Keldar's expression darkens when Yousef mentions the 'witch'...
'"The Witch"... that's what they call the leader of the gnoll tribe known as "The Circle"... who held me as a slave before the Kulldis got their paws on me,' he glances up towards the summit of the great mountain, 'Their camp is up there, somewhere - they have slaves just digging... constantly... pointlessly... nothing like a proper mining operation - they say The Witch is searching for something of great power to use as a weapon for her master, the Carrion King,' he glances back at the gnoll, then to Yousef, shrugs, and adds, 'we didn't see much of The Witch herself, and she was always in full robes with only her eyes visible, but she appeared to be human and... well... she did seem to take a shine to her male gnoll underlings and take one of them back to her quarters every now and then... usually the uglier and more brutish, the better...'
Most of what you've heard about The Witch and The Circle tribe comes from Keldar. Other rumours tend to confirm his description that The Witch is a human woman who wears full black burqa robes, including a niqab headress which reveals only her eyes - which are said to be of outstanding beauty. It's said that she's some sort of seer of the god of disaster, Rovagug, and - despite being human - holds the favour of the great gnoll chieftain, the Carrion King. Some speculate that the tribe's symbol - which is anything representing a simple circle, and which The Witch chose when she rose to leadership - somehow relates to whatever it is they're searching for up on the heights of the Pale Mountain...
As for the wounded gnoll, you get the impression that there's certainly elements of truth in what he's saying, but that he's also holding back on something important...
Between Yousef's threatening tone, and Rashid's offer of assistance, the wounded gnoll only takes a few moments to make up his mind (although in the state he's in, that's a long time indeed...). Reaching inside his tattered shirt he removes a bloodstained rag folded around a roughly palm-sized object. With a certain reverent care he folds back the cloth to reveal a hunk of green rock from which is protruding a sun-like semi-circle which appears to be made out of gold...
In the gnollish tongue:
'My treasure,' the gnoll explains, indicating the rock and disc, 'I found it... but she wants it... help me - save me from my former tribesmen and that insane human woman - and it's yours!'
With a quickly intoned spell, Lavender vanishes from sight...
Your magic slippers make short work of the vertical ascent to the overhang, sixty feet above the trail. Cresting the overhang itself you find only one gnoll remaining, crouched down near the edge of the overhang (maybe ten feet from where you're standing), head cocked to one side and a hand cupped to his ear as if trying to listen to the conversation going on below... The gnoll wears composite armour made up of various scavanged pieces of leather and metal (basically studded leather), has a crude scimitar stuck through the sash at his waist, and a composite longbow in hand. A quiver with perhaps a dozen arrows remaining is slung across his back. He doesn't appear to have noticed you...
At the back of the overhang a different trail leads off up the mountain, through a pretty rocky path - it seems likely that the second gnoll headed off in that direction...
With deft hands, and the guidance of the goddess, Rashid makes quick work of safely removing the arrow from the wounded gnoll's thigh and closing the wound. The gnoll winces as the operation takes place, gritting his hyena-like teeth into a snarl, but manages to avoid crying out (or passing out for that matter). As the dwarven priest finishes up the gnoll slumps back a little, with a sigh, then puts his hand on his chest, indicating himself, and says in crude Kelish,
'Me name being "Purkor"... me be thanking great priestess of Flower of Dawn!' he bears his yellowish teeth in what could be the gnollish equivalent of a smile...
The sun-like semi-circle protruding from the green rock does indeed appear to be gold, but it's likely that there's more of it inside the rock (forming, one would imagine, a disc shape) so assessing its value proves impossible at this point. Assuming the whole thing weighs about a pound it'd be worth at least fifty gold pieces for the metal content alone - not including any artistic, magical, or other worth, of course.
While you sense a faint magical aura radiating from the golden object, you get the impression that the rock it's imbedded into seems to be somehow suppressing it...
Knowledge (arcana) DC 28:
The green rock doesn't seem quite natural to you - you're pretty sure it's been transformed, over time, by prolonged contact with powerful magic...
Knowledge (dungeoneering) DC 10:
Apart from its unusual colour, the green hunk of rock seems to be a type of igneous rock formed from magma which has cooled and solidified... which suggests that the golden object imbedded in it managed to survive significant heat - much, much, more than common gold could possibly endure...
The wounded gnoll - Purkor as he's apparantly called - turns his bared-teeth smile on Yousef as the half-orc addresses him in his own tongue of yips and barks...
'Yes, yes - of course! Anything for my new friends who are so willing to look after me and protect me! I know these mountains well, I'll make an excellent guide for you... once your priest friend uses some of that healing magic which his... um... your... ah... I mean our... yes our goddess is so renowned for on me, to help get me back on my feet!'
Turning back towards Rashid, Purkor bows his head a little and utters in his crude Kelish,
'Dawn be bringing new light, yes? Many praise to Flower of Dawn!'
"Hey! Uhhmm..." Bahram says with a start. "Think you can get that rock off the gnoll? That's.. eh.. that's really quite an interesting bit of rock he's holding there eh.. That gold has survived much greater heat than it possibly could and it looks like the rock is covering magical auras coming from the disk, that eh.. that thing could be really valuable. Interesting to say the least."
"Well, he certainly seems friendly enough, for a Gnoll; although to be honest, before he met us, his chances probably were not too good... Still, I am a firm believer in giving most sentient creatures at least a chance to redeem themselves, if they are willing, and he certainly seems willing..."
He then turns to Yousef.
"What on Golarion are you saying to Purkor? You certainly seem to be having an in-depth discussion with him..."
"negotiating. I think we got us a guide. And Sarenrae is the redemption goddess is she not? I'll see if he'll give me the rock."
"look Purkor. My buddy is going to heal you up nice, but the Mage over there really wants to have a look at that rock. I think it would be a fair trade for the healing. Guiding us will be for saving your life and killing your pursuers."
"Very well. You can let him know that if he is sincere about throwing in his lot with us, I am willing to give him the chance; the Dawnflower is indeed the Goddess of Redemption, after all. If it helps, you can even sweeten the deal by letting him know that I would willing to grant him some healing, via the grace of the Everlight."
The gnoll spins and nocks an arrow as you begin chanting your spell... but only gets to peer about in confusion for a moment before you materialise, a jagged line of lightning dancing across the space between your hand and the startled gnoll. For a second or two the gnoll seems to dance too, even as his fur stands on end, little arcs of blue-white lightning dancing over the surface, and steam starts to seep from between his gritted teeth. Within a heartbeat or two the blast of mystical lightning is gone, leaving the tang of ozone in the air, and a scorched gnoll slumped - dead or dying - to the ground...
A 'Crack!' accompanies a bright flash of blue-white light from the overhang above, followed a moment later by the sound of something falling to the ground...
Purkor flinches at the display, eyes darting upwards and ears pricking up... then (when it becomes apparant he's not about to personally detonate or anything...) his smile slowly creeps back across his muzzle...
'Purkor give treasure!' he agrees and... with just a slight hint of reluctance... hands the green rock, along with the bloodstained wrapping it was in, to Yousef.
You're pretty sure that Purkor is sincere in wanting to not wind up dead, and doesn't seem bothered about abandoning his old tribe either. As to religious leanings... well, you imagine he'd probably jump on any proverbial band wagon right about now, if it meant saving his sorry hide... But many a priest has had less to work with in the past...
hp 35 | AC 12 | T 12 | FF 10 | CMD 12 | F +2 | R +3 | W +3 | Init +8 | Per +8 || LL 8 || Sp ~/8/2 ||| SpC 8min
Lavender floats down. "Ehh, it was probably overkill, but I wanted to make sure it was dead in one shot. One less Gnoll that can murder, rape, and enslave. The other one got away, up a rocky trail that leads off up the mountain at the back of the overhang." Lavender answers Yousef.
"So, what is up with this one? Seeing as Rashid is healing him, I guess finishing him off is out of the question?" Lavender asks as ske searches the the burnt gnoll.
"Very well. If he is to be our guide, we should make sure that he is in good condition..."
He then turns to the Gnoll, initially with a serious expression, but ending with a smile.
"If you keep your end of the bargain, we will look after you, as well. The Dawnflower looks after Her own, and Her followers likewise emulate Her."
He then chants a short prayer, causing the worst of the Gnoll's injuries to close over.
CLW: 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8.
Rashid then turns to Lavender.
"Apparently, he was escaping his tribe, who are controlled by a (?) Human female. He could certainly be useful as a guide. I say that we should give him a chance. Simply demonising him because of his race makes us no better than his people. Of course, if he betrays us, well, the Dawnflower only requires one chance at redemption to be provided..."
'Actually,' Haleen pipes up, in response to Lavender's words, 'I think generally you'd have to be a gnoll yourself to worry overly about being raped by them,' she gestures towards Purkor, 'good Father Rashid's latest (sudden...) convert to the Faith was pretty much saying that the idea of having to "mate" with a human woman was one of the big reasons he ran away in the first place...' the swordswoman then shrugs, and adds, '... although the murder and enslavement are probably enough on their own... and I guess any race can have its deviants...' she looks thoughtful for a moment, then concludes, '... like this "Witch" character, I suppose.'
Once Rashid has healed the worst of Purkor's wounds, the gnoll clasps his hands together and bobs his head in (somewhat exaggerated) gratitude,
'Purkor thank great Priestess!' he offers in broken Kelish.
Studying the rock and the imbedded golden object you're pretty sure that it's the golden object which holds the power, and the rock it's embedded into has been transformed due to contact with it over time... but (frustratingly enough) fail to scrutinise any more than that. You're convinced that freeing the golden object from the rock would release its power and allow you to study it better... assuming that 'releasing its power' doesn't do anything too drastic...
Zaina floats down to peer at the green rock as Bahram turns it over in his hands... the tiny genie seemingly more fascinated with the unusual rock than the golden object it contains...
Touching Yousef's arm, Haleen steers him away from Purkor and Rashid for a moment, and over to where Lavender is examining the fallen gnoll's body (we'll say it fell off the overhang to avoid any unnecessary Climb checks!),
'Lavender has a point' Haleen whispers, 'just how useful is this gnoll really going to be to us... and does it outweigh the (let's assume big) chance that he'll betray us? With all due respect to the Dawnflower, pushing him off the mountain seems like a completely reasonable course of action to me...' she shrugs a little, '... Just saying...'
Dead gnoll's stuff: composite scavanged armour (i.e. studded leather in game terms), crude scimitar, crude composite longbow (+4 Strength rating if anyone checks), 12 longbow arrows, miscellaneous trinkets, bits of broken jewellery, and a few coins amounting to a total value of 1gp.
Noticing Zaina joining him in the study of the object brings a smile to Bahrams' face. "You like the rock?" he whispers to her, "I believe the magic in this golden thingy here is powerful enough to have melted the rock around it, making it look like what it does. Isn't this exiting!? Let's brake the stone off, I'm presuming that anything powerful enough to melt stone is powerful enough to withstand a slight beating." he says with a wink and a twinkle in his eye, the curious scholar beast was awakened in him.
Finding a large rock on the ground Bahram kneels by it and, holding the object to the rock, picks up another rock and proceeds to chip away at it.
"You are welcome. As the Dawnflower teaches, all should be given the chance to redeem themselves, and you certainly seem fervent enough. If things go well enough and you are willing to work with others harmoniously, I am sure that I could even put in a good word with the leader of Kelmarane; Everlight knows, if I can help a Harpy to learn to live with others, I would be willing to help you."
I just hope that he proves worthy of our trust.
He then looks over to where Bahram is inspecting the object that Purkor recently handed over.
"Do you have any idea what that is? It certainly looks enigmatic enough..."
'Lavender has a point' Haleen whispers, 'just how useful is this gnoll really going to be to us... and does it outweigh the (let's assume big) chance that...
"Rashid and Sarenrae took a chance on my redemption, I'll give that chance to a gnoll. I failed the brethren of our fallen friend Felliped a year ago and won't have anymore needless deaths on my conscious. If Purkor betrays us, Tempest will be the last thing he sees."
Zaina glances up at Bahram, then floats a little closer to lay her hands on the green rock and feel over its surface,
'Fire and earth, Master,' she says, with a smile, 'the blending of the elements is always so interesting... but what makes you think the golden... um... thingy melted the rock? Couldn't it have been dropped into molten rock which later cooled?'
When Bahram starts hammering at the rock Zaina flinches and darts aside,
'Oh...' she murmurs sadly as the elementalist begins to chip away at the interesting stone... although it looks like it's going to be slow going chipping away the green stone in that manner, as Bahram's battering only manages to dislodge a few tiny flecks at a time...
Listening to Yousef's words, Haleen shrugs then, plastering on a rather fake grin, turns towards where Purkor is still slumped against the rocks,
'Welcome aboard, you flea-bitten excuse for a dung beetle,' she says in her most friendly tone of voice...
Purkor grins back,
'Purkor welcome, yes...' he replies enthusiastically.
Rashid turns so that Purkor cannot see his face, and addresses Haleen with a frown.
"I understand that you may not be... fond... of Purkor; the Divine knows that I have seen and experienced my share of Evil at the hands of other Gnolls. However, in the same way that not all Humans, Dwarves, or Elves are Good, I refuse to believe that all Gnolls must necessarily be Evil - if there is even a spark of Goodness, I would prefer to nurture it..."
Purkor stumbles a little as Yousef drags him to his feet and shoves him forwards along the track. The gnoll growls a little, but then brushes himself off and his grin returns to his jaws. Gesturing towards the gnoll Lavender executed he asks...
'Maybe I should take that armour and those weapons? In case we... um... "pilgrims" face any trouble along the way?'
Glancing up the track he adds,
'Go to Fire Cave?'
Meanwhile Keldar stares at Purkor for a long while then, with a terse grunt, turns and heads off along the track, keeping a little further ahead of the group than normal (and away from the gnoll...).
"I have no problem with him having the armor. I can see your point about refusing to give him weapons; how about if you tell him that when he earns our trust, by proving his usefulness, we will return that trust by giving him a weapon...? It gives him something to work towards, rather than slavishly following our instructions out of fear."
"We'll let you armor up, but you'll have to prove your worth show us we can trust you before we let you have a weapon. Don't worry about a fight. We can handle anything that comes our way. You just keep an eye out."
Bahram just watches Rashid and Yousef discuss the extent of the trust extended toward the newest member of this mishap group, honestly his background and circumstance of joining wasn't all that different from say Feliped. The only distinction readily apparent to Bahram at the moment was the hair covered snout but the snout was enough for Bahram to eye it warily as he absentmindedly fingered the green lump of rock and it's golden treasure in his pocket.
Purkor listens to what Yousef is saying, then growls back...
'But if I had a weapon or two I could...'
... he trails off, glancing between Yousef and Rashid, then towards the rest of the group... then shrugs, grins, and quickly dons the fallen gnoll's armour, but leaves the weapons alone.
'Purkor friends save Purkor if fight?' he offers with a toothy grin as he tightens the last straps, then heads off along the track after Keldar...
... A while later...
... The sun is begining to set as Keldar leads the way across a relatively featureless slope of the Pale Mountain, bare of the larger rocks and outcroppings so common on the mountainside. The ground underfoot on the lonely slope appears blackened, and the trail is little more than a steep, overgrown, ridge winding up and across the slope. Soon enough Keldar stops and points to where, ahead along the slope, a deep crevase can be seen running across the face of the mountain. The wind creates an eerie whistling noise as it blows over and through the fissure (at least it's hopefully the wind...) and ashen smoke appears to continuously seep from the opening, like the breath of some foul firey fiend... (or something... ;) )
'Ooh!' Zaina darts to the front of the group to gaze at the smoking cave for several long moments, before floating back to Bahram's side. 'Fire and earth and wind too, my Master!' she exclaims gleefully, 'It's wonderful!'
Haleen raises an eyebrow at the tiny genie's antics, loosening her sword as she glances towards the ominous crevise herself,
'Wonderful or not,' she asks, 'what are the odds whatever... thing... lives in there can be killed by stabbing? I can stretch to repeated stabbing in their soft parts, but that's about as far as my comfort zone extends...'
'Fire Cave,' Purkor offers, looking less than enthusiastic as his eyes dart nervously this way and that, 'fire snakes in Fire Cave, and... and...' his brow furrows and he mumbles to himself for a few moments, then he appears to give up and turns to Yousef...
'I've never been here myself,' he explains, 'but others have come here to leave sacrifices for the ancient fire gods who dwell within, in return for the guidance they seek. Some claim to have returned with strange weapons granted them by the gods in exchange for much treasure...' his expression turns thoughtful for a moment as he adds, '... is that it? Are you here looking for weapons?'
'Um... that big cave looking thing over there with the smoke coming out of it is the Fire Cave... I guess... I've never been here before, like I said, but I can't imagine there being two smoke belching crevases in the area...'
... he points towards the cave belching smoke and adds,
'Fire Cave... yes?'
Anyone else doing anything as Rashid prepares his spell? Oh, and since it's been a while, Rashid does recall those extra spells his superior back in Kelmarane gave him, yes?
Bahram eyes the cave suspiciously but doesn't realy see any other options available to the group, this was their intended destinations, the fire cave, full of lava and, aparantly, fire snakes. Sighing he turns to the gnoll and says with exagerated slownes, "Yeess.. Fiierr Caavee.." and the turns to Yousef and asks in full earnestnes, "Is the creature slow or something? Repeating itself and nodding is a poor way of comunicating I must say, I'm half expecting it to start drooling at any moment... Can't you get through to it?"
"Not sure. I'd rather go around something called a fire cave if we can. Is there another way....and I think he is just trying to please us. He asked if he should keep grinning and nodding. I told him he could stop. Gnolls aren't particularly bright you know."
I I can't remember exactly our planned course of action and am getting my own personal knowledge about the AP mixed with what our characters should know.
Our path is Into the Fire Cave iirc. I remember a Sarenite priest who sent us on this quest to investigate the rise in gnoll activity, Zaina recognized his name back in the sphinx cave and I'm waiting for the appropriate moment to arise for Bahram to start asking about it (I actually just forgot 'till now) and said priest sent us here, to the cave, to start our investigations.
"We need to go through it. That is our Path, after all. If you are *that* concerned, though, Yousef, the Dawnflower will provide... just be aware that we cannot call on Her power indefinitely; we need to look after ourselves as well."
If Rashid prays for a further 15 minutes, he can prepare a Communal Resist Energy, which he can use to provide each of Bahram, Yousef, Lavender, Haleen and the Gnoll, with 10 minutes of Fire Resistance 10.
Assuming everyone heads towards the cave once Rashid's finished doing his thing...
Approaching what Purkor refers to as the 'Fire Cave' up the winding, narrow, overgrown path, it's soon apparant why the place earned the other name it is commongly known by - the 'Mountain's Maw'. The cave entrance is a cleft like a fanged maw cutting horizontally through the pale cliff side, a dark fissure lined with stony outcroppings. Black streaks stain the earth outside the opening, sooty residue as if from some great heat. In uneven blasts faint smoke exhales from the crack like the noxious breath of the mountain itself.
Once the entrance is reached, impressive heat can be felt radiating from within, despite the howling winds battering the mountainside. Flickering blue lights from further into the cave cause shadows to dance and leap as if the gaping stone 'maw' contained untold creatures frolicing chaotically just out of sight...
'Marvelous!' exclaims a wide-eyed Zaina as she takes in the cave.
'Dangerous...' mutters a frowning Haleen as she loosens her sword in its scabbard, and edges a little closer to Yousef...
"Before I forget; I have a scroll of communal resist energy at the 5th caster level that we found on the gnolls harassing the griffons we encountered. Should I cast it now before we head in or shall we see how we handle the heat?"