An Ancient Evil

Game Master Celestial Healer

The kingdom of Leyland is in the midst of change. New technology and new social structures are taking the place of the old ways. In the midst of this, an ancient evil is awakening and threatening this prosperous nation. It falls upon a band of heroes to face this menace.

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Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

Trina is quiet for most of the trip back to Markshire, listening to Jeremiah's commentary but otherwise simply focusing on maintaining her position atop the precarious mount. She's quietly relieved when they finally arrive, and makes no hesitation of removing herself from the cat's burden.

She's about to respond to Jerry's inquiry regarding the horse when the lion suddenly lunges; at first she flinches back, arms raising in a defensive posture, while her tail instead coils up behind her, as if reaching for something on her belt. When instead of pouncing the beast simply knocks Jerry over, the combination of amusement at the scene and relieved adrenaline causes her to burst into laughter. This doesn't stop her from attempting to offer the downed man a hand up, but it does take her a few moments to recompose herself afterward, and she still is visibly somewhat shaken.

"That's quite fine," she manages through a few giggles. "Hopefully it will be a little less... err... well, nevermind. Yes, I'll take it back to the manor for you."

Once Jeremiah departs, Trina makes her way back to the inn, doing her best to cover back up en route. She tries to keep the visit short, though she doesn't expect to run into anyone except late-night barflies at this hour, and intends to head straight to her room, retrieve her remaining equipment, and head back to the place Jeremiah dropped her off - it's as good a meeting point as any, and he didn't specify any other before he left.

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

"Oh, no, I'm really not that interested in what Lady Rowena does or doesn't do. You're her father, after all. I'm sure she does as she's told. What interests me is what it reveals about your beliefs: that is, the phenomenon is occult, and too dangerous to risk your daughter, even with this hand-picked group. That is my concern."

Sylvia paces around the room a bit in thought. "I will need to prepare some elixirs first thing tomorrow, before we set off. I'm certain our elf there will be able to, you know, commune with the spirits of the wild or some such thing." Her hands wave in the air as her eyes seek the ceiling at the thought of communing with nature. "Maybe we'll learn enough from that to take focused action. Until then, the rest of us will have to rely on our wits and talents and be prepared for anything."

Jerry finds the tracks of the spooked pony readily enough. The beast is contentedly munching on a field of clover in an open pasture. It seems utterly unruffled by its earlier trauma.

Trina encounters only a chambermaid at the inn, who politely averts her eyes to avoid gawking at the unusual guest. Her belongings are where she left them.

To Sylvia, Lord Wallingham says, "I have seen strange things in my travels. Mysteries of ancient magic. Nothing has prepared me for what has transpired in my own lands. It is just a gut feeling, but I do not believe whatever is causing this is part of the natural order of the world. So yes, it is dangerous, and I understand completely if anyone here would rather go home."

46/46, AC 11

Jerry gets a bunch of grass and tries to reassure the horse to follow him. 'Should have brought a turnip.'

Cautiously he holds out a bunch of long stemmed grasses, for the pony to eat. Slowly he moves forward clucking in a reassuring voice; "What's your name Missy? Did you run away? I'm sure your Lady will be glad of a mount."

Handle Animal: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (20) + 8 = 28

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Sylvia gives Lord Wallingham a rather feral grin. "Oh no. I wouldn't miss this for the world. I'd even do it for free. No, wait, I wouldn't! I have fines to pay back in the city."

Bouncing on her toes with her hands behind her back, she reviews the companions who remain in the room. "I should go set up my lab and prepare for tomorrow, unless there's something else we all need to discuss?" She remains poised like an alarmed rabbit, ready to flee but afraid to miss something important.

The pony seems all too eager to follow the cavalier. It stands placidly, making it easy to gather the reins and lead the beast where you like.

At the manor, Lord Wallingham remarks, "I am glad to know that Leyland still produces heroes as of old. Thank you, my lady."

46/46, AC 11

Taking the horse by the bridle, he leads it back towards the where they entered the village. With natural ease he pats the horses flank reassuring her that it'll be fine. 'Best keep the philly away from Luce lest we have a repeat performance.'

He puts up a hand to hail Trina and motion her to him. For it'd be best if they not travel directly together, with Luce downwind of the skittish pony. Though the dim light should favour the lioness, even if it reduced the speed of travelling.

Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

Even in the dim light of night, Jeremiah would note two primary differences in the tiefling's burdens upon reuniting with her - the bundle of glittering chain under her arm that is quite clearly mithral, and the strap across her chest holding the glaive that now is strapped to her back so that it protrudes up over her right shoulder.

She returns his wave and follows, taking hold of the reins when offered. "Would you prefer to lead the way back or should I?"

46/46, AC 11

Jeremiah tests the air and feels that there's a cross breeze. The first clouds of autumn glide across the sky, waltzing across the cobalt sky sprinkled with pinpricks of starlight.

"May I lead? The pony will be less nervous if she isn't feeling chased and gives Luce less ideas...." he smiles lightly after passing over the reins.

"A fine weapon you have there, I'm afraid mine's cannot compare - just a simple lance." He nods to the pale shafted weapon placed in Luces' saddle. "Chain too? That's what I brought too; though hopefully I might be able to get something thicker - if it's flexible enough."

He helps the Tiefling mount up, then moves towards his lioness friend.

Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

She nods to his request to take the lead and accepts his aid in mounting, then nods to his second comment. "I had the good fortune of meeting a dwarven smith who had a helpful demeanor and mithral and silver to spare," she explains, smiling at the memories. "After whatever happens tomorrow, I can point you toward the village where our paths crossed, though it's been some time, so I cannot promise she'll still be there."

She waits patiently for him to mount back onto his own beast, then follows at a slow trot, allowing him a lead space as long as he desires, enjoying the cool of the summer night. Along the way, as long as the pony remains calm, Trina takes the time to scrub the newest layer of grime from her holy symbol, using her cloak since nothing else is at hand.

M Elf Druid 4 {AC 19, T 13, FF 17, HP 28/28}

Caladrel listens intently at the interchange between his new compatriots and Lord Wallingham. At the suggestion of backing out, he answers. "The forest is in danger, I will do all that is within my power to save it. I will be ready at first light to begin our search. In the meantime, I will take my leave."

Caladrel notes an undertone of resentment toward him from Sylvia but chooses not to comment on it at the moment.

46/46, AC 11

The knight rides comfortably back towards the manor, their pace abated. A languid and flowing manner of the trip shows how at ease the rangy man is upon his leonine friend. And Luce's temperament has improved since the ride to the village, though she's paying little attention to the pony.

Jerry looks back to Trina frequently a soft smile slides across his features, ensuring that they are alright. For he takes his responsibilities seriously and often feels responsible for much more than he should. However his is a reflection upon his towering ego and vanity, that he should help because he can.

Lord Wallingham and Lady Rowena take their leave and the household settles down for the night. Such is the state of things when Trina and Jerry return from their errands.

The rooms are comfortable, with fine feather beads and quality linens. The cool air of the late summer night lends a crispness to the darkness. As the sun rises, its rays glisten upon the morning dew.

In the morning, Longworth is attending to a hearty spread in the breakfast room.

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F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Sylvia descends to the main floor from out of a haze of fumes in the upstairs bedroom hallway. She is dressed in a soft shirt and trousers today, crossed bandoleers filled with vials draped from her shoulders. A cap covers her hair and ears, with goggles resting above the visor. She sniffs appreciatively, following her nose to the breakfast room and tossing her heavy leather coat onto a chair.

"Good morning, Longbottom," she says politely, helping herself to a plate. "Do we, uh, serve ourselves? It looks delicious!" Her eyes glisten at the sight of piles of ham slices, mounds of eggs, and bastions of breadstuffs.

A horrid noise from outside makes her wince guiltily. "Excuse me." Dashing outside, she trots to the barn where Chanticleer the mule has climbed atop a pile of hay bales and is braying lustily at the rising sun.

"You stupid mule! You're not a rooster anymore!" Sylvia screams at the beast, clambering up the pile of bales to grab at its bridle, "Come down from there!" She manages to get a grip on the headgear but the mule continues to bray loudly, shaking its head and pulling back stubbornly.

Why I thought changing a rooster to a mule would be an excellent bargain is beyond me. She hazily notices that the pony is contentedly grazing in the nearby pasture, far away from the lioness, as she continues to tug futilely at the noisy creature.

46/46, AC 11

Having not quite got enough sleep after the previous nights' escapades, he is still slightly bleary-eyed as he trots down stairs. Glancing at Sylvia as she rushes past and outside; 'She looks as good in jodhpurs as she does a dress, I'm sure she'll be an asset to our mission.'

Mussing his hair and keeping it out of his eyes he enters the dining room. The smell of the food unconsciously causes him to smack his lips; 'Oh, hope Luce is fine with the hock in the backpack.'

He pauses and looks around the room; "So we eat up, maybe make some sandwiches out of leftovers for a picnic? Then set off for the wood?"

M Elf Druid 4 {AC 19, T 13, FF 17, HP 28/28}

Caladrel completes his morning meditation and heads back to the main house. He comes across Sylvia struggling with the braying mule.

He moves toward the pair to assist. "What odd behavior in such a beast of burden," observes Caladrel out loud. "Let me try to assist." He begins murmuring to the beast in a strange language.

wild empathy: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12

However, the mule seems unmoved by his words.

Looking puzzled, Caladrel takes a step back says to Sylvia, "This mule, seems very un-mule like. I can't put my finger on what is wrong however."

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Sylvia plops down on a hay bale, straw sticking out of her hair and grimaces at the next outburst of HAW-HEE-HAW-HEE-HAWWWWW!. "Thanks for trying to help. As for the mule, well... he's kind of special. Oh, hey. One second." She springs up and dashes for the barnyard where she manages to corral a nut-brown hen. Carrying the squawking, flapping bird back to the hay stack, she shows it to the mule.

Instantly, the mule swells up, mane and ears standing on end as he rises stiffly and struts along the top of the hay, then makes his way towards Sylvia and the hen, almost prancing as he descends. Sylvia tosses the hen in the air and it flaps away, returning to its feed. Chanticleer follows, rearing and beating the air with his forelegs before strutting away, scraping at the dirt of the courtyard with one hoof and dotting his nose to the ground in search of something.

"Yes, well. That's fixed. He should be quiet and the hen can get away if he gets too romantic." Sylvia shoots Caladrel a guilty look. "He's odd, that's all. Hen fixation. Shouldn't have happened really. Never did figure out how I botched the formula - if I did. Never tried it again. Last thing we need is a flock of mules running around crowing at the sunrise, right?" She tries a smile on the stately and rather intimidating elven druid.

Lord Wallingham, Lady Rowena, and Lady Philomena arrive at breakfast at a comfortable hour and help themselves from the sideboard. Lord Wallingham explains that Lady Wallingham has taken her breakfast in bed.

"Certainly," Lady Rowena says to Jerry, "Longworth can see to it you have provisions for the expedition. We would not let you go empty-handed."

46/46, AC 11

"Oh thank you, your hospitality is most gracious." he says with a smile and sparkle in his eye. "Good to see you up and about. Just a pity we'll have to leave so soon. Though once we return from sorting out the trouble in the woods, we should do something."

He radiates a calm atmosphere, of confident ease and assurance. Eating lightly of his breakfast, he looks to the others. "So are you riding? Or shall we enjoy a morning constitutional, through out hosts magnificent bridleways."

Male Human Rogue 4 (HP 23)

Rhodes rubs sleep-sand from his eyes, "What was in that tea? I swear I passed out during our talk."

Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

After seeing to the proper return of Sylvia's pony to Lord Wallingham's stable-boys the night before, Trina quickly retired to her room and slept... well, as well as she ever does. The same bizarre figments and half-familiar nightmares that have plagued her slumber all her life are there to greet her, and gone by morning. She wakes, sees to her morning prayers and devotions, bathes, and dresses, this time in clothing suited to the journey ahead, minus only her armor - she'll save that chore for just before departure.

By the time she emerges, at least, she's refreshed and awake, if a bit behind the rest of the group. Everyone else is either seated or serving when she arrives, except the dwarven gentleman, who doesn't seem to have arrived yet. The alchemist and the elven man just stormed outside, and there's some kind of infernal bellowing going on that they must be going to look into; between them and the groundskeepers, Trina figures they have it handled and turns her attention to appeasing her grumbling stomach.

Like the night before she is quiet, studious, and attentive during breakfast, speaking little but listening to everything.

M Elf Druid 4 {AC 19, T 13, FF 17, HP 28/28}

"Curious," remarks Caladrel. He chooses not to pursue the matter further.

Caladrel tries to adjust his tone to be a little friendlier. "Well, Sylvia, if you will permit me to address you that way, your mule seems to be under control. Shall we adjourn to breakfast?"

He accompanies Sylvia back into the house, even offering to open the door for her. He silently thanks Adwanal for the brief lesson in civility she gave him just before he departed on this journey.

He heads to the breakfast room, prepares a plate for himself, and then seats himself at the table.

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

"Heh. Yes. Isn't it?" Sylvia feels like a schoolgirl caught out at a prank. Stop being silly. Those elf nature guys change shape all the time. This is nothing to him. Stiffly, she accompanies Caladrel to the manor, drawing back as they both reach for the doorknob, and standing hesitant for a moment as he holds the door. With a smile and nod, she enters, dawdling through the halls to the breakfast room.

"It's all fine. Everything is fine. How are you?" She fixes herself a plate and plunks down into the chair on which she dropped her coat.

46/46, AC 11

"Well, old chap." Jerry says addressing Rhodes; "Full of vim and vigour after the kip? We'll get off in a bit, you have a horse? I do have a pack of cards for entertainment." he adds with a sip of his morning orange juice.

Male Human Rogue 4 (HP 23)

"Kip? What?" He looks at Jeremiah puzzled, "We must be from different provinces."

46/46, AC 11

"Kip, a nap, a visit from Morpheus." he nods, realising that his colloquialisms seem to be not in vast usage.

"Good kippers though." He spikes a fish fillet and places it on his plate, with a slice of lemon and a dash of salt.

Male Human Rogue 4 (HP 23)

"Now I know for a fact we're from different provinces," Rhodes aims for a breakfast pastry instead.

46/46, AC 11

For a second Jerry wonders if Sir Rhomaino is calling him provincial, then his ego kicks in. "Fair do's, old chap. Got to ensure we're all fuelled up."

He looks across to Sylvia; "I found your pony, apologies for Luce scaring her. She's got a nice temperament, should be a nice journey."

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Sylvia regards Jerry blankly for a moment then nods. "Oh, right. The pony. Yes, I saw it outside. Thanks, I guess." She takes two bites of each item on her plate, then pushes it away with a sigh of contentment.

"Well, I'm ready anytime you are, people. Guess I'll go saddle up ol' whatsername. Is everybody riding? Oh, and my lab is set up in my bedroom. I'm leaving it there until we get back. The portable one will fit fine on the pony thing, along with my pack. The mule can stay here and rest, unless you guys want to use him to carry your stuff, too. I don't mind. He might. But I don't care. That's his job, right?"

46/46, AC 11

With a nod at the practicality of the elven lady, even if she seems like she could be a touch on the brusque side. His gaze slips around the table; "Well, I wouldn't put it quite so? But I'll be able to load some upon young Lucy, though she prefers a sprint over a long slog."

"Do we need to know more about the forest do you think?" Jerry asks, trying to ensure that they have not forgotten anything.

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Sylvia's brows nearly meet as she thinks. "What's to know? It's trees, right? Um, but... perhaps, uh, Mister Caladrel knows more." The possibility that woods might be more than a simple clump of trees has obviously not occurred to the urban elf.

M Elf Druid 4 {AC 19, T 13, FF 17, HP 28/28}

"I do not own a horse," says Caladrel. "I can fly for about 4 hours. The other 4 hours I will need to walk or share a mount. I suggest I wait until we get closer to the forest before I fly. If I find an eagle along the way, I can try to speak with it to gather some intelligence."

I am unfamiliar with this particular set of woods, but I will adjust quickly," answers Caladrel to Sylvia's query. "I am ready to proceed when everyone else has prepared."

Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

"Nor I," Trina adds. "Not now. Walking as well, it seems."

46/46, AC 11

"Yes, a lovely ramble across our hosts' land will be good. Luce won't mind me walking." he says jovially not wanting to put too much of a burden upon his friend though knowing she doesn't mind.

Jerry concludes; "As was said in University; I'm always ready."

"If you wish to ride, we can lend the use of a few horses," Lord Wallingham offers.

"There is a farm near the edge of the wood. The Smythes work that land. It was their boy who..." he trails off, rather than recounting the event again. "They may be able to tell you more about that immediate area."

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

"Well, then. That solves all the problems, doesn't it? Thank you for the last breakfast, Lord Wallingham. I'm going to go grab a few things and get my noble steeds packed and saddled. Back in a few." Striding from the room, she ascends the stairs and grabs her pack and portable lab, then heads for the stables to load up Chanticleer and the nameless pony, who is none too happy to see her.

46/46, AC 11

"That's mighty fine of you, Wallingham. Smythes' they know the area? Know the streams and rivers that run through the forest?" Jerry takes a small sip of his orange juice, trying to figure out if there is any more knowledge that can be gleaned here before they move out.

Male Human Rogue 4 (HP 23)

Rhodes continues to stuff his face with pastries, "Well, they've got to know the area better than we." He doesn't seem too terribly interested in riding, "I hope your current horses are nicer than the pair I won off of you, Wallingham. Just wish I hadn't lost them in the next card game to that large fellow with the rosey nose."

Lord Wallingham glowers as Rhodes recounts his gambling losses in the presence of his daughters (who seem relatively amused). "Well then," he says, reverting to the original subject, "yes, the Smythes should know the land."

Once you are ready, horses are saddled up for your journey and you congregate before the grand entrance. "Be careful out there," he says. "Whatever is causing this effect is dangerous. Your services are invaluable."

46/46, AC 11

At Rhomaino's quip, Jerry raises an eyebrow to the Lady Rowena - though he himself rarely gambled for money, he does enjoy the odd game of chance.

Jerry takes his time and ensures that everything is safely packed in his saddlebags. That they are safely loaded upon Luce, who has her chain linked armour draped over a protective azure cloak - she looks to the other companions and Lord Wallingham with a knowing look.

Jerry bows to the Lady's and Lord Wallingham as he swings into his saddle in one fluid movement. He looks to the sky: "Nice day for it?" he adds hoping that the weather will hold.

Male Dwarf Gunslinger 4

'If it's all the same to the lot of you, I'd prefer to walk. Horses and I don't get along too well. I do agree with Jerry, though. The weather is quite lovely." Smitty inspects his warhammer musket and his pistol one last time to ensure they are in good working order.

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

"I bet you get along better with them than Roberts' lion does." Sylvia directs the pony to the opposite side of Chanticleer from Luce. "You can put luggage on the mule if you want, Smitty. He doesn't mind. Are we ready to go? We're burning daylight!" Her enthusiastic declaration is rather spoiled when the pony reaches back and nips her on the ankle.

46/46, AC 11

"I'll range a bit forward then? Stop the horses from fretting." he replies patting the thick neck of the lioness. Then he drifts off forward to take point, with a look towards Caladrel as the only one who seems comfortable mounted.

Male Dwarf Gunslinger 4

"Thank you, kindly, lass." Smitty prepares to place his bags on the pony when he sees the pony bite Sylvia. "Erm, the pony doesn't seem too friendly to anyone, though."

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

"The mule is fine though, Smitty." And indeed, the mule is nuzzling through Smitty's hair and beard in an overly-friendly manner.

Sylvia has a nameless pony she rides and a mule named Chanticleer for the luggage.

You say your farewells and set off across the countryside, in the direction indicated by Lord Wallingham. He has provided you with suitable documents for investigative authority.

The weather is fair and seems well-suited to the pastoral scene around you. The tidy fields and pastures are well cared-for, and the windows of the cozy cottages stand open to allow the fresh air inside. The occasional farmer gives a leery eye to this odd assortment of travelers, but you are not hindered.

The farms grow further apart as you travel, and the crops take on a scraggly appearance as you get closer to the Smythe farm. By the time you reach the spot, the surrounding fields are blanketed with blighted crops, drained of color and seemingly putrefying right where they sit in the ground. The cottage is eerily quiet.

Male Dwarf Gunslinger 4

"So you did say the mule, lass." Smitty blushes as he backs away from the pony. "Mules are much more noble than their more popular counterparts, in my not-so-considered opinion. I must admit, though, they are certainly less...interesting than a domesticated great cat."

46/46, AC 11

"She's not quite domesticated!" Jerry says having noted that Luce has become more skittish as they have ridden towards the desolation. Ears twitching and her nostrils flaring slightly she can sense the 'wrongness' of the place.

'It's not really fair to domestic a wild animal, she's my friend not my pet.' he thinks.

F Elf Alchemist 4 {Init +3; Perception +8 (llv); HP 25/35}

Syliva's nose wrinkles at the desolation. "It smells here. How could those Smythes stand to keep living here?"

From atop the pony, she scrutinizes the area carefully, rather unwilling to set foot on the ground.

Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26

Female Tiefling (Motherless) Inquisitor [Sin Eater, Preacher] 4 [HP: 25/28] [AC: 16 | T: 11 | FF: 15]

Trina walks as well, since Smitty declined the offer of a horse, and she doesn't have enough equipment to feel the need for a pack animal. It's a miracle the pony got along with her last night like it did, though perhaps given the choice between her and Luce it made sense.

When she emerges from the manor, her clothing has changed entirely - the strong dwarf-forged mithral chain over leather armor and leggings replacing the simple homespun dress, and with her silver glaive resting on her shoulder; the tendrils occasionally rise out of her hair and grab onto the weapon before letting go and falling limp again. A pistol hangs on one hip along with a few glass bottles and a bag of shot and powder. Her holy symbol, once again freshly shined, still hangs over her chest, but the silver stands out somewhat less from the mithral than it did against the brown dress. Likewise she still carries her medical bag over her free shoulder. In the hand not occupied with holding the glaive she still makes use of her cane.

Trina scowls slightly when they arrive at the Smythe cottage, looking around at the ruin and the eerie silence. "If they are here at all," she adds, glancing Sylvia's way. "It's too quiet. I don't like it."

Perception 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (12) + 10 = 22

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