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Eli's words seem to hearten the men, for several, even veterans, looked ill at the sight before them.
To be clear, Beagan and Aron are scouting ahead and thus have a much better view
Tiefling Cultists are camped in an odd hollow, hard to see from where Cole is, but with a good view to the bunkers, and the cultists on watch from the ford's buildings. Without scouts, the troop would tumble right into them, and they, probably signaled from the town, would be ready and waiting. There are easily twice the original number of Paragons sent on this mission, waiting for the knights to approach. Aron signals caution, and that he and Beagan should return, to warn Cole and the others.
Ok, let's rev this up a little bit, shall we?
That night's camp passes uneventfully, though the men seem restless after the odd beginning.
In the morning, the camp makes good time, and soon, those with the eyes of eagles can make out the faint shapes of the buildings of Vilareth's Ford can just be made out.
What at first looks like round ornament upon a high piked fence soon show themselves to be heads of men. Lines of gore connect one pick to the next - entrails strung along the exterior of the bunker like buildings.
A couple of hours after night falls, Cole picks up the
stealth, beagan: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (2) + 0 = 2
stealth Xanthos: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14
stealth Aron: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
Yeah, you guys aren't stealthy... why even try?
Aron moves ahead. Keeping track of him proves difficult, but every so often, there is a glimpse of him up ahead. Further and further he goes as he follows the cultist. Finally, he returns. "He's going north, I think. I lost him as the light started fading. Speaking of which, we better head back. There was that one spot that will work for camp, but we're going to be later than I wanted, and later than the Commander was probably expecting."
The trek continues uneventfully for the rest of the party. There is still no sign of the scouts when the day's light begins to fade and approach a low, flat hill, that will make for a perfect campsite.
Make camp? or continue on?
"Yeah, I won't be nearly as polite as she was, *SIR*!" Saul answers, then laughs loudly. Marcus, his eyes twinkling, just nods.
"I don't think so. They're a couple of hours behind us. Follow me, but leave it decent distance. If something happens to me, you'll need to get the word back." With that, Aron slips back out. As Beagan and Xanthos go to follow, Xanthos is struck something and sneezes, loudly. Aron freezes, then falls back. "Perhaps you should stay here and I'll follow him? You two really aren't very quiet."
"As you say. With luck, I'll be back." He slips off, coming back after awhile. When he speaks, it his whisper barely audible, " It's a tiefling. A cultist from the looks of him. We should probably follow him, don't you think? I mean, why would he be out here, by himself?"
Laina bristles in umbrage at Eli's words, but it is him turning his back to her that really has her fuming. She steps between him and his companions and states her message, "*Commander Cole* sends word, 'Valareth Ford is another day away. We cross into the ‘wound before camp tomorrow night if all goes well. The following morning if we’re further delayed.' SIR". With that she turns on her heel and stalks off, mumbling to herself.
Jurin Kreedsön wrote:
"We'll have to do it at some point, anyway." Laina offers, with more confidence than she feels.
She looks at the piles of potatoes then back out into the camp.
"I've got to tell the others."
With that she heads back out. Stopping first to tell Serra. She saves Eli for last and approaches him reluctantly.
"It would be good if something could go well." Laina says, eyeing the land to the west of them. Shaking herself, she nods. "I'll let them know."
Laina approaches Jurin like one might an old crabby hound with a tendency to snap. "Quartermaster, Commander Cole sends word. We're to cross into the Wound before tomorrow night if all goes well. If not, it may be the following morning."
There seems to be some confusion about when the discussion was taking place. It was the following morning, just to clear things up.
With the boy and four of the paladins sent back to Kenabres, the group can prepare to move out once more. The threatened storm from the night before does not materialize, this time.
Aron joins Beagan as scout, moving quickly and quietly ahead of the slower, noisier troop.
With the reduction in numbers, the party is able to make better time than before. That is, they are now moving at the speed that was originally planned upon. They are still woefully behind schedule. Travel is along the West Sellen, almost directly north now; sound and scents that slough across from the 'Wound are ominous at best. In the late afternoon, Late in the afternoon, a flock of tainted birds tears itself to pieces, fighting over some bit of offal they've picked up somewhere. The one that survives flies north.
knowledge local or geography:14:
Vilareth Ford is the northernmost crossing point on the West Sellen—few settlements and no fords or bridges exist farther north from here on the Mendev side of the
knowledge history: 14:
Named for the crusader general who first held the ford against a host of tief ling cultists eager to use it as an invasion point, Vilareth Ford has long been watched over by a small contingent of crusaders.
Traveling ahead of the main body, Beagan and Aron see everything before they do. Aron, for all of his skill, seems distracted and irritable, though perhaps it is because of this morning's conversations. That the afternoon, when it is time to begin thinking of picking a place for the main party to camp, Aron pats Beagan's arm and whispers very very quietly in his ear.
"I think I saw someone. We're a few hours from the Ford, perhaps it is a crusader? Should we approach, or head back?"
"It is not vanity that makes me agree with Jothinra, Sir." Sosiel adds. " But perhaps a small handful of the paladins might take the boy back, carefully. We would have to give them some of our limited rations, but the would be better served than going forward and weakening when we need to be strongest. They will be able to avoid some of our detours, so should make it home the faster. I fear you will need me at the end, Sir, and I would not be able to catch up in time."
Sosiel blinks at Ely's odd comment. deciding the old man must be waxing philosophical, he answers in kind. "Ours, I suppose. The well may have done its worst, but he still lives, and so do we. That makes him ours." He brushes a hand over the poor boy's forehead, then continues, "But no, Ely, I am not sure. The captain commands it though. At least this way, I will be able to keep a close eye on him." If this was not quite the position Sosiel signed up for, he shows no sign. His horse picks its way slowly forward as the company moves out, and hums quietly to the equine as they move along. It seems to help his footing a little, keeping the gait slow and rocking, and free of any bouncy motion as one might find in a wagon.
The party is able to leave Vala's Gift by late evening, turning northwest towards the River, and the old Wardstone border. As noted previously by Beagan, there is no order now.
As predicted, Sosiel's burden does slow the party down and they are barely approaching the river as dark falls. Still, the men seem to be grateful for having moved away from the slaughtered town.
Night falls quickly, too quickly. The skies above the Wound as the troop heads into the sunset roil violently, with looming storm clouds skidding towards the East.
"I'll take care of him Commander." Sosiel says, sadly. "But we'll need to slow our pace. He's fragile."
The boy weighs next to nothing, or at least it appears that way as the cleric lifts him, for he does not appeared hampered at all. It is not until reaching his horse that he sees the issue. Finally, he calls Ely over.
"I think the wagons will shake him too much. I can carry him, but I'll need someone to hand him up to me. Do you think you can help me?"
The boy's shudder cease for a few long moments, whatever Ely's done to him freeing him from terror's tight grip. When once it passes, he does not sink back into them, but stares off distantly, looking more disheartened than ever.
Not sure if that let's you know what he saw, but he did not seem terrified by it, as you might expect for someone that was eyeing their impending everlasting torture for their sins.
Jurin does not find anymore survivors; even the pets have either run off or been slaughtered.
The boy, perhaps soothed by the group's assurance, trembles a little less, and whimpers a little louder, though he does not uncurl from his position.
The boy is medically fragile. He is clearly malnourished from his ordeal. One arm is twisted, more so even than Anevia's was. He will likely never use it again without powerful magical intervention, and even then may have scars for the rest of his life. Scar tissue surrounds a broken rib, and the boy gasps for breath.It isn't clear if the gasping is from his terror, though, or from a physical problem with his breathing. He is thin, wasted, and flies cling to open sores that have been subsumed in filth and rot for who knows how long. Even this, though, seems less problematic than the state of his mind. He does not uncurl, does not respond much at all, though there is some promise that he may respond in time, in that he can still flinch. If a shadow moves to fast, or the breeze of someone's motion comes too close, the boy tenses, flinching away to the best of his ability. And where there is reaction, there is hope.
The boy shrieks in terror as he summarily grabbed up and pulled free from his hiding space. His arms jerk, his shrieking stops and he rolls up into a ball once free and upon the ground. He makes no sound at all, but cannot still the trembling.
His hair is dark, though if that is dirt or grease or something else altogether different is anyone's guess. He reeks of death and bits of gore still stick to him even now.
The countryside seems unnaturally still as Jurin and ELy try to bring the child up from the well. Unfortunately, the boy is so traumatized, that he will not reach for Jurin's offer of help, making things that much harder.
jurin fly: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
The boy screams in spite of himself as the latest terror lands amongst the bodies with him.
Serra listens and listens, but hears nothing. Just as he is about to give up, a faint whimper escapes, catching his attention. There, half buried beneath the bodies on a ledge, his a filthy face with terrified eyes. No older than Kastor, the child below feigns death, letting his eyes go glazy. This doesn't seem like very much of a stretch for the poor creature. Pale and skeletally thin, the boy does not look long for this world before he joins the rest of his village in Pharasma's boneyard.
Kastor moves behind Serra, but stays close, just in case. The smell from the well is rank, a sickly sweet rot that catches in the back of the throat and clogs both the lungs and stomach. Even so, the the pile of bodies at the bottom of the well proves shocking. So much death, in parts and pieces, litters the bottom and rises nearly halfway up the bricked enclosure in varying levels of purification, though none of them seem to move.
perc: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
Cole Zeff: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (16) + 9 = 25
Elyanius Myoch: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (12) + 8 = 20
Beagan Berelcar: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (13) + 0 = 13
Serra Iondri Phaer: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (14) + 8 = 22
Jurin: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
Though you hear nothing from within the burnt out homes other than the systematic searching of Jurin and his crew, you do smell...something... coming from the well within the center of town.
Perhaps it is just the wind, but a faint scrape sound whispers in your ear from the nearby well in the center of town.
Though lost in your own thoughts, a tug on your arm draws your attention. A agitated Kastor stands at your elbow, whispering, "There's someone in the well, Sir. I heard him."
Due to the dedication of you and your workers' search for salvageable foodstuffs, you are able to find several small caches of food, enough to feed foodstuffs: 3d8 ⇒ (3, 8, 5) = 16 people for one day. This is good, as the troop is behind by two days at this point, and while you were able to harvest some of the goat meat, the speed in which you left meant leaving much behind.
Beagan edges forward with Cole, nearly stumbling as the Commander stops quickly near the town well.
Though the men mean well, it becomes clear that they make too much noise to help with the searching. There are simply too many of them.
The bodies have been dead for days; the fencing has been demolished. Half eaten carcasses of goats are strewn about. Closer now, what is left of the town of Valas' Gift can be seen, though it isn't much. Stinking burnt ruins of homes and a few stores can been seen. While most have quit smoking, the faint trail of smoke still comes from what is left of the chapel. It appears they left it for last.
Tracks of bipedal creatures are mingled amongst the devastation and the tracks of the dead, but it is a crazy, chaotic mess.
they were killed by claws and blades, by blunt trauma and horns. In short, more than one creature, though they seem bipedal in nature. The shepherds appear to have fought back, to no avail.
The weather seems to mock them, dawning bright and clear, and the camp wakes, and eats without incident. They are able to be on their way quickly, though there is little talk amongst the men.
Still, with the good weather, their spirits lighten, and a cheer goes up as someone reports a faint trail of smoke in the distance. Vala's gift cannot be far away!
What joy comes from the sighting though, disappears as the pasture lands of the Vala's goat herds spreads before them as they crest a small rise. Once nicely delineated with fences for the various families, the pastures a wreck torn fields and decaying corpses of goats and men alike.
Ok folks, I'm struggling a little with this and I think it's time to move on, if no one minds. Ara does not know how to destroy the demon blood, and for Beagan to test it, the vial would have to be opened. People chose not to open it again (wisely, I think).
Detect evil would find it... if it were out of the vial, or the vial were open.
Poor Jurin does not smell anything around his tent except for Brokenose.
Shall we go on to tomorrow morning?
Laina reports back to Cole once he is in his tent.
"There were several that approached your tent. Sosiel came by, but a bottle of wine. He said he hoped to talk to you about troop morale. Aron came by, said he had hoped to talk siege tactics with you. Nurah stopped by, about tomorrow's route. One of the cavalry people came by the name of Gerymi came by, but seemed flustered when I asked what she wanted. She seemed nice, by the way." she adds with an impish grin.
Beagan Berelcar wrote:
Beagan's channel does not appear to affect the blood within the bottle. Do you uncap it to try it outside of the bottle?
sorry for the lag.
Aravashnyel hands the bottle back to Serra, transferring it as carefully as if it were poison or acid that might spill at any moment.
"Yes, that is one of the demonic drugs. See how it moves in defiance of the laws of our plane? It should be destroyed."
After talking with his squire, Serra heads over to Aravashnyel's tent.
"Ahh, there you are! I was beginning to think the good Captain would be keeping you all evening. Come, sit and..." The elf's friendly words trail off at Serra's question, whatever good humor he had been entertaining thoroughly doused by the question.
"What do you mean, "distilled" blood, Serra?" Caution, disbelief and disgust mingle in the tone of his voice, but he waits for Serra to continue.
With discussion dwindling to a trickle, one by one the companions separate to be on their way. Serra takes the offensive vial with him in hopes of getting Aravashnyel's input on it.
If anyone else is going with Serra, please let me know. If you are NOT going with Serra, let me know where you do head.
It strikes Eli as soon as the vial is opened, an intense promise of everything he's ever dreamed of. His wife, his children, even power to make his enemies pay and pay and pay. It coils in dark shadow, slick tendrils leaping within the vial as if to meet him half way. The draw of it seeks, and finds that hollow within his heart and promises it to fill it with whoever, and whatever he might desire most; all he must do is sip.
The scent burns his nose, like rotting roses as he sniffs. It is enough; he seals it again quickly. IF his hand trembles, perhaps it is simply the cold of the evening, a mere coincidence. Surely it is that..
"On it, Sir." She says with a grin, then takes off to gather the lords, waking them if necessary.
Serra: Laina creeps quietly up towards where Aravashnyel and Serra sit talking. She waits for a suitable break in the conversation before interrupting. "Excuse me, Sir Serra. Commander Cole would like your counsel, if you please."
Beagan: "Sir Beagan, if you've untangled the problem here, Commander Cole has a knotty one he would like to discuss with you."
Eli: The young woman coughs, from the edge of the firelight, but does not come fully into its illumination. "Si..Sir Elyanias, C-c-commander Cole would like a moment of your time, if you could." She stutters slightly and disappears back into the darkness as soon as her message has been delivered, bringing a raised brow from Marcus.
"She is either terribly officious, or perhaps offended by Saul's dark looks. Give her our apologies, 'Sir Elyanias' as we will give yours to this bottle of cider."
Serra Iondri Phaer wrote:
Ara takes the book tenderly, knowing the value and trust inherent in such an offer. "Thank you, Serra. Yes, Let's compare and see where we might both benefit from such an exchange."
We can go over spells off thread.
Jurin Kreedsön wrote:
Laina nods, moving quickly to leave, "Of course. The two of you must talk breakfast strategies and such." The woman smiles at both of them on her way out, her mood somehow lightened by the quartermaster's quirks.
Beagan Berelcar wrote:
"Is there any reason these ropes would have been coated, or dipped in special goo?" Given the poles sometimes found up their backsides, who knows what these knights due with their ropes.
Frederick scrubs at the back of his neck, grumbling."Just the usual to keep them from absorbing water. It should protect it, not make it fray." To prove it, the man moves to his pack, pulling out a small tin of protect-all, a slime put on ropes to make them more water resistant.
perception: 1d20 ⇒ 3 The container looks like any other sort for such things.
Even as he calls it "hated thing", his body knows it for the lie it is. His muscles tingle in anticipation and tiny flares of need erupt in his brain. He looks about, but sees no one. But he can follow the feeling, back into the cook wagon. Back to his bedroll. There in the blankets, he finds it. A small vial, swirling with a black viscous liquid. It calls to him, so much more potent than Faith's blood fresh from her wounds. It aches with promise and pulses with shadow. This is not blood as he knows it, but something...refined. distilled. And it promises so much more than a memory.
at the end of the evening, after Brokenose and the others have called it a night, a familiar tang catches at the back of your throat and hisses in your veins. Memories of *Her* whisper in your mind, that first taste she gave you of The Blood."Drink, Baby... drink and know Me. And I will always be with you. Just one taste, and you will always be able to find me." There is a source, somewhere close.
Laina thinks for a moment before answering quietly. "It feels... bad. The bog was a mess, and did you notice how fresh the plants were that were beneath the water? It hadn't been there long. And the tents falling down like that. I'm not that great with ropes and such things, but surely they should have held up a little better. But I'm new to this; maybe moving this many people is always like this? What do the specialists think? I tried talking to Aron, but he looked ready to jump out of his skin, so I thought I'd best leave him alone."
"Whaat,!?! Oh!! Begging your pardon, Sir..."Buaxelais' cheeks flush a deep red as he realizes who he was addressing. " It's these ropes. Frederick was supposed to check them this morning and he said they were fine, but three of them broke while we were putting the tent up just now. " He casts a guilty glance at Frederick; not really wanting to get the man in trouble, no that he's calming down.
"I'm sure it was merely an oversight." Buaxelais mumbles.
Frederick, however, is undaunted, "I swear to you, Sir, the ropes looked fine this morning. Buaxie probably just doesn't know his own strength. No harm done."
The three ropes are frayed where they've broken. From Beagan's studies in painting, it looks like some substance may have been applied that weakened them, though he doubts it was acid from the goats.
craft: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28