Dotting 'cos it's in style.
Over the last few weeks, there have been reports that the Licktoad goblins of Brinestump Marsh have grown unusually aggressive. The reason for this uncharacteristic bravery seems clear — the goblins have somehow managed to arm themselves with what appears to be a considerable supply of fireworks. The problem stems not so much from the additional “firepower” these fireworks provide as from the inf lated sense of ego and power that the devices have given the goblins — the fireworks have made them dangerously brave.
Several merchant caravans and travelers have been attacked so far, and according to the victims, the damage caused by horses panicking at the sight and sound of exploding pyrotechnics is almost as destructive as the goblin attacks themselves. With the last few attacks resulting in severe injuries to three unfortunate travelers, the problem has escalated from an annoyance to a threat.
However, as none of the attacks have yet inconvenienced Magnimar (only Sandpointers and other Lost Coasters have been hit so far), the city has been slow to react. Unwilling to idly sit by and wait for the goblin problem to escalate to actual deaths on the Lost Coast Road in order to attract Magnimar’s attention, Sandpoint’s leaders have put out the call for goblin exterminators.
But after a time of upheaval a few years back involving more than just goblins, Sandpoint has since returned to being a relatively sleepy town. It doesn’t take long for life to settle down once things return to normal, and with Varisia’s adventurers now more eager to try their luck at finding their fortunes in legendary Xin-Shalast, there simply aren’t a lot of volunteers to fight goblins around. Always running at a lean enrollment, Sandpoint’s city watch can’t afford to send patrols into the trackless expanse of Brinestump, although they have stepped up their presence along the Lost Coast Road itself. The task of wading into the notorious local wetland falls instead to adventurers — be they concerned locals honestly eager to aid the town or greedy mercenaries looking to make relatively easy coin. A few adventurers have already made the attempt, but nothing has been heard of them in the 3 days since they entered Brinestump Marsh, and just last night, another round of colorful explosions burst over the wetlands south of Sandpoint. The goblins are doubtless readying a new attack!
Though each of you has your own reasons for volunteering to help the town, you've come to the Rusty Dragon, Ameiko Kaijitsu's much-loved inn, to learn more about the job. Despite becoming one of the town's wealthiest and most notable citizens following the death of her father several years ago, she's seemed rather reluctant to retire and enjoy a life of ease. On the other hand, the fact that she no longer has to care about how well her business does seems to have given her new vigor and cheer, and the result is that the Rusty Dragon is more popular than ever before... and with a better menu, too.
"All right, drinks tonight are on me if you're heading out tomorrow morning." Ameiko said as she brought out several large mugs full of various drinks. "Just the three of you joining this group, huh? Well, the Sheriff's reactivated the old goblin bounty. Ten gold for every fresh right ear you bring to the town hall, and three hundred if you bring in the head of the Licktoads' leader, Chief Gutwad." she explained. "Now, I'm not sure if any of you have been there before or not, but Brinestump isn't as large as the Mushfens to the south. However, it's far denser, and it's easy to get lost there - nobody's ever been able to make a good map of the place. If anybody can tell you where to go, though, there's this eccentric old halfling named Walthus Proudstump who calls himself the warden of the swamp. An old fishing trail leads from the Lost Coast Road straight to his house, and it's probably a good place to start. Any questions?"
Shelby had wandered into the Inn after her afternoon practice sparring, her dark hair flat against her head, heavy with sweat. It would be poofy again in an hour, she knew, but she enjoyed the feel of it all the same. Hard work and dedication were of utmost importance to the young woman, and she went through her afternoon routine without fail every day. Her armor is highly polished, though anyone looking at it with a skilled eye would likely surmise it has seen little or no actual combat use.
She shares a small smile with Ameiko, accepting a mug of water from the eastern woman as she talks of the town's troubles with the surrounding goblins. Koya had discouraged Shelby from acting against the foul little beasts, but now that there was a posted bounty and such a large threat, surely the woman would relent. The Iomedaean listens politely as Ameiko speaks, processing all she has said.
"It seems as though this Walthus character will be able to answer our questions about the swamp itself. Turning in early and being prepared to head out at first light seems like the plan!" Shelby tries to keep her tone level, but can't quite conceal her excitement at the task laid in front of her.
Glad of her mask since she could feel the snarl on her face, Shutai forced her body to relax. The heavy robes she wore would help, she assumed, but the mention of the vile Goblins made her more aggressive feelings well up. Flicking her long, dark hair over one shoulder, Shutai considered. Koya did not encourage her desire for revenge, but she did understand it. Goblins had nearly killed Shutai after all.
Her magics would also likely be useful. Shutai, for some reason, carried both divine and arcane magics within her as naturally as others breathed. She wished she knew why it was, sometimes, but mostly she simply enjoyed the benefits. As it was, with time, she would be one of the most powerful spellcasters in town, and was already fairly potent.
Combined with her more feral abilities...
"No questions. Thank you for the information, and the offer." She considered, and added, "But could I get two curried salmons to take home, please?"
Hisoka steps through the door in what he would call a fashionably late manner. He eyes the women before him, both familiar and sets his pack on the floor by his feet before taking a seat. He lets out a long sigh of relief as his feet are relieved of him and puts on a smile as he winks at Ameiko as she goes over the details, or what she had of them.
"A bit odd to pay 10 gold ones for the ear of a goblin, there are more preferable specimens out there that are more worth the coin." Another wink. "But what people collect is their own business, the Mayor no different." His lips lifted into what he hoped was a charming smile before hailing his companions to be, dipping down into a makeshift bow in his seat, looking up at them through the dark curtain of his long hair with yet another smile.
Brushing his hair out of his eyes, Hisoka holds up his hand. "No questions here. Except who'd like to drink with me." He looks up at Shutai. "Leaving so soon?"
Ameiko just nodded at Shutai's order and headed back towards the kitchen, pausing to pick up a few more orders along the way. She had grinned a bit at Hisoka's charming smile, but at least for now, she seemed busy with the shop. Goblins were a menace that had long plagued this region of the world, and even some fairly serious efforts over the years - such as the raid that had destroyed a goblin nest at Thistletop - weren't enough to keep them down for long. Food was on the way, and after that, all that was left was preparing as you liked for the expedition.
"More preferable specimens to many, perhaps. But those other specimens aren't accosting travelers and lighting up the night sky with stolen pyrotechnics, either. Generous or not, bounty or not, this is our duty, and we shall not shirk it." Her dark eyes remain fixed on Hisoka for a moment, waiting for a challenge.
After a moment, she turns to Shutai. "Are you getting something for Koya, as well?" She is curious, to be sure, but also a bit irritable. The two women seemed to always compete for the older woman's attention, and she disliked that Shutai had thought of their foster mother first.
Addressing both of her companions, "Traveling in swampland, I suspect we'll need boots. Some provisions, definitely. I don't believe it's far, so we shouldn't be weighed down too much. We can always make return trips, if needed." Her tone suggests she doesn't think this will be the case, a cocky look about her.
Shutai nodded. "One for you, one for her. I'm already full thanks to my curse." Shutai's Ravenous curse combined with her weird metabolism meant she couldn't eat much, but had to eat often. There was no way she could eat a whole fish. She would need to eat in an hour or two, but she had plenty of supplies.
"I think I have most of the supplies I need," she added. She glanced over at Hisoka. "Would you like some fish too, Hisoka?"
Hisoka let pass his attempt at light-hearted humor. He was after all in agreement with Shelby's words and merely nodded, content to spectate the sisterly adversity at play rather than challenge her half-heartedly merely for entertainment's sake.
He then looks to Shutai. He never liked eating in front of others who were not, it always made him uncomfortable. But he supposed, these were exceptional circumstances. "Sure, that would be great. Ameiko? Might I trouble you for a pint? I can't subject these ladies to myself in a state of sobriety for too long now. It would be indecent!"
Shelby nods to Shutai, perhaps in thanks, perhaps in acknowledgment of the other woman's curse. She waits patiently, sipping at her water. She arches a dark eyebrow at Hisoka's comment. She shrugs slightly...maybe he actually would be more pleasant with a couple of beers in his belly. Typically, things only got worse for men when they were in their cups, so she doesn't hold out much hope.
She asks both of them, "Anything else you guys can think of? Extra rope? Tindertwigs?"
"A gift?" Shutai shrugged. "If we are to ask favors of a stranger, even if that favour benefits him, it seems like a small token would be the correct thing." Shutai had no idea what to get such a person, however.
"Perhaps if we just show him the respect the 'Warden' of the swamp deserves, he will be likely to help us." The way she says this likely makes the others think she would be a poor candidate for this task. She shrugs, not having an idea for a gift, either. Coins usually worked with people, she supposed, and she had a few of those to spare, if it would loosen this halfling's tongue.
Hisoka ponders for a moment. "I agree with Shelby, though a gift couldn't hurt. Ameiko, is there anything else you can tell us about this Walthus Proudstump? Perhaps if we knew more about him we can better prepare, I'd hate to be held back by some halfling's whim."
"He keeps to himself." the owner of the Inn said, glancing out from the back room. "Lived there for a long time, as I hear it, and tries to protect the place from problems... he's gone a bit crazy in his old age, but he shouldn't be a threat to the three of you even if he gets wild." She didn't seem to know any more than that.
Shelby nods at the information, fairly useless that it is. "Meet here again at first light, then?", she inquires. As part of her habit while living with her parents, she rose before the dawn. They rose before the dawn to greet the coming day, as Sarenrae worshipers. She rises before dawn from habit and a way to pay respect to her father.
Craft (Food): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
Rising early and performing the rites most sacred to Arshea left Shutai feeling calm and relaxed. After eating a light breakfast she considered Walthus.
Since Halflings were typically fond of food, Shutai baked a small cake. Using a mix of candied fruit and honey coated nuts sliced finely, she topped it with a simple sugar icing. It was, she considered as she placed it in a small box, about average for her typical work.
As she packed she nodded to Selbarnia. "I made Walthus a small cake. Hopefully it'll help convince him we are friends. Do we need anything else before we meet with Hisoka?"
The warpriestess shakes her head in response to her smaller foster-sibling. She is glad the other woman was coming along, even if she didn't overtly admit it. Although she could be social and courteous when she wanted to be, she tended to miss the 'little things', as Koya would call them.
"Let's gather him up, then, if he can be roused from his bed after all the drink he imbibed." She opens the door for Shutai, then follows her out into the brightening morning air.
Hisoka would spend the early morning outside with a training excercise, just enough to build a light sweat before heading back inside to wash up. The light ringing in his head was an unpleasant reminder of his festivities the previous night.
He gathered his belongings, dressed and was off to meet the others.
Brinestump Marsh is a relatively small region, but it’s fantastically overgrown with vegetation. Given the frequent stretches of muddy bogs and snaking waterways, moving through the marsh is a tiring and frustrating procedure. The marsh itself is bounded on its southern edge by a cliff that rises an average of 40 feet from the wetlands below to the moors above.
The wetland is a tangle of nettles, reeds, and other swamp plants often supplemented by larger vegetation — cypress, eucalyptus, oak, and willow trees mostly. Movement along trails is at 3/4 speed, while movement through the undergrowth is at 1/4 speed. The aptly named Soggy River is the primary waterway that flows through Brinestump. The river averages 20 feet deep, while its smaller creeks average 5 feet deep. Should you ever wish to traverse them, a DC 10 Swim check is required to navigate these placid waters.
Fog shrouds this place, and noises and rustles can be heard throughout. As you travel along, you occasionally see strange three-toed footprints in the swamp, and occasionally find that your chosen trail leads across several old, mossy bridges.
*Mysterious roll*: 1d100 ⇒ 40
Nothing jumps out at you as you make your way to the halfling's hut (Area G on the map at the top of the screen), where a muddy trail leads up to a swampy lagoon. The open ocean is visible just beyond these shallow waters, while an old two-story building, its walls soggy with moss and its roof sagging with age, sits on the lagoon’s eastern shore.
Shutai approached slowly, making no attempt to hide her approach. Her sandled feet squished through the mud, much to her displeasure, but she continued carefully. "Mr Proudstump?" she called out, swallowing as much of her accent as she could. "Ameiko Kaijitsu of Sandpoint recommended coming to you for some help. May we come in?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (1) + 10 = 11
Shelby flanks her foster-sister, keeping her manner mild and her hand well away from the pommel of her weapon. She wears her holy symbol of the Inheritor openly on the chest of her armor, her gait relaxed as she follows Shutai. Glancing at Hisoka, she chuckles wryly. Between the three of them, they certainly looked good enough to charm their way into most places. Whether they could fight or not remained to be seen.
Maybe it was the mud... or the smell... but Shutai's diplomatic efforts were less than spectacular. Even so, there was a shuffling sound from inside the house, and perhaps twenty seconds later, the door opened to reveal a halfling. He looked both injured and exhausted, and perhaps a bit surprised as he glanced at the three of you. "S-sorry - my home's a bit of a mess right now, and it's not something I'd like to show to visitors." he said, voice mostly strong. "Are you lost?"
Hisoka trudges on, as stealth was not in his repertoire. He preferred it that way most times. "Master Proudstump, my name is Hisoka Izanagi. My partners and I are here in pursuit of goblins."
Momentary silence as he inspects the halfling's apparent wounds. "Perhaps we could be of help to each other? Some help with those injuries in exchange for some directions?" Hisoka smiled his usual smile and awaited the halflings reply.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (2) + 8 = 10
Shelby looks a bit crestfallen. She could heal wounds, certainly...but literally had no idea how to deal with poison of the body. She gives the halfling a sympathetic look. "Sir, what gave you those wounds?"
Her dark eyes dart back out to the swamp, as if whatever had attacked the halfling might rear up and start trying to munch on her and her companions.
"A big snake that came onto my property not too long ago." the halfling explained. "I managed to drive it away, but it bit me before I hurt it enough, and some of the venom is still lingering in my system. You're welcome to try and hunt it down if you want, though I'm not sure how much luck you'll have in this place. Blasted thing could be two feet away and you'd never even see it."
"I am sorry," Shutai replied. "I don't think any of us can help with the poison. Are such large snakes such a problem here?"
Shelby nods matter-of-factly, not keen on hunting down a huge, venomous snake, but appreciative of the knowledge of its existence. After the halfling answers Shutai, she inquires, "Sir, we are here to try to rid this swamp and the people of Sandpoint from the increasing goblin menace. Is there any information you can provide in this matter? Any knowledge of the goblins' habits? Do they keep guards at night? Those sorts of things..."
"Well, I don't know too much about them..." Walthus said. "Their village is southeast of here, and you can reach them through the old fish trail. It's a little further south from the main road. It looked like they were planning something big, so if you want to stop them, you probably shouldn't waste any time."
As you talk, though, you're able to get a nagging little feeling in the back of your minds. The halfling has been quite helpful thus far, but he may not have been entirely truthful with you.
Shutai nodded to him. "Are you sure we cannot help you? Maybe escort you back to the town for healing? If the Goblins are planning something so big we may be better off returning there anyway, to warn them. So escorting you for healing is no trouble." Shutai wasn't good at reading people. But something seemed off. She wanted to see how the man responded to being offered to being taken to sandpoint.
Shelby remains silent, but her dark eyes remain fixed on the man, trying to determine why the man would withhold information. She nods at her foster-sister's words, placing a friendly smile on her face, shrewdly watching the halfling's reaction. A person's body language was every bit as important as their words in determining what they were saying, or not saying.
"I d-didn't choose to live out here because of a desire for company." the halfling said, shaking his head. "If you can't help me, my injuries will eventually heal on their own, and I'd rather just rest here until then. The goblins don't come this way anyway, so I'm sure I'll be safe." Throughout all the time you've talked, the halfling has made no move to even open the door further than necessary.
Something about all this didn't sit right with him. It seemed to him that Walthus was either hiding, or hiding something. He listened to the conversation, a sense of suspicion building even as he devised a plan to determine exactly what was going on. When things were quiet he listened intently to see if he could hear anything inside the house.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (9) + 4 = 13
Hisoka takes a step forward, doing his best to be as non-threatening in his stance as possible. "I may not be able to deal with the poison, but I can ease the pain if only temporarily, and I can seal the wound. I appreciate the information you've given us, please allow me to return the favor as best I can."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (8) + 8 = 16
You're not able to notice anything off about the house itself - it seems like a fairly typical residence. A bit run-down, perhaps, but obvious attempts at maintaining it in reasonably good condition are visible.
The halfling hesitated a bit, but eventually held one hand out to allow Hisoka to approach and send healing magic through it.
Her brow furrows at the halfling's demeanor...something wasn't right at all about this situation. "Sir, is everything ok?" She comes right up to the door, skirting Hisoka and gently but stubbornly pushing against the door to open it further. "If you're having a problem, we'd like to help..."
Hisoka reached out with his hand, gripping onto the halflings wrist. Taking Shelby's initiative as understanding of his intent, Hisoka tenses in preparation should any surprises reveal themselves.
Keeping his tone casual, he leans in as he closes the remaining distance between him and Walthus to get a better look inside. "It seems strange to me that a person who lives out here in the swamp would not be prepared for poison. What with the venomous snakes and all."
Sense Motive: 1d20 ⇒ 10
Casts Cure Light Wounds.
If I need to make a grapple check, Grapple: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (19) + 4 = 23 and will skip the heal until a later post.
The healing magic settles over the halfling, and what little can be seen of his home does seem to be a bit untidy... though not horribly messy by any measure. "Not as many as outsiders would think." he said, clearly unhappy about people pressing forward. "Most of those around here are the crushing kind. I might stock up on antidotes for the future, though - live and learn, right?"
Feeling guilty about just barging in, but still troubled by something niggling at her, Shelby presses all the way into the room, giving the halfling an almost embarrassed, tight smile as she passes him. Her sharp brown eyes look around for signs of struggle, any signs of recent guests, etc.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15
Shelby's brow furrows as she looks the halfling over for signs of wounds that would cause the copious amount of blood loss it would take to cause the pools of blood on the floor.
"Either you're more injured than you're letting on, or there's something amiss here. Restrain him, Hisoka." She draws her weapon, advancing further into the room, trying to see if there is a blood trail of some sort.
He didn't hesitate, immediately pulling the halfling in in an attempt to secure one arm around his neck and the other locking the wrist he gripped between them, twisting it to the edge of injury.
Grapple: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (17) + 4 = 21
"I suggest you comply, I don't want to hurt you if it can be avoided. If you are who you say you are, we apologize for our methods but I'd hate to leave and have something happen that could've been avoided. Shelby, search the house but be careful. Call if you need me."
The halfling let out a yelp - and his grip on Hisoka suddenly tightened to a painful degree.
Hisoka has taken 1 point of Constitution damage - no save.
"This is my house - mine!" the halfling bellowed.
Initiative (The Halfling): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
Initiative (Hisoka): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 = 3
Initiative (Selbarina): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8
Initiative (Shutai): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Bit of a primer here - I run combat in PbP a bit differently from the tabletop game. Things are actually done in blocks - right now, only Shutai can act before the halfling, and that's Round 1. Once your opponent has done something, any of you can post (and that will be labelled Round 2, even if it's your first time acting, to help keep things straight), and things will be resolved in the order they're posted. There's no need to wait on others to act when the party's up - this helps keep things moving. Enemies will almost always act on the same initiative count, rather than breaking up the party's actions. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
With a yelp of surprise saw the skin on Hisoka's arm turn almost white. With a grunt Shutai pulled off her mask, revealing for only a moment the dark skin and silver tattoos beneath before shifting into her more feral form. Within moments there instead stood a humanoid fox, black furred and covered in silver marks. Shutai stepped out of sandels, claws digging into the mud.
There was nothing loud or especially aggressive about the words, simply the hint of a growl coming from a mouth filled with needle-like teeth. But it was still enough to send a shiver of ice down most creatures spine.
Intimidate: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18
"He's the one who grabbed me!" the Halfling yelped angrily, though there was a definite undercurrent of fear to his voice as he slammed out with his free hand.
Slam: 1d20 ⇒ 13
It was close, but Hisoka managed to dodge it - though the halfling's other hand, involved in the grapple, was still grabbing onto him and draining his vitality.
1 more point of Constitution damage to Hisoka. Total: 2 points.
Hisoka releases his grip, taking a careful step back and drawing his katana as he did. His breathing heaved as the effects took hold and his vitality drained. Remorse and the beginnings of anger tugged at him as he glanced over at the bloodied floor.
"What have you done with Walthus, monster? What awaits us on that fish trail?"
Hisoka readies himself to strike should 'Walthus' attack him.
The blood on the floor pointed to fell deeds, but the way Hisoka seemed to wither as the halfling touched him convinced Shelby of the nature of this 'halfling'. As with all things, there was a possibility for error, but some evil was afoot here. She steps back towards the halfling, shouting out to her companions, "Take him down! We can ask questions later!"
Her eyes narrow as she reaches the 'halfling', and she slashes horizontally at him, trying to maximize her chance of success.
Longsword: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5