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Arcanaton

DM Grey's page

614 posts. Alias of Lloyd Jackson.


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Your company departs early the next morning. As you load your relatively meager belongings onto the ranger's packhorses, the rising sun illuminates a sea of fog covering the bay and surrounding valleys. The higher hills, such as the one the ranger's camp is on, rise from the mist like islands. Diorn warns to keep a favorite weapon or two handy. The way we take is usually safe, but things have become unsettled since the king's death. Keep your eyes open for ambushes. There are some who would welcome a chance to strike down those who keep the peace.

Diorn provides Athene with three simple, but well made, copies of a book. One in archaic elvish, the ranger's language, and the common tongue of the kingdom. Though there aren't enough to provide copies for all of you, one or two additional books could be loaned to anyone interested in either the ranger's language or common.

==================================================================

You descend into the misty valley, and follow a twisting trail through the hills to your east. You descend to the valley floor around noon. The morning fog has burned away, giving you clear view of an area much more populated than any you've seen yet. A simple stone keep stands watch on a small mound just below the where the trail enters.

Patchwork fields cover the valley with similar keeps dotting the edges. A league or so to the north a true castle with curtain walls anchors a bustling town near the middle of the valley.

As your horses pass the keep a youth watching from the battlement waves and shouts greeting, which the rangers return.

A low wall surrounds the town, which looks to hold a couple thousand, and carts and wagons make a steady stream in and out. The townsfolk and those in the field surrounding look much like those you've seen before. A melting pot of the northern inner sea. The men mostly wear loose trousers and shirts, sometimes with a tunic or vest over. Unlike what you've seen before, the women are all clothed in long bodiced-dresses with a white underdress beneath and cap or hat. Almost everyone wears an armband or other piece of black clothe.

Your group receives plenty of attention, mostly positive, with many offering bows or curtsies. A, relatively, brief lunch is taken within the great hall of the castle, which flies the grapes quartered with the red eye at half mast. The lord of the castle is well into his middle-age, well-dressed in somber black. Though he greets you courteously, his attention is focused on Mary, Ritva, Ian, and Ingolf. Apparently there is a great deal to discuss. Several small packages and packets of letters are exchanged, mostly added to your saddlebags.

With no more than an hour or so spent, you once again head west. Climbing out of the valley, you pass a earthen dam, a hundred feet high or a little more holding back a medium sized lake. Another keep watches over the dam and the valley below.

Once more traveling through winding hills, you spend the night camped in the pasture of a fortified manor/keep resting in a small valley tucked between the folds of the earth. The minor lord provides dinner and breakfast and suggests making your way quickly to the outpost that is your next day's destination.

You make good time the next morning. The road gently winding south through a valley that shows signs of once being inhabited before turning sharply north into a maze of narrow valleys. Abruptly the valley you are following jinks and as you round the bend becomes a narrow lake.

=====================================================================

The valleys are now all shadowed as you round another bend from where a bone of the valley juts out into the water. The road has been sliced into the hillside and the grade slopes steeply up both above and below you.

In the evening quite of birds and insects, you hear several sharp cracks, followed by the crashing, crunching rumble of stones sliding down the mountainside. It's a landslide, and it's heading straight for you!

Perception DC20:

A small something, a dislodged stone or flicker of movement, catches your attention and you suddenly notice several humanoids concealed in the brush above you. You are not caught off-guard and may act in the surprise round.


Should have a gameplay post up late monday.


So currently, we have one abstention and one vote for stay together and head north.


Athene:

Though you aren't likely to brag, religion is a bit of a specialty, and you're more familiar with obscure beings than most. Still, there isn't a lot to work with. It might not be a bad idea to have a solid discussion about the faiths, among the many other things, of this place as you, hopefully, travel north.

The first, the Star-Kindler, is obviously Desna, if a bit more focused on good and evil, and less on luck and travel than is typical.

The second is harder, but either Gozreh or the Green Mother seems most likely. Halcamora is another possibility, though more from the name than anything. There aren't too many divinities with a focus on trees or fruits. If you had to pin it down, probably Gozreh. Not many beings are interested in worlds where trees are new.

Andoletta seems the best fit She Who Weeps. Though usually considered quite stern, Grandmother Crow is always ready to point out the proper path to someone who has strayed, which usually involves both hope for the future and grief for past mistakes.

Rest is tough. Desna is typically regarded as the goddess of dreams and sleep. They could be worshiping different aspect as separate beings, though that doesn't seem likely. Perhaps a differently gendered Lalaci?

The Weaver sounds like one of Pharasma's Ushers. Alas, you don't know much about them aside from being roughly equivalent to empyrial lords and tending to have a particular focus or interest. Not many mortals understand the psychopomps or their hierarchy.

Beauty is usually associated closely with Shelyn, and the bit about birds, flowers, and love certainly fits. Though the reference to the hunter and forests is unusual, and the sun is almost always with Sarenrae.

Young doesn't sound like any being you are familiar with. Rowdrosh has lordship over herd animals, but isn't a young frolicking dancer. Ashava is the dancer, but isn't associated with animals.

Overall, it seems likely that the rangers worship a mix of full deities and various outsider lords. Also interestingly, it seems that several of the female divinities are paired with another entity. The judge, hunter, and valiant. Paired worship is relatively uncommon.

If you think there are others that would be better fits, by all means have Athena use those instead. I don't know all the divine beings of pathfinder.

During the feast you get the feeling that every action you take, or don't take in the case of the pig, is being watch, analyzed, and debated. You're pretty sure someone lost a beat because of which drink you chose first.

As the evening, and impromptu language sessions continue, you think there may be something to what Diorn said. No one middle-aged seems to have have any elvish traits, but as age decreases, you notice eyes that are most slanted than most humans, eyes with uncommon hues, ear that start to point. The reverse of what happens to the descendants of half-elves that mate with humans.

Though it is clear singing isn't Athene's strongest talent, the rangers are appreciative.

The archery demonstration goes over less well. No throwing fruit by any means, but you can tell they are a bit disappointed.


Glad to have you back. Any of the new books you'd recommend?


The Postination has been doubled!


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Diorn, through Athene, tries to answer as best he can. "No. This house is not dedicated to any of the powers. Collecting his thoughts for a moment, "I will tell you the names by which we know the powers. Perhaps you will recognize who you worship by a different name. However, this Calistria does not sound like a form of the Powers I know."

The Queens of the Empyreal Lords are seven. Greatest is the Sublime. Who we call Star-Queen, Star-Kindler and the Ever-White. From the beginning she saw the darkness of the Enemy and hated him. She hold dominion over the stars and light, and so the servants of the Dark cannot stand her name or presence.

The Giver of Fruits is Queen of the Earth. She created all green things which grow in the earth, and gave life to the trees.

She Who Weeps is the source of grief and hope, for they are twins who never part. She offers solace when none other will, and teaches compassion and pity.

Rest heals the wounds and weariness of the world. She gives us the night that in her sleep our souls may be renewed.

The Weaver's storied webs cover the halls of the Judge, recording the story of all that has come to pass.

Beauty dwells in the forests of the Hunter. At her passing flowers bloom and birds sing. It was her love that caused the Sun to blossom from the golden tree.

Young forever dances over the fields of the blesssed realm with The Valient. She watches over deer and all other things which run upon the earth.

==================================================================

DM:

1d20 + 10 ⇒ (15) + 10 = 25
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (7) + 7 = 14

1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11

1d20 + 10 ⇒ (19) + 10 = 29
1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15

The audience looks on and whistle appreciatively at Staveon's performance, particularly his display with the dueling sword, but it is the offering of a friendly duel that really perks their interest. After some good-natured jostling and cat calling, a tough-looking woman steps forward. Perhaps a few years older than Staveon, her scarred arms indicate she's used to the clash of melee.

Nonetheless, this is Staveon's dance. One-on-one, especially in front of a crowd, is what the Aldori style is meant for, and it shows. The first round is clearly in Staveon's favor, but the second see him nearly dropping his sword after trying a particularly fancy maneuver. His opponent begins to laugh at the spectacle, but it was all a clever ruse. In the blink of an eye, her sword is gone and the swordlord ends with a flourish.

The performance earns wild applause from the rangers. Mary and Ritva roll their eyes and mock shudder, but clap with the rest.

Pavo grins as he comes forward. Thanks for setting the bar so low.

Though he doesn't challenge anyone, he puts on an impressive display of tumbling and juggling with his daggers, seemingly making them appear and disappear from improbable places.

This is also greeted with enthusiastic applause and offers of wine. These are martial people, and skill earns their respect.

===================================================================

Discussing travel plans makes it clear that the five leaders and those who will be accompanying them had planned to leave before the met you. Mary tells you, via Diorn. It was by chance that we were finishing some matters with the Bearkillers when you arrived. We have only stayed this long to ensure matters are settled and preparing here. Now we must head north for the funeral and war councils, though we would not object to your presence. Perhaps I should not say chance. There doesn't seem to be such a thing where Powers are concerned. Your arrival at this time could not be anything but fate.

Nevertheless, you are not part of this kingdom, and so we have no authority over you. If you feel it would be best to stay and investigate what brought you here, we understand.

---------------------------------------------------------------

As you are discussing the matter Pavo offers his opinion. I think maybe we should split up for a bit. With a wide grin, Not that I don't like you guys, but right now there are a lot of fish we need to catch, and all of our lines are in the same spot. And it's not as though it'll be hard to find each other again. We just ask where the aliens are.

Mulling things over, I'm with Staveon, I could go either way. Here and there both seem good.


That's fine. We'll move things forward as people are able.


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Your hosts pay close attention as Diorn translates Athene's description of your arrival and initial fight, and are interested in any additions others are willing to provide.

Once the details of the fight are covered, Mary and Ritva examine the map of the planets Therin and Athene have sketched. They aren't identical by any means, but do seem quite similar. If you switched out Verces and Eox for their belt of pebbles, the first six planets would be identical, Liavara's rings and all.

The slightly awkward four-way conversation continues for a while longer, but as the shadows lengthen Ingolf indicates the it is time to bring things to a close for now.

Diorn leads you down one wing of the building to a set of richly furnished bedrooms. There are enough beds of everyone, and the embroidered quilts and shimmery sheets indicate a night of luxurious decadence waits. Diorn informs you that the rest of your gear will be brought here once it's finished being cleaned.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Dinner is a communal affair. Family and friends sit on chairs or the ground together. Mary, Ingolf, Ritva, Ian, and Diorn likewise wander from group to friend and back again, with little to distinguish them from the rest. The atmosphere being generally relaxed and amiable. The conversations themselves are curiously animated, with gestures and hand signals seeming to play as large a role as voices. Platters of bread and bowls of raw vegetables and fruits cover long tables, along with pitchers of cool water, wine, and milk.

The centerpiece of the meal is a large boar who was probably a few hundreds pounds before the cooking started. Apparently the favored method of here is to stuff it with vegetables and fruits, cover in herbs and salt, then bake slowly in a pit over the course of the day. It is delicious.

Throughout the meal you all get plenty of long glances and outright stares, though Athene continues to be main focus. Occasionally someone, usually younger, will approach and attempt a stilted conversation in the archaic elvish, but most seem to content to call Diorn over and leave the speaking to him.

After everyone has had time to eat and chat, Ingolf moves to the center and get's everyone's attention. Individuals stand a give reports, questions, or whatever else seems to be their concern or purview.

Once this is finished Ingolf gestures for you to come forward. After a short speech he sits back down. Diorn tells you that it is customary for new arrivals or guests to give a short introduction or demonstration. It isn't mandatory, but appreciated. Apparently Diorn's mother, one of the founders of the group had a penchant for drama and showmanship.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Once dinner is over, the night ends. Most of your gear is waiting for you in the rooms, and the only thing left is to rest and face the new day.

Athene:

Do not be concerned over those you slew. They were servants of the enemy, or at least friendly to those who are. There are those who, while they have not changed as much as the bringers-of-fear, have still been twisted. Many of these are given strange powers to tear and peer into the minds of others. If would show us anything else you took from them, and where you were on a map, it would be most helpful.

We have heard of the pathways through and between the world, but the stories say they were all closed long before the third age.

Your question does not offend me. Indeed, as best we know you are the first elf to be seen in several ages, many, many centuries at the least. Nor were there any half-elves, as you have called me. What blood of the eldest and the west remained lay dormant, perhaps a hint of eye or body in those who it was particularly strong, but nothing more.

Since the Change, it has begun to quicken, and call those who share it together. Every year more children are born who bear a physical symbol of our ancestry. We know not why. The common thought is that as the enemy wakens and struggles to break free, he calls and wakes the blood of his servants. And so the Lord of the West and Lady of Stars calls to what remains of the firstborn that we may contend with him as we have always done.

Your map/understanding of the solar system isn't spot on. I rolled and geusstimated what people might know, and I figured someone would know the inner planets and the two big gas ones. Anything else, probably not.

This end point can be anything you want, including nothing. Sing/dance/magic/swordsmanship/etc. People are entertainment, and new faces are a plus when you live in a small community.

Something for people to be thinking about. Our five leaders you've gotten to know will be leaving tomorrow, heading north towards the center of the kingdom. Will you go with them, or stay here? Either way there should be some action, i.e. killing and dying, soon.

One-eyed blonde is Mary. Her husband, the man with her when you met at the bridge, is Ingolf. Ritva is the other blonde. Her husband is Ian.


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The stars are aligned, and shockwaves from a momentous event wake the sleeper. It is the return of Eye-thulhu!

Not nearly as awesome as having a baby.:

Brief explanation. New semester started and I found out that it would be possible to graduate a semester earlier than anticipated. This would be possible by dropping all fun classes and packing the next two semesters with courses of doom. I chose doom. It felt very Kirk-like. "I don't think you can take it." "I can take it!"

Plus side is I get to graduate in time for the summer market, which is good, and have a couple of promising offers for jobs/labs. This all seemed like such a good excuse, only to find out that other people are posting while having children.

Athene, golden princess is good. I just wish the rest of the series was out.


Mina:

The stuff in here, and all the ranger's things, are high quality but relatively unadorned. The table is a good example. Quality oak that's been expertly worked and stained, but there isn't any of the inlaying or carving that you usually see.

Same thing with their jerkins. They do have the crowned tree and stars symbol that Diorn's outfit has, and it's just was well done, but you have to be close and paying attention to notice it tooled into the leather.

You could probably double, even triple, the value of their things just by adding a bit of bling. At least that's how it'd work most places.

Athena's mention of Treerazer prompts a bit of discussion among the five, though they don't ask anymore about it at the moment.

Though crude, Therin is able to sketch the most recognizable constellations for this time of year. Compared to their star charts, which are very detailed, you can't find anything in common. The stars are completely different.

Opening one of the somewhat worn books, more a tome really, Ritva shows you a picture of suns and planets. Pointing to the sun in the book and then the sun in the sky, she counts down the line of planets to number three and indicates that is where you currently are. There are nine planets in the picture, four smaller ones, a line of what looks like dust and pebbles, then four large ones, and finally a very small one at the edge.

Handing a pen and paper to Therin, Diorn asks him to draw the same for your world.

At Staveon's reaction, none of your host's seem particularly surprised or upset. Mary and Ritva's eyes go soft and Ian slides a flask of amber liquor towards him, motioning to drink.

Athene:

Diorn speaks urgently, Calm him. He is in no danger here, nor are we. The water cleansed you. If he becomes ill, he will be healed. Looking at Staveon thoughtfully, Many of those who lived through the Change become so at times. Their thoughts will go to places and people they once knew, and, as you say, it is something mortals were not meant to understand. Dwelling on it over long will shatter his mind.
-------------------------------------------------
In response to Mina's questions, There are magicians and others who work spells. Some rangers are such, but it is more common among the Mackenzies and Portland. For us, magic is a thing of doing and being. It is a part of what we make rather than something forced upon it.

As for the stars, we are not able to travel there now, but in the past machines like great arrows pushed by fire brought men to the moon and the space between. Aparently machines traveled to all the planets.


The following is if Athene gives them the vial.
Vial:

As Athene draws out the vial, your hosts grimace and instinctively lean back, not quite recoiling. After a shouted command, your odd-eyed launderer enter the room. Working the cap free, he examines it carefully, sniffing it experimentally before using a pair of fine tweezers to remove a single grain.

Placing it carefully on his tongue, he shudders briefly before opening his eyes, pupils dilated so that almost the entire eye is black. He speaks to the others in a respectful, but sharp tone, his movements tense and abrupt.


Athene:

Diorn fills you in, You spoke of demons threatening your home. This is from one such that threatens ours. A terrible being, it rips the spirits from the living and captures those of the dead who have not journeyed to the halls of the Judge. The spirits are mixed with a poison from before the change. They become or are trapped in these crystals.

It is greatly coveted by those who serve the enemy, for it fills them with a burning strength and banishes all fear. With it a man will run until his heart stops and fight until he cannot move. His servants in the ruins are strong already, with this they are almost as deadly as those possessed. Please tell us everything about those who had this.


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Never been on morphine, just a little Tylenol-3, codeine. This may be a weird question, but did they let you keep it?


Amen to that Mina.


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Thanks for the well wishes. With the modern miracles of ice and opiates, I'm golden. (It's not bad actually, as a long as I don't absentmindedly grab and squeeze something, then it is.)

Anyway, this is your chance to ask questions and give answers. You are genuine aliens to these guys, visitors from another eerily similar planet. And with an engineer for a grandfather, they know what space aliens are. What you say here is what people, if they know about you, are going to know about you.

Athene, resident space elf, I hope I didn't steal your thunder by not having you to translate. After missing two days I wanted to let people have at this asap. Also, the thought of trying to write that much dialogue was more than a little terrifying.


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In the manor house

As you sit, Diorn converses briefly with the others in the nearly Elvish language that seems to be popular among the rangers. It isn't hard to see the intense curiosity the four regard you with, though Mary and Ritva's gazes do seem a bit hungrier then their husbands, eyes eagerly scanning each of you looking for... something. Everyone has sheets of paper and wooden pens that leave trails of ink, though no ink wells are in sight. Dark bottles of wine, some with labels weathered almost to nothing, others well preserved sit on the table alongside plates of preserved meats, cheese wedges, and olives.

Speaking to Athene, but making eye contact with each of you, Diorn does his best to translate for the others. The initial questions are fairly straightforward. Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you get here? Why are you here? Are you sure? Please tell me again so I know I understand.

Later questions are more specific, and often result in shouts that summon other rangers to fetch books, maps, drawings, or other things that help clarify the subject in question. Do you recognize the stars in our sky? Can you draw your night sky? Do you have map of your world? Can you draw one? Where is your home there? What races live there? Who do you worship? What is the magic like? Have you heard of our world?

Some of the questions, often those which seem to be of most interest to your hosts, are difficult even to understand, or sometimes seem like utter nonsense. Did the rules of how materials worked suddenly changed fourty-six years ago? Has it ever happen? Did things suddenly stop working? If you heat a container of liquid, will it explode? How much pressure does it take? Does it work with all liquids and containers? Is lightning drawn to copper? Do you shock yourself touching a metal doorknob? Is the Enemy or dark powers active in your world? Has evil recently threatened to consume the world? Have you met or heard tales of men, probably holy men or magicians, who are all but impossible to kill, who keep moving after limbs are severed and skulls are crushed? Have you felt as though the world/universe/reality was being stretched by a great weight? Have you heard something say I. See. You. and wanted to weep like a child?

It isn't all one way however, nor are these cold inquisitors searching for some misstep or possible contradiction.

While asking about Golarion, they bring a globe to the table. A planet in miniature, it has painted seas and river, even raised places for the great mountain ranges. Every detail of the world is there, as though a god had sculpted it while sitting amongst the starts. No uncertain lines or 'here be dragons' where unknown lands are rumored to exist. They show you two landmasses joined together by a narrow bridge, pointing to the western side of the upper continent, they show you where you are, and where the heart of their kingdom is to the north. The husband of one-eyed Mary, Ingolf, becomes very animated pointing to places on the globe, moving his finger from sea to sea.

Other places, islands across the seas, lands on the other side of the world are named and described.

They also tell you more of themselves, the other lands of their kingdom, their constant war with those that dwell across the bay, of the evil they thought defeated only to learn it had triumphed in a nation across the great western ocean.

They also tell of a calamity that took place fourty-six years ago. Apparently the people who lived here then had a great civilization. Cities of millions and tens of millions dotted the planet. The great ruins you see at the bay do not even approach the size of the great cities, through which one could walk for days in a straight line and never leave. League after league of fruit-trees, fields of wheat so vast you could travel a week and not be through them. More than seven billion people filled the earth. The sky was filled with flying machines that in a single night could take hundreds of people to the other side of the world. Through machines that tamed lightning and carried sounds silently through the air, and were smaller than a man’s heart, any person to speak to another and see their face. It did not matter if they were in the same room, or across the world. They could see and speak to them as though looking through a mirror.

Their weapons were apparently equally impossible. Their grandparents and the books tell of weapons any person could possess that would kill from miles away, and the sound would not reach until after the weapon had struck. The leaders of nations had weapons of fire so powerful they destroyed islands and would turn an entire city of tens of millions to ash before one could blink.

Also, though there is much debate about this, it seems there was no magic, or if there was it was almost unknown. Magic was in legends and myths, and very few believed it was real. Apparently, many thought the gods themselves were not real. Ian mentions

Then, for a reason none understand or can explain, all the things powered by fire and lightning, which was almost everything, ceased to work. The machines of fire and metal that moved food from the improbable fields to the impossible cities stopped. The machines that planted and harvest the fields stopped, and the people, in their thousands, then millions, and finally billions died. Of hunger, of thirst, of disease, and from the knives and teeth of their neighbors.

As they relay this tale, all grow solemn, face the ruins across the water, and make ritual gestures.


Sorry for no post today all. Got molten rubber/plastic on my left, dominant, hand earlier today, so typing is a bit between 'Mmmph' and 'Gahhh!' at the moment. Should be more typable tomorrow.


Thanks for the heads-up Athene. Heard from Pavo, he's filled up on pbp games at the moment, so we'll continue with the four of us. I'll be posting later today, computer/internet having problems with the site, so hopefully you can see this.


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0_o And now for something completely different...

DM:

1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26
1d20 + 8 ⇒ (14) + 8 = 22

Mina:

Though you don't detect any magic on the way here, once at the ranger's base you catch hints of magic almost any time someone who is armed comes within range. The constant movement prevents you from discerning number or strength of the auras though.

Once in the bath, you have the chance to examine thing properly. The bathhouse itself seems to be enchanted, but it is mostly on the bath itself, which radiates with very faint auras of abjuration, transmutation, and necromancy. The auras a bit strange though, faint and... blended almost. The enchantment doesn't seem to be a spell on something, more part of the thing itself.
-------------------------------

In the room, you notice similar auras on the new blonde-braid as her sister. Same for the man with her. There do seem to be a few differences, but your concentration is a bit off, and you can't quite tell what they are.


The clothing they provide you is ranger style.

Staveon's streaking to the animals causes some raised eyebrows and shouts. Charging into the stable, he sees a black-haired, dusky-skinned woman with an artificial leg directing several adolescents in lathering up and washing the animals, dogs included, with a, from the smell, ferociously strong soap. As the helpers stop and stare, she snaps at them, and they resume their tasks. Stomping toward the intruder she angrily shouts and gesticulates towards the bathhouse. Though you cannot understand her, the message is a fairly clear.

As Staveon tries to take the bags, set to the side with a few attendants dutifully removing, sorting, and cleaning the objects in question, the woman takes down a coiled whip and, keeping it coiled, begins to use it as a strap against the fighter's more sensitive areas. Loudly continuing her chastisements and, from the sounds of it, denouncements of his family and their personal habits unto the umpteenth generation. She does not pursue, regardless of what he takes, once he leaves.
------------------------------------------

As the rangers come to take clothing and possessions, there is a bit of a stand-off. They clearly want to take everything. After a few minutes of pantomime negotiations, one of the them, a young man with horizontally slitted eyes, picks up a damaged and bloodstained piece of clothing, prestidigitation does a lot but it can't get everything, with a gloved hand. Looking to Athene, he says a few words while pointing to the blood. She translates for the rest of you. Pestilence. Disease. Must clean. We must clean all things. If there are objects people still refuse to surrender, he shrugs and hands you bars of potent soap, directing you to wash them over the wooden grate area around the bath rather than inside it.

Athene:

His limited speech sounds like someone who is not fluent, rather than impaired. You notice none of the others try speaking with you, though they talk amongst themselves in a clearly elven, or very, very close too it, language that is completely incomprehensible to you. They also seems to communicate with their hands a lot.


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That would be role-playing, which I believe is encouraged. ^_^

You should generally always go with what your character would do. Unless your character wants to eat babies. Then you might want to rethink the character.


Athene:

Diorn is intrigued by what you say, and nods in agreement. The Star Queen is most beloved among our people was well, though I feel myself drawn, especially here, to She Who Weeps and the Judge. Shaking his head and smiling, My heart-brother says I am too grim. That there will be plenty of time for such thoughts when I am in the Judge's hall. Perhaps he is right. Him, he looks like the The Valiant and like him enters battle with a laugh to banish the darkness. Leaving that, I too would converse about out homes. It is not clear from the writings whether places were truly lands, other worlds, or places between them.

The following is for you to interact with when everyone's ready. Don't cut short the party's conversation just because I post. It might be wise to have a conversation about what to do next.

Once everyone has gotten in and soaked for a bit, the door opens for a couple of the rangers who quickly carry off the baskets of clothes and equipment, leaving behind sets of clothing much like those you'd seen the others wear.

After a bit more than half an hour, if you haven't left already, Diorn returns to escort into the house. In a large room with one wall made entirely of glass panes, four middle-aged adults it on one side of a long wooden table. You recognize the one-eyed woman and the man who was with her. Next to them is a woman who is identical to her one-eyed sisters save for having both eyes, and a few unique scars of her own. The man next to her nods his head in greeting and gestures to the chairs across the table.

Perception DC 15:

You notice one of the rangers who took your clothes looked different from the others. Something is off about him, but you can't tell what.

Perception DC 20:

You caught what seemed odd, his eyes. The color was a bit unusual, but mainly it was his slip pupils, his horizontal slit pupils.

knowledge:local, only if second DC20 check is met, 10/15:

10: You don't recognize eyes like that from any humanoid.
15: Tieflings sometimes have slit eyes, though you've never heard of horizontal ones.


Because of Staveon's actions, assume you all saw the Perception DC20 spoiler, in case you were wondering.

Athene:

Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (2) + 5 = 7
Profession:Herbalist: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29
Sorry about inflicting a novella on your tablet. Don't worry if you can't respond to everyone until next week.
As you ride Diorn explains the area, and asks about your own history.
At the core of the high kingdom are six powers, three greater, three lesser. The three great powers are the Portland Protective Association, ruled by the High Queen as queen in her own right. The largest and most powerful, the other powers united against the High Queen's father in the War of the Eye. It was ended when the dark lord Arminger and the Bear Lord slew each other in a duel before the armies. The doom of bear is that none shall leave this world peacefully. So it was with the Bear Lord, so it was with the High King, and so it shall be with our Golden Princess.

It is a land of castles and knights, courtiers and intrigue. The warrior Frederic belongs to them. Many of the founding nobles were the most brutal of criminals before the Change. Norman Arminger was a scholar of past ages, with others who looked to the past, he forged the criminals into armies and built a kingdom of oppression, fear, and death. It has changed under the rule of the High Queen, but for some the change is only a facade.

They worship The One* directly, and are called Followers of the Anointed One, though look to the Empyreal Lords for guidance in daily things. It is a worship of ceremony and ritual, with churches and priests in every manor and village. The holy father leads their faith from across the sunrise ocean.

The Bearkillers are one of the lesser powers, as are we the Men of the West. Mike Havel founded them. He was a soldier of the nation that once ruled this land from the sunrise ocean to the sunset ocean. He was leading my mother's family into the wilderness as a guide when the Change happened. Their machine fell from the sky in fire, but by skill and the blessings of the Lord of the Winds he saved them.

He found others of skill and will and became the leader of an army for hire. They fought eaters of flesh and servants of the dark lord for those who could not in exchange for food and what supplies they needed. As they neared the home of my mother's family, he took her older sister Signe as wife. She leads them still, though her son is Lord now.

They are a stoic people, devoting themselves to the arts of war where they are without equal. They are lesser only for being far fewer in number than the greater powers. Their companies travel throughout the High Kingdom and beyond to test themselves and gain wealth and glory.

They are split between Followers of the Anointed One, of whom my uncle Eric is one, and those who worship the Empyreal Lords alone, called the Old Religion, which includes Lady Signe.

The villages are part of the Clan Mackenzie, second of the great powers. They are the Old Religion, founded by their goddess-on-earth Juniper Mackenzie. She fled to a secret place in the hills and gathered those who would plant and grow together, until they filled much of the valley at the heart of the kingdom.

They have no knights or lords, mostly living in villages, and a few towns, led by their priests and priestess. Archery is their passion, and in war they simply gather all whose arm is strong enough and bury their foe in arrows.

We the rangers were formed from the alliance between Bearkillers and Clan during their war against the dark lord. The Mackenzie's daughter Eilier and my mother were soul-bound. They, but especially my mother, loved the Histories of the first ages, which spoke to her elder blood. Together they gathered others who loved the wild places and modeled themselves after the manner of the men of the west near the end of the third age.

That is who we are, those in who the blood of the west flows strong. We patrol the wilderness against the servants of darkness and common bandits, and guard the roads which are the life of the kingdom. Here especially we guard against the bringers of fear who live among the ruins of the last age. The enemy is quickening once again, and his servants grow more bold each passing day.

What of your people, and where is Kyonin of Golarion? The histories do not mention any such place, but they only record a very little of the ages past and those land which where lost during the fourth age. In your land did the age of man never come, and the firstborn have always danced beneath the stars?

In the bath you notice the scent of herbs meant to soothe mind and body, most are familiar to you, but one in particular, a pungent one that almost burns nose and lungs clear, is totally unfamiliar to you. Aside from just being relaxing scents, the soaps have a powerful 'green' aroma. You are quite sure that by the time you are done here you will smell like forests and meadows to anything trying to track you.


Therin:

It seems that everything in this area was grapevines, far too many for the people you see now, but perhaps when the ruined areas were full of people they could have drank all the wine. It certainly seems to have been a favorite drink.

Most of the crops are familiar to you. Wheat, barley, beans, root crops, fruit trees. Pretty similar to areas along the Inner Sea. The dairy cattle here have over-sized udders that border on ridiculous, some hang down to the cow's knees!


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Staveon:

There isn't a great deal more you can learn about their farming ways just riding by. Everything seems to have been planted with grape vines, but that was a while ago. Otherwise things don't seem too dissimiliar, wheat and other grains, young orchards with a variety of trees, and bits of pasture, mostly close to the rivers, with cows.

The rails are old, from the rust and general condition you'd say they've been here for a few decades. At one point along the way your company steps off to allow a ox drawn wagon, with metal rimmed wheels that fit on the rails, piled high with crates to pass. The wagon and its load are much heavier than what the oxen would have been able to pull along a normal road.

You can't discern the quarrel between your hosts and the villagers, our how everyone relates. However, you are quite sure there are four distinct groups here along the bay, as seemingly different from each other as Issians to Taldans, which is more than a little peculiar.

Not surprisingly, what you are able to pick up the most about is their weapons and fighting style. Of course, these are just guesses at this point, but you feel pretty confident in your guesses.

First, the Bearkillers. These look and act like professional soldiers, almost like Druma's Mercenary League, though civilians seem associated with them as well. The uniform weapons and armor, their choice of equipment, and the training class all argue for group that trains to fight in disciplined units. They also lean more to the heavy side of the fighting, at least on the ground. Polearms are generally favored by heavily armored people fighting other heavily armored people, and Mike's armor was as solid as a hellknight's. That those in the fields had them as well is odd. Militias don't use heavy weapons and armor. Maybe the soldier also grow their own food? The cavalry seemed to be a comprise chosen for maximum flexibility, capable of mounted archer skirmish tactics or heavy charges, but not as good at either as say a Kellid steppe nomad or a Taldan knight. You'd guess their heavy infantry forms a solid position for the cavalry to operate from.

The guys with heraldry, you can't tell much, as you've only seen Frederic.

The villagers look pretty much like lightly armored militia from anywhere around Lake Encarthan, leaning toward Nirmathas style of skirmishing archers.

Your hosts take the Nirmathas connection further, they seem very similar to the semi-professional ranger companies that patrol the border with Molthune. Massed battles, no. Strike and vanish attacks that bleed the enemy the whole way through the forest, yes. Their weapons are best suited to fighting other lightly armored fighters singly or in small groups, though their bows would probably be a threat to anyone.


The one-eyed woman and the man beside her follow your antics to the scene in the vines. Leading to the man wiggling his eyebrows outrageously at the women, who returns it with a snort and half-hearted punch.


So, all of you should have gotten a PM, or two, from me. But if this is the first place you look. Look there. I hope to see all of you again, but if not, may my house be made into a dungheap, and you were awesome.


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A fairly lengthy discussion ensues between Diorn, the two with him, the three guards, and the commander of the trainees. Once things are decided, Kelly and Mike raise a series of flags up a pole attached to the bridge. Shortly a pair of riders arrive with enough horses for all of you. The riders are equipped much like the trainees, though of higher quality and showing a bit more personalization.

Once everyone is saddled, you head west along the rails. The bay and its wetlands along your left and the cultivated hills to the right. Unless it has been planted with something else, the hills are covered in grapevines, some cultivated and others running wild. Every ravine and streambed seems to have been dammed, creating small ponds amid the vines. The people working the fields all seem to be human, wearing practical trousers and loose shirts. Reds and purples, or undyed cloth, with the occasional black arm band, seem to be the order of the day. Weapons are in abundance, crossbows and polearms kept within arm's reach.

A few miles on the road bends around a low ridge, heading north into another valley. A small town with stuccoed walls lies on the flatland before you. Its evenly spaced towers flying two flags at half mast. The snarling bear and a green, snow-capped mountain with downward sword beneath a crown. Three wood-walled villages occupy the other side of the valley.

Leaving the railroad near the town, you take a gravel road west across the small river before turning north again. The villagers are noticeably different from the those across the valley. Everyone, men and women alike, seem to wear a pleated skirt of red and green plaid. Tattoos are common and many are armed, though with longbow and dirk, or spear.

After reaching the north end of the valley, you head up into the forested hills. The shadows have gotten long when you arrive at your destination. A great manor house made of stones cemented together lies at the center of what isn't some much a hamlet as a permanent camp. Several dozen people move quickly about their business, all similarly clothed with tunics and pants in muted olives and browns designed to make them disappear if they stop moving. Most adults seem equipped for battle, recurred bows, axes, shields, and reinforced jerkins.

Diorn and his companion's return causes a fair bit of excitement, some, though not all, seems to be a result of your presence. A few teens come forward to take your horses as you dismount, and it isn't hard to tell they are fascinated by Athene. Leading you to an addition of the house, Diorn opens the door to a bath suitable to fit a dozen. Steam rises from the pool, while buckets and stools are set around it. By his gesture, Diorn clearly intends for you to make of it, and indicates your clothing and equipment is to go in the baskets near the door.

Sense Motive DC 15:

As you pass the villages, you noticed some of the looks your group is getting range from unfriendly to down-right hostile, though it seems to be more directed to your hosts than yourselves. The Bearkillers seemed curious, but nothing more.

Perception DC 15:

It looks as though there's been more excitement here than elsewhere. Quite a few of those at the stone house sport bandages, splints, or freshly stitched wounds.

Perception DC20:

You doubt anyone else saw it, but as you were passing the middle village you saw a satyr and a woman being very... friendly amongst the vines. Something never change.


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That took longer than expected. Endless cans of chili! The horror!

Athene, I know the feeling. The further this goes, the further it's going to get from the books and when Golden Princess comes out I just know I'm going to find all sorts of goodies in there that I wish I'd been able to play with.

Pavo, yep. See PM.

Mina, less studying and more working this week actually. Unexpected deliveries to the lab, and I am Emergency Minion 1, so I got unexpected hours, yay and boo. That's actually my job title. As given by supreme-overlord-for-life, or until he graduates or the Mistress of all labs decides otherwise, Dan.

Staveon, yes. Yes they are.

About the Gray Knight, I'm glad people are intrigued, and please keep speculating, about this or anything else. The Gray Knight plays an important role in what is happening in the background. Depending on how the campaign goes, it* may even be a figure that features prominently in your adventures.

*it. I HATE that english doesn't have an ungendered singular pro-noun! It is for things not people and #$#%#%@& *mumble mumble growl*


Athene:

You have a more difficult time understanding him this time, and think you may have misunderstood some parts.
"I am Knight-Commander Diorn Loring. We sojourn in the westernmost of the Sun Lands of Marred Arda. What was called by men the United States of America in the last age and called Montival in this age. You are strangers in the Wine Land den of the Bear Killers. Gesturing to those with the bear head insignia.

Giving a perfect courtly bow signifying respect and friendship."Forgiveness for the cold welcome, and wish that you had come to us in happier times, for much has been forgotten since the first-born were seen in middle-earth of the first ages. We know nothing of Kyonin of Golarion and the Aiudara were lost long ago. The blood of the west has just begun to quicken, and the Sword has only returned the languages, not what the Histories left unsaid. "You come amid days of tears and blood. The high king* of these lands was treacherously murdered by a foreign prisoner possessed by Morgoth**. His daughter carries him north to her mother that they may grieve. We soon follow, but first prepare our people for war."

Gesturing to the hills westward, "Will you guest with us and tell us more of the Blessed Realm***? The Bear Killers are goodly people, but like dwarves they are grim at the best of times, and now their rage is like the bear they emulate, for the high king was their founder's son."
* He said a bit more than that, explaining relations to the recently deceased king. English doesn't have a good way of explaining mother's sister's husband's kid, but I imagine Elvish does. Assume Athene knows how Diorn, Mary, Ingolf, and Rudi relate to one another.

** This name isn't one you're familiar with, but is similar to names used for Asmodeus or Rovagug.

*** This is weird. He is referring to the celestial planes, collectively, as though they were your home.


Sense Motive DC20:

You don't know what was being said, but you recognize a friendly invitation when you see one. One of the VIPs likes you, well one of you at least.

Pavo:

You can only catch about one word in three. The half-elf's dialect is worse than the old Taldan they use in Chelish operas. If Athene gave you a bit of brushing up you could probably get by though.

Something you are sure about is this guy is both important, and doing something important. The thread on his tabard is actual silver, which doesn't stand up to rough use. It's mostly for ceremonial or special occasion use.


As Athene and the half-elf converse, he suddenly bows to her and then continues.

The one-eyed woman seems to be following the conversation, but the man next to her keeps his attention focused on the rest of you.


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Athene:

You sense no evil in the guards or in the new arrivals.

Mina:

You detect several magical auras on the three riders. Faint transmutation auras from their boots, bracers, and belts. There are also faint illusion and abjuration auras from their cloaks, though those are bit harder to get a fix on. The belts look like they enhance endurance, and the boots increase speed and nimbleness. You're not sure about the braces or cloaks though. No additional check needed at the moment.

Therin and Staveon:

You both recognize what this is, recruit training. It's a bit unusual though. There aren't many nations who start training professional soldiers in their teens in this manner. Really, this is mostly a Cheliaxian peculiarity found in Andoran, Molthune, or Cheliax, for the sons of noblemen, or wealthy merchants in Andoran's case, preparing to be officers.

Therin:

The trainee's equipment isn't particularly high quality. It looks to be decent materials and construction, but more intended for training purposes than serious fighting. Their instructor's are high quality and meant to be used. There isn't a lot you can tell from it in regards to where they might be from. Their bows are heavily recurved, meant to be used on horseback, despite the bearers current ground-pounding. Their shields are also slightly concave, with a metal boss in the center, meant to shed blows rather than just stop them. The swords look like backswords, a straight, single-edged type of longsword. It's easy to make and doesn't require as high quality metal as other longsword designs, which makes it a kind of odd choice see as it, and everything else they have is made from excellent steel.

Overall, it's not like quite like anything you've seen. It actually most resembles stories you've heard about centaur and horse nomad tribes that live in the vast grassland steppes of Casmaron, the continuation of the landmass Avistan is part of, beyond the eastern borders of Brevoy and Taldor and north of the Kelish empire.

The riders' weapons tell a different story. They don't seem to be wearing any armor, except for padding on their tunics perhaps. Their have the same horsebows as the trainees, but they aren't carrying a shield, and the woman's sabre looks like a one-handed version of Staveon's dueling sword. She could be from Brevoy, though from the north part of Issia.

The half-elf's gear looks very traditionally Elven. A slightly curved longbow on his back, and a narrow, light-weight longsword better suited for thrusting and slashing than hacking.


Staveon:

You think you have an idea of their ranking system.
You're friend Frederic is at the bottom. "Armiloj-viroj"
Above him is something else, you think that might be when you're allowed to use your own colors and heraldry. "kavaliro"
Then there is his liege's rank. "Barono'
Above that is, "Grafo"
then "Duko"
and finally "Sinjorino Protektanto" which he draws a crown above. Connected with a line above and to the side of this is "Alta Reĝino".

Frederic draws a line straight out from Sinjorino Protektanto and points to the image of the sweet-faced woman, "Reĝino patrino" but does not put a crown above her. With an exaggerated sad face, he crosses out Reĝino patrino, then crosses his arms and closes his eyes.


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Apologies for missing things in my post guys. I've had to type up several of the entries without access to the website, then post when I have the chance, so I'm sure I missed somethings. Also, please do not be surprised or alarmed if I disappear for a day or two next week or the week after. It's finals again! Yay for term classes.

Pavo, have fun! Also, Athene was able to understand the greeting due to untrained linguistics check on an archaic racial language. If it isn't a racial language, you need to ranks in Linguistics to make the check. I think.

Mina, yes you do get two traits. Those two look fine, and fitting, to me. Class skill bonuses only apply if you have a rank in the skill. I think. As for leveling up, my thought was some or all of the party would put a rank in linguistics and learn English. That may change, and if it does I will give you heads up about it in advance. If you've seen 13th Warrior, I'm thinking the language barrier will be like that. There for the beginning, but removed later on. Speaking of which, I really like that movie.

Therin, have you consumed enough brains to unzombiefy? That's how it work right? Glad to hear you're doing better.


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During the coin exchange, Mike vehemently shakes his head at Mina's question. Pointing to himself, then the coin, "Mike Garcia. Urso murdintoj." "Mike Havel. Sinjoro Urso Mike Havel" He does have a few scar lines, but nothing like the one on the engraving. The letters on the watches and coins aren't the same. You think they aren't the same alphabet.

Frederic tosses one coin of each to Kelly, who shakes her head in response to whatever he said. Mike also takes a look, but shakes his head in turn, throwing out a couple of words with a questioning tone.

The guards follow Staveon and Pavo's reenactment, map, and drawings of the fight with interest. Frederic taps the blade and holds out a hand questioningly. If given a chance to examine it, he looks it over carefully, seeming to be looking for something. Apparently satisfied, he returns it handle first. Near Staveon's figures, Frederic draws a thin figure gnawing on an arm, a pair of jagged lightning like symbols, a clover leaf, a half sunburst, three letters: CUT, two stylized equine figures chasing one another forming a circle, and a five-pointed star without straight lines and an eye in the center. Pointing first to the 'dead' stick figure, Frederic then points to each symbol in turn, looking for confirmation or negation.

Once Mina begins her biology lesson, Frederic turns red and Mike and Kelly both laugh. Smiling, Mike once again crosses out the elf figure. Drawing another human figure next to the first, he redoes the figures so that each step is the same, except with two humans this time. In the fourth and fifth boxes, he keeps the half-elf. If anyone looks skeptical, he nods firmly and points from the two humans to the half-elf.

Pavo's exploration doesn't provoke any reaction until it looks like he may be straying beyond the post, at this points Kelly calls out to him swiftly and gestures back to one of the benches. If he doesn't seem inclined to comply, she sighs, picks up her unloaded crossbow, and points at him and the bench.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- -

As you continue your communication in stick-figurese, you notice a group coming towards you along the tracks. A few dozen humans in their mid to upper-teens jog in a solid block, wearing a uniform of breast-plate and chain, round-shield, longsword, recurved bow and quiver, all done in a combination of brown and red. Boys outnumber the girls about three to two.

A middle-aged man runs in front, wearing similar, though higher quality, gear. His features a mix of Mwangi and Ulfan. Blue eyes sparkle from skin the color of wheat toast, and his crinkly blond hair is cut very short.

Your guards rise to their feet. Mike smiles at you encouraging. Pointing to the bear symbol and the runners, he makes a shrinking symbol with his hands. "Eta urso." Pointing to the man in front, "Urso murdintoj. A-listo."

Three people ride along-side him. Two are of similar age. A weathered, dark-haired man whose crooked nose and scarred face argue for a interesting life. Alongside him is a rather piratical looking woman, her blond braids, azure eyes, and eye-patch make you think she should be on the deck of dragon-ship rather than a horse. Both are dressed in mottled green and grey and carry horse-bows on their backs. Their weapons are a bit different though, the woman wears a long, slightly curved saber, while the man seems to have one of the machete-like weapons.

The third rider is perhaps the most interesting. A young man, twenties or thirties perhaps, dressed in a black tunic. Embroidered in silver across the breast are seven stars surrounding a crowned tree. Serious grey eyes are set in a delicately handsome face, and two pointed ears sweep our from his blue-black hair.

As the party approaches, Mike, Kelly and Frederic all make steadying and placating gestures.

A dozen yards or so from the post, the Mwangi man calls them to a halt. Facing the youngsters, he begins to speak rapidly in loud, barking voice. At various points one will step forward, speak to the man in a similar voice, then return to his or her place. Occasionally, the instructor will gesture towards you or speak to Mike or Kelly, who reply in a firm respectful voice.

As this is taking place, the half-elf and his companions dismount and approach. After a brief conversation with the guards, he turns to Athene and begins to speak in Elvish.

Athene:

You can understand him, mostly, but he is using a very old, archaic form of High Elvish, the language you hear in the Queen court or read on the Aiudara, the elf gates. I've got no idea how to do this properly, so please bear with me. "The Empyreal Lords and Celestials look upon us beloved sister-kindred. It has been said you come from beyond the Grey Harbor or from a different Age. How did your light come to us in such a forsaken place where the spirit of the Bound One holds sway and the breath of humans lingers where it ought not?


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Captain Kirk would be proud.


Mike and Kelly shake their heads. Each pointing to their symbol and themselves "Urso murdintoj", then indicating themselves, the castle, and surrounding area, La kostumo de la Urso murdintoj.

Frederic taps the entwined letters, "Portland Protektaj Asocio" before flipping it over to the portrait. "Reĝino patrino Sandra Arminger." After saying something to Kelly and Mike, Kelly flips him a pair of silver coins. Both silver, one has the bear's head symbol on one side and the portrait of a stern man with a wicked scar across his forehead. "La kostumo de la Urso murdintoj." "Sinjoro Urso Mike Havel." The other coin has the same letters as the other six, but the image is of a younger woman with a familial resemblance to the other. "Sinjorino Protektanto Mathilda Arminger"

Kelly joins in, pointing to the bear coin, "Sinjoro Urso Mike Havel. Estro de la Urso Murdintoj." Tapping the coin with the younger woman. "Sinjorino Protektanto Mathilda Arminger. Alta Reĝino de Montival."

Frederic takes one of the coins Mina offers, weighting it and gently biting the edge. Nodding, he accepts the trade, but asks Kelly something before adding her two coins so that the exchange is equal. Tossing two back to Kelly, he taps the sides of one Mina's, now his, coins and cocks his head. "Kio estas tio?"

The drink would have been a wine diluted with water, and yes, quite cold. There is actually ice floating inside the jug. Feel free to decide the type of coins you gave him and the engravings.


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Frederic looks critically at Staveon, but then shrugs. "Rystar?"
Pointing to the valley east of the castle "Barono Napa", to the castle and the area around it "Urso murdintoj", and to the valley and hills west of the castle "Mackenzies kaj vadőr". Pointing to the picture of the half-elf, "Vadőr" and again gestures to the west.

As the map is taken out, all three examine it, but shake their heads. No map of their own is produced, but they gesture to the castle.

Mike smiles and winks to Athene as Staveon says the word. Pointing to the drawing and back across the bridge. "Waerg" Pointing to Staveon's dogs, he shakes his head. "Hundo" He carefully points across the bridge and to the dog, clearly trying to draw a distinction between the two.

There's no fire for khave, but Kelly and Mike return the arm-clasp and nod encouragingly at his efforts to parrot what they said, repeating it slowly carefully.


No worries. Staveon. I'd say his Latin phrases are an archaic form of Taldan. The Taldan army of expansion that came to the River Kingdoms was a long time ago.

Oh, just in case anyone is wondering, I'm using Esperanto to represent English in game, since currently we're using English for Common(Taldan).


Mike looks at the drawing and shakes his head. Crossing out the elf figure, he darkens the line between human and half-elf and again points towards the valley and hills.


The swordsman, Frederic, fails to choke back a laugh at his companion's and Athene's drawings. Snickering to himself, he takes the stick and begins sketching. Surprisingly quickly, he makes a accurate sketch of the feral dogs following you. He tries repeating the word Mike used, but mangles the pronunciation badly. Thinking for a moment, he turns one of the ears into a ragged stump and eye near it into a mass of unseeing scars. Holding it up he shows it to everyone and seems to be asking a question. Ĉu vi vidas unu similan? Ĉu vi vidis tion?

Mike, the one in plate, carefully repeats the words Athene says while his companion is drawing. He nods as Athene shows the stick-figures of human and elf. He points at her eyes, and says something to Frederic, who makes two rough sketches. One is an elven face with solid monochrome eyes, like Athene, the other the pupil, iris, and white of a half-elf.

Pointing to the face like Athene, and then to her, he looks confused. Pointing to the half-elf face, he gestures to the valley and hills west of the castle, and shrugs like it isn't unusual.

*Edit
Mina, looking inside the coin purse, you see there isn't much at the moment. A half dozen silver coins is all, marked with three interlocking letters on one side, and a picture of sweet-looking middle-aged woman on the other. What jewelry do you have?


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The guards confer amongst each other, much as your group is doing. Each action by the party, Mina's displaying of goods, Pavo's stunts, and Staveon's money, elicit another burst of conversation.

Eventually the man in plate shrugs, an obvious and noisy gesture even at this distance, and slowly approaches, motioning for Athene, and her alone, to do likewise. He carefully looks her and the writing over, before doing the same to the rest of you.

After he calls back, the woman moves to a tale metal pole attached to the bridge. She carefully selects several flags, clipping them to a line and raising them up to flap in the breeze. The swordsman blows a complex series of notes from a brass instrument. Soon similar notes ring out from the land before you.

The armored man rolls his eyes, and tilts his head back in an exaggeratedly aggrieved manner. To those of you with weapons out, he mimes sheathing a sword, repeating it if someone seems reluctant. In the background, the woman removes the bolt and carefully releases the tension from her bow. The swordsman hangs his shield on a nearby rack.

Once everyone has sheathed their weapons, or firmly indicated they will not. Plate motions you to follow him. If anyone has refused, he sighs dramatically and looks to the rest of you imploringly. If there's still no cooperation, the man firmly indicates that ones with ready weapons must stay here and not come forward.

Leading you to the shade of their post, though the air is still rather cool, the guards gesture to plain wooden benches set against the post's walls. Taking a seat together on the north side, the guards all offer friendly smiles. Plate points to you and then the benches here before gesturing towards the sun and moving his hand in a ticking motion across the sky. He shrugs and sighs once again.

The following more or less happens at the same time, the order isn’t particularly important.

The swordsman opens a battered blue and white chest, made out of another odd material you aren't familiar with, and offers metal jug, already dripping with condensation, to be shared after taking a long drink himself. Looking at Mina, he gestures to her jewelry inquiringly, then takes a out a small coin pouch and tosses it suggestively.

The woman looks at Pavo and mimes springing and leaping, then looks down at the water around you, and back up, tapping a finger to her head and shaking it bemusedly. All this is accompanied by a smile though. Pointing to the cardinal directions, and then Pavo, she walks her fingers across her hand, tilting her head interrogatively.

Plate claps Therin on the shoulder and gestures with his other hand across the bridge the way you came. He nods, saying the almost elven word again, and spits between the rail ties. Taking a stick with some kind of grey core, he crudely sketches a four legged animal with a tail and lots of teeth. He says the word once more wearg before writing beneath. Unfortunately it isn’t in the Elvish alphabet.

Showing the picture to Athene, points at her mouth and then to the picture once again. He does the same to Pavo, looking between them hopefully.

As Staveon gestures to himself and the Bloodstone symbol, the three nod their heads. Plate, points to the bear’s head Urso murdintoj. La kostumo de la Urso murdintoj.. Pointing to himself, Mike. The women points to the symbol and herself Urso murdintoj. Kelly. The swordsman stands gives a courtly bow, as much as his armor will allow, to Staveon. Pointing first to himself, then the grapes, finally the eye. Frederic Smith. Armiloj-viroj de Barono Napa, vasalo de Sinjorino Protektanto Mathilda Arminger el la Portland Asocio.

The three guards all look similar to the two you fought. That generic mix of Chelaxian and Taldan which tells you absolutely nothing about where they are from. They are also all about the same age, mid-twenties or so. The swordsman wears his hair down to around his ears. The woman's hair is in a braid that coils up inside her helmet, but hangs down most of her back once she take it off. Plate's head is clean shaven, but that may have more to do with a scalp already going bald than anything else.

They are a bit different in the way they look and carry themselves. The ones you fought were tough, but the lean, almost feral, toughness of people who have survived a hard life. These folks have the beefy look of people that train hard and eat plenty, and you notice weights, all of cast steel, of various sizes and shapes stored in racks near two more heavy crossbows and a array of pole-arms, swords, and other weapons.

Everything here, whether equipment or the post itself, has the feeling of quality to it. Each thing was made for its particular function, and made to do it well.

Perception DC15:

You notice the guards keep looking at Athene, as though they weren’t quite sure what to make of her. Particularly they keep looking at her eyes.

Sense Motive DC20:

The friendliness seems genuine, though they seem a little wary of Athene, as though they’re just waiting for her to do… something.

Therin:

You can see the pack hanging back. They seem unwilling to cross the bridge. As you watch they begin snarling at each other, then sulk away towards the ruins.


Thanks for the heads up.


Mina, you're actions are have effects. I'm just waiting for Athene before resolving yours.


Hearing the barrage of languages the party sends forth, the swordsman turns his head to the other two, the conversation going back and forth. As Staveon moves forward, the crossbowwoman raises the point of her weapon slightly and shakes her head. Holding out a hand, palm vertical and facing front in a clear, 'stop' gesture.

After discussing the matter between them. The swordsman tries calling out again. The one with the glaive tries two different phrases as well, looking intently at Athene. None of these sound at all familiar. The woman says something to the other two, who shrug and she tries yet another incomprehensible tongue.

Athene:

You're clueless what one of the languages the armored one used was, but the other tickled something. Elvish sounds distinct from human languages. It's in a whole other category, fitting since elves are from Sovyrian originally. You can't understand what he said, but it sounds like it's from the same 'family' of languages, which is all sorts of interesting.

Staveon:

You haven't a clue on the mood aside from what you've seen.


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So. Many. Words.

Pavo, thank you very much. Descriptions are what take me the longest. I can bang out a technical paper reasonably fast, but creative writing isn't my strong point, which part of the reason I got into PbP. So, if they're looking good to you, it makes my day.

You were on the north-western edge of the city of Vallejo. The area you went through is an industrial park. The castle is on the cultivated ridge between Napa and Sonoma valleys where they come down to meet the bay, a bit south-west of the city of Napa. There isn't a town there right now in RL. Please use your experience to help describe things. I've visited the bay area frequently, but my experience is all along the coast, not wine country. Also, I know nothing about wine, which is an important thing locally, so if I say they are drinking *wine*, feel free to have Pavo tell us what it actually is.

Mina, SF is a bit cooler than LA, but you should have a sense for the general landscape, use it.

Staveon, glad to provide impetus for squeeing, of whatever kind. The game will undoubtably provide some spoilers to the books. That is unavoidable. However, it should be interesting for you to try and parse out hints from the game as to what happens in the book. Also, Athene's spoiler is a spoiler.

Athene, very true. Mostly faithful to the books, but several decades on from Dies the Fire.

Spoiler:
Out favorite hatchwoman is definitely still around. Alas, the Spider is no longer with us... mostly.

Also, if anyone feels like wall-of-text monologues/rant, verbal or internal, go right ahead. Reading your responses is a lot of the entertainment for me.


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Heading north along the road, you pass the standing houses and burned remains. The cylinder you arrived on, stands lonely on its little hill. A small empty space, and then you pass through the collection of box buildings. Made of concrete, with buttressing ribs along the side, cavernous doorways gape open, or are sealed by metal doors. One after another. You idly count the doorways on a building, twenty-one for this one. Embedded in some doorways are great metal boxes, fifty feet in length. Double sets of black wheels, squished and flat looking, like a fruit with the pulp sucked out, hold up one end. The other rests on metal struts, or on the back of some more of the enclosed wagons. These are much taller and truncated though, as though they were never meant to be without the metal boxes attached.

Past the boxes buildings with their square doors and attached metal boxes, your black road crosses another way. This one is made of raised gravel with two steel rails, wide as a wagon's wheels, run across square timbers dark with the same tar-like substance as the poles that run along the road. Seeing the two roads cross one another, you realized that the one you had been following was quite wide. More than enough for three wagons to traveling along, and from the build you'd taken a look from, you'd seen places where the black roads were two or three times as wide.

Walking along the rails, you notice a side path branching off to run along one of the buildings, the biggest on by far. On it rest more metal boxes, but larger than the others. These rest on solid metal wheels more than a foot across.

Once past the buildings the land fairly empty, though to your north you see a area with two great paved roads that cross each other near their ends. These don't seem to go anywhere however. They just form two sides of a triangle with the third side covered in buildings. They don't actually attach to the buildings though.

Soon the ground turns to marsh on either side, and your path slowly rises before turning into a bridge of metal beams that crosses the main river channel of the estuary. The timbers the rails rest on simply connect on the bridge itself now, and between them are gaps down to the river itself. Something better designed to break legs and cripple horses you've yet to see. Fortunately on either side of the rails are plank walkways. All this is secondary though, for near the other side you see people!

There are three, two men and a woman. They were resting on benches in a guard post constructed across the bridge. Watching you approach, they rose to their feet and took position. One man on each of the walkways, and the woman on platform on the rails between and slightly behind them.

The man on the left wears full-plate armor, a red, snarling bear's head emblazoned on the shoulder, with visored sallet helm. He learns against his glaive-guisarme.
The man on the right wears a combination of breastplate and chain-mail. He picks up a large shield emblazoned with a cluster of cluster of grapes on a tan background. The upper right corner is black with a red star or cat’s-eye pupil of red. A broad longsword rests in easily in his scabbard.
The woman is armored like the swordsmen, chain and breastplate, though hers has the same bear sigil as the more heavily armored fellow. She holds a spanned and ready crossbow, tip pointing diplomatically downward. Shortsword and buckler hang from her waist.

As you get within easy shouting distance, the swordsman hold up is empty hand and calls out to you in an unfamiliar language.

Staveon:

Boxes and angles and corners! And metal. Metal everywhere. It would take the foundries of the entire inner sea years, maybe decades to produce this much, and it’s in everything like it cost nothing! The railway is new, but it makes sense. You can move things a lot more efficiently over rails like that than over a road. The problem is that those boxes must weight tons. Solid metal wheels inches thick? Not even giants are going to be able to pull those. Those enclosed carriages were bad enough, but at least they were a reasonable weight. These things are ridiculous, and the five of them are clearly meant to be pull together, as great metal clamps hold them together.

No matter how hard you look, there is no sign of war. It’s as though everyone just disappeared.

Seeing the bridge guards, here’s something you are familiar with. The swordman’s heraldry isn’t too different from the Brevic style, at least it seems similar. The grapes and background would be the device of his lord, and the quartering tells you who his lord’s liege is. Grapes make sense, judging from what you can see of the fields across the river. The quartering is a bit odd though. That’s just evil, asmodean/cheliaxian actually, looking. The other’s sigil doesn’t give you a lot, but it does by comparison. They don’t have the same liege, or at least the same relationship. If the bear is a noble sigil, then the lord isn’t a direct vassal of anyone except the crown, like the great houses of Brevoy. That would explain, sort of, but not really, the expensive kit. It could also be a company insignia, though that makes less sense. Mercenaries with that kind of gear were it guarding bridges.

Their equipment tells you something as well. Plate armor is expensive. Really expensive. A good suit fitted to the wearer runs as much as a magic blade. Guards don’t have that kind of gear, and even if they did, who wears that guarding a bridge? The other two’s gear is also high quality and better than most guards or arms-men have. Whoever they work for has money.


Athene:

It’s like they all just disappeared. Looking through windows in to some of the houses you see dolls lying on the floor, books, mostly eaten to tatters, on shelves, and some even have plates and utensils, made of steel of course, on tables as though for a meal. Most are empty, but in some you glimpse skeletons. Not enough for everyone to have died in their homes, but enough that more than few did. Some bear obvious marks of violence, from edged or blunt weapons or claws and teeth, others are huddled together as though the spent their last moments together for warmth or comfort.

In the area of box buildings, you see great structures of pipes and gears , belts and hoppers. You have no idea what any of it could be for, but there area was clearly factories and warehouses of some kind. On looks as though it is nothing but a giant empty space, its floor unweathered and shining beneath the dust of time. If you could get Mina to cover it with ice it’d make a wonderful skating area.
The rails and their boxes are more metal. What was with these people? Not even the sky citadels of the dwarves have so much iron in everything, and here it’s all steel. You’ve heard of similar rails, mostly wooden or with a thin sheathing of metal, in the dwarven mines and cities, but those are for mining cars little more than oversized wheel-barrows.

The guards, of course they’re encased in more steel too. The heraldry looks Brevic, Staveon probably knows what it means. You can’t understand what the guard said to you, but your ears caught something when they were talking to each other as you approached. A single word, not one you are familiar with, but distinct from the rest of their speech, it sounded… elvish.


Mina:

You keep your senses open, but you can’t find a trace of magic anywhere. If this was some sort of wizard war like Geb and Nex, there should be signs everywhere, but there aren’t. Nothing on the guards either.

Pavo:

Ah, guards. Here’s something you can work with. You can’t understand a word he said to you, and it doesn’t look like anyone else does either, but you recognize the tone. He’s bored, or at least unconcerned. That’s probably closer to it actually. For all that the words are incomprehensible, it sounds like any generic, ‘Hey traveler! What’s your business?’ you’d hear in a dozen uneventful towns not near anything unusual. Obviously, they don’t seem to think you’re unusual or threatening.

Therin:

No obvious signs of war about. At least none that you can find.

The bridge guards, here’s something you are familiar with. The swordman’s heraldry looks like some of the Brevic stuff Staveon’s told you about, at least it seems similar. The grapes make sense, judging from what you can see of the fields across the river. There’s good land here, and the climate appears good for vines, so no frozen winters like the River Kingdoms sometimes get. The bear design looks like a company insignia, though that makes less sense. Representative of the local lord with some soldiers from a company on contract? It’s weird though, mercenaries with that kind of gear don’t wear it guarding bridges. Plate armor is expensive. Really expensive. A good suit fitted to the wearer runs as much as a magic blade. Who wears that guarding a bridge, especially in a place that probably gets blazing hot during the summer, at least if it’s like the vineyards in Taldor and Andoran. The other two’s gear is also high quality and better than most guards or arms-men have. Whoever they work for has money.


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Finally! Everyone, since my sense of descriptive abilities do not fully convey the truly astounding sight, please use google maps to take a look at the San Francisco bay region of the United States. You are on the north-western edge of the city of Vallejo.

Also, please think of suburbs you know and pictures of the bay area you seen, or personal experience if you have, and how you character would react to what they are seeing. If you have particular skill checks you'd like to make to identify things, do so, or if you'd like me to describe a particular aspect in more depth, just ask.

Remember, your character doesn't think it or do it unless you post it!


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Mina:

It's hard to say anything since you haven't actually seen one, but mad wizards and alchemists have done all sorts of unnatural things to various animals. That's where the owlbear came from most likely. They could have more strength than their size would suggest, or increased intelligence. Those are fairly common things desired in guard animals. Perhaps unnaturally keen senses?

Backtracking just a bit, you find what Therin was talking about. On the west side of the road, between the hedge-like bushes and the swampy ground, there's a bit of ground that's firm enough to walk on but without anything more than grass to hinder you. It also hides you from the road. If the dogs attack they'll have to come from the front or rear, or give you plenty of warning crashing through the bushes.

You move forward cautiously, alert for your new friends, or anything else sneaking up on you. After a while the fog begins to clear, and your path ends as a area of land built up to be level with the ruined houses juts out into the swampy field. A box like building occupies the area directly in front of you, surrounded by the rusted carcasses of some odd looking contraptions. Wider, and in some cases higher, than a wagon, they are built in the general dimensions of that ordinary vehicle, but enclosed, and framed and paneled entirely in steel. Windows wrap around the up half of the things, most of them gaping empty, but others filled by panes of glass. Many are half-way between the remains of window glittering forlornly in their frames. There are dozens of the vehicles lying around the building.

The building itself resembles nothing so much as a titan's gift box. Easily 75 ft by 25, and perhaps some thirty feet all. It seems to be constructed of great sheets, as tall as the building, of wavy metal fastened together over a skeleton of steel beams. A ladder, not unlike the one you found on the platform you arrived on, rises to the flat roof.

Carefully testing the rungs to ensure they are safe. You climb atop the roof to get a view of the land you have found yourself, taking turns to ensure enough remains believe to protect the animals.

What you see like nothing you’ve ever heard of. Houses. House after house stretching from the crossroads south for more than two leagues! From the estuary to the west into the foothills on your east. The… settlement is shaped like a pear or tear drop. A mile wide at the crossroads, its northern edge, to more than a league across near the tip of the peninsula it rests on. There are a few buildings that break the monotony, mostly box-like structure similar to the one you stand on, though far more massive, hundreds of feet on a side, but mostly it is just street after street of houses. Some areas are nothing but overgrown ashes, others seem almost untouched. The enclosed metal wagons lie through this place, some twisted or straight on the roads, others parked in front of the houses or buildings.

Across the strait the sight continues, buildings or their ruins creeping up the hillsides like ivy. All to south of you is houses, houses, houses.

You lie at the north-eastern edge of a westward facing bay. To the east rises a ridge of hills. West of you is a great tidal estuary, some league and a half across. Filled with winding waterway, isles, and tidal flats. Looking west, where the bay turns south before opening up into the ocean once again, a blinding light shines in your eyes. West and south the buildings appear to grow larger, and one, it must be hundreds of feet high, seems to a tower of glass, reflecting the morning light like giant mirror. A mightly bridge, a league long if it is an inch, gracefully crosses the bay. No Arch of Aroden or Irespan or solid stone, from this distance it looks as though dainty fairy legs dipped into the water to hold it up. Other similar bridges, but merely a a mile or half that cross the strait to your south or the sloughs to the west.

Through all this, one things grows more and more in your mind. There are no people here. Your feral packs hang back beyond easy bowshot, small groups of deer and other grazers pick their way through overgrown lots and abandoned yards. Song birds boast to one another and raptors circle overhead, but that is all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------

As you continue looking, something hopeful catches your eye. The northern side of the is less strange. Fewer building lie there, much of it looks like it could be fields, and a castle. A real, ordinary Taldan-style keep watches over them from partway up the hills. A few tendrils of smoke, not wild fires, but from comforting cooking or smithing fires, rise from the fort and the area surrounding it. Now you are sure of it, there is a village nestled against the fortification, castle graze in some of the surrounding fields.

Taking the northern road from the crossroad, it appears to take you through a whole town of the massive box buildings, but then turn north and west to cross the river forming the slough and towards the castle. It would probably take you into midday to reach it, a good four hours or so. to reach it, but nothing unduly difficult.


Apologies if that seemed like wasted time, but the dice gods have spoken and the foe sometimes chooses the better part of valor too. I'll wait for a post or two then move things forward again.


Staveon, riding dog stats for the guard dogs is fine, but mules use pony stats. They're not Clydesdales after all, though a mule that size would be mighty impressive. ^_^ Mule Also, what you're doing with the dogs is Handle Animal, which can't be done untrained, so it might not be a bad idea to shift a point around somewhere. Don't worry about reposting, these actions stand for now.

Therin, you are no longer sicked. Each night of rest you regain 1hp per level, so in your case, 3.

DM:

1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16
1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29
1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
1d20 + 0 ⇒ (2) + 0 = 2
1d20 + 0 ⇒ (18) + 0 = 18

1d100 ⇒ 93


The party moves closer together, Pavo continuing to cover the forward approach, while Staveon, Therin, and the dogs cover the other directions leading to the mules. Athene and Mina step back, ready to help where needed.

After several tense moments, the howls begin to move away, with a frustrated quality to their sound.

Athene:

This is ridiculous! I've rolled two twenties in a row for you!
As your keen eyes search the mist, you notice several of the dogs lurking in the mist. The veil parts just long enough to get a good look at some of the pack.

Slightly taller than a riding dog, there is an unseemly amount of muscle on a powerful frame. It's as though someone had taken every useful trait from every attack dog in the world and put them together. Legs long enough for speed, but muscled so that it must also be an incredible sprinter. A wolf could probably outrun it if it got enough of a head-start, but wouldn't have a chance against this if they were both in attack range. The jaws are large and heavy, meant to crush the bones of creatures far larger than itself. The skin is slightly loose, to prevent something else from getting a hold of it. You've never seen anything quite like it, and aren't comfortable that this is from regular breeding. There have to be trade offs when selecting for traits. That's how nature works. That doesn't seem to have been the case here.

The brutes attention focuses on Therin and the mules, but mostly on the warrior. After examine the group, and you'd swear making a cost benefit analysis, they stalk back into the mist. They may not attack now, but your gut tells you the pack will shadow you until they are sated, or a better opportunity comes along.


That'd be fine. There are three of you with wands of CLW I believe?


Ugh, at 15 a day I wouldn't have net either. Glad you're back Athene. Since I missed yesterday, I'll be moving things along a bit faster today if you're posting schedules allow it. Expect another post around noon MST.


DM:

1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29
1d10 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7

Therin:

The best path seems to be the road, but in-between the bushes and the marshy field, where it's usually dry but too wet often enough to keep brush from growing, there's likely to be a usable way. The road would be hidden from view, which could be a plus if anyone is coming down it.

You have more experience hunting animals than most. If these behave like other pack hunters, they'll go for the mules first.


Staveon:

There are at least five of the brutes out there, you can tell that for certain. You think there might be a few more, but can't be certain, and that's not including any without the courtesy of saying hello.

Athene:

From the howling, Pavo was right. Dogs, probably feral based on the look of the place, which means far more trouble than if it was a wolf pack. Most animals avoid people, but a feral dog has none of the usual reservations, and these sound like they're from a breed meant to attack humanoids.

You put the number at seven, enough to make you slightly concerned, you can hear their cries and the sound of their claws on the pavement. Several party members smell of blood, and there's a good chance, a very good chance unfortunately, that the pack thinks there is easy prey to be had. They're unlikely to take down the party, but they could cripple someone, or one of Staveon's mules.

As the party tense for a fight, a hoarse drawn-out howl comes from your left, out of sight, but far, far too close for comfort. Answering howls echo from the mists to your left and front. Staveon's dogs growl in response and the normally staid mules grow antsy, shifting right and back towards the intersection and the hedge.

A few seconds later the howls fill the mist once again. Closer, and shifted along your flank. The pack is obviously move to encircle you.


I should have done this earlier. Everyone, please welcome Mina, who will be retroactively taking Saranie's place.

Since Pavo and Athene are going to be busy during the weekend, and Pavo in particular has an important part to play in the immediate future, now is a good time to ask questions or have something that was glossed over expanded on. When I provide information on something, it is generally just what your character notices at a glance. When you make a check, I try to give more complete information. Many times it isn't so much a case of seeing something as knowing what it means, perception checks being the exception. Anyone can see the glowing doohickey, but only someone with training or background can identify the spell or know what the object is made of.

One thing you guys have been great at is rephrasing information in the spoilers into your character's own words. Please keep doing so! I try to phrase them to fit each individual, but ultimately I'm not them, you are. And please keep having conversations between one another! Therein lies the story.

Also, I don't always remember everyone's skills, backstory, or interests. So, if one of your skills feels applicable, or you just think it would be pertinent/interesting to you character, let me know with a roll.

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