Caylen looks up to Mal'c with wide eyes as the group begins to disembark, offering a look back to Sam and the horse that travel with them, before turning her attention back to the monk. Still in shock from everything, but at least no longer fumbling around in the dark, Caylen only nods meekly and says nothing.
1d20 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 2 = 17
1d20 - 1 ⇒ (4) - 1 = 3
If it's a save against cold weather, she has a +4 from the cloak Mal'c gave her, and a +2 from her cold weather outfit (not that either help her terribad roll that much).
As Aak walks on it is clear that it is taking most of his energy to stay steady on his feet. He seems nearly oblivious to his surroundings. Mal'c approaches him, offering a steadying hand on the much larger half-orc's shoulder.
"We will stop soon for some rations and risk the warmth of a small fire. Fight on my friend."
As the steepening slope gives way to worn rocky ground at the base of the mountain, progress slows considerably. As Mal'c navigates the group through larger outcroppings, he slows. He stops between two large stones nestled into the base of the mountain and clears some ground between them with his feet.
"Stand back." Mal'c sits a small glass bead on the ground he cleared.
"Deadwood." The bead transforms itself into a small (2-foot-tall) pile of burning logs.
"Warm yourselves. Take a moment to eat. We must continue further so that we reach shelter by sunrise."
Though Granita seems warmed by the fire, she doesn't seem at all at ease. She finds a spot near Shayne.
"I'm sorry to have gotten you involved with Tolin. Seems selfish to ask more of you, but on a night like this I need more than a small fire to lift my spirits. Might I trouble you for a song?"
The gnome circles near each ally, stopping briefly to melodically chant, "Cloak be sworn to keep him/her warm."
After completing the round of Prestidigitation cantrips, he is approached by Granita. He nods to acknowledge her request.
"If I was no so tired I would perform the whole thing," he says. "But the original is quite a bit longer." Then he begins singing.
"Most strong and brave of men was he,
Enemy of the Sudden Flame,
Slayer of Orcs and lover of beauty,
Beren was his name.
"In Beleriand he sought shelter,
In Thingol's Doriath he found a bride.
Daughter of the divine he felt her,
Lúthien singing by his side.
"He gathered allies among the Elves,
Seeking bride-price of gem reknowned.
Captured, they lost themselves.
Until rescued by Lúthien and Huan the hound.
"In disguise they descended to Angband deep,
To Morgoth's throne for a quest to fulfill.
Lúthien sang the Source of Evil to sleep
Beren took a Silmaril.
"But the Dark Lord woke, angry and cruel.
His most dire werewolf blocked their escape.
It bit off Beren's hand and the jewel,
Then fled, going mad, in its monstrous shape.
"Who could stand as Carcharoth's bane?
Beren and Huan confronted the beast.
All three fought, all three were slain.
Lúthien fled to the halls of the deceased.
"Then Mandos pity discovers
After hearing Tinúviel mourning in song.
He returned life back to the lovers.
In Lindon they danced e'er long.
Mal'c listens intently to the song, smiling at it's conclusion. He turns to Aak.
"I think we may be just warm enough in body and spirt to make it to shelter. I'm glad your strength is returning." Getting up to briefly consult with Silx.
"The paths ahead are narrow and twist through the mountain before meeting the main road to the monastery. I will need your sharp eyes to see the way."
Having been silent all this time, Caylen settles down by the conjured campfire with a dulled sense of wonder. Were this any other day or time, seeing Mal'c pull a campfire from a bead would have fascinated her. Now, it's all a part of the buzzing static of overwhelming experiences in the short time she has been with this group.
Sam's question sounds muffled to her ears at first, but she knows he spoke. A too-belated moment later, and the young woman looks up to the farmer with a vacant expression of shock and confusion on her face. She smiles, though it's wan and paper-thin. Brushing off his concern, she looks back to the fire and proceeds to anxiously pick at the tattered edges of the bandages on her hands. There's too much bothering her to list at present.
After consulting with Silx, Mal'c tosses dirt on the small fire. As it's flames sputter, the pile of logs begin to smoke. When the smoke clears all that remains is the small glass bead. With the warmth and gentle light gone, the surrounding rock seems cold and uninviting. Mal'c stows the bead within his robes and retrieves the small crystal, it's candle like glow does little to silence the darkness.
"Let us carry the warmth of flame and joy of song with us. The trail ahead is treacherous, but once we meet with the main road to the monastery, shelter won't be far. Soon you will see for yourselves one of the great treasures the mountain holds."
Mal'c motions to Silx to join him at his side before leading the group to the east, around the rocky base of the mountain.
Mal'c nods appreciatively at Silx.
"Sound advice. Stay close and speak up if anything seems amiss."
Silx is like a predator today picking up the slightest things. At time's he motions the party to pause while he closes his eyes and just listens "There are some animals to the south, I'm not sure what they are but they're not getting any closer" He opens his eyes and points to the northeast "There's a narrow passage up there, hidden between some of the larger rocks. I believe man and animals both take that rout"
As the group nears the passage Silx mentions, Mal'c directs the group to stay close to the rocks. Once the dim light of the crystal is close enough to reveal the first few steps, he taps Silx gently on the shoulder.
"I know this path well. I will lead us from here, but when the path is wide enough for us both please stay at my side."
The narrow entrance features several step man made steps, before relenting to the natural slope of the rocks. Some long gone water source has carved a path between the rock. It remains just wide enough for the group to walk it single file for what seems like an hour. When the path finally widens, there are small caps in the rock facing east.
This wider section of path features several flat rocks, placed purposefully to make the climb more manageable. Where footing becomes tricky there are small hand holds carved into the mountainside.
"If we keep up our pace we should make it to shelter by sunrise."
Shayne looks back at Granita. With a wry smile he asks, "So, what is a nice girl like you doing in a glacial crevasse like this?"
More seriously he adds, "Of course. We Varisians have been everywhere. Monasteries... Well, one time my adopted brothers and I decided to have a contest. How many chickens could we smuggle into a monastery before the monks noticed and kicked us out? We each picked a different monastery and tried. Forty-two. And three goats painted bright green, so I could brag more."
His eye contact intensifies as he asks her, "So, how about you? Any stories about illicit poultry or monastic bouncers?"
Bluff 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (3) + 3 = 6. An equal or higher sense motive check would reveal Shayne is inventing funny lies, not relating actual personal history.
Granita is so happy to have a distraction that she gladly accepts Shayne's stories.
"Well, as you know I was raised among Tolin's followers. When I was quite young I thought it'd be a fun prank to play if I painted myself up all green. I even found bits of chicken bone to make myself up like some sort of savage. The stories I had been told made orc sound like some sort of monsters. Needless to say I was the only one laughing.. and not for long. My father..." She cuts her story short, as if remembering some unspeakable detail. (Sense Motive roll for Shayne)
Arms wrapped around herself beneath the heavy fabric of the cloak Mal'c gave her, Caylen still feels the biting fingers of cold prickling at her face; nose and ears a vibrant red. On hearing Sam's question, the only answer she can truly muster comes with a crooked smile.
"A big, warm hearth?"
Sometimes, the simplest answers are the best.
And Shayne: Illicit Poultry! You are the best.
Silx doesn't react at first, but it's clear his mind is no longer on keeping his senses sharp. After a minute he responds "Someone was taken from me, and I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to be looking for them." he seems inwardly drawn now, numb "Not even sure if it's the same person anymore, this world does those things to you"
Mal'c listens intently to Silx. Nodding slowly after each phrase.
"I wandered into these mountains years ago looking. I didn't find what I was looking for. What I found, I am glad for. pausing Maybe you'll find something too. Mal'c glances toward Aak. Pardon me, I'd like to see to Aak."
Mal'c approaches Aak and falls in step beside him.
"I hope the mountain path is treating you well? Shelter is not far ahead."
The path continues up and around much of the southeastern face of the mountain. At points the rock is so tall that it blocks any view of the ground below. In sections there are small gaps that let you glimpse the land below. Large trees look as brush and the surrounding roads but thin strands of brown and gray. As the path begins taking a nearly perfect northernly heading, it takes on an unnatural shape and narrows again.
The horse can be heard in the rear, objecting to the close quarters.
Rock now surrounds the path as it goes through the mountain itself. Carved entirely by hand, it is just tall enough for the horse as it holds its head bent toward the ground. The carefully fashioned steps make for an easy assent, but the enclosed space is unsettling. Even the gentle glow of the crystal seems repelled by the dark colored rock.
When the path finally starts to widen again, the first glimmer of sunrise can be seen hitting the mountain. Opening to a wide road, the path levels out before the last few manmade steps. These go down toward the wide road, which runs up to the west and slopes down to the northeast. It is a well worn road, wide enough for a wagon. There are signs of recent traffic.
"It is but a short journey on the road to the west." Mal'c speaks as he heads to the front of the group.
"I am used to rough conditions. It bothers me not. Just make sure the others are comfortable. Especially Caylen, she seems so lost right now and unsure of herslef."
Aak turns toward Caylen wherever she is in the group and offers or some Wandermeal.
"Here, eat this. It will take your mind off of the arduous journey ahead and keep your energy up until we can reach the monestary." Aak says with a warm smile.
"So Shayne, how about somebody says a color and you turn my tusks that color. Keep everyones spirits up, even if at my expense" Aak says with a slight chuckle.
The time on the road heading west is short. Light from the sunrise is still dim as Mal'c slows and heads to the shear rock face at the right of the road. He nears a small gathering of rocks, pauses to examine them, and then measures out three equal strides. Stopping again he turns toward the rock face and walks slowly toward it. Instead of his face rubbing against the rock, it passes through. Pausing, his arms move into the rock. Slowly turning, he looks toward the group - one arm to his side and just behind him.
"Come. This is the way to shelter. reaching out a hand Grab my hand. And be sure everyone else holds hands also."
Sense Motive 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (4) - 1 = 3 for conversation with Granita.
Shayne briefly hugs Granita's knee as she falters in her story. "My sympathies, lady. I have no memories of my father. I used to pity myself for that. But years of conversations--and fortune telling for a living--have brought many tearful stories my way. Lacking memories of a parent is regrettable, but not nearly as tragic as what many people get to remember."
After a pause he adds, "Orcs are monsters. So are adult Humans and Gnomes. All that differs is how long we can hold on to childhood innocence, the ways we try to hide our savagery, and who we let see us without the mask."
Later, the gnome obliges Aak's request. During that short trip west the Half-Orc has colorfully Prestidigitated tusks.
When Mal'c asks the group to hold hands Shayne positions himself at the end of the line, since he wishes to retain a firm grip on his sack with one hand.
Once everyone is holding hands, Mal'c nods. Granita ties a short length of rope around her waist and passes it to Sam - who holds it as he stands in the rear of the line with the horse.
"This will seem strange at first, but know that you all are safe. And soon we'll all be warm and well fed."
As Mal'c walks forward he is completely immersed in the rock. In turn each of the group members passes into what should be the rock face. As you do you see nothing but rock for a moment. It is as if you are inside rock. As you fully enter the rock, looking forward you see only the hand of the person in front of you. Moving forward you notice a slow slope downward. Shortly after your hand disappears beyond the rock, you also pass through the strange boundary. From the dark rock, you emerge into a short corridor - carved much like the path you passed through earlier - it is lit with a pair of torches and seems comfortably warm. Continuing downward, the corridor leads to what seems to be a dead end. The corridor opens to a roughly circular opening surrounded by a shear rock face. The rock face offers no clear hand or foot holds and appears to be over 30 feet tall. Nearby you can hear the sound of water.
"Brother, it is Mal'c. I bring with me friends. We seek shelter."
Moments latter a head pops out at the top of the shear rock face. The face is that of an older human. He looks with recognition at Mal'c.
"I will let down the ladder in a moment." The old man smiles, moves out of sight, and moments later slowly lets down a rope ladder.
Mal'c moves forward, grabbing hold of the bottom of the ladder.
"I will hold the ladder steady as each of you climb up."
The rope ladder has well worn lengths of wood that serve as foot holds. Though it moves a bit as each of you climb it, the movement does little to hamper the easy assent.
Fro much of the journey Caylen has been introverted. The terrible attack by the starving wolves, Aak's injury, and the fatigue of travel mixed with intermittent sleep has made her distant and disconnected feeling. Only the promise of respite has kept her going thus far, a journey that is longer than any other she has taken in her short life.
By the time the shift through solid rock comes and the group is making its fantastical voyage at the guidance of Brother Mal'c, Caylen has been shocked back into clarity. A sense of wide-eyed wonder crosses her face as she simply stares at what is happening all around her. Trustingly, and perhaps naively so, she follows Mal'c and the others through the side of a mountain, into a winding crevasse, and finally to the base of a proffered ladder.
Caylen had missed out on much of the conversation after the fight, lost to her own worrisome thoughts, but now as she reaches out to take a rung of the rope ladder in partly-bandaged hands the young woman regrets having ignored those she traveled with -- those who were responsible for her still drawing breath.
Gripping the rung tightly -- painfully so, for her -- Caylen considers her choices thus far, and what is to come next.
Once everyone is up the ladder, Sam last, Mal'c tosses the rope Granita had used earlier up to him.
"Tie the rope to where the ladder is secured. I will fasten this end to the horse's harness. He will have feed and water shortly."
Once the horse is secured, Mal'c climbs up the ladder. After standing to his feet he addresses the group.
"Rest my friends. Brother Dow'mis will prepare us some food shortly. Until then, warm yourselves at the pool's edge. In honoring this sacred place I ask that you do wash yourselves in the pool. If you wish to drink from it please use one of the cups Brother Dow'mis provides. Know that this pool offers more than just warmth. It has mystical properties that will leave you changed."
Silx looks at the water suspiciously for a moment, but Mal'c has proved himself a wise and trustworth companion. He fills a cup, and after sniffing the water for a moment drinks it. He has a curious look on his face as the water takes effect.
Finally being able to relax and even to wash, Silx looks around a moment then sighs I suppose it won't do any harm here as he takes his shirt off to enter the pool, dozens of old whip scars reveal themselves on his back. He makes his way to the pool and emerges as quickly as he can