The day has come. The 4th of Neth, the day Ekat Kassen and his men set out to bring down the mercenaries that had been plaguing the town nearly two centuries ago. The chill winds mark the beginning of the season's change to winter, though this particular morning has been warm with the sun shining upon the town.
It has been a fortnight since you were chosen, and you haven't been given a chance to forget or even think about much else. Your mentor, your family, the people on the streets, have all congratulated you and treated you with solemn deference. Though it's well known that nobody ever gets seriously injured during this venture, the townsfolk treat the ruse with all seriousness. If you didn't know better you would swear you had really been chosen to clear out a nest of raiders!
The ceremony is due to begin at noon sharp, at the toll of the church bells, though each of you has been urged by someone or another to show up a little early. You are to arrive with with only what you absolutely need - weapons, armor, spellbooks - as receiving your packs and gear is a part of the ceremony.
When you arrive, the square in front of the Temple of Erastil is deserted except for the other chosen. The bright, brisk weather and empty square mirror the mixed feelings of elation and somber reflection the ceremony is intended to invoke.
The town square is a basically an open area at the middle of town, with little in the way of decoration or vegetation - regular traffic has turned it into something of a circular dirt road. The church is on the south side, the town hall and guard headquarters to the north, and the Seven Silvers tavern to the northwest. Braggar Ironhame's primary competitor, Renet's Steel, is located on the southeast side of the square.
Raven's "glare" had gotten quite good over the last week. She was rather disappointed that no one recognized it as the "evil eye". This is so stupid. There's nothing up there. Why's everyone pretending it's going to be dangerous? At least, that's how they're treating her. All the other "chosen" are getting lauded like heroes. They're getting free drinks, she's getting lectures. Whatever. This is stupid.
She smiles to herself. Nanny G had said, "Only take what you need." I should've come naked. I wonder if they would've arrested me. That would've been a way to get out of this. Wouldn't Merritt be surprised, then, after he's been gloating all week. Jerk. I won. I even broke his arm (though not on purpose, of course). I should be the one gloating. Hmph. It's too cold to go naked, anyway.
Raven shows up early, as if getting there early will get it over with sooner. She's dressed for the cold weather with a wool coat, breeches, cap and cloak, all in dark grey. Her clothes are clean, showing that at least Nanny G takes the ceremony seriously. Raven carries a spear, and her crossbow and quiver are slung on her shoulder.
It isn't too long before Whimsical Bolkin Reid showed up with his usual carefree swagger. On most other days, he'd be content to sleep in as long as he could until one of his fellow guardsmen found some creative way to wake him. Today, however, he was quite lively and eager for what lay ahead, even if he knew full well how trivial a task he was given, despite the his peers' best attempts to pretend otherwise. Every adventurer has to start somewhere, after all, and it was a welcome break from routine.
Bolkin was outfitted with the usual attire of the town guard; a loose-fitting chain shirt, a rather unremarkable, albeit perfectly serviceable flail, and an assortment of daggers he carried on his person just in case. If it was good enough to fend off the occasional criminal or rowdy bar patron, it was good enough to keep him alive for this brief venture. In addition, he had brought a specially-designed vest that would present a nasty surprise to anyone who'd try to hit him with their bare flesh.
Bolkin noted the presence of the "witch", as she tended to fancy herself, though he knew about as well as anyone else how valid her claims of witchcraft were. He didn't know her personally -- she was a good deal younger than the company he chose to surround himself with -- but he was aware of the Vargidans' knack for magic, and as long as she could cast a decent spell, that was good enough for him.
As Bolkin waited, he thumbed through his journal. He kept several journals, each filled with hastily-scribbled tidbits, rumors, and notes about various people, places and events in town, painstakingly gathered from his time mingling about with the townsfolk. The one he was carrying, however, was a fresh journal he had purchased recently to detail his new adventures. As such, the only thing contained in the pages were carefully-copied notes from previous journals that he deemed relevant; they mostly consisted of facts about the crypt and the others that were chosen to accompany him.
Of course, unlike Raven, many of the names listed in his journal were those he had met -- possibly even sparred with once or twice -- at some point or another. As he went down the list, a grin slowly crept up his face; if these were going to be his traveling companions, then the next few days would be rather interesting indeed.
Telperion left Holgast’s tower for the ceremony. He had calculated the time needed to arrive in the square exactly 30 minutes early. Fearing that his excitement was causing him to walk too fast, he stopped in the road, counting out two minutes in his head. Farmer Emil’s cart passed and the rotund man gave a kind greeting to the young elf. Telperion smiled, waved distractedly and replied, “…forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine…”
Farmer Emil shook his head and sighed.
Reaching the square, Telperion confirmed his belongings. He was dressed warmly in dark brown, a small leather cap pulled down tight. Under his cloak his rapier hung from his belt along with a pouch and an oil-cloth satchel. A shortbow was slung across his chest.
Telperion saw Karen Vargidan across the square. He’d learned well that she preferred “Raven”, but always had to translate that in his head before he spoke. And there was Bolkin, reading a small journal.
He crossed, determined to say something nice to each. As he walked he wondered if the town elders chose such different people on purpose. “The town histories contain many examples of odd quest-fellows”, he thought to himself. “Perhaps the mere fact of apparent incompatibility provides a benefit to a candidate for selection; a necessary precursor for the social bonding that the ritual is….oh!”
Telperion stopped short, realizing he’d reached a point equidistant between the two. He was suddenly unsure who he should address first. He knew Bolkin better from their sparring sessions. But didn’t that mean he should address Raven first, to make her feel more comfortable? Or would she take that as a slight? Better to wait to see what she did. And Bolkin seemed busy.
Telperion looked back and forth between the two. Aware of the passing seconds, he decided that they’d have plenty time to talk later. He waved weakly to each, turned around and started scanning the area for the next arrivals.
Grukk eyes opened at the sound of commotion from downstairs in the Seven Silvers and literally rolled out of bed and crashed at the floor. "It's too early for a journey to a crypt." With a stretch of his arms he let out a guttural yawn that sounded more like a roar. He lifted himself off the ground and threw on his leather armor and boots. It took him a while to get fully equipped. He attached his whip and morning star that Drosk made to his waist, slung the spear and javelin over the back, put the dagger into a boot sheath and finally put on a gauntlet that had more spikes than Grukk had fingers, and left his room looking more like he was about to face an army.
He left the inn with everyone encouraging him on a good journey though things were less dependent on him and more dependent on the men and women he had to lead. He left to the riverside to where he stashed his money before he journeyed to the ceremony. "One, two,.... fourty-nine...wait was that fourty nine or fifty? Eh, close enough." Grukk pocketed 5 pieces of gold and after washing his face with water, made tracks toward the square.
Once stepping out of the alley to the clearing where the other chosen were, he noted the lack of others. He started planning out a fight in his head in case this were actually some sort of test to fight each other. He gripped the whip at his side. "Grapple the woman, trip the man, use the woman as a shield if the elf even takes a step towards my position. What if more show up? Hmm no good." He gave up on the idea and let go of the whip, and approached the others in the square.
Giving the best smile a half-orc could give, holding out his severely scarred hand and arm he reached out to shake the two humans' hands, but seeing the elf hesitantly put out a hand as not to offend the person who kept correcting inconsistency in his stories, though he considered to put out the one covered with spikes.
An armored dwarf with bright red hair and braided beard steps out of the Temple of Erastil and into the square. A warhammer and a handaxe hang from his belt, and the heavy steel shield strapped to his left arm bears the symbol of Torag, Father of Creation. On first inspection a native of Kassen would think this dwarf to be Braggar Ironhame, the finest smith in the town. A closer look reveals this to be Braggar's nephew Drosk, the novice weaponsmith and priest of Torag who assists Father Prasst at Kassen's only temple.
Drosk smiles in greeting as he approaches the other Seekers gathered in the square. "Mornin', Grukk!" the dwarf greets the half-orc with a friendly handshake. "Not used to seein' ye up this side o' noon. See ye brought the morning star... did you remember to bring the rest o' yer arsenal?" he chuckles.
"An' good mornin' to ye both, Masters Bolkin and Telperion. An' to ye, Mistress Vargidan," Drosk says with a respectful bow of his head to Raven. "By Torag's Forge, we look to have a fine group questing for the Everflame this year!"
Drosk pauses and looks around the square. "But where's Garik?" he asks no one in particular. "Thought he'd be here by now..."
”Once you accept a job, you make sure you just don’t finish it but finish it well”
Garik could still hear his father Aurus say. Though those words might have meant only literally then, Garik had long ago learned to apply it depending on the situation. It still brings a smile to the young dwarf knowing how he finished “well” his last job for Kurmog. "Hope you had fun with your shiny new weapons, you flea-bitten oversized slime!”
But today is different. Today marks a new beginning for Garik. This is one job he accepted and will do well as it was meant by his father before. Although most of the townsfolk might treat the ceremony with mock seriousness, he understands and respects well the reason for the ceremony. He has decided that it is a good tradition, one he plans to do every year actually on his own as a way of remembering his father.
“Yer to bring only what you absolutely need. No need bringing the anvil when only a hammer would do”. Garik smiles as he remembers Braggar Ironhame’s voice after clapping his shoulder and congratulating him for being chosen. The young dwarf knows well that the master weapon smith’s endorsement had something to do with that but Braggar insists that an endorsement is just part of the selection process and that Drosk and he being chosen recognizes more the potential in both of them.
”Well, hammers and for that matter, some mittens as well then” as Garik dons his hide armor and puts on his waraxe on his belt's right and light mace on the left. He places his Morningstar and short bow at an easy reach on his backpack’s clippings. A quiver of arrow dangles beside his light mace. Another quiver he placed inside the backpack. It’s a leap of faith for Garik to take the town council’s words that basic provisions for the trip would be provided but he thought nothing could be worse surviving the wilderness with just his clothes and an axe when he escaped his last employer. At least this day he is well-equipped. Along with the armor, he also wears what veteran adventurers call in the tavern, an explorer’s outfit.
As he approached the square, he sees Drosk and the rest of the “chosen ones” as the townsfolk fondly call them since the announcement was made. Garik reprimanded himself inwardly for being late but then he knew he was not as no tolling bells came from the church yet. Though he was reminded to be early he still spent an extra time tidying up Braggar’s smithy and added extra fuel for the forge in case the weapon smith would need them while Drosk and he are away. ”Well if they think I’m late then I’m late.”
Garik sees Drosk greeting the others and just as Drosk looks for him, the young cleric sees him as he arrives with a steady gait.
“Well you left the fire in the forge and I had to snuff and clean it up or else we’d have no smithy to return to”, Garik says with a serious tone. Then the young barbarian breaks into a crooked smile; the large “K” dominating his left face with only patches of almost non-existent facial hair while his right face sports a fully grown beard.
’Your fine armor suits you well, my friend”, Garik says with a wink to Drosk indicating he was just jesting about the forge. ”I’m sure your father would have been proud”, Garik adds seriously in a whisper intending only for Drosk to hear.
Maintaining his smile, he looks with a mixture of trepidation (inwardly cursing himself for being so self-conscious) at each of the group intently and then after acknowledging each silently, Garik addresses them in the best congenial voice he could muster with his smile, “And well met to you all. In case you haven’t caught about Master Braggar’s second apprentice yet. It’s Garik Randor.
As the others arrived, Telperion actually started to relax. It felt strange. But it felt good, too. Drosk’s friendly greetings helped, as did the confidence oozed by Grukk and Bolkin. Garik seemed nice enough, too, if a bit fierce.
Telperion began another equipment check, taking it all in. A smile spread across his face. “It’s coming together like the last notes of a good song”, he thought to himself. He smacked his forehead. “Why don’t I say things like that out loud!” he said out loud, and began looking around for whoever might be carrying his pack.
Bolkin was still going over his notes when he noticed Telperion waving meekly at him, at which he responded with this own half-hearted wave before returning to his journal. He knew the Elf wasn't well-versed in social interactions and Bolkin didn't feel particularly inclined to make the atmosphere even more awkward by making him the center of attention.
It wasn't until Grukk and Drosk showed up that he decided to put his book away and help liven up the atmosphere. He returned Grukk's handshake and gave a friendly greeting the Dwarf and Half-Orc. Looking around the square and addressing no one in particular, Bolkin stated, with usual boldness, "It's good to see we have a capable group this year," Bolkin's ever-present smile widened further, "Even if our quest isn't the most dire task in the world, that doesn't mean it can't be exciting."
Bolkin greeted Garik briefly as he arrived, but he decided to wait before speaking up further. It wasn't often that he heard the introverted Dwarf speak so openly, and he knew better than to put a damper on the moment by cutting into his conversation. Instead, he used the opportunity to give one last glance at the contents of his journal so he could be properly prepared for their journey. After all, it was his resourcefulness on top of his strength that earned him a reluctant endorsement from the captain in the first place. Well, that and it was an excuse to make him someone else's problem for a few days.
1 INT + 1 Rank = +2
1d20 + 2 ⇒ (13) + 2 = 15
More currently, he recalls some of the loose-lipped townsfolk talking about the true dangers of the crypt. Though they were never specific, the tomb is protected by very real traps that the villagers take care to defang (and rearm, afterwards) for the benefit of the chosen ones. Each time they also make a habit of hiding a significant stash of valuables, usually locked away with the key itself hidden elsewhere.
Garik acknowledged whimsical Bolkin’s brief greeting with a nod. He is well aware of the town guard’s reputation and finds his confidence actually reassuring; knowing Kassen has an authority figure that actually exudes his rank. He notices Bolkin looks at his journal again. This he observes before with the town guard. Garik thought then that Bolkin’s constant scribbling was part of his duty as a town guard but has realized long ago that he is actually the only town guard who does that. Bolkin’s reassuring smile makes Garik feel welcome and his “old” self – the one before the scar, decided that it’s time to go back to the days when he and his father always used to mingle with different kinds of people when they did personal weaponsmithing to some noble houses. Drosk’s presence and the common bond the group has at this particular time serve to further boost Garik’s confidence.
“Bolkin, right?”, Garik returned with a smile. “Not to pry or anythin’ but I can ‘ae help but notice yer journal there and….” Garik suddenly finds himself at a loss how to continue. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Askin’ is pryin’ already you scarred pig. He looks at Bolkin helplessly, hoping and somewhat pleading with a scarred smile that he did not offend the young town guard.
"Huh?" Bolkin's smile dropped for a second, but his expression was somewhat bemused rather than offended. People seldom asked him about his books these days, as most were used to seeing him writing in them over the years. His smile returned as he answered, "It's just a habit I have. I listen around the town for what people are saying and write them down for future reference." Bolkin then proceeded to flip through his book in front of Garik, as if to show off the mostly empty pages. "This one's a fresh book I'm using specifically for this adventure," he continued, unconcerned with whether or not the Dwarf was still paying attention at this point, "so it only really has information about important things, like the other chosen and the crypt."
Trying the best he could to gloss over the implications of collecting info about his group members (even if most of it was just bunk he had written down for his own amusement and combat-based notes gleaned from sparring sessions past), he continued on about the facts he found regarding their task, "It's mostly just hearsay and trivia, of course, but there are a few tidbits you guys might be interested in." Bolkin laid the book flat open on a certain page so the others could clearly see it, though his hastily-scrawled handwriting resembled secret code more than actual legible text in places. "It seems like the crypt is usually full of traps. The townsfolk tend to disarm them before sending out adventurers, but it couldn't hurt to keep an eye out anyway." At this point, his smile widened into a grin, "More importantly, word is the townsfolk like to hide a... 'bonus'... of sorts in the crypt for the chosen ones to find. He waited a second for that last part to sink in before finishing, "It ain't exactly gonna be a massive treasure hoard, of course, but if we're thorough, we may come out of this with some extra pocket change."
Bolkin’s book was like a siren’s song to Telperion. He hurried over, mesmerized, and looked down at the small journal. The handwriting was terrible. Telperion’s mother would never have permitted that. But, once you got used to it seemed to fit the author.
Telperion listened intently to Bolkin’s information. At the mention of traps, his hand went unconsciously to his pouch, where he kept his lock picks and other tools. “I should be able to help with those”, he thought to himself.
At Bolkin’s mention of a possible treasure hidden by the townspeople, Telperion started to lose interest. He hoped it wasn’t money, but it probably was. He hoped it was something…interesting.
He thought back over the histories he’d read, trying to remember anything about the traps or other dangers faced by previous parties. He remembered one of the tidbits Holgast had left hidden for him: “When trying to determine ‘What’s the worst that CAN happen’, a good place to start is, ‘What’s the worst that HAS happened.’”
This is to remember anything about specific threats faced by previous quests.
Raven's bravado began to waver when she saw the others arriving. She knew Bolkin and Drosk were natives, and she wasn't worried about the weird elf. But she wasn't sure how much she could get away with with the half-orc or the disfigured dwarf. She'd have to tread carefully. It's going to be a long trip.
When Bolkin talks about writing down stuff he hears around town, Raven doesn't know whether to be more offended or curious. The things she says and does are for her, not for others, and certainly not for someone to read about later, out of context. But what better way to find out if people got her right? That they recognize that she's tough, mysterious, and unique... She'd have to ask him later what his journals say about her.
If there's a "bonus" in the crypt, there goes the plan she was considering proposing: that they skip the crypt and just light the ceremonial torch with their campfire. Nobody would've known the difference. She thought this group was too eager to go for it, but with a "bonus" they need to find, too, there's no way.
Listening carefully to what Bolkin said, something seemed a tad off with what was mentioned. "Hmm, so you say that they disable the traps before we go in? Seems strange if they try to challenge us. Why not just keep them disarmed" His hand went to his face he felt embarassed realizing that thieves could just go through trying to steal the remains of Kassen.
He fell silent afterwards, trying to recall his journey to Kassen and dangers he faced outside the walls of the town.
Bolkin’s easy manner of showing nary a sign of being offended and the way he just naturally included everyone in their conversation put Garik further at ease. This one is quite the talker! Garik inwardly smiles. With him and Grukk, they could certainly put anyone at ease.
Garik notices that the elf called Telperion (the one who sometimes questions Grukk’s stories in the tavern) seems quite an excitable fellow but the dwarf feels quite at ease with his conduct. I’m a scarred pig. He’s a fidgety one. To each his own quirk, I guess.
Garik tried to suppress his smile as he sees Grukk’s surprising and intimidating appearance. He couldn’t help but think the half-orc looks quite comical as it was so far from what he usually looks when entertaining the tavern crowd. But if the tales about the bard’s past is true about being in a war band or something then Garik thought, ”This is just one side of Grukk the town hasn’t seen yet”. Somehow that gave additional comfort to Garik being in this group.
On the other hand, Garik couldn’t help but feel ill at ease with Vargidan’s girl as she seems to take a different look at him. But then again she seems to give the same look at Grukk as well. I guess outsiders just put her out of her elements. He noticed too that the girl looks….clean, that is, compared to how he had seen her sometimes before in the town. Well, the girl is quite attractive for a human after all. Garik thought humans would find her look fairy-like. Now this is indeed quite a group! You have a fairy on one extreme and a scarred, disfigured dwarf on the other end. Garik chuckled inwardly at that but felt a bit self-conscious again about his scar.
Observing how the group just naturally huddled together towards Bolkin’s journal, Garik surmises that despite their obvious diversity, each seems motivated enough to work together to accomplish their goal. That or maybe we are all just naturally nosy! Who would not want to peek at all those information Bolkin has gathered?!
There have been similar boasts about the traps Bolkin has mentioned, though you know no more specifics than he.
It is well recorded that the worst injuries have been accidental or self inflicted - a sprained ankle here, an accident with a sword there.
I've edited this a time or two if you've already read it. Sorry about that!
Of more likely concern is the wildlife. While the area immediately surrounding Kassen is relatively tame, this corner of the country is largely wild. Though you've rarely been outright attacked, knowing the proper precautions keeping wolves and hungry, pack-raiding bears at bay, they could still be a threat if emboldened by hunger or their territorial nature.
Not noticing Grukk's embarrassment, Telperion responded, absentmindedly, "They probably reset the traps to discourage grave robbers"
Telperion mulled the possible reasons for the change in the ceremony several decades ago. He divided his initial theories into several categories according to primary causation: political, sociological and accidental.
Meanwhile, he distractedly manipulated a copper piece through his fingers and around his hand, making is walk, roll, disappear and reappear at set intervals.
"Well you left the fire in the forge and I had to snuff and clean it up or else we'd have not smithy to return to", Garik says with a serious tone.
An expression of horror momentarily crosses Drosk's features, only to be replaced by a rueful grin and a raising of his fist when Garik smiles to indicate that he is only baiting the novice priest.
"Glad I am to be havin' ye on this expedition, my friend!" Drosk exclaims, clasping Garik's shoulder. "I just hope Uncle Braggar doesn't fall too far behind on his orders with both o' us gone. He'll prob'ly just drive us the harder once we get back," he adds with a grin.
Time passes quickly as the chosen huddle around and make their plans. The sun finally reaches its zenith and is welcomed by the solemn bells of the church, the peals echoing through the seemingly abandoned streets.
As the sound begins to fade, several townsfolk dressed in black make their way into the square. At first it seems as though there is a funeral, but they begin to slowly congregate around the edges of the square, their eyes downcast and their expressions mournful.
After the flow of bodies seems to drop off a minute or two after noon, a brief neigh and the sound of cart wheels breaks the silence. The crowd parts for Mayor Uptal, the stocky blond man's usually jovial face now quite stern. He carries a tarnished silver lantern in one hand and the reigns of the horse in another, the cart laden with the backpacks and supplies you all gathered or asked for.
He continues until he reaches the center of the square, stops, and examines the crowd. After a moment, he calls out in a loud baritone,
"Once again the winter winds blow through the Fangwood, marking the end of another harvest. There are wolves in the woods, howling at our walls, and serpents in our shadows, waiting to strike. Just as it was one hundred and seventy-four years ago, when Kassen himself left these walls to protect us, so it is today. Where are the heroes? Where are the brave folk that will venture out to Kassen’s tomb and retrieve the flame to keep this community safe for another winter?"
He does an admirable job of ignoring the obvious chosen, though his gaze does stop a moment or two longer on the assembled group than anywhere else.
“‘Serpents in the shadows’? Not likely in the winter”, thought Telperion. “And we’re the chosen, obviously, as he well knows. But I guess some political theater is necessary if you want to be mayor.”
Telperion was too busy trying to spot his pack on the cart to congratulate himself on keeping his mouth shut.
Bolkin has just finished tying his journal back onto his belt when the mayor began his speech. Such theatrics were fairly typical for the ceremony, but Bolkin couldn't help but roll his eyes at the display. However, it wasn't long before a smile crept up his face as he thought to himself, "As long as we have to do this, I may as well have some fun."
"Where, indeed?" a voice called out at the mayor's request. Bolkin moved toward the man in long graceful strides, occasionally turning to address the onlookers. "As the sun's warmth grows ever meeker, as do the people's spirits, it falls upon our beloved mayor to find the courageous few who shall descend into the dark crypt to ensure the safety of his people." By this point, he had reached the mayor and proceeded to bow courteously before kneeling at his feet before continuing in a more serious tone, "But look no further. Though I may only be a humble member of the local guard, I will give everything so that this town may yet see another harvest."
Bolkin smiled inwardly at his display, although his face took on an expression so melodramatic as to border on absurdity. He continued to speak with more power in his voice than before, "With nothing but my wits, this blade passed down to me from my ancestors," in reality he proceeded to hold out the flail that everyone recognized as standard issue guard equipment courtesy of Renet's smithy, the ball dangling comically from the handle, "and whatever companions bold enough to accompany me, I shall brave the horrors of the crypt and retrieve for you this sacred flame."
After giving his speech, Bolkin proceeded to stand, holding back his laughter as he waited expectantly for his provisions.
Raven had dreaded this moment. She had hoped they wouldn't have to all pretend to step forward individually. She rolled her eyes, and mimed, "Here we are." with her lips, when Bolkin spoke out.
Raven smiled at Bolkin's over the top performance, and was emboldened to carry it further.
"I will join you!" She calls out and steps forward. "We will defeat those brigands and bring their heads back on pikes! We will drag their bodies through the streets of Kassen, that the women and children may desecrate their corpses, as only women and children know how." She bursts into laughter, realizing how nonsensical that last bit sounded.
As Garik was musing about what else could Bolkin’s journal hold, the bells of the church tolled. ”Well, here we go’, the dwarf thought with excitement. After the bells ceased its clangor and the solemn entrance of Mayor Uptal and his quite dramatic oration, Garik’s excitement started to wane as he realized that the ceremony seems to expect that the chosen ones would need to “volunteer” themselves to the Mayor in front of the townsfolk as if they weren’t already known a fornight ago.
The dwarf’s heart seems to stop beating and made him absentmindedly scratch his scar as he watched with “horror” Bolkin suddenly took the cue from the mayor and even made a performance so melodramatic that it reminded him of Grukk’s sometimes drunken soliloquy in the tavern. “Torag help me! Do they expect everyone to make a darn speech?!” The young barbarian’s mind whirled, thinking of what to say. He feels his scar and half-bearded face growing, pulsating, as if it wanted to scream out to the townsfolk, “Lookey here everyone! I’ve got a half-gargoyle face for you to ogle on!’
The follow-up performance of the “fairy-like” Vargidan girl brought more apprehension to the dwarf but as she ended her short speech even Garik couldn’t help but smile at the absurdity of her last line. The girl even laughed at her own silliness. ”Alright, better the scarred pig follow the fairy and get this overwith!” He also gathered that if Grukk beats him on this turn, he could never for sure “outperform’ the half-orc bard.
Garik bravely steps forward as Mayor Uptal and most of the elderly folk watched with mild disapproval at the Vargidan girl’s laughter (although most of the townsfolk couldn’t help but break their mournful countenance with a bit of a smile with Bolkin and the girl’s theatrics).
The mayor notices the dwarf’s approach and laid eyes on him as if for the first time. Garik felt the crowd follow Uptal’s gaze. The dwarf maintained his gaze to the mayor not wanting to see the crowd’s reaction to his face. He tried to remember his father’s dignified look whenever they present themselves to a noble with their finished weapons.
’If the town wills it.” Garik begins with a voice he hopes did not tremble (as his insides seem to roil like a bubbling iron) as he also bowed and knelt in front of the mayor. “This grateful dwarf that this valiant town welcomed a year ago hopes that it be given the chance to honor the town by accepting its humble service for this worthy quest.”
Garik surprised himself that he was even able to finish his sentence. He wanted to add more but he could not think of anything more to say. And so he stood up as well and took a position beside the Vargidan girl who was standing beside Bolkin.
Telperion watched Bolkin, Raven and Garik with a surprised look on his face. It hadn’t occurred to him that he’d be expected to participate in the Mayor’s speech.
Telperion smiled along with the crowd at Bolkin’s exaggerated performance. He let out a startled laugh at Raven’s witty absurdity.
But Garik’s obvious discomfiture was a sobering moment. “That must have been difficult for him”, Telperion thought, compassion flooding him in a wave. “I guess I’ll take my turn.”
He moved to stand in front of the mayor, about 10 feet distant. He drew, flourished and presented his rapier in a complicated formal fencing maneuver called the Celwynvian Salute. (Telperion’s mother had taught him this move many years ago, but he’d never had occasion to use it outside of competition.)
He knelt in front of the Mayor and said, “I’d like to go, too. You know, with them.”
Grukk had been feeling slightly more awake now, and had starting composing something in his head listening to each chosen's words carefully to pick his own. Everyone's grim demeanor did not utter the confidence he had expected but Grukk had planned to change that.
Grukk took two steps forward and slowly started to spin as to address everyone at all sides. "People of Kassen, I Grukk Tornlock and these chosen few, brave the dark days but fear not. Everyone here cradles a part of Kassen fire inside of them keeping the darkness away. Try as shadows may they can not penetrate the light until the fire has given up," Grukk stopped and threw his arms up in the air and exclaimed with a little bit of the latent magic in his voice "Do not give up friends of Kassen! We shall gather the fire that warms us at night and keeps the fog and outward powers at bay!"
Grukk stepped forward a little more to take his place in the group and took a bow. "I reinforce this group's spirits with words and magic and take place in their combat. It is my honor." Grukk said with confidence. Grukk couldn't entirely think of what he wanted to say but felt that he had gotten across a message that was powerful enough.
In response to Grukk’s words, Telperion’s sword arm flung itself into the air, rapier pointed to the sky. The thin elf let out an eager shout of approval that surprised everyone nearby.
“Well…that was interesting”, he thought to himself as his heart thumped in his chest. “He’s good at that.”
Bolkin was amused by the others as they approached the mayor in a display that was serious in places, overdone in others, and just awkward overall. He didn't mind the awkwardness though; rather, he reveled in the absurdity of it all. Truly the best way to add some enjoyment to what would otherwise have been a drab start to their quest, he thought.
As the bard finished his speech, he could no longer hold back his laughter. However, what came out was a heartfelt and mirthful laugh that carried a subtle yet altogether significant difference in tone from the mocking laughter he was fighting back previously. Bolkin was more secure than ever in his belief that they were in for an exciting adventure.
Drosk smiles approvingly as each of his companions step forward to answer Mayor Uptal's call (although his smile wavers into a look of vague bewilderment at Raven's talk of the women and children desecrating corpses).
As Grukk finishes his inspiring speech with a flourishing bow, Drosk steps forward to speak. ”T’would be an honor to assist these worthy youths to return the light of the Everflame back to the town.” the dwarf priest says solemnly as he steps forward to join the other five. ”Though I fear we have no vessel with which to bear the sacred flame.”
The crowd's reaction ranges between wide, half-hidden smiles and disapproving frowns, but the general tone manages to remain somber yet approving. There are even a few cheers at Bolkin's and especially Grukk's speech, and even a few muffled chuckles and nervous laughs at Raven.
Even Mayor Uptal's stern countenance starts to crack as he continues his part of the ceremony.
"Then one of you shall carry the sacred lantern," he says, proffering the old, beaten silver device for one of you to take. "We have gathered what supplies you brave heroes may need; take of them freely," he says, gesturing to the cart with your packs on it.
The mayor once again speaks to the townsfolk. "I present to you the brave heroes who will follow in Kassen’s footsteps to retrieve the Everflame! Some of them may not return, but I say to you that their sacrifice shall not be forgotten. Go, brave heroes, and do not return until you have the eternal fire." With that, the mayor points to the south, the direction of Kassen’s tomb. The townsfolk begin waving goodbye with cold, solemn looks on most of their faces.
I would like to know who's carrying the lantern, but I've mostly glossed over it in the interest of preserving momentum. If you do feel like having an RP squabble over it, don't let that stop you.
When the mayor offers the lantern, Raven feigns preoccupation, so that someone else will step forward to take it. She crouches down, setting her spear on the ground, and tugs at her left boot, as if making sure it was on tight enough. Once one of the "heroes" takes the lantern, she picks up her spear again and stands.
She then joins the others in collecting the gear she'd asked for from the wagon. She is slightly disappointed that it's all her own stuff collected for her, and not new gear.
"I will take the lantern, if you do not mind, mayor," Bolkin volunteered at the mayor's offer. He didn't care to see more uncomfortable fidgeting amongst his group, and more importantly he was eager to head out as soon as possible. If someone else wanted to carry the lantern for some reason, there would be plenty of time to decide that on the road. For the time being, he was convinced he could keep it safe.
As the group prepared to leave, Bolkin gave one last speech to the audience. "Later, everyone," he called out, "Don't go celebrating my absence too much, as I intend to return in one piece with the flame!" Bolkin made sure his supplies were all in order before leaving to wait for the others near the outskirts of town.
Garik sighed thanks to Torag for "surviving" the ceremony. The dwarf appreciated the town's zeal for the theatrics for the ceremony; it's actually quaintly beautiful and further endeared the town to the dwarf. But taking part in such theatrics is something he'd rather not do. "Give me an iron shoe or a broken metal pot to mend or even defend the town from a thousand orcs but never that again!"
As Bolkin the ever zealous town guard took hold of the silver lantern after they had been given their gears, and started to walk towards where the mayor pointed, Garik realizes that their adventure is truly now afoot. The excitement he felt before the ceremony came rushing back!
As he followed Bolkin who stopped momentarily to wait for the rest, Garik suddenly sobered up a little. "Wait, this aint like we're escaping from a sadistic ogre or something; we shouldn't hurry unnecessarily."
"Wait!", Garik said loud enough for the group to hear. "I beg all your pardon. Admittedly I'm not too familiar with Kassen but do I assume that all of you know the way to the crypt? Do any of you have a map or something that will guide us to the place?"
Hi Zeb, I guess since this is PbP maybe maps aren't feasible so do I assume that native folk to Kassen would know the way to the crypt?
And team, i guess we need to do our marching order. My suggestion is from 1st to last: Bolkin, Grukk, Telperion, Raven, Drosk, Garik? Feel free to suggest other than mine. I'm working on one fighter types at each end of the marching order with the least fighter types in the middle.
"May the Father of Creation smile upon our endeavors and guide us safely back to our home-forges," Drosk says in benediction at the end of the ceremony.
The dwarf priest shoulders his pack and checks to make sure that his weapons and shield are secured. He waves to his Uncle Braggar and Aunt Beryl as he follows his companions to the outskirts of town. Pausing with the others, he unslings his pack and opens it to inspect the contents - familiarizing himself with the location of each piece of equipment in case he needs to find something quickly, and making sure everything is stored securely.
"Wait!", Garik said loud enough for the group to hear. "I beg all your pardon. Admittedly I'm not too familiar with Kassen but do I assume that all of you know the way to the crypt? Do any of you have a map or something that will guide us to the place?"
Drosk pauses in his inspection of his gear and slowly looks up at his companions with a look of concern. "Aye, now that's a good question! All's I know is the Crypt is somewhere south o' Kassen. I just... sorta assumed... one o' ye'd know the way?" Drosk's voice trails off as he tries to remember anything that he might have been told about the location of the Crypt of the Everflame.
Drosk doesn't have any ranks in Knowledge (geography) or (local), so he'll try to glean any clues as to the Crypt's location from what little he can remember about the history of Kassen and the Crypt. Knowledge (history) check: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7 EDIT: yeah, didn't think so!
For marching order, how about Garik and Bolkin in the lead, since Garik appears to have the highest Survival skill and Bolkin has the highest Knowledge (local) skill, followed by Telperion, Raven, Grukk, and Drosk?
Bolkin paused to think at Garik's question before shrugging, "I just kinda assumed one of us was given a map." Scratching his head, he decided to let someone else take care of it. "If you guys are that worried, then go look for one. Otherwise we can play it by ear. Either way, I'll be waiting for you further down the road."
With that, Bolkin turned and continued on his way.
I'm fine with Drosk's marching order. As long as both our front and rear guard are solid, I have no issues.
Also, I believe that if something is common enough knowledge (read: a DC of no higher than 10) then you can still make a Knowledge check even if you're not trained (see this page at the very bottom), in which case Bolkin will attempt a Geography check to determine the crypt's location.
+1 INT = +1
1d20 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 1 = 18
"I kinda know where it is. We'll be able to find it." Raven announces loudly enough that all can hear. Then she walks to the head of the group, telling each of her new companions as she passes them, "Play along!", with a barely concealed smirk.
She leads the group to the end of the road, where, in full view of the gathered crowd, they're supposed to turn right to head to the crypt. Without looking back, Raven turns left.
The adventure actually does assume a handout - a map torn into a number of pieces equal to the number of PCs. Garik's right that this won't work well in this format, so I will assume your characters manage to discover the bits and piece them together, given Bolkin's knowledge check.
I'll let you guys keep up the roleplay - each character has a map piece. You'll need to make a Survival check to follow the map and everyone can Aid Another. Once we're all set and ready to go I will move the scene along.
"Eh," Bolkin shrugged as Raven demonstrated what what either a likely ill-fated act of defiance or a truly daft sense of direction, "I'm sure she'll be joining us when or if she realizes that nobody's following her." The way he figured it, her choices were to rejoin the group, spend the next few days alone in the wilderness until they got back, or explain herself to some rather upset townspeople. Bolkin rather hoped she'd have the common sense to choose the former, however reluctantly she may do so.
"We can move along at a modest pace for a little while. Either she catches up within the next hour or two or she probably wouldn't have been that useful to begin with." With that said, Bolkin took the lead with Garik as they had discussed previously and waited for the others to fall into place.
Raven poses a good question. I assumed so because of the dotted line, but that seems like a strange place to bury a local hero.
"Hmm" Grukk sounded with clear interest and a bit of excitement as he hustled over to the cart of bags. He picked out one that looked particularly stuffed with goodies. As he squeezed it in a hug disappointment washed over him as he discovered it was just air that made it look so full. He sat down a with a small tear in his eye trying to hide it from the other members to not show weakness. He unpacked it on the ground to see what was inside.
"Map is in the bag guys, by the dotted line I assume we're going there," pointing to the bottom of the scrap of parchment. "I'm good with directions and finding my way back to a spot, finding somewhere else isn't my thing, someone else figure it out"
Grukk takes a last look at the parchment noting that they are about to head south and tosses the map to the side and puts all the rest of the items back in the bag. "I don't suppose we could go back to sleep and head out at night." Grukk paused for a second then continued "Yeah I didn't think you all would like heading to a crypt at night. Well lets go then and quit dawdling"
I'll chill in the back of the line, I have a whip and a javelin. I'll just work my way up into combat if I really want to. Saddly the bag wasn't filled with jewels and diamonds. :C
Grukk’s mention of the maps being at the bottom of each other’s bag answered Garik’s concern. As everyone took the separate pieces and made sense of the completed map, they decided that Garik and Bolkin lead the way.
”Well, here’s an added collection for your journal, Bolkin”, as the dwarf barbarian handed all the pieces of the map to the young town guard as he thought that the map pieces can easily be inserted in the pages of Bolkin’s journal.
”Aye, Drosk!”, Garik turned to the young cleric with a mischievous smile and wink. ”With the help here of the town’s valiant chronicler-guard and his mighty tome of wondrous local tidbits, I can guide us there. Methinks my wilderness skill hasn’t been dulled that much by yer uncle’s forge yet!”
Garik is clearly in high spirits buoyed by the group’s enthusiasm though he is quite worried with Raven’s intractable behavior. He fervently hopes the girl admits her mistake if her turning left was accidental or if intentional her sober side (hopefully she has one) takes over soon….preferably before it gets dark.
"A modest pace then. It’s most prudent for now”, Garik agrees with Bolkin’s temporary deference to Raven’s unexpected turn and then took out his dwarven waraxe and stood beside Bolkin while he also waited for the others to get into place.
Garik makes a survival check: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (12) + 7 = 19 (+4 rank, +1 wis mod, +2 aid from Bolkin)
Ok. it’s Friday night here and I have to go offline already for the weekend. I’ll be back Monday morning which is actually Sunday night to most of you. See ya!
Telperion quickly took his place in line, trying to look around the others to see the road ahead, and to spot Raven. His excitement had built to such a level that he began shifting slightly from foot to foot, unconsciously marching in place. A smile wandered across his face as he turned his attention this way and that.
Telperion noted the gear each of the Chosen was carrying, the differences between the boots worn by Bolkin and those worn by Garik, the amount of moisture in the air and the height of the sun in the sky. His curiosity, unchecked by contemplation, pulled eagerly at his senses, trying to draw everything in.
Raven walks until she's out of view of the crowd in the square and then turns to wait for the rest of the group, only to see that none of them went along with her joke. She drops her head back and groans in frustration. This is going to be a long, miserable trip.
She runs to catch up with the leader, Bolkin. "I just wanted to see what the mayor and them would do if we went the wrong direction." As she digs into her backpack looking for her map piece, she looks back at the rest of the party. They are already walking in marching order. I'd heard of adventuring groups having a marching order, but I always thought that was just through dangerous territories, not walking through their hometown. I wonder if they're going to need to figure out a seating arrangement if we stop in a tavern.
She looks at her map, and hands it to Bolkin. "Good thing I caught up. My part has trees on it. You'd have been hopelessly lost without that landmark."
She walks back to take her place in line. "Hey, Telp. Am I before you or after you? After?" She lets Telperion pass and steps in line behind him. She spends the rest of the time trying to synchronize her steps with Telperion's until they get out of town.
Bolkin's expression was rather deadpan as Raven attempted to explain her 'joke'. However, his countenance lightened up a bit as he replied, "Yeah? Well, I wanted to see what you'd do if we went in the RIGHT direction."
He continued piecing together the map that Garik had given him (plus the contribution he had just received from Raven). Although he had no real way of keeping the bits of map adhering to the paper, having a flat surface to lay them on made it easier to read. "Anyway, don't count on this trip being boring yet," Bolkin added in a serious tone, "It's gonna be a good deal of time before we reach the crypt, and outside the relative safety of Kassen, it's anyone's guess what will happen."
Having gave his warning, Bolkin instructs the others to keep a sharp eye out as he uses the map to help keep Garik on the right path.
Anyway, I believe in order to get a +2 aid bonus, Bolkin will need to make a Survival check to give that aid. I don't know if having the map will provide any kind of circumstance bonus, but I may as well give it a shot.
1d20 ⇒ 19
Anyway, I suppose I'll see most of you on Monday, though I might still be here this weekend if anyone needs me.
With Bolkin and Garik leading the way, the group has no trouble keeping to the path. The walk is pleasant, the temperature holding fairly steady and thick clothing providing sufficient warmth. The scenery is less than majestic, though, as you head through the now largely leafless Fangwood. The path is narrow and the occasional overhanging branch manages to catch someone's pack or clothing. The brilliant autumn colors are now at your feet, crunching loudly with every step.
About two hours in a large tree fallen across the path causes the group momentary pause. Before anyone can approach it, three snarling, green humanoid figures leap over the obstruction, bellowing vulgar challenges.
Roll for initiative. I'll go ahead and post up a quick grid once we've got all that done, with positions based on marching order. We'll go ahead and do this in initiative and see how the pace goes. I'll roll init openly but otherwise I will probably be keeping roll to myself if nobody has objections.
1d20 ⇒ 14