is, and finds a place to stand and watch the room for Stanley or Dohrlok. She faces the room, feet apart, hammer head-down before her, both hands resting easily on the pommel.

Before she has time to spot anyone she knows, a rough-looking fellow, probably at least six mugs in if his breath was any indication, comes over to her and slurs something about giving her something better to hold. She gives him a level look, then scans him from boots to scalp, and shakes her head 'no'. She looks away as a raucous table laughs even louder and call to the fellow, who growls and reaches for her.

With his alcohol-addled reactions, he did not even see her hand move before she was demonstrating a joint-lock that Dohrlok said she should know. As the drunk's eyes widen in pain, she smiles sweetly and says quietly, "I won't answer you twice. If you try again, you'll be leaving here with less than you brought." Suddenly very sober, he realizes she can hardly move without losing the use of the hand she's holding - and her other hand is gently caressing the pommel of a dagger at her belt. "I'm not here to gather trophies. Unless you really want me to have them?" She punctuates the question with a bit more pressure on the captive hand and his face goes another shade paler. "I think your friends owe you another ale to dull the heartache, don't you?"

He nods eagerly and she lets go of his aching hand, right resting on her dagger. Stumbling on the hammer as he backs away, he hustles to the table where his friends sit laughing, every one of them. Grabbing up a flagon, he threatens to hit a man with it, but decides better of the idea and sits and drinks instead.

With a sigh of relief that he did not call her bluff, she turns to the room just in time to see Dohrlok press through the crowd toward the table nearby. Looking at the table for the first time, she realizes that Stanley sits there, a faint smile on his lips, so she moves over and nods as the monk comes across the taproom.

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

Adovan watches the young human girl with interest. She's too young, and that hammer looks faintly ridiculous; there isn't much more interesting going on though. When the drunk walks up to her he takes a half step forward, but she soon shows she can handle herself. Suddenly she's a touch more attractive, and even more interesting.

When she follows the monk, and moves off towards, what's he called....Never mind, Addvan lets his attention wander once more. She has plans it seems.

Male Human Hex Channeler Hedge Witch 1 (AC/Mage Armor: 12/16 [T: 12 FF: 10/14] | HP: 6/6 | F+0, R+2, W+3 | Init: +2 |Perc: +1/+3 [Vesnik: +5])

Stanley, ever the pragmatist, arrived early for the arranged meeting. It gave him time to coordinate a quiet table, or more quiet given the choice of venue, nearer the back to minimize notice. He was successful in acquiring both of them, without thinking that maybe he wouldn't want to be too well hidden from the very people he was here to meet.

He sits and waits patiently, slowly nursing an ale. He is not one for drink as much as he recognizes that a small draught of alcohol a day can actually be beneficial to one's health. Finally, the young woman, Ellantera, arrives. This is when he realizes the error in choosing too secluded a table. He could try to get her attention, but that would only draw more, but waiting here accomplishes nothing if she feels stood up.

Seeing one of his younger patients, whose health is more at risk from excessive drink and too much time at the brothel instead of old age, drinking with friends at a nearby table, he waves him over. "Durstan, do you see that young woman by the bar? Could you ask her to come over here to join me?" As soon as he asks he grows concerned for the man, who was well into his mugs by this time.

Stanley watches as Durstan approaches, then his concern turns to worry. Clearly, it seems the fool had indeed misinterpreted his request, as a different kind of favor, and the girl had become hostile. Watching the exchange with fear, that he may have to interject, he is relieved to see that it resolved itself with very little violence. Breathing a big sigh of relief, he shakes his head before looking back up to notice that the woman had finally spotted him. He could barely suppress a small smile of relief.

As she approaches, so does the more sensible man who had become a mentor to the impetuous youth. He addresses them briefly, "Please, take a seat while we wait for the others to arrive."

Tonight, as with most nights, it is noisy and crowded at the Feral Dog. Most of the noise is centred around the dog ring, where a gaggle of rowdy miners crowd around the open pit in the floor, cheering, jeering or groaning as a pair of canines rip each other to shreds below. The more serious betters have ringside seats in the basement level below, scant feet from the fight. In direct competition with the noise from the dog fight are those yelling for the attention of the barman or serving wenches at the long, scarred wooden bar.

At a table near the bar, a huge, silent albino half orc with an old brand marring his forehead sips moodily at his ale, while several of the other thugs who share his table squabble over a game of dice. A beautiful elven woman sits at a small table at the top of the stairs leading down to the basement, cleaning her fingernails with a dagger. The weapon, along with her cold stare, is enough to warn off most of the drunken miners who approach her table. Most of the rest of the place is crowded with burly miners or gang members. Only one large table near the back of the tavern's main room remains relatively free; many of the locals hold enough respect for the witch who minds the table to leave him to it, whilst those who don't are wary enough of his magic or his connection to the Cult of the Green Lady not to tangle with him ... So far.

Elllanterra and Dohrlok make it through the crowd to Stanley's table easily enough - despite Durstan's drunken attempt at seduction. Adovan for his part remains near the door to the tap room, deftly avoiding the serving wenches as he scans the room for Verrik, who seems yet to have arrived.

Female Human Bloodrager (spelleater) Normal: AC 15/11/14, hp 11/13 AC 13/11/12, hp 15/17, rage 4/8

Ellantera looks at Dohrlok before taking a seat, question in her eyes as she points to a seat that has both a view of the rowdy room and a handy space against the wall to lean her over-sized hammer. She settles into the chair, but her posture belies a great deal of tension. Wish we didn't have to meet in this stinking pit. Can't imagine why people want to come here on their own. Her face is carefully neutral as she looks over the room, cataloging potential threats - and missing most of them in her naïveté.

Male Human Rogue 1

"Ladies, gentlemen. Good evening and welcome to the Feral Dog, undoubtedly Diamond Lake's finest drinking establishment." Verrik pops into being by Stanley's elbow, seemingly out of nowhere. "I have secured a side room for us so we can avoid any serious distractions. As we are here on official police business, the room comes with beer, but without any prostitutes, I'm afraid. Move along, now."

Verrik hustles the party off into a side door and kicks it shut behind him. "Now, I am Verrik Jentoft, and I have a business proposal for you. However, before we get to that - I only know most of you by reputation. Why don't you tell me a little about yourselves before we get to the serious part of our talk? Anyone care for some beer? I won some coin on the previous dog fight, so I got us a barrel."

Verrik is one of those guys that Stealths everywhere. My apologies for posting late - it was a combo of being busy, waiting for everyone to come back from their vacations and wanting to be the last arrival. Speaking of which...

Verrik pauses, mug in hand. "Wasn't there supposed to be one more dwarf?"

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

Adovan blinks as he sees Verrik appear as if from nowhere and moves to follow as the others move off. He cuts in just as the door is closing and takes a seat next to the interesting girl.

Female Human Bloodrager (spelleater) Normal: AC 15/11/14, hp 11/13 AC 13/11/12, hp 15/17, rage 4/8

Ellantera frowns, unsure what to say. After a moment, she offers as she pats the handle on the oversized bludgeon she carries, "I'm Ellantera. I swing a big hammer." She jerks a thumb at the clean-shaven dwarf that followed her through the door, "He's Dohrlok. He's teaching me to control the hammer." She grins and adds, "So I always hit the right folks."

There's definitely a sense of false bravado from the slip of a girl, but the hammer seems to be part of her when she carries it despite its bulk. A common mental note of her allies might be to stand out of her reach in a fight, just in case.

Male Human Hex Channeler Hedge Witch 1 (AC/Mage Armor: 12/16 [T: 12 FF: 10/14] | HP: 6/6 | F+0, R+2, W+3 | Init: +2 |Perc: +1/+3 [Vesnik: +5])

With Verrik's mention of the tavern's other distasteful means of income, though none as bad as forcing the poor dogs to fight one another, Stanley merely grits his teeth and exhales loudly out his nose. The scowl of displeasure obvious on his face, but he's aware Verrik already knows that their own ways of looking at the world has changed since the days of their youth.

He eyes each of the newcomers with scrutiny, minding every detail in both their movements and choice of words. His ability to read people is vital to his profession, and suits him well in other aspects of dealing with others as well.

He's going to Hunch (DC 20) each person to see if they feel trustworthy.
Adoven, Sense Motive 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (18) + 10 = 28
Dohrlok, Sense Motive 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (19) + 10 = 29
Ellantera, Sense Motive 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16
Tyvall, Sense Motive 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
Verrik, Sense Motive 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (17) + 10 = 27

As the others speak, he periodically crumbles chunks of his bread and feeds them to a small bird snuggled in his cloak where it bunches atop his left shoulder. If he's able to wait until everyone introduces themselves first, he does, but is not trying to outwait anyone determined to be last.

"I am Stanley Sydell, a healer, and tender of the unhealthy whether natural or otherwise. It is my intention to keep everyone on their feet until the time to face natural death comes upon them. It is then that I, and my good friend" he indicates the small whippoorwill resting on his shoulder, "Vesnik, here help guide to peaceful rest." The bird cocks its head at each assembled, almost as if nodding a greeting.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

Dohrlok scans the assembled bravos but says nothing.

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

Adoven watches the others watching everyone. "A suspicious lot, aren't we? My name is Adoven Joysword. I have some small magical ability, and a ready sword which Verrik here seems to think will help on this venture. I doubt I can hit as hard as our girl with a hammer here, but I can make it sting."

"I'll take some of that ale. It may lighten the mood."

The private room - down a corridor and behind a door from the main bar - is a good deal quieter, though something of a squeeze for you all.

Adovan's words seem honest, and you have a hunch he may have a good nature behind a slick facade.

Dohrlok says little, but his bearing suggests he would be truthful if perhaps somewhat inflexible.

Ellanterra you know somewhat, but you've always found the girl somewhat unpredictable, though pleasant enough. She's more capable than she seems to know ... Or is that all part of an act?

Verrik you know well enough to know he's not altogether trustworthy, but you think he's on the level in this case - he truly seems to think he's onto something in regards to the Whispering Cairn, he knows he needs help, and you don't think he's planning to cheat you.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

Are we heading to the private room, so no one can overhear Dohrlok not speaking, or staying here?

I think Verrik has hustled everyone into the private room, though if Dohrlok doesn't deign to be moved, Verrik probably can't force him.

HPs 12/9, 2 pts str damage

It had been a long time since Tyvall had needed to concern himself with the bells marking the time in town. As one of Shalm's wanderers his conception of time was a little more abstract and the time he arrived any particular place was what it was. It was a habit that tended to annoy the s&&* out of settled people who might be expecting him and their consternation over such arbitrary measurements typically amused the dwarf. Tonight was no exception.

It wasn't intentional. It never was. But his russet cloak was fairly well known by the people on the outskirts of Diamond Lake and the Hillman family had sent their youngest running for an emergency with a breech calf. The labor was difficult, but in the end twins. And so it was that Tyvall arrived at the Feral Dog well later than expected and smelling like a poorly kept stable.

With Verrik nowhere in sight, the dwarf checks in with the bartender and following his lead heads for the private room.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

Oh, missed that. Dohrlok follows.

Dohrlok follows Ellantera as the others move into the quieter room behind the bar. He notes the arrival of his fellow dwarf, though he looks somewhat confused at his strange trappings and "earthy" scent. Give the lack of space he leans against the wall, folds his arms and waits for someone to get to the point.

Male Human Hex Channeler Hedge Witch 1 (AC/Mage Armor: 12/16 [T: 12 FF: 10/14] | HP: 6/6 | F+0, R+2, W+3 | Init: +2 |Perc: +1/+3 [Vesnik: +5])

Stanley steeples his fingers while turning slightly toward the two dwarves with a raised eyebrow. "Come now, let us not cause others to presume that dwarves would cause any distrust simply by refusing basic introductions. If we are to work toward a common goal, it is in the best interests of all involved to break down any barriers of communication that could possibly prove to be a hindrance in the near future." He sweeps his right arm out, palm up, in invitation for either Dohrlok or Tyvall to add to the introductions.

Not expecting the roll to affect other players, but merely for sake of demonstrating how convincing his argument may be.
Diplomacy 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (14) + 11 = 25

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

"I am Dohrlok."

Male Human Hex Channeler Hedge Witch 1 (AC/Mage Armor: 12/16 [T: 12 FF: 10/14] | HP: 6/6 | F+0, R+2, W+3 | Init: +2 |Perc: +1/+3 [Vesnik: +5])

As soon as Dohrlok opens his mouth to speak, Stanley raises his eyebrows in pleased expectation. The look is short-lived though, as the most base of uninformative sentences issues forth, his shoulders slump. His face goes dead-pan, as he puts on a fake smile, and offers "Thank you."

Ok, I suspect Vatters might be pretty busy these days - and/or he's waiting on everyone's introductions. Feel free to ask leading questions to get things moving.

HPs 12/9, 2 pts str damage

The other dwarf looks around the room trying to get a better sense at just what Verrik has stirred up here before speaking up. "Tyvall, priest of the Shalm. I tend to work with animals more than people, but I heard there was beer? It was a long walk and I wouldn't mind to wet my whistle." He leans his walking stick against a chair then heads over to pour himself a mug and kills half of it immediately before refilling it. "Ahh... yes. That's better." He turns back to look at the others, "So you are heading out into the hills? I trek the paths between the outer farms and know the area somewhat. To some degree I can negotiate passage through the territory of Obad-Hai's children in the hills, but I have to warn you. Something has awoken in the hills. Vermin infested walkers. We thought they were rumors, but the Lodge ran into one about a week back. Don't know where they are coming from yet, but I want to have a look at this cairn to make sure they aren't coming from some recently disturbed crypt."

"I can figure most of you willing to risk it for enough coin to make a new start somewhere else and that seems pretty damn reasonable to me, but..." he looks over Dohrlok, "you have got to be Twilight Monastery. I can't really see you in it for the riches, so what pulls you in brother?"

Male Human Rogue 1

I was mostly waiting. But...

"Good to see you, Tyvall. Help yourself to more brews." Verrik looks around the now-cramped room while sipping his flagon. "Now, some of you might wonder why we - a horse doctor, two...carpenters, the local mortician, one of Ellival's blades and Cubbin's most junior deputy - are stuffed into this room. The answer is, as it always is in this town, money. The arrival of the peacocks from Greyhawk City reminded me of something from a long time ago - while those three idiots are off to explore a cairn that has been looted thoroughly many times over, I actually know the location of an undisturbed cairn, and I need help in exploring it. We represent a diverse skillset. Now, will that get anyone talking?"

You’ve likely heard of the Twilight Monastery, which is located in the hills not far from Diamond Lake, though I leave it up to you how much association you may or may not have with the place. The monks who train there and the fighting styles taught have little to do with dwarven gods, connection to the earth or wrestling holds – they tend to be more into sneaking about and crippling strikes.

If what Verrik claims is true – an undisturbed (or even partially un-looted) cairn nearby, this would be a big deal – nothing like that has been discovered in the vicinity of Diamond Lake for decades. Such a place, if it exists, would be likely to hold rare and/or valuable treasures … and quite probably dangerous traps and guardians.

In truth, a completely undisturbed cairn seems unlikely to anyone who knows about such things … still, there are stories of canny explorers becoming rich from what they find on the fallen bodies of those who tried (and failed) to explore such places before them …

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

"Not Twilight Monastery," says Dohklok, shaking his head. His voice is very deep and gravelly, as if it is not exercised much. "I train her," he says nodding at Ellantera. "She has potential." After a pause he adds, "And I train me."

He raises his shaggy eyebrows. "But beer is good. All dwarven brothers agree that."

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

"I don't remember an undisturbed cairn being found in my lifetime. Which, unless I'm mistaken, is longer than most of you here," Adoven waves his hand to exclude the dwarves, "or your parents have been alive. A truly undisturbed cairn would contain riches. Serious riches. Even the chance of that is worth a look."

Verrik and Stanley:
You recall that the entrance to the cairn lies about an hour’s walk north east of Diamond Lake township, past the Dourstone Mine. The land out that way is pretty wild, and has grown wilder in the ten years or so since you used to play out there as kids, but there is (or was) a mostly overgrown trail that led most of the way there – or specifically to an old, run-down shack – an overseer’s hut from a long abandoned mine – not far from the cairn.

Adoven's comment seems to render everyone in the room speechless ... ;-)

Alright, I will assume that Verrik (and/or Stanley) have no reason to hold back on the information required to really kick this off – so to move things along:

Verrik goes on to explain that the cairn he’s talking about is known in local rumour as The Whispering Cairn. It is possible that some of you may have heard rumours about this place. Knowledge checks, in particular Local, Geography or History may tell you a little more. It is more accessible to Diamond Lake township than better known (and thoroughly explored) local cairns such as the Stirgenest Cairn or the Cairn of the Green Lady, being on this side of the lake, but its entrance is far better hidden.

The entrance to the cairn lies about an hour’s walk north east of Diamond Lake township, past the Dourstone Mine. The land out that way is pretty wild, and has grown wilder in the ten years or so since Verrik or Stanley were last out that way (as Tyvall will attest), but there is (or was) a mostly overgrown trail that led most of the way there – or specifically to an old, run-down shack – an overseer’s hut from a long-abandoned mine – not far from the cairn.

It’s evening now. You could head out immediately if everyone was amenable to that, but it probably makes more sense to head out in the morning. If anyone needs to make any purchases to help them in cairn exploration, or otherwise do anything else in Diamond Lake, the shops and other businesses along the Vein tend to stay open late, so as to cater to shift working miners. Otherwise, if everyone is good to go (this evening or the next morning) we can move things along.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

"Morning," says Dohrlok. "Tonight we rest."

Female Human Bloodrager (spelleater) Normal: AC 15/11/14, hp 11/13 AC 13/11/12, hp 15/17, rage 4/8

The girl sits listening, not having much to contribute. At Dohrlok's comment, she nods firmly.

I think she is kitted out and ready to roll, but she is going to agree with Dohrlok on general principle.

HPs 12/9, 2 pts str damage

"Not part of the Monastery... So uh..." he gestures vaguely at his beard while looking at Dohrlok strangely, "I don't mean to offend, but what's all this about then?"

Male Magus 1 AC:14 HP{9/9} Arcane Pool: {3/5}

"The dwarf speaks true. Concise, but true. "

Night passes.

If anyone does need to purchase equipment or otherwise do anything in town before you leave, let me know. Otherwise I will assume that everyone assembles at a pre-arranged meeting point within the town early the next morning.

The next day dawns with the sun turning the sky pink above the hills on the eastern horizon, a light blue overhead, although dark clouds can be seen on the northern horizon above the distant Nyr Dyv.

Verrik leads the way out of town, heading north-east along a road that branches several times, paths leading off to homesteads, farms and mine holdings near the outskirts of the town. Tyval glazes appraisingly down the fork of the road that leads to the Dourstone Mine, but soon quickens his pace to catch up with the others along the more northerly fork.

The path soon leaves the town behind and winds its way through the hills, becoming more and more disused looking and overgrown. Verrik hesitates at a few of the path’s branchings, but generally seems confident of the way. Where he is unsure, a quick conference with Stanley and Tyval sets him on the right path.

By the time that the path reaches the boundaries of the old Fant Mine holding, a little over an hour’s walk from town, it is little more than a badly overgrown goat-track that does not appear to have been travelled for years. A tumbled down pile of worn stones to either side of the track indicating an ancient fence line are the only markers that this land was once owned by someone.

Another ten minutes or so down the trail from this point, around the curve of a rocky hill to the west is an old, run down building – the long dead mine overseers’ cottage. Verrik and Stanley recall this area from their childhood forays; there is a shallow ravine a short distance to the east of here where the real item of interest lies.

M Dwarf Monk 1 (Tetori)

Dohrlok does his usual exercise regimen first thing in the morning before washing himself down in a trough outside the inn. He then grabs his meager gear and follows Verrik.

He waits expectantly as they reach the ravine.

Male Human Hex Channeler Hedge Witch 1 (AC/Mage Armor: 12/16 [T: 12 FF: 10/14] | HP: 6/6 | F+0, R+2, W+3 | Init: +2 |Perc: +1/+3 [Vesnik: +5])

Stanley agrees to the morning departure with a few soft words about the importance of getting a good night's sleep being important to one's health. In the morning, he gathers his usual complement of healing tools that he carries around and makes for the arranged spot where they will meet. He makes one little stop along the way, to check on Mrs. Calbor. She has been just getting over a flu, and the hint of gray on the horizon causes him to want to see if she's well enough to weather it.

As they near their destination, Stanley offers a warning, "Use caution as we draw near, the terrain of the abandoned mines can be uneven and treacherous, especially where the wet moss has grown up."

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