From experience, Gork knows to trust the senses of his mount (way) more than his own.
A lifetime of low-witted, care-free combat does not make room for a careful combatant within the span of a few years.
My Perception sucks, but Ham has it trained quite well, so I'll leave that comment here, emphasizing that Gork pays attention to Hams reactions.
If he notices something, hopefully Gork will notice something is off too...
Surtur nods. "Alright," he says after the brief meeting, "we go."
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (10) + 9 = 19
Also, see the Survival check I made last post to follow the tracks. i think that makes sense.
You vaguely recall that, just before you were forced to leave the area, there was rumor that some hunters had discovered a trick with sound to make the mantids move and betray their position. Some extreme version of an animal call - but you don't know what it was or how to produce it, or even if it really worked.
The group of hunters sets out, those with mounts riding them at an easy pace and those without following along.
You follow the trail that Surtur and Gork had established the day before, along a disappearing old road that leads to the ruins of the village. You stop briefly there to water the animals and take a bite of food, and then keep going, following the same tracks as before. They are another day older now, but still easy enough to follow.
After the village the tracks leave the road, heading straight west. The need to follow the tracks slows your pace, but after a few more hour's travel you come to the edge of the badlands, where the plentiful grass gives way to patches. The land is broken and craggy here, with sudden drops and sandy cliffs a danger to the unwary.
You still have around half the day left. If you continue into the badlands, there will be perception, geography, and reflex checks to avoid dangers - in addition to anything else you may find.
Travel-order wise Gork should probably be not leading.
His Perception and Reflex is quite low and he is quite manoeuvrable because of being a mounted fighter, so I can get to the fight pretty quickly regardless of where it breaks loose...
For his combination of HP and okay Perception I nominate our glorious leader for point duty!
Jhaelwyn is a tinsy bit too frail to sudden stabs in the face I think : )
Hmph. Maybe I should pay extra attention to strange sounds. Who knows - it might actually work! Jhaelwyn briefly considers sharing the gossip, but felt it was too vague to be valuable. But - they *had* asked her to talk.
"If you hear anything strange - pay attention - it just *might* be a mantid luring call. Or someone being creatively dismembered by one... That's probably more likely. No harm in keeping our ears open though!"
When they arrive at the edge of the badlands Jhaelwyn glances at the sun. Still plenty of day left. Wonder how far they were from the mantid territory proper?
"Should we leave most of our mounts here? Less painful to fall into a hole if there's no yak to crush you ... But that might slow our progress too much. Neither of our quarry rides. Speed to catch up or to crash?"
Sorry for the late response, missed this somehow! Anyways, Surtur would be fine taking point duty; in fact, he'd probably appreicate that more than doing something else. I assume that means the party is all in one box, while the others are in their own box. Maybe Surtur up top, Gork in the back, Drekisal and Histrok in the middle, Jhalewyn, Cuneo and his cat to the sides.
Surtur nods at Jhaelwyn's wise words. There's a reason he brought her- she might be completely mad, but her experience hunting these things is invaluable. He's been quite pleased thus far.
Surtur keeps everyone moving as they reach the edge of the badlands. He'll stop the second he sees a hint of darkness, but not before. He keeps an eye out for any sign of the people they've been trailing, as well.
The smart thing to do would have been to leave the mounts behind at the village, but since I very much doubt Sirt Gork wass going to leave Ham behind, we'll carry on with them. It would be weird if he was the only one riding, and I'm not trying to get into some sort of "Why does he get to ride?" exception situation.
Also, the second the GM said geography, my heart jumped. That 1 skill point I put in Knowledge (Geography) will actually be used! That never happens!!!
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Good point about the ham exclusivity. Let's keep the mounts and hope the mantids have turned vegetarian :P
I actually skipped that knowledge. Good thing our glorious leader got it covered!
"Let's carry on then. Heh. What's the worst that could happen? Now here's a small list: ..." Jhaelwyn does her best to improve party morale by listing all the horrible mantid related injuries she has seen. On the bright side some actually seem survivable!
"Perhaps you might speak of how to spot mantids more, Jhaelwyn?" Drekisal smoothly interjects into a moment when the hunter is taking a breath. "We are to be the hunters here, not they after all."
"Oh yes! I've considered currant jelly to go with them. Or maybe a honey glaze? They don't taste much. Need to add flavour. Have heard some boil them in butter and herbs - but that one I haven't tried yet! Hard to get good butter out here. Hmph. Hmm. Yak butter? Would that work?"
"Ah. Spotting them. It's a bother. Hard to give exact pointers. Talking loudly doesn't help either. But what else is there to do for fun? Better to look for signs and try to stay away from places they can easily hide."
Continuing to follow the tracks, you leave the relatively flat grasslands for the craggy, sandy ground of the badlands. Vegatation drops off rapidly, and even the smell in the air changes, evidence of the poisonous salts in the earth. The tiniest tang of sulfur reaches the more sensitive noses - a foreboding of the tar pits near the center of the inhospitable region.
Surtur, I went to do a couple rolls for you but your entire character profile now seems to consists of the info for your horse. :) I'll need that Know(Geo) check from you.
Knowledge Geography: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9
Surtur keeps a wary eye upon the ground, watching for signs of the mantids or the group they've been tracking. He's mildly entertained by Jhaelwyn's descriptions, though he gives no outward signs of hearing or not. He occasionally barks out when one of the men in the boxes falls out out of line, but otherwise, remains quiet, focused on following the signs of the badlands, as his people had done before.
Untrained can't hurt can it?
Know Geography: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23
... Good think it caps at 10 ...
"Hmm." Jhaelwyn sniffs carefully in the air and wraps a piece of cloth over her nose. Then she resumes her vigil for mantid signs.
Surtur can tell after following the tracks for so long that the group you are seeking is likely seven or eight individuals at the greatest, and unmounted. The band encounters an especially treacherous path, which Surtur decides not to lead the animals through - but when circling it, is unable to find a quick route back to the path you'd been following.
The daylight begins to wane before you have rediscovered the tracks, but you are fairly certain you have not crossed them again yet.
You can camp and pick up the search again in the morning, or risk spending time in the failing light - injury and simply missing the trail are increased dangers if you choose the latter.
"Unfortunately I have no skill in tracking, else I could aid after the fall of night," Drekisal says as the sun gets low. "As it is, might I suggest making camp soon?"
Histrok, seeing that the hour is growing later and that the party is getting somewhat restless takes advantage of a pause to focus and then let out a series of whistles and chirps.
"Let me see if I can get some better feel for where the other hunting party might have gone before it gets too dark."
Casting Commune with Birds. I'll ask for directions to the path of the group of people who most recently passed near here (using Histrok's familiarity with birds to phrase it in a way which would get a reasonable answer.) That should help us find the path more quickly if we'd like to do so before camping.
Surtur quickly looks at the terrain- it's a sttep hill, with several rocks, going almost straight up. Not a good path to take; he can imagine the injuries that might occur from the climb, either from the horses stepping incorrectly, or just trying to get up there.
He leads them around the bend, alongside the hill, and eventually finds a path through it; but, after several hours of searching, he has seen no sign of the trail he was following. Maybe they went around the path too, and Surutr missed it? Unlikely, since the path, while step, was one easily surmounted on foot, with perhaps a bit of rope.
He hates to do this, but he readies himself to call camp.
And then Histrok does something. A bird alights on his shoulder, and he begins to wonder if maybe, perhaps, they can still find the trail after all. So he belays the sign, at least until Histrok determines if he can rediscover the trail.
Histrok's magic spreads through the local wildlife, and to his ears come the answers. The group you seek came through here perhaps three days ago. An inquisitive little wren alights on your shoulder, and is soon joined by several others on the branches and brambles around you. As one they take flight and fly in a straight line - showing you the quickest way to intersect the path the hunters took.
You will have no trouble picking up the trail, either tonight or in the morning.
"Abby, Gork too slow.
Birdsys flap-flap off toofasty.
No grillbirdsy ta'night.
Nice magick, hobgob.
Talley wit Gork e'ly, then try 'gain, rightsy?"
The Ogre very obviously did not get the meaning of those birds ...
Histrok smiles at Sir Gork. "Friend Gork, those birds would be too small to be worth eating. They were whispering messages in my ear as a help to us, not finding their way to our cook fires."
Turning to Surtur, Histrok relays the information gained. "The tracks we were following are about three days old, and we should be able to find them fairly easily by following the directions the birds flew off in. We could probably get to them before nightfall if we wanted, but given their age now, we're likely not to miss anything important if we wait until tomorrow and made sure not to stumble upon other hazards. Birds aren't the best at warning about dangerous trail conditions given how they travel themselves."
"The size of the bird doesn't matter, it's how you sauce it." Jhaelwyn nods in support of Gork.
"It might still be foolish to rush around in the darkness. Harder to see the mantids then. Or loose rocks ..." she gives her input and waits to see if they are going to press on or not. If not there might still be time to set a snare or two ...
Surtur nods, and looks around. "We camp, then," he says. He slowly brings his horse to a stop, and begins setting up his tent of the night.
???: 1d10 ⇒ 9
???: 2d6 ⇒ (3, 1) = 4
With the manpower available to you, it is simple to have ample guards on for all three watches. The night passes uneventfully. I'll want you guys to hash out a watch schedule for the NPC's for when you're all travelling together, but it didn't come up this time.
Using the information provided by Histrok's bird friends, you resume the next trail the next day, picking it up on the far side of the unstable ground.
Surtur Survival DC 12: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (5) + 9 = 14
At one point you almost lose the trail again when the ground becomes rockier, but Surtur is able to keep on it. Despite the difficulty of the trail and the terrain, your group makes good time. Towards midday as you crest a rise you see the smoke of cookfires below. Some half-dozen figures are visible, as are three tents.
Surtur, seeing as you are taking point, you'll be the only one who has seen the smoke. If you wish to try and remain unseen, you must make a stealth check.
Histrok will use the hour before dawn to prepare spells as always, and also use Wisdom of the Ancestors to ask whether engaging any Mantids we encounter this trip mounted is likely to cause more trouble than engaging them on foot. Histrok will also cast Commune with Birds directly after finishing that to ask where the nearest large predators (specifically mantids) are. It's possible that none are in range of what the local birds would know, but it probably doesn't hurt to ask.
Depends on who you are asking. Or, maybe, if you use really pointed questions :P
"Hmh..." Jhaelwyn figured there were probably a good reason as to why they had stopped. Their glorious leader didn't seem to be the type to stop and idly gaze into nothing. Pity. It's relaxing at times! Maybe there were prey or trouble up ahead. No drawn weapons yet, so nothing pressing. Dead adventurers? Oh she did enjoy a good looting. But still - not sure. Better be careful. She looked around for cover or other natural advantages.
Stealth: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (14) + 12 = 26
Having spent another mostly fruitless day, Gork starts to feel uneasy.
He isn't particularly used to long days of travel without other activities (like killing some monster or driving off bandits).
So, when they finally close in on what appears to be a camp, Gork leaves his position and approaches Surtur.
"Shall Gork'n'Ham ride ov'r and talksy to'em?"
The spirits respond. "The tides of battle are turbulent."
The birds respond: there are no mantids/large predators within a mile, so far as any of them know, except your group (and the group you later encounter, right now).
Decision: 1d20 ⇒ 1
Surtur opts for stealth.
Surtur Stealth: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (1) - 1 = 0
Well that's just unfortunate.
Surtur attempts to duck back behind the ridge, but his foot turns on a loose stone and sends a shower of scree down the far side of the ridge. He takes no injury, but is plainly visible to the people in the camp, some of whom are looking his way in alarm, and taking weapons to hand.
Jhaelwyn winced once the loose rock tumbled down the slope. Well - it wasn't like they were *actually* going to ambush those hunters? Plus Surtur wasn't really the sort of type one would expect to be able to hide away for any reasonable length of time anyhow.
Still lurking behind cover she turns back and faces the party. In a low voice, not quite a whisper, she grunts. "They're agitated. No wonder there really. No *proper* lookouts to be seen. But that would be an oxymoron! It's probably easiest to wave and greet them at this point. Or bury them in a hail of arrows - but we don't want that do we? *Sigh*"
Gork turns to the Elf beside him.
"Is tis greetsy-tradit'n from here-pinksys?"
Once that is cleared up, Gork mounts Ham and rides towards the camped humans unless Surtur (or someone else) stops him.
He calls them out over a distance, hands raised in that way that merry insisted means peace.
It never worked with Ogres but sometimes did for humans, so a draw.
"Oii, tere, huntas, Merry greetings fer ya!
We'er new huntas, no danga fer ya.
Huntin' bugsys not pinksys."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15
The dice think, Gork has still a lot of talksy to learn though...
Histrok nods at Jhaelwyn's assessment. "Yes, at this point a direct greeting is probably our best bet. I imagine .." The hobgoblin stops as Sir Gork takes the initiative and hails the other hunting party himself.
Histrok smiles at the message, it's to the point and, with the raised empty hands coming from an Ogre it should be believed. Riding up beside the Shining Knight, Histrok turns and softly says "Thank you Sir Gork, that's perfect," before following the Ogres example and showing his own, empty hands to the party below.
Histork's voice grows much louder than normal so as to be heard, "Sir Gork speaks true, friends. We hunt Mantids, following Leader Surtur here, and are pleased to find other here in these desolate lands. Might we we join you and share a meal and stories?" As Histrok speaks, one's eyes scan the area taking in anything that might be a threat to the party.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (5) + 6 = 11
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (14) + 11 = 25
Attempting to talk to the other group and checking for threats, nothing too fancy here till we know more.
Can we tell the race(s) of the figures at this range? Would we have any feel if these might be from one of the known major hunting parties or scavenger bands back at the lodge?
A bit more DMPC of Surtur. Return to us soon, dear leader!
Surtur raises his hand, palm outward and open, towards the people below, signalling peaceful intent.
Surtur Dip: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (4) + 13 = 17
Three figures from the camp walk towards you, stopping at the bottom of the hill. Surtur takes Gork and Histrok with him to meet them.
Two of the figures are half-orcs, and one a human. One of the half-orcs is tall, nearly as tall as Surtur. His hair is braided and tied with bone-decorated leather, and he carries a long-bladed spear.
From you information, you have the suspicion that this is none other than Urim Gorespear and his hunting band.
"We meant no threat," Surtur says. "I decided the best way to start hunting the mantids would be to follow the tracks of more experienced hunters. I would value your... advice."
The half-orc looks at the group warily for a moment, then shrugs. When he speaks his voice has a more... urban and cultured accent than you would expect. "No harm in it. There is no shortage of the mantids. We will share a meal and some words, and afterwards you go your way. I am not jealous of competition, but too many hunters startle the game."
He waves you back towards his camp, apparently inviting you to join him.
At the half- orc's words, Surtur nods. "Thank you."
He directs Histrok towards the camp, and calls for Drekisal and Jhaelwyn to join them.
"Our huntress, Jhaelwyn, and our quartermaster. These are Histrok, my second, and Sir Gork. We thank you for your experience."
He follows the warleader's movements exactly, feeling none of the stares directed at him, looking at none but the half- orc who had spoken.
At the promise of a free lunch Jhaelwyn pops out of her hiding. Who could resist that? Just to show how appreciative she was of that offer she stowed her spears and put on a smile.
Drekisal dismounts and approaches, leading Fljotur behind him. He gives a small bow as Surtur introduces him, slightly spreading his wings behind him as he does so. For now he remains silent, however, thinking it best to draw no more attention to himself.
Histrok nods a greeting to the leader and his two followers when introduced. "We thank you for your hospitality and your company."
During the walk down to the camp the Hobgoblin shows more deference to Surtur than normal, though there is no lack of deference most of the time, and should Drekisal or Jhaelwyn make eye contact, Histrok makes a very fleeting show of gently bowing ones head in Surtur's direction.
Gork is glad.
Those hunters here are the hard working folk Merry likes.
They life simple, hunting dangerous creatures that cause only harm to peaceful communities.
He joins their fires with joy and hears their names and stories where possible.
Diplomacy to hear news: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (1) + 12 = 13
Towards the sunset, Gork will have a small ceremony for Merry again.
Placing the now travel-worn symbol on a small stone pyramid as a sign that Merry life will once again return to this forsaken lands.
"Ah yes this is nice. Very nice ... Are you heading into the heartland or sticking to the outskirts?" Jhaelwyn looks around in the small camp. Now it wasn't much to look at really, but she tried to be on her best behavior. And take stock of what this hunting party used. Any racks of weapons or traps being maintained perhaps?
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
At the very least she could see Gork doing his weird stuff again. It's kinda pretty but she really failed to see the point.
Your group turns out to mingle fairly easily with the other, though a few of them turn odd glances at Drekisal, who stands out.
Surtur discovers that this is, indeed, Urim Goretusk's group - but only a few of them. The half-orc leader is taciturn and reserved, but not unfriendly. He explains that he suspects there to be a fledgling mantid nest somewhere relatively nearby, within a day's travel. This group had been searching for it when set upon by mantids - the mantids were defeated, but two of the hunters were stricken with the venom and are now recuperating from the paralysis, though it will be a day or more before they can move.
Gork learns that the hunters only want to talk about one thing - bagging a 'big one.' The larger, deadlier mantid reapers are a legend to these men and Urim has sworn he will bring one down before he leaves Gelkrosh. Later in the evening as Gork makes his ceremony, one of the nearby men sees him and gives him a somewhat apprehensive smile. "Merry be," he says to Gork.
Stealth: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (17) + 15 = 32
Elvish "Greetings, little sister,"
In passing, a human says this to you. He continues walking a few steps before turning again to give you a smile.
This man, though looking almost full-blooded human, has very subtle marks of an elvish heritage.
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
Surtur looks to Urim. There's two things on his mind- the nest information is news to him, so knowing that there is a nest- and how to tell when a nest is nearby- is vital information. He attempts to pull this information out of Urim, along with the best approaches against being ambushed by the nest.
"Perhaps we can work together to destroy this nest. We work a grid pattern- you with yours, I with mine. Should either of us stumble upon the nest, we will inform the others with a call." he proposes, afterwords.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (7) + 13 = 20
After this, he'll quietly visit the infirmary, taking stock of the two he's heard are paralyzed by poison.
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (18) + 9 = 27
So there were a *small* nest around. Those were excellent marks, like a good steak; something to chew but not too tough. And bloody. But she wasn't sure Urim was looking to share his spoils. But perhaps their glorious leader could broker a deal?
"It'd be for the greater good if such a nest were stamped out before it grew. There's too much soil tainted by the stench of mantids already."
"Hmm? Hmm." She hadn't expected to hear those words anytime soon. Not here. Brr! Though this one didn't seem to point to bonds of family. Her immediate impulses would be most inappropriate in a camp surrounded by armed hunters so she forced a return smile. Same polite mask she had been wearing for a while now.
"Interesting. Which ... 'branch' if you feel chatty?" A bit louder she announced: "It would be unkind to just enjoy the hospitality; I'll gathering some firewood. Won't you help me?"
Later, once the party is alone, Jhaelwyn gives voice to her thoughts. "There's at least some bits more elf here then we thought. Did look like much though. A grandparent perhaps? Or weak thin blood... But I'm not sure it matters. A curiosity at most! Unless my brooding kin at the camp is watching over his blood? A tinsy string to pull then. Oh? I'm talking about that male back in the camp; him with the proper features. Same odd eyes as the rest though. He wore ..."
The elf describes the man as best as she remembered. Truth to be told, she hadn't paid much attention to the *fashion* of the camp. But for him she'd made an effort.
Drekisal notes the odd looks, and so takes pains to not draw attention to himself, instead staying at the outskirts of the group and watching for anything of interest.
Histrok wait till there is a lull in the conversation during the shared meal and approaches Urim. "You've said that two of your men are suffering from the effects of Mantid poison just now. As we've just started our hunting I haven't had a chance to observe this yet, but I wonder if you might permit me to see if the healing magic I command might alleviate it's effects to some extent. It's a test that at worst leaves your men to recover as they would have on their own, but at best speeds things up and lets you start moving again."
If Urim allows I'd like to try a scroll of Remove Paralysis on one of the two stricken men to see if it improves their condition at all.
You are heartened to see that Urim considers you proposal, but in the end he shakes his head. "We do not know you, nor your skills. We will continue our hunt in our way. I can tell you many other places to find mantids. Or where they will find you."
Surtur and Histrok
You arrive at the tent to find Histrok questioning the hunting band's healer, a half-orc woman. She tells you that while the scroll would work for a moment, the poison remains in their blood and would more than likely paralyze them again before long. If you wish to use such magic to hasten the recovery of a creature afflicted by the venom, you must wait until it runs its initial course - for most creatures, about a day.
In other words, it's already common knowledge to Urim's band that the poison lasts in the blood for a day in medium-sized creatures. Casting remove paralysis on them essentially has the effect of resetting the poison track - it removes the conditions and allows them to make their Fort saves again, but if they fail again they'll start progressing up the track like normal. The poison duration does not reset, though.
If you still wish to cast the spell, she will allow it.
Elvish: "You don't recognize my speech? Perhaps my accent has drifted - it has been decades since I last visited the home caverns."
He switches back to the local language. "A kind gesture - I'll certainly help gather fuel. There were some old dead bushtrees not too far from here."
The half-elf (or whatever portion he has) is speaking with the distinct dialect of your home tribes.
[Elven]"It's ... just not what I would expect."[/Elven] Jhaelwyn replies with a small shrug. Indeed - hearing such homely speech from one so human just felt wrong. Odd. Almost as if a cat had barked. But she was a curious creature (and she pushed the fable involving a cat and curiosity to the back of her mind. "Perfect. Let's take a look then."
Histrok looks over the afflicted warriors and nods as the half-orc explains the situation. "I see, that would make some sense. It's a shame, but I'm glad we had a chance to talk before I had to deal with a Mantid's poison on my own in the field. Is there anything else that you'd be willing to warn me of, one healer to another, before I do have that first encounter? I'd like to keep as many of our team up and healthy as possible and your experiences would be highly valuable."
Perception to see if anything in the warriors condition gives Histrok any useful insight: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (9) + 11 = 20 If a heal check would be more appropriate it would be a 16.
Diplomacy to convince the healer to share information if needed: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15
Trying to gather information to help with mantid encounters in the future now that I'm seeing some victims in person and have access to a healer who's dealt with their attacks.
Gork looks up in surprise and delight.
Gud, veeery gud.
Cum, let'us talksy and drinksy on ano'tha gud day!"
During their 'talksy', Gork will try to find out why the man is here and what he thinks about their leader as well as their hunts.
Not much else I can think of for Gork to so here.
So we head out towards another of the nests Urim knows about?
Or are we planning to shadow those guys here?
Not sure how one cannot notice the shadow of an Ogre stalking you, but hey ;-)
Surtur nods at Urim's words. "Good hunting, brother," he says. "Tell me one last thing; how can you tell where a nest is, or when one is near?"
He looks the proud warrior in the eye. "These fields, the rocks, the water that used to be here; these are the lands of my people. I do not intend to stop until every last mantid is free of these parts."
After talking with Urim, he's heartened to find Histrok already at the site of the ill. "I apologize for your wounds, young ones," he says slowly. "Histrok, have you had your time to survey them? Are we equipped to deal with the poison, should it come?"