The sun rises on the quiet community of Brookside, melting away the night's mists. The nearby river babbles peacefully, greeting the dawn along with a chorus of songbirds. The residents of Brookside look haggard, however, as they begin emerging from their homes. Dark circles and bloodshot eyes betray the uneasy night this town has experienced. Goodman Higgins disappeared from his fields around dusk yesterday. Nothing was left behind but scraps of bloody cloth. His mule is gone as well with roughly severed leather straps still attached to the plow. That's the second disappearance this week and the fourth in a fortnight.
Most of the folk are moving quietly and slowly about their business but two halflings are having something of an altercation outside of their small hut.
Cyrus had woken early that morning, and headed into town as soon as the early sun burned away the morning mist. Overhearing the Nolton's argument, he blurted out "Oh no, not Goodman Higgins! I hadn't heard. Was it ... the same as the others?"
Perrin approaches the Noltons with a look of concern, and he turns quickly at Cyrus' question. "You... you didn't hear?" he asks, softly. "He vanished, just last night." He looks down at the ground. "I just feel so... helpless."
Vors had assisted with part of the evening search, and thee was little comfort to be found in the morning meal and hot tea “I’ve not seen the like since we settled here, love,” he shared with Reinala as he rubbed the weariness from his kneck. Catching part of the hafling couple’s conversation, he sighs. ”I hope to not see it again.”
Finishing up his breakfast, he picks up his halberd and walks over to Thomas and Lily. “Might I accompany you, Thomas? It would make more than Lily feel better, after yesterday.”
|Titania Evangeline Snow-fell|
Tess wakes up early as usual to do some stretches and exercises before eating her breakfast.
Jogging by the Nolton argument, Titania stops.
The Nolton's only being just a bit taller then her knee.
"I take it something happened last night, while I was working in the woods north of here, past my farm?"
I'm assume the halflings are 3 feet tall, and since I don't know anyone's height I can't do clear references with heights in text.
And Humans have a wide range.
|Hirda of Kirin|
Hirda makes her way into town with Old Gray Mule in tow, carrying the morning's supply of fresh eggs, butter, and apples for the general store. She adds herself to the group that is quickly sprouting up in front of the Noltons' abode.
Aye, ol' 'iggins disappearin' now, and who's t' say who's next? Tis clear enough 'at the high-n-mighty 'thorities off in Astin ain't aboot t' send nobody thisaway t'elp us oot none. Too busy chasin' rats 'round ther cellars, no doot. I say it again, tis up t' us poor selves t' get t' th' bottom o' this, and I ain't standin' round 'nuther minute. If no'un'll join me, I'm off 'is very momen t' borrer ol' Grindle's 'ound t' sniff 'round 'iggins's field. Mayhaps 'e'll lead us to the den o' whateer dark beast is behin' thissall.
"Well, the day's still young. How about we help keep an eye out while you check your traps, then head down to the farm and see what we can find out?" Perrin glances around at the others. "If you guys want to, I mean."
"Thomas, listen to your lady wife," Cyrus urges the man. "It don't need to be one of us here, but take someone with you if you must go. This is no time to be mule-headed!"
Ham-fisted attempt at Diplomacy: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (12) - 1 = 11
"Especially since I fear Hirda's right ... if I learned anythin' in Astin, it's that the higher-ups pay close attention to the opinions of shiny coins, and not so much to the likes of us. We're on our own, we are."
Thomas looks at his concerned neighbors standing round and shrugs his small shoulders and says with some exasperation
Okey okey. If all ye be thinking it be so serious, I'll wait to check me traps until Jacob finishes his breakfast and can come with me.
He jerks a thumb towards a nearby hut with a thin trickle of smoke beginning to curl from the top.
|Titania Evangeline Snow-fell|
Vors sighs heavily. ”If you say so, Thomas. Just be ready to hide or run the moment y’ sniff trouble.” The big man shoulders his polearm and starts walking with the others to the Higgins’ farm. ”Hope there’s more answers t’ be found in daylight.”
"I'm sure we'll be able to figure this out. Right? We just need to find the right place to look." Perrin starts striding with determination toward the farm, turning his eyes toward the others with a tentative smile.
Thank ye for the help! I'll feel much better knowin' Thomas aint alone out there.
Lily's shoulders relax a bit as she calls farewell. She turns to her husband and they resume their bickering but in a more peaceful, comfortable tone.
I can't believe it took a bunch of neighbors to talk sense into ye, Thomas Riccerby Nolton! Why couldn't ye just listen to yer own wife?!
Hirda stops by Grindle's and borrows his hound. You walk quickly to the Higgins farm on the southwest edge of town.
A modest thatched cottage stands near a vegetable garden with wheat stubble and some tall oats standing a bit farther off.
Among the wheat stubble you find Jeremiah Higgins' plow. The straps have been roughly severed. Scraps of bloody cloth lie scattered on the ground.
Jeremiah was plowing his wheat stubble after having just harvested it. You think to check his barn but there are only a few sprinkled grains there.
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (12) + 11 = 23
Not trained in Profession (farmer), Knowledge (local), or Knowledge (nature).
Survival: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
Perrin peers down at the tracks in the field. "Huh. Was there a dog out with the search group last night?"
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
Kn (Nature): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
Survival: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
"Huh. He finished the harvest, but where's the grain gone?"
Cyrus comes and takes a look at the tracks. "Could have been a dog. Pretty big one, though."
|Hirda of Kirin|
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14
Profession(farmer): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23
Survival: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (14) + 13 = 27
Grindle's dog catches a scent, but whimpers and won't follow it anywhere.
And looka these prints 'ere. Not made by no search party, ain't a soul in town shod in such rags, poor tho they be. I saw some'at similar yonder in th' woods, where me poor Nolly went missin'. Cain't make 'eads ner tails of'em. Now lessee what th' missus 'as t' say.
Hirda raps on the front door: Oy! Goody 'iggins, tis I, Hirda! What can ya tell us aboot las' night? Now now, no use carryin' on like'at, twon't bring yer poor 'iggins back, tho' jus' maybe we might, if ya can give any clues. What happened t' the grain thas been 'arvested, fer starters?
The moaning dies down to silence. Then you hear sniffling and shuffling towards the door. The door squeaks open a few inches. Goodwife Higgins stares out, obviously distraught and terrified.
Hirda... I can't believe he's...
She sniffs and straightens herself up a bit and chokes back a sob.
You're right, neighbor. Won't do no good crying. sniff With good strong folk like you lot, she gestures toward Vors and Tess, standing tall in the back maybe something can be done. He brought the wheat in a few days ago... Last night he was plowing the stubble... I heard him yell and something else... maybe some harsh voices... maybe something like barks... but much worse... It's all so confused. The voices were so rough, like beasts almost... What a din. And the mule was braying something awful... It was a ways away near the edge of the field so I couldn't make it out clear... I peeked my head out the door to see but the light was getting low and I was so scared... I couldn't make it out...
What do you mean what happened to the wheat? Is it gone?
She's beginning to lose her composure again.
"Rally, here girl," Cyrus called. His fox, never far away, trotted over and looked up at him questioningly.
"Could you take a whiff around these tracks?" Cyrus asked her.
Rally yipped, evidently in agreement, and thrust her nose to the ground. When she came to the canine tracks, her hackles rose up, her ears flattened, and she tucked her her tail. Backing away, she made a series of growls and yips at Cyrus.
"I don't think those are normal dog tracks," Cyrus told everyone. "Rally has never been frightened of dog tracks."
Cyrus raised a hand to scratch his ear in apparent discomfort. "Ah, I don't know as I've mentioned it before, but as late I've been learning to understand Rally a lot better. It's not like talkin', exactly, but not exactly just yips and barks, either. What I'm getting from her is 'Dog not-dog, sick, wrong, scary.' There's sommat uncanny about 'em. They don't smell right, apparently. Diseased, maybe."
Rally poked around at the other tracks also, both shod and unshod. The tracks of people in boots she seemed uninterested in, but when she came to the unshod tracks, she cocked her head, took another long sniff, and then made another series of short barks and yips.
"And she says these ones here that Hirda found, without the shoes, don't smell like any of the others. Not like the dog ones, not like the shod ones. Says they smell like ... meat, and ... dirtiness, I guess?"
"There's a girl," he said, offering her a bit of dried meat and stroking her fondly.
VF Perception: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 12
VF Profession(Farmer): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
VF Survival: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (9) + 0 = 9
Vors gives Mrs. Higgins a nod. ”There is the mystery, Ma’am - who carries off that much wheat in that short a time? Mayhap it left a trail to follow. We’ll use all the strength we can muster, don’t you fret. Let me know if, later on, ye’d like to come spend the evening with Reinala and the girls over at our stead. You’ll be welcome!”
Rising from the tracks in the muddy ground, Cyrus turned and joined the others by the stoop. Rally stayed close by his heel. "Rest assured, ma'am, as soon as we know anythin' definite, we'll let you know. And if we can bring him home, we will."
Privately, Cyrus doubted that they would find Jeremiah Higgins alive. "But I've been so wrong so many times before about so much ..." he thought to himself, "It would be foolish to give up hope. I hope we can find her man for her, poor thing."
Responding to Cyrus' pity, Rally trotted up on the porch. Sitting in front of Goodwife Higgins, she laid one paw on the lady's shin and gave a short definitive bark.
Mighty thanks to you, Vors. Would it be all right if I head over there now? I'm afraid something terrible staying here. I don't know about the wheat... that was supposed to last us for a good long while... Thank you folks for your help... If you find my Jeremiah, you bring him home.
“Of course - there may yet be a bit of tea for you to share in, or I’m sure they will make more. There’s still a fair bit to do on the farm yet today, but they’ll make you comfortable. And aye, as Cyrus says, we’ll find him.”
Turning to the others as she goes, Vors waves a hand in the direction of the tracks. “Let’s be off - daylight passes fast.”
Perrin nods along with the others, a fierce look in his eye. "We won't give up until we find them!" He turns to follow Vors' gesture. "Do you think we'll be able to follow these tracks? I mean, whatever took him must have carried off the mule too, so it should have left some sort of trail."
"One moment; I'm not sure we're quite done here," Cyrus said. "We should check the barn to see if there are any clues as to how the wheat was taken. I mean, can't nobody just pack up a whole field of wheat and trot off with it on their back, right? Not without shinecraft and wizardry, anyhow. Hirda, you know farmin' and I don't really -- maybe you could look over the barn and see if there's anythin' worth seeing?"
Hirda's got Profession (Farmer) and a good Perception score, she seems like the best one to check out the barn?
Turning to Goodwife Higgins, he said "I know this is a terrible time for you, ma'am, and I'm sorry to have to do it, but I'm hopin' you can answer some questions. Any detail you can remember might be helpful."
"When did you last see Goodman Higgins alive?"
"Do you know where he was going or what he was planning to do?"
Gesturing at the disturbed ground, he asked, "It looks like there was a fight here sometime last night. Did you hear anything?"
"Have you seen or heard anything unusual recently, during the time leading up to your husband's disappearance?"
"Lastly, did he have any enemies you know of?"
Cyrus felt the instincts of his years as a guard rising to the fore. "I don't want to do this again," he thought to himself. "I don't want to suspect everyone. I hated it! It's so tiring, being constantly suspicious of everybody. But so often in the city ... it was a spouse, or a lover, or a family member. So often ... I gotta pay attention to what she says."
He's making a Sense Motive check against Goodwife Higgins as she answers the questions. GM, I'll also leave a Diplomacy check for you in case you want one for any of this.
Amazing Diplomatic Skillz of Dooom: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (2) - 1 = 1
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
|Hirda of Kirin|
|Hirda of Kirin|
Ninja'd by Cyrus.
Hirda returns and looks over the barn at Cyrus' suggestion, looking in all the corners and climbing up into the hay loft.
Perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
Lessee what there may be t' see 'ere. Musta been a wagon or some ways t' carry off a barn-full o' grain.
Goodwife Higgins winces in fear at the sound of Rally's bark then relaxes and looks fondly down at the fox.
You have my thanks, you all do. Including you, Rally.
She then looks wistfully at the lot of you before going inside to gather up a small bundle of belongings. Heading out the door towards the Falchen home, she is interrupted by Cyrus' rather abrupt interrogation. With an expression of shock and then weak anger, she responds
I done told you everything I know, Cyrus Lem! He was plowing then I heard noises. Jeremiah was a good man and he had nary an enemy in the world!!
As far as you can tell, she is being completely sincere. She begins to hobble off towards the Falchen home as briskly as she is able.
Upon examining the area around the barn, you find some empty burlap sacks stacked neatly in the corner. Such sacks were likely used to store the wheat. The earth is more hard-packed from constant foot traffic than in the plowed field and you don't notice any remarkable tracks.
You do however notice that the canine and unfamiliar humanoid tracks seem to have come from south by southwest, pointing into the Warding Woods. The number of unfamiliar humanoids is difficult to distinguish, particularly because the same tracks plus the mule's trampled over them leaving the farm in the same direction.
Well, I was kind of hoping for a description of what kind of noises, but with a Diplomacy of check 1, beggars can't be choosers!
Cyrus winced inwardly at his blunder. "Curse my tangled tongue," he thought. "That's why I always let Nils do the talking, back in Astin. Man could charm the pants off a snake."
|Titania Evangeline Snow-fell|
Perrin watches Goodwife Higgins leave with a look of dismay. "Oh," he murmers to the others. "I think we just made her more upset."
He listens intently to Titania's explanation of the wheat harvest. "So... do you reckon they could have just loaded the wheat up on his mule when they led it away? It looks like those tracks lead off to the Warding Woods."
Mrs. Higgins stops a dozen paces away from you and turns back to Titania with a gentle sigh.
I'm sure he was, deary. I really don't know what I can tell you, though. First Thomas yelled out. Then the mule brayed and I guess the harsh voices sounded like they were speaking some rough language. I couldn't make heads nor tails of it. And those horrible dog-like noises shook me to the bones... Like the growls of a devil...
Goodwife Higgins stands about a dozen steps from her small cottage, uncertain as to whether or not you have more questions for her, and looking like that cup of tea sounds very fine indeed right now.
The tracks lead off to south-by-southwest toward the Warding Woods.
"Thank you, Goodwife Higgins," Cyrus said. "And I'm sorry if I seemed abrupt. I don't think we need aught else from you right now. Go rest."
Turning to the others, "Looks as though we've got a clear trail to follow into the woods. Hirda brought a hound, and Rally's pretty good at following a scent too. Between the lot of us, we should be able to figure out where to go."
And here are a whole bunch of skill checks for the GM once Goody Higgins makes her exit. I hope I'm not hogging the spotlight here -- if anyone has anything else to do here, sing out!
Cyrus: Profession (Trapper): what does Cyrus know about the Warding Woods from running traps?: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8
Cyrus: Survival check to follow the tracks: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (5) + 7 = 12
Rally: Survival check to follow the tracks by scent: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27
The hound shies away from the tracks anxiously. Combining scent with visual trail signs, Cyrus and Rally seem confident in their ability to follow the trail into the woods, as does Hirda.
As locals of Brookside, you're aware that the Barbaric Lands lie across your nations southern border. Hilly and sometimes mountainous woods on this border are referred to as the Warding Woods as they have discouraged unsavory elements of the Barbaric Lands from crossing into the Bishopric of Helm. You have only explored the parts of the large forest that are near Brookside but have found them relatively safe with only the occasional large predator and a reasonable amount of game.
Seems like we have a quorum, maybe unanimous, ready to follow the tracks towards the woods.
The group of stout townsfolk head towards the woods, keeping an eye out for trouble as they go. The relatively flat farmland begins to give way to hillier and hillier country while trees and shrubs become more common.
As you walk around a cluster of trees, you barely pick up the sound of something scraping over a stone. You find yourselves staring at a vile-looking beast with pustules and weeping sores all over its thick, greasy hide. Large fangs poke haphazardly from its maw, which is dripping a vile, greenish saliva. It's anatomy shares some resemblance to a bulldog 4 feet high at the shoulder. It wears a spiked iron collar trailing a broken chain.
It was crouching close to the ground, apparently stalking towards your footsteps. When you make eye contact, its beady red eyes narrow to yet smaller points of hungry light. You ready your weapons and it lunges toward you.
Brooksider's initiative: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 1 = 13
Creature's initiative: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
Without a sound besides the dragging of its chain, the creature rushes toward Titania, who is closest, and lunges at her thigh.
Bite: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 261d10 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15 piercing damage.
Trip: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9
The creature throws its weight recklessly into tripping Titania, harshly wounding her thigh but landing prone itself when the large young woman stands firm.
Perrin gives a slight yelp of suprise as the creature appears, but quickly musters his courage. "Titania! Don't worry, I've got you." He rushes forward, and presses his hand gently but firmly against Titania's wound. Immediately, the bleeding slows and the flesh begins to close up.
Moving to G4 and using his cure light wounds spell-like ability.
Healing: 1d8 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
"And guys, sorry about this, but I brought someone else who can help. Don't, um... panic." With that, Perrin barks an unintelligable phrase, almost a growl, and the ground begins to rumble. The rumbling gets louder and louder, a strange grinding from beneath the earth. Suddenly, the soil in front of Perrin buckles and a small figure bursts from the ground. The figure resembles a miniature humanoid but is formed entirely from rock and stone.
|Pebbles the Earth Elemental|
Clad in leather and brandishing a crude spear, the figure leaps forward and stabs downward at the prone creature.
Perrin's earth elemental familiar is moving to G7 and Power Attacking with its longspear.
Attack: 1d20 + 6 - 1 + 4 ⇒ (18) + 6 - 1 + 4 = 27
Damage: 1d6 + 4 + 3 ⇒ (1) + 4 + 3 = 8
Bleed Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 1
|Titania Evangeline Snow-fell|
Questions: do the squares containing trees block or slow our movement? How long is the broken chain, and in what direction does it trail?
Yes squares containing trees are difficult terrain. There is about six feet of chain trailing into square I6.