Dez scans the area to see if there are any hints of the source of the man's distress.
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (13) + 11 = 24
Kseniya holds out her hand, fingers splayed, so she can check her nails and admire her rings. "Who is your master? I can surely handle whoever he is."
Dezső hisses quietly, especially to Kseniya, "There's a winter wolf coming, be prepared."
He'll then throw his hood up to conceal his face and fade back into the shadows to the extent possible -- more kind of fade into the background than hide in a suspiciously sneaky way.
Stealth: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (14) + 11 = 25
Orik grumbles and casts bless on the party, assured they will have a fight. ”Spread out!”
After the last one, Orik will stand alone, away from Kseniya (Dez is by himself I think.
Kseniya draws upon her innate magic for protection. She takes up a spot near the front, motioning for the others to spread out.
Casting Shield on herself. It will last for three minutes b/c she is CL 3 thanks to magical knack
The man whimpers and runs behind Orik, then Dez.
Moments later, the wolf appears. He skids to a stop, his eyes blazing. He's a rather large fellow--and is most decidedly not inebriated.
"Step aside," he drawls, apparently unwinded by his chase. "This is my business. Be about yours."
Map is up! We are not in combat....yet!
"Oh, a talkative one, I see. Shall I step aside and relent in the face of such folksy, taciturn machismo?" She makes a show of "thinking" on the matter, her finger coyly touching her chin as she purses her lips and glances up and away. She finally throws up her hands with a cockeyed smile. "No, I do not think so." She raises her chin to look down her nose at the winter wolf. "I would advise against picking a fight with a jadwiga in the middle of Whitethrone, especially one that could beat you senseless with her bare hands, so I would scamper along if I were you."
Dez quietly asks the man: "Tell me now. What is this about?"
Can you tell me what time of day it is and if we are close to our destination, as far as Dez knows?
I was really intending it to just be more general s~**-talking before the inevitable fight, but I’ll roll if you so desire
Intimidation: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (20) + 2 = 22
Given the late hour and possibility of combat, Dez will quaff his extract of long arm.
Kseniya's words seem to have the desired effect, causing the man's master to draw his ears back and curve his spine. He pauses, and then the wolf tucks his tail between his legs and growls. "You'll pay for this, Jadwiga, for interfering with Howlings' right of claim."
He turns tail and lopes off.
The man collapses to his knees. "I have to hide and get away. He'll kill me if he finds me again. Please. His name is Korgin. He'll kill me. He'll kill me..." He begins to quietly sob.
Kseniya gives the winter wolf a dainty, polite wave as he leaves. Frankly, Kseniya is shocked that her s##!-talking actually managed to scare him off. She is absolutely unused to her bravado doing anything beyond accelerating the movement to physical confrontation. She is equal parts pleasantly surprised and disappointed. Then, she notices the man she was protecting once more and considers that perhaps this is for the best, as the wolf could have easily caught him in his breath weapon or even just pounced directly for him. Still, now they are going to have to keep an eye out for this Korgin's sudden but inevitable retribution. It's all just so much simpler when she can just beat people up.
She waves off the man's concern. "Nobody is going to kill you, especially not him." She smiles, dazzling. "What is your name?"
Less friendly than Kseniya, and less patient with the blubbering, Dez growls: "I told you to tell me what this was about. Why does Korgin want to kill you? We just stuck our necks out to protect you, so start talking."
"Please! I'm just a servant*! My name is Jorhan. I am indentured to Korgin. He killed another servant last month. This happens frequently. Please, Sir..."
His eyes widen as he takes in the devilish visage of Dez.
* - sluga...more like "slave" in Irriseni Skald.
Ringgeir kneels down to help Jorhan up. "Do not be afraid of my friends. They are merely suspicious of this town, as they should be. I will help you. Go to Arinka's house; you know the one. Bring anyone you can trust. Do not bring belongings. Stay there. Tell them Ringgeir and the Heralds sent you."
Jorhan, tears staining his dirty cheeks, nods.
The Heralds of Summer's Return; Milani's 5th column group in Irrisen.
Knowledge religion with free inspiration: 1d20 + 8 + 1d6 ⇒ (13) + 8 + (6) = 27
Knowledge local with free inspiration: 1d20 + 8 + 1d6 ⇒ (18) + 8 + (6) = 32
Dezső quietly comments to Ringgeir: "Pardon my harshness, Ringgeir. Perhaps to better serve the ends of the Everbloom I should work on my ability to show compassion. I'm prone to be impatient for the facts."
Kseniya's eyebrow pops up at the exchange between Ringgeir and
Dezső, not entirely sure what these "Heralds" or "Everbloom" are. She's a little perturbed that everyone seems to know about something going on in this city that she doesn't.
"What exactly are you all talking about? Some kind of nature thing?" "Everbloom" does sound very nature-y after all. That would also help explain why she doesn't know anything about it, having never been particularly interested in all of that druidy-stuff. She has too much gold and ice and in her veins to have interest in much else.
"I understand your impatience, but let's first get to our destination so we can talk in private."
Orik watches the exchange and awkwardly pats the guy on the shoulder, ”you’re as safe as we can make you, at the moment.” He turns to Ringgeir, ”if he can’t be safe with Arinka, we could find a use for him too, just a thought.” He turns back to the servant, ”if you wanted to come with us, I mean, though honestly, you might not be able to take the hits we can expect to face” he adds grimly.
When Kseniya mentions nature-y things Orik chortles merrily, ”better learn fast if you wanna stick with us! Seems like most we do is nature-y stuff. Not sure I’d trade it away, either.” He grins toothily at her, ”that and trudging. Ya ever trudged before? It’s ... something.”
Kseniya folds her arms and raises her chin. "I do not trudge anywhere. I stride, saunter, stroll, traipse, occasionally wander and roam, and have skipped at least once, but I never trudge, and I certainly never trod or march. Could you imagine the scandal if a jadwiga was to be seen trudging?"
Jorhan looks truly horrified at Orik's proposal and scoots off, running towards Arinka's.
Ringgeir allows himself a chuckle. "My Lady, you are what the jadwiga could be if they so chose to be. And Orik, I think it's best if we keep this expedition small."
He cocks an ear. "As a matter of fact, I think we have an obstacle ahead...tread lightly, my friends."
You can hear arguing further up the path, as you make your final U-shaped twist to near Mortin's house. There's a path to the right, and to the right again, leading down a dead-end alley and Mortin's house. However, to the left, the path leads to the source of the noise.
Two 10 foot ice troll Winter Guards are arguing with two white haired humans; the humans have their backs to you; the trolls will see you when you cross and turn to the right towards Mortin's. You can hear scraps of their argument.
"...is a matter of Queen's business, lit-tle wolf. If you saw any..."
"...is the Howlings, you colossal fey oaf! We don't bow to the mirror..."
Actions, my friends?
Kseniya preens at Ringgeir's heartfelt praise. She had been thinking of being difficult and pressuring people to just tell her everything now, but those kind words were more than enough to satisfy her ego for the time being. Besides, she could hardly dig her heels in after being complimented. She can't help but think of her mother when she considers that phrasing: "There's no point in digging your heels in when you are standing on snow." Kseniya has always found her mother's reticence and patience maddening, but even the irrepressible Kseniya saw the value of her advice at times. "Thank you for your praise, kind fellow. I shall wear it as another piece of golden jewelry."
She glances at the others for their takes on what to do about the trolls. "I am of course happy to speak to them, though I cannot guarantee they will listen to me, especially if they are here on the Queen's business."
"Any reason we shouldn't just head to our destination? If things go badly, that would be an ugly fight, especially without Ogon around." As an aside to Kseniya: "Yes, I'll explain who he is too."
Kseniya idly pulls off her gloves and checks her nails. "I simply dislike it when the powerful throw their weight around. They will also see us as we pass anyways, so will have to either resolve whatever is going on or at least distract them long enough for everyone to get past."
I misread and thought we had passed already.
"Should we wait and see what happens? Maybe they will leave or maybe they will create a distraction all on their own or maybe we will hear something interesting."
Kseniya raises her hand, a student confident she has the right answer. "I vote for the direct approach."
The trolls and wolves continue to argue.
"...is a part of Whitethrone, and as such, subject to Her..."
Ringgeir shakes his head. "Their argument will not last long. And then the trolls will come looking for us. Our best bet is to get out of sight. We can make it to Mortin's quickly. They'll see us, but they are looking for someone on the streets, not in a house."
"Sounds good to me. If they come to Mortin's house we'll deal with them then."
”Kseniya, we cannot escalate. The more bodies we leave, the more they can track. Our task is too important for us to fall into the hands of the queen. I don’t like subterfuge much, but you don’t have to lie if they don’t see us.” He looks at her gravely, face serious.
You pass the trolls and wolves (in human form) as quickly as you can and make a right, then a right again, into the dead end alley where Mortin lives. His house is at the very end of the street.
Ringgeir knocks at the door.
He knocks again.
He then tries the door. It's locked!
"Curse that man for having a thick door and a thick head," says Ringgeir, angrily shouldering the door, which does not budge.
"We had better get in there, both to check on him and to get off the street."
Dezső listens at the door and checks for traps and if he hears nothing he will try to pick the lock.
Perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (6) + 12 = 18
Disable device with inspiration: 1d20 + 13 + 1d6 ⇒ (11) + 13 + (2) = 26
Dez picks the lock with deceptive ease. He opens the door to find a rather plain, albeit spacious house, devoid of much of the "gingerbread" trim in the rest of the Howlings, but still warm and well-built. There are books, many paintings and canvasses filling up the corners, art supplies, a winding staircase leading both up and down...and at the end of the parlor, a rather inconspicuous man, bald and with eyeglasses, cringing at his desk and attempting to hide behind his papers and inkwell.
"Mortinnn--!" growls Ringgeir. Ringgeir hustles everyone inside except Momo, Sasha, and Aitut, who are tied near the house.
"Um...please wipe your boots, everyone..." says the meek little man.
"I'm going to wipe them on your face!" says the Fishcamps leader.
Kseniya does not wipe her boots. She waves her hand and the snow and dirt poofs away. Prestidigitation While she's at it, she smooths out her hair and poofs the rest of the snow off her coat. She ignores Ringgeir's anger and offers Mortin her hand, taking the glove off first of course.
"Kseniyatalya Tatyanovna Hildenlieder Morgannan. Please, call me Kseniya. You do not need to worry; I am a jadwiga, but I am a friend, as I am sure the others here may attest."
Mortin takes Kseniya's hand, his fine bones palpable in a rather limp grasp. "Er...I take it you have papers..."
Ringgeir appears far too close to Mortin's face. "The rest of them don't! And we just dodged the Queen's ice trolls out there, you miserable little shut-in! I told you we were coming!"
Mortin shrinks even further. "I'm sorry, Ringgeir--the patrols are so frequent now--I don't like to answer the door...I thought you'd send word..."
Ringgeir clearly has been saving up a great deal of tense energy during their perilous peregrinations through the Howlings, and it all comes dumping down on the forger.
"Send word? Here's my word. We need those papers. NOW."
Mortin gulps and nods. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..."
Ringgeir's fury does not seem to abate.
Dezső gives his boots a perfunctory wiping and walks over and puts a hand on Ringgeir's shoulder. "I'm sure Mortin will get them ready for us immediately. Let's just give him a brief moment to catch his breath and we'll sort this all out. Let's get you a glass of water, Mortin."
Dezső proceeds to search out a glass of water for the nervous man and takes an opportunity to case the house -- identify all rooms and doors and windows, any stairs up or down, and anything else of note.
Perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (7) + 12 = 19
Normally, Kseniya is of the opinion that disagreements are best just fought out, but this Mortin doesn't look like he'd be able to take much of a beating, based on his handshake.
"Mister Ringgeir, if you are indeed interested in maintaining a stealthy presence, this behavior is not the way to do so. At this rate, you will call the trolls attention with your anger, and that serves nobody, now does it?" She takes off her fur coat and folds it over her arm until she can find a place to put it. "Such behavior is also hardly fair to me, who has been quite accommodating, and has been told multiple times throughout this journey to avoid causing a scene. One must practice what they preach."
At the words of Dezső and Kseniya, Ringgeir begins to calm down. He turns to Mortin more mourfully. "I apologize, old friend. It has been...exciting of late. These are the valorous folk who smashed the rule of the Fishcamps Guards, and Kseniya is a jadwiga who has broken with the throne."
He turns to you all, exhaling, and beginning to diminish. "I fear that being tied up and beaten left me with a storm of emotions I did not realize I was dealing with until now. The forging will take a number of hours and it grows near candle hours."
Mortin clears his throat. "Ringgeir...thank you, sir, yes, some water would do most nicely...Ringgeir, I understand these are trying times. Er, if I could get a full count of each person and your names. There is enough room in the loft and the cellar for you all to sleep; I'll be working until the late hours on your papers. They must pass the most severe inspection." He polishes magnifying lenses chained around his neck as a small, almost imperceptible point of pride.
Ringgeir gets Mortin the water himself, giving Dez and Kseniya another grateful look, somewhat embarrassed by his behavior.
"Broken with the throne?" Well that's rather dramatic, isn't it? She hadn't really thought how her helping out these people would amount to something so drastic. They are just some nice people on a journey of some sort. Right? Oooooh you did it again, didn't you, Kseniya? Got yourself stuck in something bigger than you thought because you cared more about thrills than the big picture. Either way, she promised she'd keep it quiet and to help them, so unless they are, like, evil cultists or something, she is going to keep up her word.
"Thank you for being sensible. And dear Mortin, I shall not be requiring any papers, as Ringgeir mentioned." She turns to the others. "Now, I was told that once we got to our destination and out of the streets, someone would explain to me what exactly is going on. I believe that that condition is fulfilled and I am entitled to know."
Orik watches the development with Mortin, and is about to speak up when Kseniya and Dezsö do for him. He nods when Ringgeir sees sense and disarms himself.
When Kseniya asks to be filled in, he chortles and slaps her on the back. ”So we did - away from prying eyes, I think? Ringgeir, could you keep watch on your friend for a bit? We have a private matter to discuss, apologies.”
When Ringgeir agrees, he leads her and the others to the attic. Once there he looks around a bit, detects magic for scrying sensors and the like, and when he’s as sure as he can be about their safety, he removes his holy symbol of Erastil. ”I’m a cleric of Old Deadeye. The others can say what they are, but we’re largely decent folks with a unique mission given to us by Baba Yaga’s black rider - to break the Queen’s control over Irrisen. You in?” His hand wrests on his bow as he says this, knowing she could break all three of them quickly, but clearly not willing to go down without a fight should this news go over poorly.
Kseniya just stands there for a moment. Did she hear him right? “Break the Queen’s control?” She has seen people think those words, share them with a glance, mull over them darkened corners, but she had never actually heard anyone say something remotely close to them out loud. It would certainly explain the secrecy and that “broken with the throne” comment. But why would the black rider have given them a mission to fight the Queen? Doesn’t he serve Baba Yaga—May Her Eye Never Fall Upon Us? That makes no sense.
She finally laughs. ”Oh, I see. A jest at the newcomer’s expense. I was a good sport and even laughed. Come now, what’s the real story. And you had best be careful who you make that joke around.”
Orik looks at her, completely serious, his grip tightening. He may joke but he’s clearly a bad liar. He sniffs and gestures towards the others to add their piece, watching Kseniya closely.
Kseniya watches him standing stoic and her face falls. She sits down and leans against the wall. ”Oh. That is...a lot.”
This is her chance, isn’t it? Her shot at accomplishing something great and good that shows all of her relatives that yes, she can do something they can’t. And she’ll probably have to fight them, won’t she? Can she fight Mother? Apolli? She can definitely fight Serafina, at least. And if they are on a mission from the Black Rider, then it must be from The Progenitor because the Riders serve her directly. So maybe she won’t have to fight them?
Also, frankly, this country could use a bit of revolution. She’d certainly like to not have to hide her religion anymore. Also do something about the deplorable treatment of the poor. She’s learned charity is like trying to melt a glacier with a match. But if they are working for The Progenitor, is anything really going to change? This situation is all really rather confusing and she would vastly prefer if it was not. It does sound like a rather delightful opportunity to test her strength, maybe beat up a few of the nastier jadwiga and prove they were all idiots for treating her like a joke.
She stands up straight and proud, folding her arms as she stares at Orik with his hand near his weapon. ”I cannot fathom why you are acting like I am going to start a fight with you. I promised I would help you, and I see no reason why I shan’t keep doing so, especially since I am already known to be in your company. You will of course need to explain further so that I know the full dimensions of the situation, but I think this will be quite workable, yes, especially if you are working for Baba Yaga—May Her Eye Never Fall Upon Us—and have her patronage. That said, I understand your reasons, but you must understand that it is quite shocking to realize you have made an enemy out of possibly your entire extended family. You realize all of us jadwiga are related, yes? You are frankly lucky that I think many of my relatives are rather deplorable.”
Orik relaxes a bit, ”We are. But understand that we are bound to this mission - literally. As for your other question, I’m not sure if Baba Yaga is better or worse than your current queen, but my sense is that she at least was fair, and left folks alone, right? Doesn’t seem like these jadwiga can do that. Erm, present company excluded.” He looks apologetic, ”forgive me, if you can. We took a big chance inviting you into our circle, right? You could have turned on us if you wanted. Maybe you want to go back to your charity work, still live in relative luxury. Folks who grow up with a lot are sometimes loathe to lose it, And as you said, you may lose more than just money, or your station. Such a decision would tempt anyone, I wouldn’t begrudge you. Know that our road will likely be very tough - I am not exaggerating when I say we trudge, a lot. A LOT.”
He puts his weapon away, ”We aren’t exactly welcome here - and we’re relying on you and a few other folk’s charity to survive. If we chose the wrong person to confide in - we’re worse than dead.” Orik for all his good-natured bloviating looks a bit scared. He always seemed uncomfortable in the city, but as they get closer to the throne, he seems to be on edge more and more.
Dez watches the exchange, and at choice moments looks at Kseniya knowingly to indicate that Orik is dead serious. "Thank you, Orik, for taking on trying to explain things. I didn't know where to start. I figure we can trust you, Kseniya, because your actions already mark you as a rebel. And we need more help after Ogon left us, so we kind of want and need to trust you. If we're wrong, then, well, that was a lot of TRUDGING for... well, at least we helped some folks along the way. In any event, welcome to our little group."
Kseniya plays with her hair, her expression cold but not frigid. "I appreciate your understanding. I have no interest in spending my life holding a match to a glacier and hoping it melts before it swallows everyone. I could also use a nice journey, hopefully someplace where I do not have to worry about all of the eligible women being somehow distantly related to me."
She finally breaks the cold with a smile. "Also, you misunderstood me. None of what you are describing sounds like trudging to me--as long as it is done with pride and elegance, and anything worth doing is worth doing with pride and elegance. That you do not understand this fact is all the more reason you need me." She holds out her hand for a shake. "I suppose it is decided then, yes?"