"Behold!" cries a sandy-haired man to no-one in particular. Of average height, he also appears average in more or less every way. "For I, the Instrument of Aroden, have arrived!"
The reputable merchant and ally of the Society Aya Allahe paces one of the back rooms of Sharrowsmith’s Exports, a walled trade compound on the northern edge of Nantambu in the Mwangi Expanse. Through the window, afternoon sunlight shines through a set of the colored glass chimes for which the city is well known, spreading both light and a gentle music into the room. “I wish I had more to offer,” Allahe apologizes before even presenting what information she has, her hands spread before her in a gesture of frustration, in contrast to the serene chimes playing in the breeze.
“Where to begin…? Nieford Sharrowsmith never truly retired from being a Pathfinder, even after he started this business. I think, in his mind, he was still the young adventurer that hiked through jungles and fought off troglodyte tribes. Sharrowsmith’s attitude changed over the last few months—I think he was concerned for his legacy and how history would remember him. Would it be for his discoveries or for the export business that dominated his later years? The answer, I fear, was unpalatable.”
“It was no surprise when he packed up and left on an expedition. But that was months ago,” she continues, worry clear in her tone, ”and neither the Society nor I have heard from him since. Sharrowsmith has never left for this long without leaving some word as to his status or sending rather demanding missives about business decisions while he was waist-deep in some jungle bog. When my own contacts failed to turn up any useful information, I had no recourse but to go through his private notes.” Allahe motions to the mess of documents scattered about the office.
“What caught my eye was this translated rubbing. It appears to be the most recent piece of a very large puzzle Sharrowsmith was researching and indicated that he may be somewhere in the Bandu Hills. Traders from Fort Bandu have confirmed that he paid the garrison a visit, but that’s where my trail ran cold.”
She pauses, a quiet anger entering her voice, ”Something happened out there, and Praetor Sylien—Fort Bandu’s commander—refuses to correspond with me on the matter despite knowing how close Nieford and I are. All I received in response was that Nieford had ‘done enough damage for one lifetime,’ and that if I wanted to discuss the matter further I would need to go to Fort Bandu in person.” Exasperatedly, Allahe runs a hand across her forehead and turns her distant stare out the window. “I cannot shutter the business and travel hundreds of miles on the off chance that the praetor can help; the company would fall apart. I’m hoping that you will be able to go in my stead, speak with the praetor personally to learn what has befallen Sharrowsmith and help him return.”
Making a visible effort to calm herself, Aya continues, ”I will answer whatever questions I can. In addition, there are enough traders here in Nantambu that you should be able to outfit yourself with anything you need before setting off.”
Thanks to the rocky terrain and bright sun, the daytime temperature of the Bandu Hills can sometimes reaches lethal extremes. Fort Bandu is the only major settlement for miles, and serves to protect the prospectors in the region.
Regional threats include the often-hostile Bandu tribes, ghouls and groups of kobolds, goblins, and hobgoblins. One of the highest points in the Bandu Hills is Mount Nakyuk, famed for the veins of gold found under it several centuries ago.
Stories of ghoul activity in the Bandu Hills also include confused accounts of ghoul-like creatures that scholars call festrogs—horrific flesh-eating undead that walk upright but run on all fours.
Members of the Exchange faction have sufficient access and exposure to trade documents that they get a +2 circumstance bonus on the check below and can attempt it untrained.
The Bandu Hills remain rich in gold, silver, and gems, despite several centuries of colonial mining. Prospectors arrive from throughout the Inner Sea region to seek their fortune. The local Mwangi tribes often retaliate violently.
Most of the larger mining operations belong to the Deeptreasure Mining Company, which has dominated the local industry for nearly three centuries. Their one-time competitors, the Gold Crown Company, are now better known for shipping and export services.
Deeptreasure agents are always on the lookout for independent miners, whom they bully away from promising claims. A Deeptreasure representative in Fort Bandu is offering a bounty for information regarding any promising unoccupied (or ill-defended) mines.
Geography: 1d20 ⇒ 3
Local: 1d20 ⇒ 2
"Sure thang. I spose we can do this." Wayne himself stands at about 6 feet tall, wearing a fairly dirty leather duster along with a wide brimmed hat. He also has a pistol holstered at his hip, engraved with an 'S'. He has a permanent 5 o-clock shadow on his face along with dark brown eyes.
Local: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
"The Society is happy to help in recovering your companion wherever he's become lost", rumbles an enormous brawny clay-skinned half-orc clad in heavy blue-trimmed bone white armor. Strapped to the orc's back is an similarly painted slab of iron and wood that could be a shield or maybe just a door that hasn't been hung yet. In stark contrast to the towering specimen it's riding, a tiny armadillo comically clings to one thickly armored pauldron. "You have my oath that everything in our power will be done to bring Nieford Sharrowsmith home."
"It's clear this Praetor was no friend to Sharrowsmith. Under whose authority does he command the fort? Should we keep our identities as pathfinders hidden while we're there?"
"Indeed - the response you received is troubling. What kind of damage could he have caused I wonder?" the cleric of Cayden Cailean muses with a small smile. "Was Nieford prone to causing trouble - I mean other than the sort that seems to follow all society members around..."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
The young cleric - Blayne you think he said his name was - has a friendly demeanor that seems to take any sense of judgement out of the question as he looks to Aya for an answer.
Knowledge (Geo) Untrained: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 4 = 22 10 max
Knowledge (Local) Untrained: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13 10 max
"The Bandu Hills are a mining region, I understand. Quite dangerous, from the heat and the locals," the sandy-haired man contributes. "Aroden shall lead us to your friend."
Can't see the linked rubbing for some reason. My internet's been having issues so it may be on my end. It was on my end.
He points at the rubbing. "Do you know of this mountain? Nakyuk?"
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 6 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 6 + 2 = 19
Arriving fashionably late to the briefing is a man of indistinct ethnicity. His features are a melange of much of the inner sea, Casmaroon, and Tien Xia. His speech is equally hard to place. He is quick to smile, and questions about his origin seems to melt away when he does. Still, there's something off about his features. His clothes and leathers are the cutting edge of fashion in Cheliax. (If asked, he uses the same tailor as the famous yojimbo as Rodovan.) His rapier hangs comfortably, as do a pair of daggers placed strategically. He also wears a bandoleer that clashes with his otherwise court-like dress. Its vials and bottles crisscross over his chest, though they're carefully placed to ensure they do not clink.
He's not human at all, but kitsune.
"It can be murderously hot where we're headed. Ought we to travel at night? I'd love to get my hands on a wand of Endure Elements, but I cashed in my ...social collateral with the requisition woman at the Grand Lodge. It's best if I don't call in any more favors until I manage to do something of note." Torriki winks at Aya. "As for our erstwhile Venture-Captain. Do we suspect foul play from the Deeptreasure Mining Company?"
Allahe considers the various questions in turn, sometimes expanding on her answer in her earnest desire to see the Pathfinders succeed. “Sylien serves the Barony of Sargava, as the fort guards its border. I know him only by reputation. The grandson of an old elven explorer, he’s served the garrison for decades, though I hear he’s mostly retired now. My business associates say he is a fair and very pragmatic man, one who respects hard facts and truth. His being dismissive of my request sounds uncharacteristic. Take from that what you will.”
”I would not say Nieford was prone to causing trouble, any more than any Patfinder – and less than most, given that he had really settled down as a businessman in recent years. But he might have had enemies, as I imagine every Pathfinder does, though, he didn’t discuss them openly with me. Sharrowsmith never seemed paranoid or overly concerned about vendettas in his business dealings and never double-crossed anyone to my knowledge. But I cannot help but wonder: how many enemies does your Society have?”
Aya’s eyes follow the Instrument’s gesture, studying the rubbing a moment before she replies, ”I know nothing of the mountain named here. All I can tell you is that Sharrowsmith’s notes say the rubbing was made by miners in the Bandu Hills over sixty years ago, and the rubbing found its way to him through auctions he frequented. Whatever he read there, it lit a fire under him.”
”As your friend here says,” she adds, gesturing at Torriki, ”The Bandu Hills is a dangerous place. This is true of much of the Expanse, but the Bandu Hills have a dozen ways to kill before accounting for living creatures: heat, dehydration, landslides, poisonous plants, carnivorous plants, and so on. Unfortunately, the place is ripe with riches like diamonds, gold, and silver—an embarrassment of wealth that only attracts more dangerous occupants. I am surprised that Sharrowsmith didn’t settle down there, to be honest. As for the Deeptreasure Company, I’m afraid I don’t know one way or the other whether to suspect them of anything.”
”If there is nothing more I can tell you, I encourage you to take care of whatever provisioning you might need to do promptly, and set out to find your fellow Pathfinder. As I have no idea what has befallen him, I believe time is of the essence!”
Anyone have any shopping they want to do? I’ll get another post up later, if I post before you get your purchases done, just let me know what you wanted to get retroactively.
Okay, we'll wait a bit and see if anyone wants to pony up for a wand or scrolls or otherwise provide it. It doesn't look like we have a party rich in Survival bonuses, so I wouldn't count on that. The heat won't be a factor right away, so we can start travelling even if it's not completely resolved
Blayne has the ability to cast endure elements on a few people but not the whole party. Blayne also has +3 Survival and a wayfinder - so +5 to avoid getting lost.
"How long will the journey to this fort be and are their villages and water supplies along the way? "
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"Hmph. I shall discover the truth, for Aroden and the Society," the Taldan declares. As an afterthought, he copies down the rubbing's text in his journal. "I am needed at the market for a moment, then I am ready to depart." Without another word, he leaves.
I can cover myself only. Very short of spells. Still working on purchases; will have it done by tomorrow.
With the necessary supplies purchased, the Pathfinders begin their journey south. It is not an easy route, but there is enough traffic to and from the resource-rich lands that there is no need for bushwhacking or routefinding. The journey begins with relatively comfortable travel by boat down the Vanji River, then switches to paddling canoes up the Little Vanji and Dzimmi Rivers. Finally, the canoes are beached and the trail winds through some of the lower Bandu Hills and cuts through a pass to Fort Bandu.
On arrival, Bastion’s martial eye makes out the important elements of the fort. It is a small frontier settlement surrounded by high stone walls, located on the northern edge of Sargava. Entering the fort, one can see that within the fort’s walls, dozens of mining companies maintain outposts, operating out of pavilion tents, hiring laborers and purchasing necessary supplies brought in by merchants from the north, south, and west. Bastion estimates that the fort likely holds a garrison of about 150 soldiers, there to maintain a balance of defense of the frontier and protection for the miners and traders within its walls.
Looking more closely at the people doing business in Fort Bandu, the atmosphere is noticeably tense. Cold stares and accusing looks greet anyone openly identifiable as a Pathfinder. Merchants refuse to open their stalls and can be heard muttering, laying the blame on the Pathfinder Society for the “troubles of late.”
A member of the garrison approaches to intervene before things get ugly with a particularly ornery vender of monogrammed mining picks. Once he ascertains the group’s business, the soldier escorts the newcomers to the praetor’s office, a modest and utilitarian space comprised of several tables and a handful of half-stocked bookshelves. A war table featuring a map of the Bandu Hills region sits prominently in the center of the room, and three tall windows nearby let in a great deal of natural light.
Praetor Sylien is in mid-conversation with a lanky Garundi man in fine attire. The gray in Sylien’s once-black hair belies the passing of his youth and the creases in his sun-beaten face tell a story of a lifetime of hard work and little rest. He carries himself with the pride and stature of a man half his age. At the interruption, the conversation stops abruptly, and the praetor’s guest disdainful glares at the latest arrivals. “Pathfinders. I shouldn’t be surprised. Only your organization would have the gall to so brazenly show its face when you’ve already caused so much damage.” The man’s poise and posture speak of nobility, and a it’s not hard to discern a Chelish accent and speech mannerisms. As he speaks, he gestures with an ebony cane topped with a black, serpentine dragon coiled into a figure eight.
“Pathfinders,” the praetor’s voice lacks the contempt of his guest, as if trying to subtly apologize for his tone. “This is Amersanus Valacosti of the Aspis Consortium. We’ve been discussing the troubles Fort Bandu has faced of late—troubles caused by your organization. I was unwilling to disclose the details to Mistress Allahe by courier, but now that you have arrived, I feel it pertinent to explain the nature of Fort Bandu’s… misgivings. Venture-Captain Sharrowsmith came through here some months ago, gathering supplies and information before setting off on an expedition into the hills. There, he roused the local kobold tribes and angered them enough that they now actively raid our settlements and mining operations.”
“Valacosti and I were discussing how the Aspis Consortium may be able to help repair the damage your Society has inflicted on the people of Fort Bandu. Now that you’re here, perhaps we can have a more balanced mediation. Your Pathfinder Society has a damaged reputation in the Bandu Hills, so I ask you state your business and why you think I should allow you to even so much as stay within the fort’s walls. What knowledge do you have of this land and its people that could prevent this situation from deteriorating further? I will only entertain questions regarding Sharrowsmith once I’m assured that providing you information will not further endanger my charges.”
Okay, now we begin a series of Skills Challenges! This first one involves the Pathfinders making a case for their presence in Fort Bandu, establishing the reason for their arrival, what they hope to accomplish, and whether they’re sufficiently knowledgeable about the neighboring wilderness. One PC may attempt a DC 15 Knowledge (geography, local, or nature) or Survival check to demonstrate the group’s familiarity with the area.
"I understand completely your reticence sir. Be it known we have an understanding of the complexity of the social and political tensions that make up the tangled net here. A large part of what we're looking to do here is fixing the ripples of what our Society did. Ask me specifics." Torriki smiles genuinely. Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Valacosti grows increasingly incensed as the Pathfinders explain their case. “ …An understanding of the complexity of the social and political tensions…hah! Sharrowsmith professed an intimate understanding of the region and its delicate balance of power as well, and behold the results: dozens dead, dozens more missing, kobolds attacking our mining operations, and people living in fear of the next raid. Praetor, with all due respect, you cannot allow these Pathfinders to exacerbate an already delicate situation.”
The praetor remains patient. “Amersanus makes a good point. Sharrowsmith was a well-read and knowledgeable man, yet he disappeared in these jungles and caused damage we’re only beginning to feel the impact of thanks to the local kobold tribes. How is your expedition different? Do you have the necessary strength to survive in this environment where so many others cannot? Show me that those weapons and spellbooks you carry are not just for show.”
Now is a chance to display your combat prowess, be that through an artful flourish of a sword or a careful display of arcane power. One PC should attempt a caster level check, combat maneuver check, or Spellcraft check to display some of the magical or martial prowess the group possesses. Points awarded for creativity!
"Alright partner." Wayne quickly draws his gun, twirling it around before shooting a fly in mid-air. CMB/Attack Roll?: 1d20 ⇒ 16
If it's a CMB, that's 20 total. If it's an attack roll, that's 22.
"Was that fer show?"
Another success! Not waiting for others, as I’m not sure how they’d aid Ol’ Wayne – and we’ll wrap up the skills challenge that much sooner.
“Is this supposed to make an impression?” Valacosti is quick to dismiss the display of marksmanship. “If you think this situation can be solved at the point of a sword or by brandishing some hedge wizardry – or by that hand-cannon - you’re as ignorant as your predecessor. Sylien, these Pathfinders will rush headlong into the jungle and slaughter the kobold tribe, creating a power vacuum among the other tribes and only worsen this disaster.”
Again, the praetor tries to remain impartial, though it is clear his patience is waning. “Once more I find myself seeing reason in Valacosti’s words. Strength of arms is all well and good, but this is a situation that also requires a certain amount of finesse. How do I know I can trust you to handle this situation with a level head and a delicate touch when necessary?”
For the last display of prowess, the Pathfinders should show how they can use subtlety, subterfuge, or historical context (such as understanding the nature of colonist-Mwangi conflict in Sargava) to their advantage by discussing their skills or artfully dismissing the praetor’s concerns. One PC may attempt a DC 16 Bluff, Diplomacy, Knowledge (history), or Sleight of Hand check.
Torriki walks over nonchalantly to the rather obnoxious "gentleman." "subtlety?" He smiles, "oh we can do subtle, by the way, you dropped this..."
Torriki makes a smile as he hands the man something on his person that Torriki could lift. Sleight of Hand : 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (17) + 8 = 25
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Diplomacy: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12 aid Bastions diplomacy check.
"And if Pathfinders have caused issues in these Hills, then there is a symmetry in affording us an opportunity to make amends. Please tell us more of what has happened so that we can demonstrate some of the wisdom and subtlety you have examined us for. "
-Posted with Wayfinder
Okay, I decided to pick up a wand of endure elements after all for 2 PP. I'd rather have more spells at my disposal. I also purchased 697gp of gear:
"Indeed, the Pathfinder Society has itself made alliances readily with kobold tribes, even hostile ones -- such as the Sewer Dragons of Absalom," chirps the Taldan.
Yet another success!
Visibly frustrated, Valacosti appeals one last time to Sylien. "Praetor, I implore you, send these Pathfinders back where they came from. This is neither the place nor the time for their presence. For the sake of the people of Fort Bandu, do not let them worsen this situation."
With reluctance, the praetor acknowledges the Pathfinders with a slow nod. Then, after a brief glance to Valacosti, he appears ready to make his decision.
Now you must make a Diplomacy check (last one in this little skills party), to make a final case for Praetor Sylien to allow you to proceed with your mission, rather than sending you away, as the Aspis would wish. For each of the three successful checks you've made, you get +2 to this Diplomacy check, for a total of +6.
Anyone who wants to pile on with an Aid Another is welcome!
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
"Praetor, none of us wish I'll on your community or indeed anyone in these Hills. Please allow us to attempt to right whatever wrongs one of our society has caused. If after understanding the situation fully we don't feel that we can improve matters, we will desist, but I am confident in our ability to help. Please let us. "
My 22 with the previously mentioned +6 is a 28 on the Diplomacy check.
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Moar success! You even got the extra success sauce.
Sylien listens to Blayne’s points with very little expression on his face, though he does give a bit of side-eye to both the Instrument and Wayne when they interrupt. Finally, with a reserved sigh, the praetor relents. “As the Pathfinders are responsible for getting us into this mess, I see it fitting that we give them the chance to remedy the situation. I’m putting my faith in you, and putting the lives of the people of Fort Bandu in your hands. I pray that you don’t betray that trust, for the consequences could be quite dire for all who call this home.”
“Most unfortunate,” Valacosti observes with disappointment that gives way to menacing resolve. “I believe you are making a grave mistake by placing any faith in these glorified tomb robbers, praetor. Once they fail, remember that the Aspis Consortium has extended a generous offer of aid in this troubling time. One can only hope that this Pathfinder experiment does not exacerbate the situation further and necessitate our renegotiating the terms.”
He turns on his heel and leaves the room, though more awkwardly than one would expect for one who presents himself so confidently. Valacosti walks with a noticeable limp, his right leg moving stiffly, and leans on the ebony cane which he waved so emphatically earlier. Praetor Sylien watches him go, a trace of uncertainty still in his eyes, which vanishes as he turns back to face the Pathfinders.
”I have made my decision, and will stand by it, and see it acted on,” he says, as if to himself as much as the party. “I’ve got something – a gesture of good faith - that might prove useful in coping with the heat as you travel, so you can move without delay.” He lifts a small wooden crate off a shelf and sets it on the war table, opening it to reveal a handful of small vials. Five potions of endure elements, of course, because you did well on the skills checks.
”I can also tell you Sharrowsmith’s last known location, at a Gold Crown mining operation about twenty miles away.” He gestures at the map on the table and points out a route, then sketches it onto a sheet of paper and hands it to Blayne.
It is now late morning. Do you want to set out right away, or is there anything you want to do at Fort Bandu? Let me know what you’re doing next.
"You're gracious indeed sir."
Torriki looks about at his companions, waiting until they are alone, "I do believe we've ruffled the feathers of our dear friend Valacosti. I would plan for a knife in the back. Maybe we should leave sooner?"
Whatever the party decides, Torriki is ready to execute.
"Praetor, can you tell us more exactly what the situation is in the hills and what the Aspen consortium offered. What exactly did Sharrowsmith do and what has happened?"
-Posted with Wayfinder
”Believe me, I’ve talked to everyone in and around Fort Bandu,” Sylien says in response to Bastion’s suggestion, ”trying to sort out what happened to stir up the kobolds. I learned that Sharrowsmith did talk to folks, but I’ve learned nothing beyond which direction he went and, with a little sleuthing, where he was last seen. I think your time would be better spent tracking him from there.”
He pauses a moment, then speaks thoughtfully, ”I have served here a long time, and I only want what is best for the people of Fort Bandu, who struggle enough to survive. Mining is hazardous work, and this region has its own dangers as well. The Consortium has offered an alliance, though I’ll not discuss the particulars.”
”As to what the situation is in the hills,” he concludes, ”it’s the same wild place it’s always been, hot and dangerous and full of riches, but now the kobolds in the area have begun launching raids, which they haven’t done before. In short, I don’t know what exactly Sharrowsmith has done, which is why I’m giving you the chance to find out, and set it right if you can.”
Outside the commander's office, a raven lands on the Taldan's shoulder. The man initiates a brief conversation in a language unknown to his companions and not often heard spoken outside of Skyreach (Azlanti) then decisively declares, "I am ready to depart."
With little delay, the party sets out for the distant camp of the Gold Crown Mining Company. It is excruciatingly hot, but the praetor’s magical protection allows the Pathfinders to travel even in the scorching afternoon heat with no ill effects. Fortunately, the 20-mile journey to the camp crosses relatively level terrain, following a well-worn trail into arid and rocky hills and leading to the mining camp, which is located in an isolated gorge in the shadow of sheer basalt cliffs.
As dusk approaches and the shadows of the cliffs lengthen, everyone but Torriki detects an unpleasant scent of decay clinging in the air in the gorge. Soon, the smell is evident to everyone, and as the camp comes into sight, the odor of rot is overwhelming.
Hexagonal basalt columns scarred by mining tools line the walls of the gorge. The floor of the gorge is a patchwork of scrub grass and leafless vegetation flattened by frequent traffic. Wooden scaffolding, mining equipment, and trampled tents lie abandoned across the camp. Corpses of laborers rent limb from limb lie amidst the camp’s wreckage, and dried blood darkens the rocks. Several banners depicting a golden crown adorn the scaffolding.
As the Pathfinders enter the shattered camp, a horrifying figure raises its gore-caked face from where it is devouring the bloated remains of a dead miner! It is a hideously malformed, hairless, pustule-covered thing, that rises up on its haunches and snarls when it notices the approach of other beings! Just beyond this horror, a slow-moving, awkward figure can be seen moving with a shambling gait near a collapsed tent.
Perception, Bastion: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25
Perception, Blayne: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
Perception, Instrument: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
Perception, Torriki: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (2) + 4 = 6
Perception, Wayne: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14
Initiative, Bastion: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (19) + 1 = 20
Initiative, Blayne: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Initiative, Instrument1d20+8[/dice: 1d1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Initiative, Wayne: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
Initiative, F: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (19) + 1 = 20
Initiative, Z: 1d20 ⇒ 17
Knowledge (religion) applies, for those spiritually inclined.
Bold may act! Map linked above my avatar.