Apologies, Peredur, I neglected to respond to your check!
Peredur notices a faint rustling sound (perhaps of large wings) quite some distance away to the north (perhaps a 100 paces or so). He also notices 2 mice nibbling on something squishy in the nearby brush along with a couple of bats chasing something hundreds of paces off to the south. He smells what Lazne had for breakfast, as well as today's dinner and lunch. The smell of swamp water and fish masks most everything else, except for a faint odor of decay apparently coming from the nest.
The winged rustling noises form the north sound like they are approaching your location. Fast.
Lazne stops at Sour Heck's inquiry, and turns to the north. "Hrrrm" he says, unloading a large wad of weed juice to the ground. "Didn't see that when we landed. Gettin' too damn old. Don't you tell no one I missed that."
He begins walking toward the nest, "That's pretty new, looks like. Don't reckon' I've seen that here a few weeks ago.". After a moment, he stops, and mumbles, "don't much like the look of that.". A large wad of weed juice flies from the corner of his mouth.
Your cantrip begins to fill your vision with a single faint aura of illusion.
Lazne is approximately 30 feet from the nest now, and looking at Sour Heck.
The aura seems to extend several feet to the east. Apparently, somewhere behind the wall. There is nothing obvious about the wall.
Assuming that this piques Tobian's interest enough that he will search the wall for several minutes, he will eventually find a small release, hidden very carefully on the north end of the wall. This will reveal a secret door, which swings towards the group. As the door swings open, it reveals a short corridor with a wall of bars running down one side. Four rusted doors open in this wall into four cramped cells.
After the other boats are loaded, Lazne shoves off and begins to lead the party through fetid, swampy waters. The air is chill and a fog begins to rise off the water, reducing visibility to a few feet. Lazne rows ahead with a steady ease. The night is eerily silent -- the only sounds coming from the party's breath and the occasional slapping of oars.
After about a mile of rowing north through the thickening fog, a tiny, miserable island rises from the swap. A tangle of trees covers its dour, reed-choked surface. Hundreds of fetishes hang from the trees--simple, roughly humanoid figures made of sticks and bound with twine. Larger fetishes are planed in the ground on various parts of the island, leaning drunkenly in the soft mud. A large nest built of sodden swamp wood sits high in the boughs of a trio of tangled trees on the northwest side of the isle.
Lazne beaches his boat, hops out, and hauls the boat ashore. He helps guide the other two boats onto shore as well. He asks for the whiskey and takes a long pull before recorking and handing it back. He reaches into his pouch and grabs a fresh wad of something black, stinky, and vaguely resembling ground leaves -- this he stuffs between his cheek and gums. "Best be careful 'round here. No tellin' what may be out huntin' at night." He heads southward, along the shore. "This is where we chased him to."
Lazne's description of what he saw seems quite sincere, and indeed, it seems to differ from what you saw of Andrew. While the pallor of the skin and his height seem to match, Andrew had little to no fur or scales, and no real boils oozing puss that you saw.
Lazne turns to Sour Heck. "Suits me."
He'll begin leading the group a few hundred yards away to a smaller hut which sits next to a small inlet of shallow standing water. Tied to a small dock on the side of the hut are several boats. Lazne will knock at the door and announce himself. After a brief moment, a rather tall, young man will answer, stooping somewhat as he stands in the doorway. Lazne will quickly tell him that he will be using his own boat and the group will need to rent 2 more. The young man, whom Lazne addresses as Lagren, will accept your coin and nod to Lazne, "I trust'n you know where yer goin'"
Lazne will nod back and climb into one of the boats, offering his outstretched hand.
To my mind, it's akin to seeking a "witness" in an inspirational Christian service. A confirming "Amen" might be an equivalent in contemporary situations. That's my take, anyway.
Since it's an immediate action, and in situations where you want to absolutely mask it, why not make a bluff check? It's a standard action, true, but if you're trying to be discrete about it, it's the only thing I can think of where you absolutely don't want others to notice.
Without any sort of bluffing associated, I think it'd depend on the circumstance. I think in social situations where it might be perceived as awkward, it won't ruin the target's action (i.e. that would still succeed), but it may color future attitudes towards you. Especially if the target's action is an aggressive one. In your specific query regarding diplomacy or bluff, I'm kind of hard pressed to see how it might come across as aggressive or harmful. Using my weak "witness" analogy above, I think it would just come across as though you were positively supplementing someone else's oration or speech.
"We come in peace, I swear!" (bluff)
As for rolls, I never, ever trust a computer to be truly random without a a genuine entropy source. And I sincerely doubt there's one here. I've heard that, in the end, it all averages out. Or so I've heard.
"What'd it look like? Why big 'n' ugly!" He takes a moment to emit a very large wad of weed juice from his mouth, wiping his chin with the back of his hand.
"It was tall. At least 7 foot. Had skin 'n' fur 'n' puss 'n' boils 'n' scales. Stuff like that."
He lights up as Iesha mentions the trap. "Yeah, we shure got it good that night, ya know. Well the caiman got it better, I guess. Got it good on tha sholdah. We was shure it was dead. Never heard cursin' like I did that night. Not since.". Splat! Another large wad of juice hits the ground.
"A blood caiman's just the kind o' gator we got round these parts. Color of blood on its head. I'll shows ya the boneyard, sure enough", he says, pausing long enough to take a side-long glance at Iesha, barely hiding a grin. "Gonna cost ya, though. We gotta take some boats. They cost 5 gold to rent, but I can take one person in mine. You'll have to rent 2 more. Follow me and I'll take you to Lagren's. He's the boat man."
"Bring the whisky. Gonna get colder tonight"
Well, I don't even need to add the bonuses for the whiskey and gold offers. You blew that one right out of the water.
"Normally I don't cotton ta furriners, especially furrin drink. But that's a mighty fine bit a whiska ya got there." the gray haired man will mutter, wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve after taking a short pull from the whiskey bottle.
After eyeing the rest of the group, he'll lean into Sour Heck and mutter in a low tone "murdahs, ya say? Why there haven't been murdahs here for 'bout a yeeah. Funny thing, 'bout that. They got me goin' up to tha city tomorrah on account of me givin' testimonies 'bout them murdahs. Twas the Beast ya know! An we thought we'd had him killt good and ded all this time, 'ceptin' they say he's up in tha jail up theyah in tha city.". The smell of the big clump of swamp weed stuck between his gums and teeth will wash over Sour Heck as he talks.
He'll announce in a louder voice, loud enough for the rest of the group to hear, "Well then, gather in. Don't 'xpect me to shout out at ya all night, do ya? I ain't as young as I used to be, ya know!". Another gob of swamp weed juice will fly from his mouth and strike near the front of the porch.
Eventually, Lazne will tell you that a little over a year ago, there were several murders in the outskirts of the village. Lone villagers were taken at night, although eventually people were attacked in their homes. "'twere the Beast, fer sure. I saw him m'self, as did tha rest tha village the night we laid a trap for him.".
Here he will pause for dramatic effect and take another pull from the whiskey.
"We laid in wait fur tha Beast ta come, see. And 'ventually he did. We chased after him with pitchfork and fire. We wounded him fierce we did, and when he took to tha water, we chased aftah him with ah boats. Chased him clear to tha boneyahd. Theyah he got caught by a blood caiman and we thought him a gonah. Musta not been so, though, since theyah say theyah got him up there in tha city.". He pauses long enough to spit another wad of weed juice before taking another tug from the bottle.
"I'm lookin' fohwad to watchin' that beast buhrn.". The look in his eyes is dark as he stairs far into the distance.
The sun is just setting as the group arrives at the outskirts of Morast, the swamp like area just about 8 miles north east of Lepidstadt.
Morast itself is a collection of hovels, most of which are on stilts which stretch deep into the swamp and mud. Asking about "Lazne", after a few brief encounters, the group is pointed in the direction of a particular hovel near the center of the village. Somewhat larger than the surrounding dwellings, this hovel seems a bit older and perhaps more run-down. Several of the outside timbers appear to be rotting, and the roof looks like it is in serious need of re-thatching.
After knocking at the door, the party will be greeted by a grizzled, middle aged man with dirty gray hair and skin the color of swamp mud. His mouth full of some sort of swamp weed (which smells most foul), he will bark through black teeth, "What do ya wan'? Who dares befoul ma' peaceful evenin'?" After a quick glance at the group and a sneer, a big glob of weed-juice will fly from his lips to strike the ground immediately in front of the group.
Tobian perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13
Jameson will notice several (6) crossbow bolts laying underneath one of the racks. They have strange runes on them.
Reminder, if you're not in any immediate danger or otherwise distracted or hurried, you can "take 10" on a roll. This can be helpful out of combat if a high roll is not necessary. Taking 10 for Tobian wouldn't have changed anything, by the way.
Additionally, you can "take 20", but this usually takes 20x the time of a skill check (a standard action). That usually equates to 2 minutes.
The next door down the hall is closed. A quick jiggle of the handle reveals that it is not locked.
I'll assume that everyone else moves up behind him.
Assuming that Jameson will open the door, he will see that old cobweb-covered racks and armor stands dominate much of this small chamber. What must have once been a well tended armory is now devoid of arms and armor.
Most in attendance will chuckle at Sour Heck's routine, and seem pleased at the mention of the trial. A few raised eyebrows will greet him at his mention of a story behind the trial.
A few patrons will mention, in passing, the troupe camped outside the western city gates.
Regarding, Lazne, one patron suggests that the folk in Morast are a strange, long-lived lot that don't treat foreigners well. "Good luck talking with that Lazne. He's a codgety ol' cuss." Apparently, he is the village elder and can be found in one of the 20 or so wattle-and-daub hovels. "Careful with those folk -- they're inbred. Maybe a little swamp critter in their blood as well"
"Justice Khard? Toughest son-of-a-Boruta you'll ever meet. Gave my cousin the noose for lying in court.". Chief Justice Ambrose Khard will be the one most responsible for conduct during the trial.
"Judge Aldaar? Make's Ambrose seem kind. Word is he had four score of his troops impaled for deserting when he was a general.". Kasp Aldaar is regarded as a hard-liner in the extreme.
Otto Heiger's the prosecutor. "He'll get the Beast burned, which is the right thing to do. Did you hear about what it did in Hergstag? Murdered all them children. Poor villagers."
Peredur will notice a few gruff characters who will eye the party warily and whisper among themselves. Other than their dubious demeanor, nothing else will stand out about them. Nor anyone else.
"I don't disagree that the evidence seems flimsy against er, Andrew. Almost completely circumstantial. But it will be hard to refute the testimony as there is little evidence to the contrary. Yes, he can t-t-tear things to pieces, but maybe he strangled her? I found nothing to suggest something else killed those children, or those people, or set the fire."
"Perhaps you will turn up something that I have missed. I don't care if you do -- bring it and we will all save face."
"As for the village of Morast, it is some 8 miles east of Lepidstadt. An easy walk during the day."
If and when the party arrives at Ghoran's, they will find it warm and relatively clean, if but a bit uninviting. There are several locals here, and almost to a person, they cast quick, judging glances at the party before returning to their meals and conversations.
There is a small bar here with space for the party, as well as 2 open tables.
Reflex Save for the swarm: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
Tobian, once again, while much of the swarm parts as the fire jet enters it, it appears to be deadly to many of the flying little critters, as falling, burning bats ignite their brethren as they flutter and fall.
Assuming Belrick will grab the door in preparation for shutting it after Jameson and Tobian exit the room.
The sounds of hundreds of little bodies hitting the door resound down the hall as the door slams shut and the party finds itself safe back in the hallway.
For the moment, the group is out of combat. That is, unless the bats can figure out how to open doors.
"Well, the first witness will be Lazne from M-m-morast. He will testify that the Beast, er, I mean Andrew killed 10 people in Morast. He claims that at first the beast only took people who were alone outside of the village. And eventually became bolder and began killing and taking people from their homes."
"As for Hergstag, three sisters, Garrow, Starle, and Flichte, will be called. I interviewed them, and they claim that the village's children slowly disappeared, one by one, and eventually returned as ghosts. Finally, one day, they allege that the culprit actually came into the village carrying the body of a little girl. They recall it was laughing as it carried it. The village then took up pitchfork and chased the B-b-Andrew into the nearby swamp. The village was abandoned soon after as the child ghosts continue to haunt it"
"I believe you already know about the events at the University which lead to his capture. And as for the Isle of Karb, the prosecution will be presenting Karl, the dead doctor's former assistant. He will testify that the last thing he saw before the fire that took his eyesight is a beast matching Andrew's description."
"The trial begins the day after tomorrow, so you have one day to gather evidence on the killings at Morast, as that will be the first charge dealt with. The day following, the charge of the children murders in Hergstag will be dealt with, and finally, on the third day, the trial is scheduled to deal with the charges of arson and murder at Karb Isle. And then, of course, final arguments will be made and the verdict rendered."
"As for the closest tavern, there is one about a 5 minute walk up Canal street called Ghoran's"
Swarm attack: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 2 = 17
damage: 1d6 ⇒ 1
The swarm moves again to envelop Tobian, The swirling and darting bats manage to scrap more flesh from Tobian, causing 1 hp of damage.
Tobian, you are still bleeding at 1hp per round and are again at risk of being nauseated from the swirling mass of bats (fort save).
All PC's may act
My apologies -- Jameson and Tobian get attacks of opportunity as the swarm moves into their spaces to swarm them.
Reflex save: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Tobian, your attack is effective in singeing many of the diminutive creatures. At least it "lands". You'll also notice that it seems slightly more effective than you are normally used to, although the bats do not continue to burn after your jet lands.
Belrick's attack, much like Jameson's initial crossbow attack, passes harmlessly through the swarm. The tiny size of the creatures, combined with their erratic flight, makes them very difficult creatures to target with weapon attacks.
Jameson, after your make up AoO, please take your next turn.
"Interesting theory, but difficult to prove at any trial, particularly this one. A-a-andrew, as you call him, is regarded as a wild freak of nature, even though you claim he is a flesh golem. Even if I could prove that he is a flesh golem, the evidence against him is quite substantial. There will be witness testimony tying him to every scene, and in at least one case, he is alleged to be displaying emotion -- laughter. It will be hard to support a legal argument alleging someone else was in control when there is such an emotion involved He demonstrates a level of intellect that belies the emotionless n-n-nature of a simple construct. ."
"Without his m-m-master taking the stand, I don't see how we'll make the argument stick."
"As for ch-ch-changing his identification, I don't see any harm in trying that. Perhaps it will help the judges identify with him more as an individual, and less as a nameless thing. It c-c-c-an't hurt."
"I'll need more to go on than the master-made-me-do it defense if there's any chance of getting him acquitted."
Jameson's crossbow bolt flies harmlessly through the swirling swarm, which seems seemingly immune to simple weapon damage.
Swarm: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 2 = 13
Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 4
In reaction, the swarm moves forward to envelope Jameson and Tobian. Jameson is able to duck and dodge the flying vermin, but Tobian is not so lucky, taking 4 damage. In addition, Tobian may be nauseated (fort save of 11 to negate), and now shows bleeding wounds (1 hp per round, DC 10 to heal).
Everyone but Jameson may act!
After working its way back up the stairs, the group will find Gustav, the Barrister, standing just outside the door conversing with the Sergeant. Upon seeing the group, he will ask if they have finished speaking with the defendant. He will lead them back through the courtroom to his makeshift office and proceed to hand them various maps and notes about the locations involved in each of the charges against the Beast.
- A hand drawn map to the swamp hamlet of Morast (where 10 citizens were murdered a year ago)
The Barrister also reminds you that the creature was captured in the midst of his alleged crime at Lepidstad University.
As Jameson peers further into the rubble of the room, he spies many bats lurking above the crumbling rafters.
At about the moment he spies the bats, Tobian will enter the room. While his elven heritage has given him the general fit of graceful and generally quiet movement, the combined movement and noises of the two inhabitants along with Tobian's vocalized query has set off the bat swarm.
Jameson has a +2 initiative bonus due to his alertness and perception.
Belrick initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
Oswin initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
Tobian initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 = 3
Jameson initiative: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Swarm initiative: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18
The initiative order is:
Apparently, although Tobian seemed to be acting with due caution, he may have stumbled over some rubble as he entered the room, causing his delayed reaction.
Jameson may act!
Jameson, the door is unlocked, and will apparently open easily.
Tobian, you continue to sense a faint conjuration and divination aura just ahead (apparently beyond the the wall), as well as a faint enchantment aura off to your left, closer to the other end of the hall (perhaps behind one of the doors at that end?). No new aura presents itself, nor do any seem stronger -- just closer.
I'm assuming you want to try doors first before entering. If you'd rather I assume you check and then just enter, please let me know?
A long hallway runs to the left (west). Two doors adorn the northern wall, partway down the hall, as does a door very near the one you've just entered. In front of the nearby door, just to the right of the door you are standing in, stands a ruined dwarven statue. Smashed long ago, the statue is barely recognizable as a dwarven monk. His stone hammer sits on the ground next to the shattered remains of his head.
"Yes, cruel humans burn poor Andrew. Poor, innocent Andrew. But Andrew not need chamber pot. Andrew not eat. Besides, chamber pots for cruel humans too small for Andrew!". You can hear a small rumbling in his chest vaguely resembling a chuckle.
The Beast's face lights up as Sour Heck finishes his oration. His face again appearing to twist into a contorted laugh. This time, it seems more genuine than before.
He continues to beam as Eloise sings. He moves to clap his hands but is immediately stopped by the numerous manacles keeping his arms and hands apart. He seems to shrug that off.
"Bye, bye, friends of Andrew. Be careful!" he says as the party leaves the area. A small, indistinct humming echoing Eloise's song can be heard as he continues his horrific smile.
Assuming you approach close enough to the courtyard
Tall grasses and chunks of stone debris have all but overtaken this small yard. Off to one side, a wooden stable has collapsed into a mound of rotting timbers and moldy straw. The outer wall on the east side has also collapsed, leaving a gragged hole. Three doors exit into this yard -- a pair of double doors to the east, a single door to the north, and a lone door leading into the squat tower in the southeast corner.
From within the monastery, you detect faint traces of divination and conjuration from the within the courtyard, to the left, and far ahead and too the left. A faint trace of enchantment from straight ahead (across the courtyard), and a faint abjuration aura emanating from straight ahead and to the right. Various other traces of magic seem to be present, although they are too distant and faint to detect clearly.
Oswin Survival: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (9) + 3 = 12
Belrick Survival: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (10) + 7 = 17
Your expertise in tracking and knowledge of animals tells you there are many signs of animals that are regularly entering and leaving the courtyard, particularly wolves.
You are currently south of the fallen door, facing north.
Moving westward, the group continues on through the forest. The trees, ever so dense and verdant make the passage slow and arduous. Eventually, sitting squat at the foot of an imposing mountain, a ruined monastery comes into view between ancient gnarled trees. Made of simple stone blocks, worn smooth with the passage of time, the stout building is falling apart. Sections of the slanted shale roof have collapsed and portions of the outer wall have crumbled. Weeds and wild thorn plants run rampant across the field leading up to the place, leaving only the slightest indication of a path that ends at the ruined front doors. Beyond, and overgrown yard sits in shadow.
The fox rejoined the group shortly after the clearing, following you at a short distance as you traveled westward. It stops just short of the gnarled trees, clearly indicating it does not wish to follow you into the ruins.
Indeed, the pot is making its way back to the hut.
Assuming that you are interested in making haste to leave the hut and continue on to your next objective, you may recall that you were sent to collect Elderwood moss (found), a special root called rat's tail (just found), and seven ironbloom mushrooms.
The last item, the mushrooms, are likely located in or near the dwarven ruins located at the foot of "Droskar's Crag", which lies to the west of here.
"Master's name? Can't say."
You can sense he feels compelled (perhaps by some external force?) to not reveal that information.
"Little girl? Little girl's name Ellsa. Nasty ghost nearby stole souls of little ones and walks at night. Ghost kill girl. Tried to help, but can't stop ghost. Took dead girl to village to explain about ghost but cruel villagers drive Andrew away with pitchforks."
At this point, the Beast's face is tightened and contorted. The stitching in its face pulling its jaw back into a grimace, making it appear almost as a laugh.
"Beast...er...Andrew go to sleep at big stones outside city. Andrew get tired of waiting for bad guys to come for Andrew to smash, and Andrew find sleeping place near stone."
He turns to Eloise. "Skulking? Don't know big word. Just know wake up in fog and bad men in shiny armor take Andrew and put him here", he points upward. "Bad spirits? Don't know what they are, exactly. Ghosts, Andrew guess. Tried to protect little girl. But Andrew can't stop ghost. Ghost hurt girl."
Sense Motive 18:
It will probably be apparent the Beast does not have much knowledge of undead ecology. Ghost could very well mean wraith. Or even just ghost.
"Andrew don't have own time. Andrew mostly do what master says. When master not saying, Andrew like to read poetry. And Andrew try to help lesser peoples. Lesser peoples like Andrew. Like little girl."
The Beast's shoulders slump.
Tobian, you detect a faint aura of illusion about the shrunken head, which is fashioned much like an amulet. Your keen knowledge of the arcane gives you some insight into its probable function -- it can be used once per day to relay a message (much like the spell magic mouth). You recall from your studies that it is rumored that an enslaved soul is trapped inside. As it carries its message, the eyes of its stitched head open, and once the message is delivered, the eyes close shut.
As Belrick heads to edge of the clearing, he will notice that the cauldron will slow its chase and eventually turn back. Towards the hut.
Those standing outside the hut will likely notice the cauldron wobbling its way quite quickly from the edge of the clearing back to the hut.