Perception: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19
Mahdi notes the bolt, and files the information away to be shared with his brother at a later date-- if Hazim hasn't already seen it. Mahdi knows his brother's eyes are very sharp.
He steps in and settles himself somewhere in front, near to Almah, his face attentive.
Once everyone is seated or standing comfortably, Almah nods her head and smiles.
"My name is Almah Roveshki and I'm pleased to meet all of you, though I wish it could've been under better circumstances."
She turns her head to each member of the party, then says, "Please, introduce yourselves to me and tell me what you bring to this expedition. I'm sure Garavel here had his reasons for choosing you and I trust his judgment completely. Still, I'd like to hear it from your own perspective."
Amiamble slow shuffles behind Aldebert, his shyness of speaking in front of others causing butterflies in his stomach.
He looks into Aldebert's eyes, pleading.
I don't like talking in front of so many others. You know this. They might see.
Mahdi will talk enough for everybody. The young arcanist smiles winningly at Almah and gives another bow, albeit seated.
"I am honored to be of use and service, Lady Roveshki. I am Mahdi al-Jabira, and this is my brother Hazim; we reside now in Katapesh the city, but it was not always so. In our youth, our parents ran a small but successful merchant caravan from Ipeq to Golden Katapesh."
His smile fades. "This life ended at the hands of gnoll raiders. My brother and I survived. Our parents were not so lucky."
The scorpion sidles out from his pockets; Mahdi lets it rest on one of his palms and strokes the glossy carapace.
"I have studied the arcane arts and the secrets of fire. I seek to see the gnolls driven from Katapesh for good, and their burnt bones standing as warning to any who would think of returning to this land. If Kelmarene is to be the start of this, I am happy to assist."
Aldebert stands a little taller and responds for himself and his brother, "I am Aldebert Piddlespot and this is my brother Amiamble. I bring my guisarme here at the very least and my strength to lend a hand in times of crisis."
"My brother, well, he brings his own unique flavor and viewpoint." Aldebert smiles at some private joke. "...and of course he can create water which is of course quite valuable in the desert."
"We too have had our trouble with Gnolls, the uncivilized brutes, and would see them slain, their blood staining the sands." He grips his guisarme tightly and again hopes he'll measure up this time.
Hazim bows again.
"I am Hazim al-Jabira. The brother of this one," he points to Mahdi. "We grew up on the al-Jabira caravan when we were young."
"I bring," Hazim pauses, a crooked half smile on his face "resourcefulness to the expedition."
"I am Malki Zedek, and I bring blessings from Lalaci, who guides travelers to their fortune. I offer my prayers, that you may drink and be well. And I bring some skill with the beasts that bear us and our provisions." He bows in a humble but not subservient fashion. You need Lalaci's blessing far more than I need yours. And yet... "It is my pleasure to travel alongside you at present."
"It is a pleasure to be working with you all. A little about myself... My family comes from a long line of merchants that worked directly with the Pactmasters of Katapesh. Unfortunately, my predecessors ran into some foul luck with bad investments and economic intrigue from rival trade princes. However, I'm ready to steady the ship of my family's reputation and bring the Roveshkis back into prominence."
Her eyes slowly look towards the floor as she sighs deeply.
"The reason I am on this journey is that Kelmarane used to be in the charge of my family long ago, before disaster struck. The Pactmasters have deemed the battle market village a viable resource for them, so I have been tasked to reclaim it for them. By doing so, I hope to bring honor back to my family name."
Mahdi smiles to himself at Hazim's answer; very like his brother.
He inclines his head at the lady's response, folding his hands together in his lap. Sa'amm crawls inside his sleeve.
"For myself, I am honored to assist you in this pursuit, lady. What do you know of the threats we will face? --this fire, was this some random outbreak?"
Amiable listens to the menagerie introduce themselves, repeating their names to himself so he doesn't forget them. He little head bobs as he does so. He seems especially interested in the Firemancer, looking him up and down at least thrice
I wonder what burnt gnoll smells like.
Amiamble relaxes a bit as it appears that we won't be asked to speak on his own behalf. Listening to Almah speak, he realizes he has questions to be asked.
Almah leans far out to one side to get a better view of the back of the tent.
"Excuse me. What was that you said? I haven't heard anything from you yet, halfling. I see your brother speaks for you, but I'd like to know what questions or concerns you have. And I'd like to hear some of this 'interesting viewpoint' that he speaks of." she says with a smile.
Can you describe Almah a bit more? Right now, unless I missed something, we've got 'regal' and 'female'. Age? Charisma? Holy Symbol? Race?
Ami's eyes go wide as Almah speaks to him. Frightened, he quickly (and clumsily) hides behind Aldebert, hoping to be forgotten.
1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5 Stealth
"He's just a little shy, don't mind him, he'll open up with time." Aldebert unconsciously steps slightly in front of his brother giving him somewhere to hide, even though Amiamble is in fact taller than Adlebert.
"We were wondering if you have scouted Kelmarane already? Do you know what we will find there?"
Because Painlord is a giant dick, I updated the campaign tab with pictures of NPCs. ;)
Almah nods at Mahdi's question and says, "In due time. I'd like to address the halfling's concerns first."
She folds her hands in her lap and looks up towards the roof of the colorful tent.
"Long ago, the village was one of several in the Uwaga Highlands of the Brazen Peaks situated around a battle market, a huge arcade that attracted merchants, gladiators, actors, musicians, and customers from throughout Katapesh and neighboring Osirion. Then, about 20 years ago... it fell, and the Pactmasters abandoned it to ruin."
Her eyes close, as if recalling a painful memory. Garavel stands up straight and crosses his arms, looking down at the floor as well.
"Rumors of plagues and evil curses abound, but in truth no one really seems to know why the village died. About 2 years ago, a pack of gnolls called the Kulldis tribe inhabited the battle market and claimed Kelmarane as its own. The Pactmasters want the village back, and it's up to us to deliver to to them."
"I hope that gives you an idea of what we're up against. But, that comes later. For now, we have a more urgent issue at hand."
Amiamble peeks out of 'hiding' to better listen to Almah, nodding once or twice while she speaks.
We'll fix it. And we'll find Haleen while we're at it. We will. We'll give the gnolls the 'Whatfor'.
Amiamble smashes his tiny fist into his tiny palm as a sign of solidarity with Almah.
Ami whispers to Aldebert again.
"She didn't answer the question. We don't know what to expect do we? We don't know what is there or what we'll be facing. Hmm..."
Ami stops whispering for a moment.
"Are we getting paid for this? Did you ask about that?"
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7
Mahdi remains cross-legged, his face temporarily serious as he listens to Almah explain.
"So the first order of business is to grind this Kulldis tribe into the sands? That, we can perform."
"You're asking the wrong person. Dashki is our local "gnoll expert" and could probably tell you more."
Garavel lets out a slight hrumph from Almah's statement. Her eyes dart back towards her servant, gazing upon him as if he had spoken out of turn.
"Pay no heed to Garavel's ill temper," she then laughs. "Dashki is... an interesting fellow. I'm sure you'll meet him soon enough."
As Almah turns to Mahdi, she shakes her head in disapproval before adding, "No, we have many steps to take before we get to that destination. The first being the fire that occurred this evening."
The Keleshite princess stands, her poise and posture demanding of attention. "Garavel, you are to lead your new recruits into an investigation. See if you can determine whether or not the fire was set by someone within the camp. You five, you are to assist my major domo in whatever he requires for this task. Since you were not here when the fire broke out, I think it's safe to rule the lot of you out as suspects. Help Garavel determine if there is a mystery afoot and if so, solve it. Understood?"
Mahdi rises from his cross-legged position, depositing Sa'amm on his shoulder and offering Almah another bow and a roguish smile.
"You have spoken, Lady, and so we shall do. I am certain we will be able to procure your answers soon.
"Is there anything else you know of the fire, that would speed our searching? You saw nothing strange before the wagon lit up?"
Amiamble nods in the affirmative, happy to contribute to the cause.
He considers sneaking out to go begin the investigation, but decides its probably best to wait for the rest of the party.
I bet Yeenoghu will sniff out the fire starter pretty quickly.
Almah crosses her arms and grins at Mahdi's question.
"Ah, this one here's very good, Garavel! Fresh on the investigation and he's already questioning his own boss!"
Almah lets out a hearty laugh. Garavel does not share the same reaction, instead setting his burning gaze upon Mahdi with the utmost-serious expression.
"Eloais, the owner of the burned-down wagon, was a Harrower and personal fortune-teller to lady Almah. I'm sure you saw some of the remnants of his divination deck of cards scattered amongst the charred wagon."
Almah once again regains her composure, nodding at Garavel's statement in agreement. "I personally hired him in Solku about a month ago to read his cards for me. It felt 'right' to have a harrower at my side while I visited the lands of my ancestors. I trusted his opinions, and seeing as he was Varisian which I share some common blood, I felt comfortable with him around.
"Though, in the last day or so, his readings had become increasingly grim. His last reading centered on an auspicious card. The Cyclone, I think it was. He said it portends death by fire and schemes by powerful evil. When I asked if that indicated something about Kelmarane, he said, 'Yes, but the village is only a small part of something much larger.' Something he called the Legacy of Fire. I'm not sure what he meant by that, unfortunately, and now I presume I'll never know."
Mahdi offers only a slight smile to the grim look Garavel impales him with, keeping his attention on Almah, head cocked slightly as he listens.
"Death by fire? A legacy of fire?" he exclaims, lips curling up at the corners. "The stars have assuredly urged my steps in the right direction. What could be more fortuitous than having one who studies all the secrets of flame on hand, as you seek to unravel this mystery?"
(Graciously, Mahdi will allow the rest of you to Help him discover his destiny.)
The smile flickers to thoughtfulness. "So he saw his own death... but couldn't avoid it. Or-- someone decided to make his prophecy come true."
A third possibility occurs to Mahdi, but he will keep quiet on it for now.
"Did any in the caravan dislike your Varisian, Lady?"
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (6) + 0 = 6
Everyone is asking good questions. Let's wait and see what she has to say. Oh wait...
"Also, was that his personal caravan or was their other gear stored there? Perhaps he was not the target, but some important bit of gear was."
Amiamble shuffles his feet, anxious to get out of the tent and get to work, and while he's quite willing to hush, listening is another thing altogether.
Sense Motive @ earlier Almah spoiler: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16
My new friend Mahdi is intent on his fortune. May the legacy he seeks not be a fiery blight on others.
Malki listens quietly, gauging the speakers. What fortunes do my friends here seek, that Eloais might have drawn out.
She thinks it's to rebuild her town. Will that be the true destination for her journey?
The wizard begins to suspect this legacy of fire as the end of his journey. Has he the right of it?
And what of these others? Haleen's whispering brother gnashes his teeth at the mention of gnolls. What lies after that will light up his face with joy?
It shall be for me to divine.
He nods his head as the group gets ready to begin its investigation. He takes the Cyclone card from his turban and hands it to Almah. "Lalaci delivered the cyclone to me on the wind. There will certain be tests for us in the coming days. Opportunities no doubt to hate and hurt, but also opportunities for each of us to learn what we most treasure. May this first investigation lead us onto such a path."
Almah nods to each of you with a smile.
"I'm confident that you all are up to this task. After all, Garavel selected you all personally, so what could go wrong? Anyway, Garavel will answer any more remaining questions you may have. I have other business I must attend to. Good luck."
Garavel bows to his master, saying, "Thank you.". He turns and walks out of the tent, beckoning for you all to convene outside.
Amiamble hops from foot to foot in anticipation of getting out of the tent, onto Yeenoghu, and begin the search.
Ami runs outside to wait to see if Garavel has any special instructions before he gets started. "C'mere boy!"
Yeenoghu will slowly roust himself and attend to the halfling.
Once everyone is gathered outside the tent, Garavel leans forward to address you all in a quieter tone.
"Here's the plan. You all are to go and interview each person or group within our caravan. I can't do this myself, as I already know everyone here and I cannot allow personal bias cloud my judgment. When you are finished, you will return and report your findings to Almah and me.
"Since you haven't met everyone yet, let me fill you in on who you should be investigating...
"There's Almah and myself, whom you've already met.
"There's the halfling, Father Zastoran, our resident priest.
"Dashki is the long-haired, mangy-looking man that I'm sure you'll run into soon. He's our gnoll expert for this expedition.
"There are two sets of guards. The first are Almah's personal protectors hired by the Pactmasters to ensure her safety. They're the ones keeping watch around her tent here," he points to the four men. "Their names are Fixx, Keldon, Podarn and Vodrave.
"The other six guards are mercenaries that Almah brought on to watch over the caravan while you lot are out on your assignments. The men are Trevvis, Utarchus and Dullen. The women are Kallien, Brotis and Yesper.
"And finally, we have our camel drivers. They are the husband and wife that own the zoo here that is used for food and and transportation. They also perform many of the menial tasks around here."
With that, he straightens up and eyes each of you. "Any questions before proceeding? You are also welcome to investigate Eloais' wagon, if you think it will help uncover any information."
"I suggest we begin at the beginning and thoroughly investigate the site of the fire. There may be some clue there as to how it started. After that I have no preference as to the order of the questioning."
Aldebert, assuming the others are in agreement, heads toward the now ruined wagon to see if it can be determined where the fire started - and how.
Amiamble listens to Garavel and nods a few times to show his understanding. When finally given the go, Ami jumps onto Yeenoghu's back...
1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25 Ride to Quick Mount
...and lands in the saddle. Yeah! Ta-DA!
Given leave, Amiamble will go over to the burnt wagon and though a lot of people were no doubt about it, Amiamble will spend a LOT of time carefully going over the terrain all around the wagon and an inspection of the wagon.
He'll be taking 20, repeatedly: 27 Perception. And tracking: 24 Survival.
Yeenoghu will come to help, mostly lying nearby and waiting.
I need to teach Yeenoghu to track. He has a good nose just needs to learn how to use it.
I agree with Aldebert. The burnt caravan wagon would be a good start. Hazim makes eye contact with his brother for a moment and then heads over to the remains fo the fire.
The stench of burnt flesh is strong as you take the time to examine the charred remains of the wagon. The search reveals sooty ashes, broken vials, a cracked crystal ball, and several pools of wax from what used to be candles. None of it radiates magical.
In the middle of the wagon, a charred skeleton lies, it's bones blackened. Malki and Ami are able to discern that there was no sign of a struggle or violence, revealing that Eloais must have died from the fire or smoke inhalation.
Several blackened coins litter the floor of the wagon. Other than that, nothing of value or note is found.
If you take the coins, there are 55gp total. If not, then your conscious is nice and prestine still. :)
Hazim tries to palm 10 coins: sleight of hand roll of 14 + 8 = 22. He has had to do worse in the past to provide for his brother and himself. He says a quick word of thanks to the deceased, and pocket the coins.
Perception roll of 1 + 4 = 5.
Mahdi nods to Almah with a final bow and then consents to be ushered along to the wagon.
Burnt ashes and blackened bones are nowhere near as interesting as the spectacular fire that had created them. Mindful of getting his fine robes sooty, Mahdi lets the others poke around, restricting his efforts to nothing more than casting a cantrip to detect the presence of magic, and finding nothing.
(His interest fades markedly on realizing that. Just mundane fiery murder, then. Ho-hum.)
Perception: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (10) + 2 = 12
Failing to see either his brother's deft hands or the figure lurking around the edges, Mahdi examines his fingernails instead while the others get sooty and dirty.
"I think I will go talk to the ladies among the mercenary guard," he says. "I leave you all to this... exciting study."
Clasping his hands behind his back, Mahdi turns to seek out Kallien, Brotis or Yesper. Sa'amm perches on his shoulder, stinged tail poised in the air as if scenting the desert breezes (however ludicrous that is).
Aldebert studies the area carefully also looking for clues and, not afraid to get dirty, he'll move some of the burnt timbers out of the way to search deeper. He sweats freely as he works in the hot sun.
Taking 20, Perception 23, Survival 20.
Perception vs DC 15: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6
Perception vs DC 22: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
He says quietly to Hazim, "Let us present all our findings to Garavel and trust he does the right thing by us - but also by the poor dead mans family. OK?" He holds out his hand for the 10 coins and collects the others as well to give to Garavel.
He says a little more loudly, "Besides, if he gives us nothing, that will tell us something of his character now won't it? A good test of his integrity."
After collecting the coins, he continues to dig through the remains looking for more profitable clues in our quest.
Amiamble scents the desert breezes as he searches, longing to run alone in the sun.
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (15) + 7 = 22 Perception vs Figure
1d20 + 7 ⇒ (12) + 7 = 19 Perception vs Sleight
Amiamble, seeing the lurking figure, guides Yeenoghu over to Aldebert.
He'll know what to do; my brother is the wise one.
When Ami finishes his main search, he will go further out (50 yards?) and do a perimeter search as well.
When his search is over, if the figure is still there, Aldebert will amble up to him, wiping off his sooty hands in a rag as he goes.
"Greetings! We haven't found much I'm afraid. It's quite a mess isn't it? Sad that someone died in that fire. A real shame they couldn't be saved..."
Aldebert, I owe you nothing, just as you owe me nothing. But in good faith, to our group, I will gladly give you give you the coins to give to his family. When that is set up, tell me, and they are yours. I'm not here to take from anyone's family. Just to provide for mine.
He taps Alderbert on the tummy quickly, smiling.
And by the looks of it, we'll need every copper we have just to feed you.
Hazim holds his hand out to Aldebert in good faith, a sign of his promise. Feel free to sense motive. But he is telling the truth.
After this, Hazim stays still for a moment, watching both where his brother is going, and where the two halflings are going.
As you move closer to see who it is, a tall human with long, dark hair comes into clear view. A powerful body odor becomes apparent, and the dirt in his hair and clothes suggest the lack of a bath in a long time.
His eyes squint as he looks down at Aldebert, as if straining to examine him completely.
"So, you're the ones Garavel just brought in. I'm sure you must've had a hard time crossing the desert in that armor of yours," he says to Aldebert with a snicker. "My name's Dashki. What do you want?"
Are people splitting up? That's fine, I just want to make sure before I start running multiple conversations at the same time.
Ami will do his perimeter tracking first then ride to follow Aldebert around. Just want to see if someone or something snuck away during the fire confusion.
Mahdi is definitely looking for The Ladeez. So... yes, I think.
Perception DC 15: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
Perception DC 22: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Malki also examines the body to verify that it was indeed fire that killed it (and not, say, a blunt object on the noggin).
Heal 27 for take 20 or: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
As he sees the hovering figure, Malki calls out in friendly fashion, moving towards the figure. "Hello, my good friend. Have we met? They call me Malki Zedek."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
@Ami: You don't find any sign of tracks around the wagon.
@Mahdi: As you search around, you eventually come across the six mercenaries that Garavel told you about. They seem to be relaxing inside of a tent, gathered around and sitting on the floor while talking amongst themselves. When you poke your head in, one of the men gruffly calls out to you. "Yeah, who're you? And what do you want? Can't you see we're busy?" The others chuckle a bit at their companion's demeanor.
@Malki: As you closely examine the body, you are absolutely certain that there was no physical violence that took place in his wagon. The death seems purely caused by the fire solely. You hear the discussion begin between Aldebert and the man.
Mahdi offers arched brows in 'surprise' at this statement, holding up his hand to let Sa'amm crawl onto it.
"Are you? Most strange. It looks to me as though you are taking your ease, while just outside of your tent, someone who was placed under your protection died of a fire.
"But then--" he smiles, "I am no warrior, so of course, I may be ignorant of your customs, my friends. Perhaps this is how men of arms stay very busy."
He strokes the vividly-colored scorpion along its carapace, bright eyes darting to each of the rough men and women in turn.
"I am Mahdi al-Jabira. This is Sa'amm." It is no coincidence that the name he has chosen for the little scorpion is very similar to the Kelish word for 'poison'. "The Lady who has hired all of you has bid me ask questions about this curious fire, to see if there is a further danger in the camp. You, of course, do not have to answer me. I am sure the thought of having some murderous arsonist running around the camp, possibly setting your tent on fire while you sleep, does not bother any of you."
If you want any roll to accompany this, just lemme know what it would qualify as.