"Biodiversity Assessment of a Passive Treatment System for Metals-Contaminated Mine Drainage"
30 second explanation:
Passive treatment systems are engineered pond/wetland systems which treat water using natural processes, without the input of electricity, fossil fuels, or chemical additives. They therefore have lower operation & maintenance costs than more traditional treatment systems. On the flip-side, they require a lot more space to treat the same flow of water. That makes them good for abandoned sites, where land (potentially degraded) is available, and money is less so.
My research group has a passive treatment system at the Tar Creek Superfund Site. (Glancing over it, some of the Wikipedia information is incorrect, especially concerning the origin of the contaminated water, but it gives you the idea.) My thesis looks at the number of species in a few groups (plants, dragonflies & damselflies, amphibians) in the passive treatment system, compared to the numbers found in other ponds in the area.
At the moment, I'm working on statistics, and it's being a big pain.
Hi everyone, and happy late Thanksgiving. I still haven't managed to finish up my thesis, which means I'll be in school for another semester. I really want to get this thing done, so I'm going to continue my hiatus from PbP. I haven't forgotten you guys, though, and I'm excited to start up again once I get this thesis off my back!
Hey guys. Sorry to have been AWOL for a while. I'm getting into heavy deadline mode with my master's thesis, so I'm going to have to take a break from PbP for a while. Look for me again in late November or early December. I hope you guys will all still be around then, you're a great group and I like how the campaign and prequel are going.
@Ali, edge of the dune sea, midmorning, 24 Desnus, 4711:
As you and your companions pause to drink, you sees a telltale smudge on the northeastern horizon: a sandstorm! Watching it for a few moments, you estimate that it is headed in your direction, and will reach you in five to ten minutes. Although you are at the edge of the highlands, the winds will carry sand aloft for some time after leaving the desert, and though the hills are rocky, there is enough grit to make your life very unpleasant, so the danger is still real. Your camels cannot outrun the storm, you know, though they might take you far enough that its effects are diminished. Running the camels on the rough ground risks one of them falling, however. The hills are full of caves, but the only one you know of in the immediate vicinity is south along the edge of the sand, in the direction of the advancing storm, almost a mile distant.
A gentle breeze blows past, and then it is still. The calm before the storm, as they say. You must act, and quickly.
Dross nods weakly. "I think it's done now. The wound don't hurt at all, guess the potion took care of it. I just sort of ache all over." He has saved against the poison now, he's at his current max hp, but he took some Con damage.
The building appears to be more-or-less empty. The pile of jumbled rocks and wood in the corner is covered in dried white snake droppings and a gigantic shed skin, now mostly in tatters. You don't see anything else of interest or value. It would be possible to move the snake back into the rubble pile, so that the body wouldn't be immediately visible at the door.
Lighting: With the light shed by Felliped's spell, the snake is fully illuminated.
Travis shortbow: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22; Damage: 1d8 ⇒ 5
Snake stabilize: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7->-1 hp (-2)
Dross Fort DC 17: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18->done
Felliped's arrow misses the snake entirely, and Valik's stone bounces off the glossy scales harmlessly.
Travis's luck, or his aim at least, is better, and his arrow pierces into the snakes side. It rears up, mouth open as if to strike, shudders, and then collapses to the floor, unmoving. "Haha!" he crows.
Dashki puts his bow away and moves cautiously up to the snake, drawing his scimitar in the process.
Dross lowers the point of his guisarme to the ground and puts one hand over his chest. He takes a few deep breaths and the color begins to return to his face.
We're out of round-by round. Dashki will coup-de-grace the snake unless someone else beats him to it or stops him.
I should have been more clear in my description; Dross's wounds seem to have been fully healed by the potion he drank, and the snake hasn't managed to bite him since. His weakness is due to something else, and given that he was bitten by a snake, I'm sure you can imagine what.
If you want to change your action, Valik, you can. For instance, you can use the Heal skill to treat poison as a standard action.
Lighting: With the light shed by Felliped's spell, the snake is fully illuminated.
Travis Shortbow: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23; confirm: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (11) + 3 = 14; Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 1
Dross AOO: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11
Snake bite: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Dashki scimitar: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
Dross Fort DC 17: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (8) + 2 = 10; Con damage: 1d2 ⇒ 1
Dross Guisarme: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Valik's stone thuds between the snake's eyes, leaving a bloody dent, but still the reptile continues to thrash. Travis follows up with an arrow which grazes the snake, leaving a line of red blood.
The snake, badly wounded, confused by the ranged weapons, and surrounded, continues to press its attack against Dross. The sellsword again slashes at the snake with his polearm as it moves into striking range, but the blade glances off the snakes rough scales. Fortunately for the mercenary, his armor is as good as the snakes, and its bite does not penetrate the linked rings again. He steps back, regaining enough distance to bring his long weapon to bear, but again it fails to penetrate the snake's scales, as does the arrow Dashki launches against it before retreating to one of the open spots on the wall.
Dross's skin begins to take on a green cast, and his breath comes harsher.
Felliped and then Valik
Lighting: With the light shed by Felliped's spell, the snake is fully illuminated.
Travis shortbow: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
Dross AOO vs Snake: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (8) + 4 = 12
Snake vs. Dross: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21; Damage: 1d6 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13; Dross Fort DC 17: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6; Con damage: 1d2 ⇒ 2 -> 9 con, hp 0/13
Dross CMW potion: 2d8 + 3 ⇒ (6, 7) + 3 = 16 -> hp 13/13
Dashki longbow: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Travis fires another shot, but the arrow clatters against the stones.
The snake slithers forward, intent on Dross. He takes a swipe at it as it closes, but it is too fast for him, and in the opening left after his swing, it darts its head forward and bites him, fangs piercing his chainmail and stabbing deep into his torso. He screams and staggers back, ashen-faced, trying to keep some distance between himself and the immense snake. Staggering as he fumbles in his belt pouch, he almost drops his guisarme as he draws out his potion and quaffs it. Immediately, he looks stronger. The blood ceases to flow from his wounds, and his face is closer to its normal color. Still, his breath comes short, and beads of sweat coat his forehead.
Dashki backpedals away from the snake as well, firing an arrow, but missing.
Felliped and then Valik.
Lighting: The dim lighting inside the building gives a 20% miss chance to attacks by creatures without low-light vision.
Travis shortbow, into melee: 1d20 + 3 - 4 ⇒ (11) + 3 - 4 = 10
Snake vs. Felliped: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
Dashki knowledge: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (14) + 7 = 21
Dross guisarme: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (19) + 4 = 23;20% miss: 1d100 ⇒ 78;damage: 2d4 + 3 ⇒ (2, 3) + 3 = 8
Dashki longbow: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11
Initiative order:"Ugh, I hate snakes..." Travis grumbles as he draws his bow and moves to get a clearer shot. In the dim light, however, his arrow fails to find the moving target.
The snake, attracted by a quickly moving target, strikes again, this time at Felliped, but the nobleman manages to dodge out of the way.
Dross closes in, as Dashki yells, "Don't get too close, it's poison!". As Dashki steps back, drawing his bow and leaving an opening for Dross, the mercenary deftly slashes the creature with his guisarme, and blood flows from a gash along its coils. The snake hisses in pain, and fixes its gaze on Dross. Dashki follows with a shot from his longbow, but it glances off the creatures scales.
Felliped next, then Valik.
Note- Felliped and Valik each regained 4 hp overnight, due to Father Zastoran's care. That should put Valik at 15/21 and Felliped at 17/17.
Dashki: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
Valik: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
Dross: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (5) + 0 = 5
Travis: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (6) - 1 = 5
Snake Stealth: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26
Felliped: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (6) + 3 = 9
Valik: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (7) + 0 = 7
Dashki: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9
Dross: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (9) + 1 = 10
Travis: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12
Snake: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (4) + 6 = 10
More GM rolls:The inside of the building is dimly lit, with weak dawn light shining in through windows and gaps in the walls and ceiling. Under the dome at the north end, a circular mosaic if barely visible. Piles of stones and charred wood are scattered about the stone tile floor, and lengths of rusty chains are fastened to the floor and walls by embedded iron rings.
Snake Attack: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
As Dashki is moving to investigate a larger pile of stones in the southeast corner of the building, Felliped notices a movement: shiny scales, cold glittering eyes. However, he has no time to act before a huge snake, its body as thick as a man's torso, it's head the size of a shield, strikes at the guide from the debris!
Fortunately for Dashki, the strike does not hit him straight on, and his hardened leather armor prevents the fangs from penetrating.
Old scorch marks on the wall of the domed building indicate that whatever was flammable was burned long ago. What remains is primarily the outer wall and dome. A ruined sign hangs above a gaping entrance on the north side of the building; the part that is left reads --AVE MARKET.
Are you checking out the inside as well?
Ali Survival, weather: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
Ali Survival, tracks: 1d20 + 6 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 6 + 1 = 8
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Dawn, 24 Desnus, 4711:
The night passes uneventfully, the stars swinging overhead in slow arcs, and the crescent moon rising only a little before the sky begins to pale in the east. The temperature drops steadily throughout the night, and by morning, it is chilly enough that the first rays of the sun are welcome. The air is calm through the night, but a light breeze from the east begins to pick up in the morning.
I made Survival checks for you to predict the weather and looks for tracks of you visitor.
The breeze is not yet strong enough to erase prints left in the past days. The signs of your approach on camelback, and your movements around the camp, are plainly visible, but there are no other tracks leading to or from your campsite.
Today's weather, though it seems fine, may lead to sandstorms in the afternoon. The chances will probably be even higher tomorrow.
Dashki narrows his eyes as Utarchus leaves, but leads the group silently out of the monastery and down the path outside. It leads down the hill from the monastery to the floor of the valley of Kelmarane, and then joins the trade road running alongside the Pale River. It is chilly at night, and the way is lit by the cold light of a near-full moon low on the western horizon. Rather than take the road, Dashki leads the party into the ribbon of trees alongside the river. Traveling through the vegetation is slower than walking on the open road, and the light of moon does little to illuminate their path among the trees. Dashki feels his way along with his staff. Fortunately, the sounds of rustling and thumping as the party stumbles along in the dark are covered by the sound of rushing water in the swift-flowing river to their right.
For the past few days, Dashki has been walking around with the first pugwampi tied to his staff by a noose, like a trophy. It has been getting increasingly smelly and dessicated. You notice that it's gone now.
After what seems like hours, you reach the edges of Kelmarane, without encountering any resistance. The sky is illuminated with the gray light of dawn, and you can make out the ruins of the lower town, with the hill of Kelmarane looming behind them, and the great dome of the Battle Market silhouetted against the lightening sky. The nearest broken walls touch the band of vegetation along the river, and Dashki leads you to shelter behind one of these.
The city of Kelmarane is built partly atop an isolated bluff of hard stone which gives a commanding view of the valley. A winding road leads up the face of the bluff to the upper city, where the largest and most impressive structures are built. On the ground below, however, is the lower city, where the runs of smaller structures remain in the space between the southeast part of the bluff and the arc of the Pale River.
Surveying the lower town, you see that most of the ruins are completely collapsed, with just a few walls standing. A few buildings still seem to be somewhat intact. One large building (1 on the map) in the middle of the ruins seems to have been more well constructed than the others, and remains standing. A line of buildings (2-5 on the map) sheltered in the lee of the hill also seem to have fared better. A low stone bridge crosses the rushing Pale River, white with foam, and on the other side stand two buildings; one is clearly a mill (7 on the map), its wooden wheel still turning unevenly in the current, despite many rotten slats. The other (6 on the map) is not immediately identifiable from the outside, but is distinguished by a thin line of smoke rising in the dawn twilight from one of its several chimneys. It has no windows to give away who or what might be inside.
Garavel offers the old dormitory as sleeping quarters for Felliped and Valik, and orders a few of the other mercenaries to help them clean it up enough to sleep for the night. The two injured men retire early, in order to get a good night's rest before their mission.
You are wandering the monastery. It is not in the same decrepit state that you have seen it in waking light, but the furniture is smashed and the pictures on the walls are defaced. You wander through the crypts, and they are full of skeletons. The laboratory, the only place in the monastery that is at all damp, grows over with mold. It feels as though you wander through the building for years, alone, as the furniture, doors, and rafters dry-rot away, the mold grows, and the roof begins to sag.
Then, there is a man in the building. He is dressed in shining armor, emblazoned on the breastplate with a winged eye, his head hidden behind a tall helm. Go go to him, try to tell him what has happened, but he cannot hear you. He draws a longsword and attacks you. You run, down to the crypt, but he follows you, the sword slashing and cutting, and you fall. He stands over you, leering, as you crawl to the laboratory, and sink into the thick layer of mold.
Then, you are looking at Pale Mountain, ominous on the horizon. Saint Vardishal fades into view beneath it, translucent and disfigured with mold, holding out the scimitar to you in offering, urging you to take it.
You are awakened by the unearthly howl of the carrion king, and it is some time before you can return to sleep.
At around midnight, the air is rent with the nightly call-and-response howl.
The men are awakened while it is still dark by Dashki. They dress quickly and head to the exit, while Dashki goes to wake Dross and Travis. While they are waiting for his return, Utarchus approaches them.
Perform: 1d20 + 28 ⇒ (1) + 28 = 29
Ali Will: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
Felliped Will: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24
Theodric Will: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11
Felliped spellcraft DC 22+2=24: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
The man, Pazhvann, glances between his hosts, with a shade of a smirk on his lips. "It seems your employers are seekers of knowledge, Ali, and so I forgive their curiosity! But I promised you just one tale, and I think that, traveling south into the Brazen Peaks as you seem to be, the one I told you will be more relevant than the tale of Pazhvann the Wanderering Stranger." The smirk widens into a sly grin. "That one is a long tale, and most of it concerns sand!" He laughs heartily at his own joke. "But what I played for you was not the song I promised, it was but the background for the tale. Shazathared herself, it is said, is no musician, and though her tales are named as songs, no music has been handed down. But who knows? Perhaps in Bayt al-Bazan, Jhavhul heard the songs sung in their full glory, and the notes are as lost to us as the majority of the songs. In any case, I like to add some music of my own to them. It keeps my hands busy, no? But, it is hard to play a beautiful song about gnolls, for they are creatures of hate and hunger." He wrinkles his nose. "Allow me to play you a more gentle tune, to bring you a safe journey, success in your archaeological expedition, knowledge for Felliped, reknown for Theodric, and all the missing Songs for Ali!"
With that, he launches into a instrumental piece with all the stark beauty of the desert, each note glimmering in the still night air like a gemstone, clustering together in sweeps and runs like elegant jeweled nets. The harmonies are strange and exotic to Felliped and Theodric, but remind Ali of the music of his own lost tribe. Despite being played on a simple tambur, and lacking the breathtaking complexity of the previous piece, the music seems to embody all the joy and sweetness of life, and all the pain and bitterness as well. The three men are enraptured, and find themselves closing their eyes to more fully appreciate the performance. As the last precious note decays into silence, they open their eyes...
...to find that the stranger is gone. Not even footprints in the sand remain as evidence of his presence.
Though your companions are completely enthralled by the music, you retain your wits and keep your eyes open. As the Janni finishes the song, he gives you a wink, and you hear a voice in your head say, "Watch the weather tomorrow." He then places his palms together, bows his head, and fades away. It seemed like it must have been some kind of spell, but you have no idea what. Natural 20 on your will save vs. fascinate bardic ability, natural 1 on Spellcraft.
I do a lot of secret reactive rolls, when I don't want you to know exactly what roll is necessary; perception, knowledge, etc. You can go ahead and make the rolls if you think I might have forgotten, because sometimes I do. In this case, I already rolled for you, and you didn't succeed. Someone in the party did, though... ;-)
Felliped, In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus 4711:
I already rolled Knowledge (planes) for you; that's the information I gave you. I guess you also know that he's an Outsider (native, genie), and all the relevant traits, but that's pretty general. Genies all have inborn magical powers, including the ability to transport themselves and willing guests to and from the elemental, astral, and ethereal planes. Most genies can also become invisible, and many can fly. They are generally tied to one of the elemental planes, but Jann are an exception; they blend the four elements, and are native to the material plane.
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus 4711:
Pazhvann laughs at Felliped's stammering. "It seems your hear is cleverer than your tongue knows what to do with, my boy! At least you are polite about it, that counts for something." He gives Felliped a short, stern look, then winks and returns his attention to Theodric and Ali.
Edit: more for Felliped:
And you also recall hearing that genies of all types are telepathic. Your recollection is quickly confirmed; when the genie gives you his brief stern look, you hear a voice in your head say, "Cause me no trouble, and I'll cause you none. We are travelers meeting on the road, sharing a fire, a cup of coffee, and a few tales, nothing more."
Gear for Ali and Theodric: It looks like all Theodric really needs is a holy symbol of Abadar. You can certainly "borrow" one of those from Garavel/Almah; they're Abadarans, so they should have extras.
The main other thing to decide is how many and which mercenaries you want to take with you. Obviously, more men means easier fights. You don't need to worry about losing experience, because I'm not doing experience. I'm not going to directly adjust the encounter difficulty depending on how many you have. But here's how I'll do out-of-combat stealth: Dashki will be leading you, so he'll make one roll for the whole party using his (substantial) stealth bonus. Each other person must make a DC 10 Stealth check or give Dashki a -2 penalty. Dullen and Utarchus are the only mercenaries with non-negative stealth modifiers. If you want to pick and choose which mercenaries are most useful, Asad and Travis are 2-hander wielders (Asad currently wielding a scimitar 2-handed, Travis a greatsword), Dross is a reach/tripper, Dullen is a crossbowman, and Utarchus is a longbowman.
Ali Know: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9
Felliped Know: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
Pazhvann disguise: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (8) + 16 = 24
Felliped Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25
Ali Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17
Theodric Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27
Felliped and Theodric, In the Shadow of a Watch Tower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
There is something strange about this man... His ears do not mark him as an elf, yet it seems he is something other than a human; the way his eyes glitter, the fluidity of his movements, his great height. He is in some sort of disguise, though it is subtle. Very good perception checks, guys
Felliped, In the Shadow of a Watch Tower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
You know of no mortal race upon Golarion that matches this man, though the disguise makes it difficult. Nor have you ever heard of any man, living or dead, by the name of Pazhvann. However, as you ponder his twinkling eyes, which seem to reflect the firelight so much more than those of your companions, you realize -- the man must be a genie, in disguise as a human! Though not your specialty, you know there are several types. Unless he is in a powerful magical disguise, you suspect he must be a Janni; these genies make their homes on the material plane, and look much like humans, save for their height and sparkling eyes. You aren't sure of their specific powers, but you are fairly sure that playing the tambur like that isn't one of them... This Pazhvann is no common genie, and if he has magical powers to match his musical prowess, you would do well to stay on his good side.
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
I made his perform rolls last time, but forgot to tell you the results! Both Perform (strings) and Perform (oratory) were in the 40s. Though it was a relatively simple tale about the origin of gnolls, none of you had ever heard a story told so well. Kings give titles and genies grant wishes for performances such as that.
The man slits his twinkling eyes at Theodric, a slight smile on his lips. He shrugs and laughs his booming laugh. "Fair enough, Theodric, my name is Pazhvann. Ali the Flame Keeper tells me you are his employer. You don't have the look of a desertborn man yourself. What do you seek here on the sands?"
Perform strings: 1d20 + 28 ⇒ (15) + 28 = 43
Perform oratory: 1d20 + 26 ⇒ (20) + 26 = 46
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
The man listens intently to the story, and then sits silent a moment, looking into the fire and wrapping his beard around a finger, a grave look upon his face. Almost absently, he reaches behind him for his tambur, and removes its cloth cover. The instrument is of fine quality, inlaid with exotic woods and mother-of-pearl, yet it shows the marks of years of playing. The man begins to play, slowly at first, the plaintive notes ringing empty through the desert night, but soon faster, with complex melodies interweaving and shifting like the interplay of wind and sand. After a few minutes, the music reaches a crescendo, and then drops to silence. After a moment, the music begins again, a quiet but emotional pattern, its intervals almost dissonant enough to sound like mere noise, but played with purpose. The pattern does not seem to change, but neither does it repeat exactly. It is a music of destruction and woe. The man begins, not to sing, but to speak, his words complementing the rhythm of the music while never quite matching it, and the notes following the intonation of his voice, growing loider and softer as the story unfolds.
"In the beginning, when Rovagug perfected the way of destruction, the lands were littered with the dead. Crows, maggots, beetles, worms, and the other crawling things of the earth complained to Rovagug.
“You destroy and maim too quickly!” they cried. “We cannot devour all the meat you give us! Please, destroy the people of the earth more slowly.”
“What?” shouted Rovagug, in a voice that toppled pillars. “My glorious destruction shall never cease nor slow!”
Yet in the dark, delighting in the destruction god’s slaughter, watched Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters, and she heard the base things cry. In those black days when all the land was covered with death and all the air stank, she watched as a few tribes of men her followers and devout worshipers, ate the flesh of corpses as the crows did, plucking out eyes, savoring the bloodiest cuts. To these cannibals she led packs of hyenas, and their ways became as one. Of those louse-ridden beastmen rose the first gnolls, half-hyenas who love the stench of carrion and praise each corpse as an offering to their dark mother. And the demon queen delighted in her own perversion and reveled in these monsters’ terrible howling songs.
Born of devastation, and insanity, and the corrupt of soul, the man-beasts spread upon the world, and where they prowled they indulged in their hunger for murdered flesh. Surely, they are to be despised by any sane god, and so we make ceaseless war on those who seek to feed on the bodies of heroes and innocents. And somewhere in the madness between the stars, the Mother of Perversion and the Mistress of Insanity still laughs her wicked laugh, as her ravening spawn, the bone gnawers and carrion eaters, grow fat off our flesh.
Gnolls are among the first abominations, and their death is a blessing. Remember this when their laughter haunts your steps."
The tambur picks out a few more virtuoso runs, and ends on a last jangling chord, without resolution. The man is motionless until the notes fade to silence, and then he quietly says, "That was one of the songs Shazathared sang for Jhavhul. The lord of al-Bazan was ever known to be cruel of heart, even among the efreet, and he found such tales... Amusing." He looks in to the fire, then glances up at Ali. "Many centuries the Keepers of the Flame walked the camel's road, and they were among the last to bear memories of things other men have forgotten. Their passing is... a loss. Whether a sad tragedy, or the fruit of dark plots, I cannot say. It is not unheard of for gnolls to rally around evil powers."
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
The man accepts coffee, but politely declines any food. "A tale and a song, you shall have both, my friends. But first, tell me more about the Keepers of the Flame. When last I passed this way, they still wandered these sands... What ill has befallen them?"
We'll assume Felliped gets all the necessary spell components.
The mercenaries clutch greedily at their magic items as Felliped identifies them, eying each other suspiciously. Valik suggests selling some of them to Garavel, but the mercenaries scoff.
"That tight-fist? Nah. There's nothin' worth buyin' out here anyway. I'll keep this beauty to sell for a good price in Katapesh," says Asad, admiring his magical hammer. The others nod their agreement.
Dullen bursts out, "Why don't I have anything? Travis has a dagger and a ring, and Valik has a mace, a scimitar, a brooch, and that prayer thing. I demand my share." The other mercenaries look darkly at him, keeping their own goodies out of view.
We don't really need to roleplay out these negotiations if you don't want to; however, everyone can agree on selling the silver bowl to Garavel and splitting the coin, which comes to 15gp apiece for Valik, Asad, Dullen, Dross, and Travis.
Anything else you want to do before you head out to kill some gnolls?
Values for identified magic items:
Edit: Felliped also knows that it's a good bet that any magic weapon is worth at least 2000 dinars, unless it's cursed. That adds at least 4000 to the total, for the mace and scimitar, and puts the even split at around 3000.
statue of Vardishalreligion DC 15/25: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (9) + 5 = 14
pale mountaingeography DC 10: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
death of arodenhistory DC 10: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 10 = 24
north cloister wallreligion DC 15: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
east cloisterhistory DC 17/27: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (2) + 10 = 12
efreetiplanes DC 18/34: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
djinniplanes DC 15/18/29: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (20) + 10 = 30
salamanderplanes DC 13: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (8) + 10 = 18
Here are descriptions for all the rooms of the monastery, in one place. Felliped is the one looking around at the moment, but Theodric and Ali can both read them too, so that I don't have to post it all again later. Valik has seen these before, but he can re-read them if he wants. Felliped's knowledge checks are for him to share or not as he sees fit, of course.
The monastery is divided into two sections: a conventional temple of Sarenrae, built in the shape of Her symbol, the ankh, and an adjoining, more-or-less rectangular section which houses the living area for the monks and nuns that would have inhabited it in the past, composed of the cloister in the north and the southern wing in the south.
You start your tour in the nave, a long room along the west of the temple where worshipers would once have gathered, which makes up the stem of the ankh. The graceful columns that once supported the arched roof have long since collapsed, and the area is open to the sky, and is currently home to the party's wagons, and a pile of gear sitting on a large canvas as it is distributed to various rooms of the monastery.
At the north end of the nave are two alcoves which together make up the transept, or cross-bar of the ankh. The ceiling of the alcoves are intact. Each of is home to a bas-relief statue of a muscular humanoid man with a pointy beard; in the west alcove, he is pictured in front of a tall conical mountain, gesturing towards it as if in warning.
In the west transept, the bearded figure appears on a hilltop to a group of robed pilgrims. The being holds up his hands, palms out, in a sign of peace. Though many of the faces and limbs on the bas-relief have been worn down or cut away, the expressions of those range from beatific to horrified.
Also in the west alcove stands a crude stone stele that seems to have been erected more recently than the abandonment of the monastery. Its graven inscription reads: “A ghost of unholy mien was purged from this place by Theodephus Estrovan, servant of Aroden, 4691 AR.”
Just past the transept, a short set of wide ceremonial steps leads down to a cavernous chapel, making up the head of the ankh, in which the congregants would gather for sermons in happier times. The vibrant orange and red starburst of Sarenrae still stands behind a film of rusted rainwater and dirt along the north wall overlooking the collapsed altar. Between the stairs and the altar stand dozens of old marble benches, many overturned and even more broken into two or more pieces. A wide walkway bisects the pews, leading directly to the raised altar. Here and there a few clumps of the original red carpet along this thoroughfare hang on against rot and neglect. Above the center of the chapel, dangling about ten feet from the floor, hangs a cluster of gnoll skulls in various stages of decay. Strung together like a ghoulish candelabra of twine and bone, the boulder-sized ornament hangs from the wooden rafters about twenty feet above the ground.
A thin balcony overlooks the chapel floor some twenty feet below. Two rows of tall-backed wooden choir chairs dominate the southern reach of the balcony, which hugs the chapel's concave walls. The balcony falls away -- collapsed for a span of perhaps fifteen feet -- just on the other side of the choir area. To the east, rickety time-worn wooden rafters stretch across the whole chapel. A sort of nest comprised of a patchwork of random bits of cloth dangles from the southeastern portion of the rafters.
The entire area stinks of urine and filth. The area around the altar, which has been smeared with excrement, is littered with the torn out pages of The Birth of Light and Truth, the holy book of Sarenrae.
This covered walkway surrounds a open courtyard in the eastern part of the monastery. Two archways lead west to the nave, two lead north to the chapterhouse and shrine, and one leads south to the southern hallway. The walls of the cloister are covered with sweeping painted bas-relief sculptures depicting a number of scenes.
The north wall depicts five bearded, larger-than-life humans riding the wind, with triumph carved upon their faces. One of them appears to match the statues in the alcoves of the transept. Though some of their arms and hands are missing, each is clearly meant to wield a distinctive weapon. One of the five warriors holds a large axe, while another holds a fragment of what must once have been a regal staff. In the distance, a peaked mountain ominously looms over the quintet. An inscription above them reads, "Templars of the Five Winds." It appears that each of the templars once had its name inscribed near its image, but the words have been scratched out as if by axe blows. East of the wall decoration, two open arches lead into small rooms off the north wall.
The eastern wall bears a marred sculpture depicting the same five figures from the north mural in battle against numerous creatures of evil demeanor. Several of the creatures appear to be composed at least partly of fire, while others are much more difficult to define, being outright monsters of unknown origin or unusual warriors with weapons bonded into their flesh like organic tools. In the background a mountain looms large, and over it two titanic figures lock in a deadly wrestler's embrace: a horned man with a demonic visage, crowned with fire, and a gorgeous veiled woman, her lower body wreathed in swirls of cloud and wind.
The southern wall bears a bas-relief sculpture in the form of a triptych. In the first scene, the bearded man takes leave of his four similarly attired companions, who rise off into the heavens, leaving him to stand vigil over a mountain in the background. The next scene depicts the bearded figure in battle with a flaming half man, half snake creature wielding a spear. The fire spirit transfixes the bearded hero with the spear, seemingly striking a killing blow. In the final scene, the hero appears twice - once on the ground with a wound in his back and once standing over this form, looking down upon it sadly. A caption above the entire work, in ornate lettering, reads "Saint Vardishal of Uwaga, Guardian of the Mountain, Blessed in the Light of Sarenrae."
On the west wall, the heroic man with the pointed beard - presumably Saint Vardishal - preaches to a variety of human clerics from throughout the long history of the monastery. The first image depicts the figure manifesting in a spiritual manner to a small group of pilgrims of Sarenrae. Another shows the figure conversing with a man in religious finery while the monastery itself is being constructed in the background. Thereafter follows a procession of similar poses, each depicting a visit by the bearded man and the leader of each era of the temple. The depictions of these clerics often also bear an identifying inscription, complete with dates that span the last several hundred years. The most recent carving is from thirty years ago, and while ample room remains for additional carvings on the west wall, the last thirty feet or so are completely blank.
Huge branches and overgrown weeds clog the central open-air courtyard of the monastery’s cloister walk. In better times, the monastic priests would have contemplated the open space while circling the cloister, but today it is barely possible to see a few feet into the tangled mess, let alone all the way to the opposite cloister walk. About half the brush has been cleared away, revealing a huge nest in the center of the courtyard, with which you are all too familiar.
A small antechamber north of the courtyard leads to an austere octagonal chamber with a tall roof and an aerie of leering gargoyles perched atop each point where a wall meets another wall. An unholy stench of rotting meat, dried blood, and animal excrement hangs heavy in the air, no doubt from the fine crust of gore, animal carcasses, matted leaves, and guano covering the floor. The mercenaries are here, working to clean the disgusting contents out and use it as a sheltered place to sleep.
Shrine to Vardishal:
The brightly painted walls of this small chapel, probably meant for personal prayer and reflection, stand out as unusually garish for the otherwise reserved architecture notable elsewhere in the monastery. On the walls, numerous rectangular wooden plates traced in gold filigree depict St. Vardishal battling creatures of fire, riding a chariot on the wind, and engaging in other acts of noble heroism. It is the same figure depicted elsewhere in the monastery, but the sheer number of images here suggest that this shrine was especially important to the clerics who honored him as a saint of Sarenrae. Perhaps a quarter of the gold plates have been pried away or hacked apart by long-absent vandals.
Opposite the door, dominating a section of the north wall, stands a man-sized statue of the bearded warrior, its face marred by what look like numerous blows from an axe. The statue holds both hands in front of him, bent at the elbow, palms up, as if expecting an offering. Several deep rents from similar axe blows make it clear that someone tried to hack the arms from the statue decades ago, but was unable to do so.
Several pillows are arranged on the floor here, and there is a faint smell of incense. (Presumably, Valik will show you the secret door down to the catacombs from behind the statue.)
This large but plain interior hallway leads to the various chambers of the monastery’s southern wing. A weatherworn statue of Sarenrae stands in the middle of the hall.
This room has been mostly cleared of its original contents, and is now the personal quarters of Almah and Garavel. A guard stands outside the door. Sleeping areas are partitioned off with hanging silks, and the walls and floor are covered with fine tapestries and carpets. This is the room where your conference with Almah, Garavel, and Dashki took place. There are no books in evidence.
Five austere beds line the north wall of this humble office and living quarters. A dented metal chest rests at the foot of each bed, and a simple mosaic pattern of red and orange glass chips brings some color to the wall. A layer of grime and filth coats many of the surfaces in this small room, and the redolent stench of dirty fur hangs heavy in the air; however, a pair of Almah's guards, dressed in shining red chitin armor, are hard at work making the room habitable.
Beyond a doorless arch appears to is a large kitchen complete with walls lined in shelves and cupboards, a huge central table, and an enormous oven against the north wall. A bustling and talkative woman, who introduces herself as Hadrah and makes quite a fuss over Felliped, is busy preparing food and trying to restore order to the kitchen, with piles of broken crockery swept to one side of the floor waiting to be carried outside. She sends him along with a few handfuls of dried figs.
Three long wooden tables and dozens of chairs that once lined this mess hall are in shambles, mostly rotted away with the passage of years. Light shines through several large holes in the ceiling, illuminating a door on the east wall which leads to the dormitory.
Ten bunk beds in various stages of disrepair fill this chamber, which must once have been a dormitory for acolytes. The roof is mostly intact, and an open arch in the north wall leads to the southern hallway. The east wall bears a sturdy wooden door leading to the mess hall.
An open arch in the southeast corner of the room leads into what appears to be the remains of a tower, which has since partially collapsed. Fallen wooden stairs and platforms litter the floor. There is also a short stone staircase leading down to the heavy wooden door to the laboratory, which is partially covered with a layer of green and yellow mold, though some attempt has been made to scrape it off.
This chamber seems to be an enormous laboratory. Against the north and south walls are two identical daises raised about five feet from the laboratory floor, each accessed by a wide set of curved stairs. Atop each dais is a wide workbench covered in a bewildering series of glass beakers, tubes, alembics, athanors, and other alchemical tools. A massive basalt table dominates the entrance of the room, flanked by two small tables to the east and west containing surgical tools and sheaves of old parchment. The walls of the subterranean lab were clearly fashioned from the living rock under the monastery, but carefully cut tiles line the floor, interrupted occasionally by metal drains the size of dinner plates.
Father Zastoran is here, scrubbing away at the mold by the light of an oil lamp. There is a sharp scent of chemicals, which comes partially from the bucket at his feet, and partially from a fluid bubbling in the alchemical apparatus. He greets Felliped, inquiring after his health, and promises more infusions in the morning, gesturing proudly at the complex apparatus on the worktables.
The monastery's undercrypt is a series of ten-foot-wide rough-hewn passages dug in a double-cross formation. The main thoroughfare runs north to south, with two similar east- west passages crossing the main hall about fifty feet apart. An eerie silence pervades the cool subterranean funerary network, which must contain the bodies of scores -- if not hundreds -- of honored worshipers of Sarenrae in shallow niches carved into the walls of the east-west passages. Many of these skeletal remains have been roughly tossed from their niches, and countless bones and skulls line the floor; however, a large number of them have been recently put back into their niches. At the north end of the catacombs there is a narrow staircase leading up to the secret door in the shrine.
Felliped Knowledge results:
West Transept Alcove, and several of the cloister walls: Knowledge: geography: You recognize the mountain as Pale Mountain, the tallest mountain in the Brazen Peaks, visible on the northwest horizon from Kelmarane and the monastery.
East Transept Alcove: Knowledge: history: The god Aroden died in 4606 AR, 85 years before the stele was erected, and there have been no true divine servants of Aroden since. Whoever this Theodephus Estrovan was, he was not acting on divine inspiration.
East Cloister Wall: Knowledge: planes: You aren't sure what event is depicted in the image, but you are certain the beautiful veiled woman is a genie; in particular, a djinni, one of the inhabitants of the Plane of Air. Based on her raiment, this djinni seems to be of noble birth; she looks remarkably like an illustration you once came upon in a book of the exiled djinni princess Nefeshti. This was DC 29; you rolled a natural 20!
South Cloister Wall: Knowledge: planes: The fiery serpentine creature is a salamander, an evil creature hailing from the Plane of Fire.
Appraise Bowl DC 20: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
Appraise Symbol DC 20: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
Appraise Book DC 20: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9
High or low: 1d2 ⇒ 1
Judging by the details of the workmanship, both the bowl and holy symbol seem to be of fairly recent make, in the grand scheme of things; probably within the past hundred years. You would estimate the value of the bowl at around 75 gold dinars, and the holy symbol at around 25 gp.
The book seems to be an account of the different genie races, including information about notable individuals of each type. You are sure that it will come in handy if you ever need to know anything about genies. +4 to knowledge checks relating to genies if you spend 10 minutes to consult the book beforehand. Reading it thoroughly would take about a day. The book is old and in relatively poor condition; but still you estimate that it might be worth as much as 50 gp. Of course, your untrained Appraise bonus is only +4, so you are probably aware that you're not the best judge of such things...
Edit: If you want to take a look around the monastery, let me know how long you want to spend at it, and any standard procedures you want to follow, as far as detect magic, taking 10 vs. rolling on perception, etc.
I am assuming Valik and the other mercenaries will show Felliped all the loot they've gotten in the monastery, which by my records is:
+1 dagger (CL 3; Faint transmutation)
Knowledge (arcana) DC 16: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (7) + 10 = 17
Spellcraft DC 18: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
+1 mace (CL 3; Faint transmutation)
Phylactery of Faithfulness (CL 1; Faint divination)
Chime of Opening (CL 11; Moderate transmutation)
Potion of CMW (CL 3; Faint conjuration)
+1 Scimitar (CL 3; Faint transmutation)
wish (L9; Strong universal)
+1 Warhammer (CL 3; Faint transmutation)
Brooch of shielding (CL 1; Faint abjuration)
Ring of Feather Falling (CL 1; Faint transmutation)
Felliped, after Valik and the mercenaries show you their potentially magical items:
Valik's mace gives off a faint aura of magic, but you can't determine exactly what it is.
The tiny box of religious texts reveals a faint, clear blue aura of Divination to your mage sight. It is a Phylactery of Faithfulness, a minor magical item created by pious folk, which is meant to be worn around the head. With a moment's reflection, the wearer can know with clear certainty whether an action they are contemplating would be approved by their deity. This one seems to be devoted to Sarenrae.
Valik's gold brooch has a faint aura of Abjuration, like a protective green barrier. You identify it as a Brooch of Shielding, which protects against the magical force darts cast by wizards and their kind. It seems to be unused, with its full protective capacity remaining.
The chime radiates a more powerful, swirling orange aura you recognize as Transmutation. Though at first you took it to be silver, its light weight, hardness, and untarnished finish soon convince you that it is actually made of mithral. You believe it to be a chime of opening, which can be used to open any door, though it can only be used 10 times. By the strength of the aura, you estimate that it has already been used several times. 4 charges remain.
The silver bowl, book, and holy symbol are all nonmagical, but potentially valuable. The book, entitled Courts of Stone and Flame, of course catches your eye. You can try to appraise those, if you want, but those are hidden rolls too.
Dross's potion gives off a faint but warm purple glow of Conjuration. This, combined with its color and taste, leads you to conclude it is a moderately potent healing potion. Cure Moderate Wounds
The warhammer of the pugwampi king, now held by Asad, appears to be crafted to be used as a one-handed weapon for a gnome or halfling, so it's quite small for a human. It gives off a faint orange aura you recognize as belonging to the school of Transmutation. After further inspection, you determine that the head has been enchanted to make it feel heavier to the recipient of a blow, while lighter and easier to swing to whoever wields it. +1 small warhammer
Travis's dagger also bears an aura you identify as transmutation, granting it supernatural sharpness and the ability to find gaps in an opponent's armor. The bloodstain, though ominous, seems to be an ordinary bloodstain.+1 dagger
Travis's ring has a faint aura of Transmutation also; by the feathery pattern in the orange aura, and the engravings on the ring itself, you deduce that it is a Ring of Feather Falling, which prevents the wearer from being injured in falls, no matter the height.
When you first look at the scimitar, you are shocked by the strength of its aura, but you soon realize that the aura does not come from the weapon itself, but from a powerful spell which encompasses both it and Valik. You have never seen such an aura, and you cannot begin to identify the spell! Strong aura, school unknown
Beneath the spell's aura, and perhaps entwined with it, the blade does have its own aura; like the dagger, and hammer, it presents a nimbus of faint orange magic, indicating a Transmutation effect, but you cannot determine its exact properties. The scimitar's blade is engraved with a single word in a language you do not know; if it could be translated, it might give a clue as to the nature of the blade.
Felliped may also want to wander around and explore the monastery; I'll give you all the room descriptions and knowledge check results in another post.
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
The man approaches,removing his veils to reveal a timeless face, darkened by the sun and weathered by the wind, lined more from laughter than care. He has a neat, thin black mustache and a matching long pointed goatee with a bit of twist to it. His eyes glitter in the firelight as he accepts Ali's gift of salt and gracefully takes a seat in a swirl of robes.
"I am but a traveler, a lone wanderer. It has been long years since I have passed this way, but still I think I have the knack for avoiding gnolls." He smiles slyly. "And yes, I know many songs and tales, though not as many, I think, as the great Shazathared, who for many a long fiery night entertained the cruel Jhavhul al-Bazan, an efreeti warlord, known as the Merciless, with a new song each night, for he swore that if she failed, he would put her to death. One thousand nights and one night, some say she entertained him. Some say one thousand years and one year. Some say even longer. Some say she is still locked away, still telling tales to Jhavhul the Merciless... But I think not." As he speaks, his deep silky voice draws the three travelers in to the story, its pitch modulated just so, the words drawn out and sensuous, their rhythm carrying them along in its gentle yet insistent cadence, like a deep-flowing river. Truly, he is a rare storyteller! Yet at his last words, the flow halts, and his smile fades just a touch, but then he laughs, a deep infectious belly laugh.
"Listen to me ramble on! Tell me, my friend Ali, where did you come by that tale? Never before have I heard it told except among the Keepers of the Flame, and they do not part with their tales lightly!"
In the Shadow of a Watchtower, Night, 23 Desnus, 4711:
As Ali finishes his tale and prepares to rise, a sound of clapping surprises him. Out of the shadows at the edge of the campfire appears a tall man in desert robes in a variety of sandy hues, his head turbaned and his face masked in a cloth. His eyes seem to glow in the reflected firelight, like those of a cat. He carries no visible weapon, but a long-necked bandur is strapped across his back, and a skin dangles at his side.
"A fine tale, my friend," he says, his voice deep and rich, with an exotic but unplaceable accent, "And one known by few men these days, I think." He gives an elaborate bow, "My pardons for startling you, I was taking shelter for the night in the ruins, and I heard your tale-telling. Might I join you at your fireside?"
He's usually in Hawaii, and as I recall he travels around for military stuff, so it seems likely.
Speaking of which, where are you two located, Kybryn and Celeador? We're already almost as spread around the globe as we can be, but if one of you is in Europe, then we've got a genuine "sun never sets on the Legacy of Fire" group going here... I'm in US Central Time (Oklahoma).