Shalina follows Gerrik's gaze towards the sky, "Let us hope that it will work for us."
She shakes her head and gives a small chuckle at the lizardfolk's suggestion. "Telling my friend to stay behind while I go into certain danger would not go well. I would rather face the froghemoth than tell Tekk to stay behind." Her voice quietens, "Nor do I want to go without him."
She looks disappointed but her face shows resolve, "We'll take them with us and deal with whatever consequences there may be."
Gerrik shrugs, "Very well. I shall lead, follow closely."
The day is fading to twilight as Shalina, Tekk, Gerrik and the two Chelish guards venture forth, leaving the security of the orange grove behind.
Instantly Shalina sees the value of their guide. If it had been difficult crossing the swamps during the day, night travel was impossible. Deep pools appear at random, lurking below stands of floating plants and seeming stable bits of ground proved to be mere shadows. Even entire trees seemed to move around, floating in the morass, removing even the hope of using them as landmarks.
Shalina would have quickly come to grief without Gerrik. As for the lizardfolk he moves quickly and surely over the muddy terrain, never even seeming to doubt let alone question the path.
Time passes, although Shalina is unsure how much as the stars and Moon are hidden. All she knows is her legs are growing tired and her eyes strained from constantly trying to spot potholes and slick spots ahead. Behind her, even Tekk's usually solid step seems more uneven, fatigued from the harsh march over difficult terrain. As for the Chelish, they are doing little more them stumbling behind.
Finally, although the shadowy swamp looks identical to Shalina, Gerrik stops the group with a raised hand. "Ahead lies the ruins. From here the land will be solid and the trees firm."
Shalina is relieved when they finally stop. Their trek has been long and arduous even though it hadn't been nearly as bad as it would have been without Gerrik. She places her hand on the lizardfolk's shoulder, "Thank you for keeping us safe, Gerrik."
Turning to the others she slips back into common, "We're close to the ruins. I think we're through the worst of the terrain but don't go wandering off unless you want to die."
Her speech moves fluidly back into polygot, "Gerrik, do you still expect monsters and such inhabiting the ruins? When was the last time you came this way? Is the ground safe enough now for me to take the lead?"
Gerrik nods, opens his mouth then freezes. He holds up a clawed hand, barely visible in the darkness, his scaly head cocked as if listening. Shalina joins him and after a long pause, she hears it. A distant rumble of thunder, on the edge of hearing.
"The storm draws near." Gerrik says, then goes on, "Yes, the ground is drier here, from when humans built this fort long ago. They brought in shiploads of rock and wood to lay the foundations. We should be save from dangers such as pool and quicksand here."
"As for monsters, I would be surprised if we encountered none. Such ruins make excellent lairs in this land and the prospect of slaves as food? Powerful beasts may lurk in the fallen and sunken halls."
The sound of the approaching storm spurs Shalina to get them all into the cover of the ruins. The ruins. Her thoughts once again turn to the ruins and excitement begins to build inside Shalina. "Monsters or not, I'm eager to get a look at the ruins. Exploring something so ancient will be a highlight for me to say the least. And it will give us shelter from the approaching rain."
She gathers the Chelish guards along with Tekk and Gerrik. "Everyone be on guard. I'll go first." She finds and holds Tekk's gaze, "Make sure no one falls behinds without me knowing."
For Gerrik's benefit she reiterates that she'll go first. "Just point me in the right direction."
perception: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (15) + 16 = 31
Looking for threats and traps
stealth: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (9) + 15 = 24
Not sure how effective it is to roll when traveling in a group...
As if summoned by a magic spell, just as Shalina mentions the rain, it starts to fall. A cold shifting drizzle, that hangs like a misty veil in the air, softening the shadowy outlines in the dark. The muggy heat of the swamp is exchanged for a chilly damp that hints at more rain to come.
Tekk nods and says, "Want to keep the guards between us? Easiest way to keep them in line, but might make a fight tougher. We'll have this lot between us."
The two guards bristle at being considered little more then burdens, but say nothing directly.
Gerrik laughs when Shalina mentions enjoying the ruins and says, "You must have got along with Sivvek, he was always prying into such places." Shalina doesn't think the lizardfolk means this as a compliment.
They move forward, a slight breeze stirring the night plants into wet rustles. The ground climbs slightly, uneven and covered with plant growth, but still easier then the muddy tracts of the real swamp behind them. Finally, after passing through some low trees, Shalina can make out the heaped pile of ruins dead ahead, black against the midnight darkness. The air smells of wet stone and rotting plants and the slap of raindrops on stone grows louder.
It quickly becomes apparent there are two rough paths in the ruins. one goes over the tumbled ruins, open to rain and wind, passing between fallen boulders and watery pools while another heads under the ruins into shadow underground.
Shalina pauses as she considers Tekk's words and their options. "It's not really about what I want but it does make the most sense in keeping everyone safe. I can keep us safe from the front and you from the back. If we have to fight, we should be able to maneuver around each other." She looks pointedly at the guards, "Right? I would hope that you'd be a help and not a hindrance should we find ourselves in a fight against unspeakable monsters."
She gives an unladylike snort at Gerrik's comment about getting along with Sivvek. "Sivvek and I got along about as well as oil and water."
Shalina quickly assesses the two paths and resolutely moves towards the one heading underground and out of the rain and wind.
Can her Perception check a couple posts above pertain to entering the ruins? Or do you want another one?
I will apply those posts going forward
The Chelish look terrified but one manages to say, voice raised over the growing wind and rain, "Does it look like we want to get eaten? We'll fight to save ourselves."
Shalina leads them down the muddy path, which is quickly turning into a small stream, to a tumbled rocky entrance. It appears to be an old basement or vault doorway although the door is long gone, leaving only misshapen rusting hinges. Shalina checks for traps, sees none, and heads inside.
Steeping out of the rain is pleasant, but it isn't much drier inside the ruins. Water drips from the stone ceiling, filtered by the jumble of ruins that surely lie above. The drops are cold and send shivers when they land on Shalina's neck or nose.
The air is heavy with damp and must, and the smell of slow rot undisturbed for years. They seem to be standing in an old basement room, the ceiling low and arched, spaced with heavy pillars. It is pitch black down here, and oddly silent. The distant patter of the rain seems to die away after even only a few steps. The floor is stone but overlaid with seeped in mud and silt, washed in by a century worth of rainstorms and floods. Even now, Shalina can see water flowing down, as if following them.
Ahead, on the other side of the room, a empty doorway stands like a gaping maw.
Shalina Survival: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Shalina can see tracks in the muddy, grimy floor. Not human, or even humanoid....insects? Huge ones, bigger then a horse.
Gerrik sniffs the air and looks troubled. When he speaks his voice is hushed, carefully whispered to avoid echoing off the dank stony walls, "Something is wrong. I smell death ahead."
Shalina begins to doubt her choice to go underground as the water seems to stalk them and stream along the floor. Would they be in danger of drowning should the rain intensify and cause flash flooding?
The all encompassing darkness causes Shalina to hum softly until her glaive glows softly.
She continuously analyzes their surroundings, looking for danger. The tracks she finds on the floor makes her blood run cold. She never liked insects. Childhood memories of the trauma inflicted on her involving bugs at the hands of her brother threatens to overwhelm her. Strangely enough, she finds the potentially huge size of the insects comforting. Small, swarming insects were unbearable but large ones can't climb up your nose or into your ears.
She points at the tracks on the floor and lowers her voice as she answers Gerrik, "Something large, maybe insects. Could be the reason for the smell of death if it caught something."
Shalina readies her glaive, "Shall we see what comes out if I shake the figurative tree? I don't know about you all but I don't really want to go back outside into that downpour." She moves carefully towards the door on the other side of the room with her weapon glowing softly.
Shalina creeps forward, the only sound the sloshing of the disturbed water around her boots and the endless dripping from above. Tekk and the others hang back, weapons at the ready in case of a sudden attack.
Her glowing glaive throws strange shadows in the murk, making the uneven stones dance and the shallow water sparkle. Muscles tensed for the slightest sign of danger, she moves toward the open door.
She is nearly on top of the doorway when she sees it. Spiderwebs, great hanging shrouds more like tapestries then cobwebs, thick enough to tangle up a human. They hang limply, as damp as everything else in this humid subterranean world. For a long moment the bard pauses, watching water drip from the curtains of webbing, listening for any sounds inside that might betray the surely enormous weavers within. Nothing.
Carefully Shalina moves forward, expecting at any moment to be ambushed by a pair of poison ridden mandibles out of the darkness. The archaeologist's approach is only greeted by silence. Peeking around the lintel, she can see why.
The next room is larger then the one behind her, higher with a dry floor, vaulted ceilings being lost in the dark. Everything is covered in layers of thick sticky webbing, cascading down columns and swooping up in high arches. But her attention is drawn instead to the hulking shapes lying haphazardly across the floor, utterly still. The corpses of spiders, massive spiders larger then horses.
It is hard to see any details at this distance but all look mangled in some way, with legs ripped off or heads smashed in. Thick green ichor is splashed in many places, and webbing torn and slashed. Nothing moves within and the stench of rotting flesh hangs in the dank air.
Shalina doesn't want to meet whatever ripped off the legs of the ginormous spiders, at least not alone. She slowly backs out of the room and collects the others before moving back to where the corpses were.
"You were right, Gerrik. There are numerous bodies of huge spiders in the next room. I may need your help in figuring out what killed them."
"And for the rest of you, I may need your help to fight should that thing come back. For now, we need to figure out what we could be up against."
Trusting Tekk to guard against danger while she looks at the bodies, she moves closer to the corpses to take a better look.
perception: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (15) + 16 = 31
k.nature: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (4) + 10 = 14
Any other rolls that she can do that I haven't thought of?
Tekk's face sets when Shalina mentions the corpses of monsters. While running into trouble was likely, now it appeared certain.
"We aren't still going in there, are we?" One of the Chelish guards says, words cracking with obvious fear. His voice is louder then he intends, and it echoes off the rain slicked walls, vanishing off into the silent darkness. "You are crazy!"
Tekk slowly unsheathes his sword, the sound very loud over the dripping water. The massive weapon gleams dully but it casts enough light for Shalina to see the Chelish's pale faces grow anxious.
"You will come with us. You will follow our orders and you will fight if asked. Now, be quiet." The paladint urns his weathered face to Shalina, "Right behind you."
Gerrik merely grins in the darkness and follows.
The smell is even worse inside the spider nest, the noisome reek filling Shalina's nostrils and making her stomach churn. Steeling her gut, the bard begins to inspect the bodies. A few things become quickly apparent.
The first is, whatever killed these spiders did not do it gracefully. The wounds are excessive, with much of the damage seeming to be done after the beasts were already done. This was not a slaughter done for food by another animal on the hunt, but a bloody massacre done out of a desire to kill. Worse, she notes many burn and scorch marks, both on the savaged insect bodies as well as the webbing. Huge areas have been blackened and torched by some intense heat source. Sniffing, Shalina can just catch the scent of smoke over the reek of death and rot.
Ahead, tucked in the dark corners of the room, Shalina can see bundles of webbing, hiding whatever contents they contain. They seem undisturbed by whatever killed the spiders.
Do you investigate more?
Of course she's going to investigate more
Love this...Tekk slowly unsheathes his sword, the sound very loud over the dripping water. The massive weapon gleams dully but it casts enough light for Shalina to see the Chelish's pale faces grow anxious.
Shalina gives Tekk a grateful smile. Not only for having her back as usual but also for having laid down the law for their unwilling guests.
She initially dry gags as the smell threatens to upend her stomach contents but she manages to keep her composure. She frowns as she quickly realizes that the devastation unleashed on the giant spiders was not done out of necessity or instinct but out of some perverse pleasure. "No natural animal did this. It almost seems to have been done by someone or something who enjoys killing for the sake of killing. The burned areas are also concerning."
She turns to Gerrik and asks in polygot, "Have you ever seen anything like this before?"
The bundles of webbing catch the bard's eye and she wonders what they may contain. She moves closer to get a better look.
Are there any other exits out of this room?
There are many exits, some looking more natural then others. None have doors. Seems the spiders (or just rot) has destroyed them all
Gerrik shakes his head, "Few animals use fire. It is often used by my people of course but this....maybe the Chelish?"
Shalina repeats his words to the two scared looking Chelish guards, but both shrug. "No idea. Can we get out of here?" One says, voice nervous.
Tekk grunts and offers, "Fire seems like the Chelish to me."
Shalina nods at Tekk but ignores the Chelish pleas to leave. Instead she ventures deeper into the room, heading for the dark bundles of webbing int he corner. She quickly finds they are...or were the spider's larder. Each of the bundles is a bag of bones and skin, some long rotten, of things captured by the spiders and later eaten. While most are animals, Shalina catches a glimpse of a few skulls that seem humanoid enough to make her gag anew.
The bard is about tot urn away when she sees one of the bundles, more tightly woven then the rest, give a small wriggle. Glancing back she sees it shift slightly again, as if something inside is moving.
Shalina's voice sounds puzzled as she continues to look around, "I agree that the level of senseless violence suggests Chelish but why would they come down here just to rip apart some large spiders?"
She immediately freezes as one of the bundles moves. It looks slightly different than the rest. Did that mean it was an egg sac now filled with thousands of small spiders? Shalina shudders and takes a few deep breaths to calm herself as her fear begins to surface. Or was it another victim that had somehow survived and needed rescuing? The fact remains that Shalina has no idea what was inside and she desperately wants to know.
She stands frozen for what seems like an eternity as her phobia of swarming, wriggling insects wars with her curiosity. It is a close fought battle but in the end, as usual, curiosity wins out. She takes a tentative step forward and moves to cut the bundle open.
Depending on what is inside, there is a good chance she'll run screaming from the room :)
Shalina's mind is filled with image of squirming maggots or worse, a host of baby spiders as she cuts open bundle of tight spider-webbing. The webbing is surprisingly hard to cut, springy and tougher then it looked. She is about to give up (and perhaps spare herself the disgusting reveal of a swarm of writhing insects) when she managed to rip open the top portion.
A flat toad-like head appears and Shalina instantly recognizes it, although she has mostly only seen it at night or in battle. The face of a boggart, the toad people who have hunted and attacked her several times on her trip through the Sodden Lands. This particular specimen looks close to death. The usually shiny skin is dry and cracked, the eyes glazed and coated in scummy build-up. A wide mouth hangs openly slightly, with a swollen, dry looking tongue. A bright red necklace hangs around the wide neck, made out of dyed bone.
The creature does not react to being freed, but Shalina thinks they are still alive.
Gerrik hisses and says, "Boggart!" Without thinking, as if instinct, he reaches for a loose stone and approaches, clearly intend on bashing int he skull of the helpless toad-folk.
Shalina inwardly groans as the boggart comes into view. Her opinion of the creatures was not necessarily good but she couldn't outright kill a helpless one nor let it be killed.
She places her body between Gerrik and the boggart, fully intending to prevent harm from coming to the boggart but not at the expense of Gerrik. She looks at the lizardfolk pleadingly, "Please don't. It's helpless and nothing deserves to die in such a manner."
"I know that your people and theirs are enemies. But if no one extends mercy, nothing will ever change. Think about what could be accomplished against the Chelish if your two people worked together against them instead of each other." She points at the boggart, "I don't think that that is just a regular boggart. If you look at its necklace it would suggest that maybe its someone of importance."
Does she need a roll to know for sure whether the necklace makes this boggart someone important? Just guessing at this point
Gerrik growls, but hesitates. "Do you know boggarts? You can't trust them. The Chelish are bad but at least they have the excuse of being outsiders, from strange lands. The boggarts are our foes from days so remote you could not understand."
Tekk, not understanding this exchange in Polyglot says in Common, "Whatever you are debating, we need to do something if we are saving them. They look on death's door. I wonder how long they have been trapped in here. Days?" The paladin's voice is hard, but Shalina can see the compassion behind the weathered lines of his tanned face.
The Chelish, huddling nearby, looking around in terror, say, "Can't we just leave them and hurry on? What if whatever killed the spiders comes back?"
You don't anything about the necklace. Not much knowledge about boggarts is known outside the Sodden Lands since most humans just view them as brutal savages.
Shalina gives a half nod, "I don't know boggarts the way you know boggarts but I did fight some of them with Sivvek when we first arrived here. I know you're at odds with each other but I also think you have things in common, even if you don't want to admit it. Regardless, no creature should be harmed when it is helpless. A piece of you will die with it if I let you bash it with that rock. If we help it and it tries to harm us then I will be the first to raise my blade against it.
Besides, it may be the only one who can tell us what happened here to the spiders."
She glances over at Tekk as he speaks, knowing he is right. Keeping an eye on Gerrik in case he decides to use his rock after all, she reaches out her hand towards the boggart and begins to hum softly. Her hand glows softly with healing magic before the energy passes into the boggart. She then takes her waterskin and squeezes water into its open mouth. She considers squirting water all over the boggart's face but decides to wait instead.
She ignores the Chelish's questions as she waits to see if the boggart will gain consciousness.
She'll do a CLW on the boggart
Her moral argument doesn't seem to mean much but the suggestion the boggart might know what monster is lurking these halls does make the lizardfolk nod. With a shrug he drops the stone into the ankle deep water and lets Shalina heal the forlorn looking figure.
Even as the healing magic flows out of Shalina's hands and into the still webbed boggart, the bard can't help but wonder if they are too late. The boggart was so cold and desiccated...
and then the limp figure in Shalina's arms coughed and blinked. The boggart's skin took on a more life-like sheen, and some of the worst cuts and scrapes healed over, with cracks vanishing. In a few moments the boggart merely looks ill and roughly treated, instead of dead.
There is a long moment of silence as the creature looks around, as if trying to gauge its bearings. Then slowly, in Polyglot says very clearly, "You are the one we hunted in the swamps. You survived? I thought you would have been lost by now, to either the invaders or the monsters of the wildlands."
Then one wide eye fixes on Gerrik and the boggart sighs painfully, "Ah, your guide. That explains it. So our old foes have allied with yet more outsiders....." The voice is sad yet controlled.
Shalina raises an eyebrow, "Some people say thank you but sure, we can move directly into the part where you remind me that I may not like you and begin to regret my life choices."
Regardless of the boggart's words, she offers him more water. "And why were you hunting me in the swamp? Other than trespassers must die, of course. I got quite enough of that in the swamp but you seem more reasonable. And if you were truly in the swamp, then you know that I let one of your people go. I have no desire to fight unless I have to."
She glances at Gerrik to see his reaction before continuing, "I didn't meet Gerrik until after the swamp. And your old foes have only allied with me in order to rid the Sodden Lands of the invaders. And as soon as that happens then I can go home. The invaders are looking for something under the water that is harmful. I want to stop them and I want to free those they have enslaved. What I would like to do is work with both the boggarts and the lizardfolk to make that happen."
Then Shalina moves to something more pressing, "Can you tell me what happened here? Are you alone? Who or what killed the spiders? Why are you even here?"
The boggart coughs wetly, large mouth gasping for air. It glances up at Shalina is obvious confusion and disdain, "You ask why we hunt outsiders? Why we protect our land? You ask this even after witnessing the damage the Chelish have done?"
Turning, they glance at Gerrik and says, voice spitting, "Say you, scale-hide. Once your own people, as black and untrustworthy as they are, would have done the same. We were untied in that at least. Now? You side with one outsider against the other, trying to play them off. You will gain nothing and lose everything, scale-hide!"
Gerrik turns, his eyes mere slits. But instead of shouting, all he says is , "You should have let me kill it, Shalina." and stalks off, sloshing through the flood waters.
The boggart watches the lizard-folk leave then turns back to Shalina, face unreadable. "I know nothing of what happened here. The spiders captured me outside, some time ago. I would guess days. As for why I was here, my business is my own." Then the toad-like figure winces in pain at some injury and says, "Will you free me from this wrapping?"
She sighs, "I understand fighting against those who are obviously destroying your home and way of life because that is what lead me here. But I don't understand attacking someone before speaking with them first. I obviously don't look like the Chelish so why would you assume I'd be like them?"
Shalina sadly watches Gerrik stalk off, "I'm sorry, Gerrik. I'll add it to my list of mistakes and regrets." Her voice dies off as he disappears from sight.
She leans down and begins to cut the boggart free. "You're lucky that me helping you isn't contingent on you liking me and I didn't heal you just to leave you helpless and to die of thirst. That is something that the Chelish would do, not me." Before she finishes freeing him she adds, "But if you act aggressively towards any of us on your way out to rejoin your people, I will have to defend us with severe prejudice."
She finishes cutting the webbing and stands back with her hand on her weapon. "I had hoped we could have found a way to fight against the Chelish together but you have shown me otherwise. If anything, please speak with your people and have them stay out of my way. I have no desire to fight boggarts as well as the Chelish."
Shalina cuts away the webbing with a knife, making quick work of the tough silky strands. In a moment the boggart is pouring out of it, splashing onto the wet floor ungracefully. The toad-folk doesn't seem to mind much, and lays in the dirty water for awhile, like a rich man soaking in a hot tub. Slowly, the boggart rubs at their muscles, pushing life back into atrophied limbs.
Finally the big eyes look up and focus on Shalina. Grudgingly the prone figure says, "My name is Megus, the Swampseer of the Black Hollow tribe."
Gerrik, back turned but obviously eavesdropping stiffens and turns, "Swampseer? You? You can't be serious." His tone is shock growing to disdain. "They are a legend, made to scare my people."
Megus merely smiles mysteriously, 'Is that so, Gerrik Sharpeyes'
Gerrik jumps back as if stung. "How..."
Megus ignores him and turns back to Shalina, "You wish an alliance against the Chelish...what do you offer as security? What is your item of value to be given as pledge?"
Shalina looks back and forth between Megus and Gerrik, a ghost of a smile on her lips as she watched them. "I love learning about other cultures. What is a Swampseer? Is that why you wear that necklace?"
She looks surprised when the boggart asks what she offered as security. "Apparently my oath is not good enough even though I don't give it readily. What is it that you seek that would convince you my intentions are true?"
Shalina can see the boggart is recovering their poise, becoming more stable as the pains of capture recede.
"It is a mark of my place, yes." Megus says, touching the necklace gently. 'A holy mark of my people. It is made out of the bones of my grandmother. She was very highly regarded among my people and as he grand daughter, it is my privilege and right to wear them."
The boggart sits up, still seeming content to remain on the wet floor. Indeed, Shalina guesses they would prefer to be fully immersed. "As for what a Swampseer is....well, ask Gerrik."
The lizardfolk through resolutely turns away, arms crossed and head tilt sharply downward. The gesture comes off more as pouting then dignified refusal. Megus allows herself a satisfied smile before turning back to Shalina.
"You would say I am a priestess, one who can see and hear more then most." is all she says, obviously holding her secrets close.
She does not seem surprised when Shalina is confused about security.
"Humans never understand. Words mean little, doubly so from outsiders with large swords and deadly skill. You could kill me, easily, to avoid payment. Do not pretend otherwise. Perhaps you would not betray your oaths so...but your friend would>' The boggart gestures to Tekk, who can't understand any of this.
'What does she want with me?" He says gruffly, looking unhappy at how long this was taking.
"Your friend would kill, if you ask. I can see it on his face." Megus says shortly, then shrugs, "But it is also the custom of my people. You give me something of value, a hostage against future behavior. The larger the favor, the more valuable the object."
Shalina is impressed with Megus' station and says as much. "That is fascinating. A priestess would suggest you are a worshipper. Do you serve Gozreh or someone else?"
She snorts when the boggart suggests that Tekk would abandon his oaths more readily than herself. "Tekk is a paladin that serves the old gods. If anyone will keep his oaths, he will."
Not sure if the next part shows I'm misunderstanding Megus but because polygot isn't Shalina's native language, it isn't surprising that she may misunderstand...it's possible she's just talking about an actual object as a hostage rather than a person but I'm rolling with it :)
Shalina is about to answer Tekk when she catches the word 'hostage' spoken by Megus. She recoils as if she's been slapped. "A hostage? You want a hostage?!? These people aren't objects to be negotiated with. I could never live with myself if I agreed to such terms. I plan to help free those enslaved, not to enslave anyone myself."
Not enough players take language barriers into account
Megus shrugs when Shalina talks about Tekk, "Believe what you will, but the man is devoted to you, more then anything else. He would strangle the life out of me on this very floor if you indicated so."
Slowly the boggart stands up, shin deep in the grimy rainwater dripping down into the dank ruins. The sound of dripping water fills the air, muted by wet soil and rough stone.
When Shalina talks about a hostage, Megus frowns, "No, not a person. Who could you give? This paladin that is more a monster then a man? The lizardfolkd?" She grins a wide, toothless smile, 'he would never agree."
Then, for the first time she spies the Chelish. Instantly her demeanor changes to blunt coldness.
"You would offer two of my enemies as hostage? You insult me and my tribe so?" She makes a strange sign with her webbed hand, as if to ward off an evil spirit. "Outsiders...."
Shalina put her hands on her hips, regarding Megus blandly, "And I would do the same for him because that's what you do for the ones you care about. But neither of us would ask the other to outright kill another being for their sake so it is kind of a moot point."
She looks relieved when the boggart says that the hostage wasn't supposed to be a person. "That was kind of my point, I couldn't give you another life as hostage...even those two."
The bard watches Megus cautiously, "So, we've agreed that the hostage isn't a person. I give you a thing of value and then you do what with it? Hold it in trust? And what would you accept? Most of what I carry is needed to ensure success against the Chelish."
She offers, "I have monetary wealth in the form of coin and gems." Shalina holds up her scrollcase, "I also have scrolls should you want magic instead."
"And if we come to an agreement on my part, what help will you be offering in return with our alliance?"
"Among my people, a pledge can be many things. A person, a treasure, even a secret if the people are trusted." A strange smile indicates that Shalina is not so trusted.
"As for what to offer, you must make it. Not only is that custom but what one offers in pledge often reveals much about the deal and the person behind it. I wish to know that about you, outsider. What would offer for my help, and the help of my tribe in this war against the Chelish? I assume that is what you want?"
Tekk watches her, obviously picking something up of the body language and says to Shalina, voice low, "Should we be doing this here and now? I'd rather get on with it, or go back. I'm not sure I'd like to stand in a spider abattoir for hours. Quite apart from the smell, gods knows when whatever did this will come back."
"But when what I treasure most are people, knowledge, and history then anything else I could offer you wouldn't mean anything. The hardest thing I had to do in the last little while was to choose my most prized books to save from the inevitable Chelish pillaging back home and then having to leave them behind to come here. It appears that we may be at an impasse and for that I am disappointed but I also understand. Go back to your people and I wish you all the best in surviving the Outsiders. I will do what I can with Tekk and Gerrik."
Just as she is coming to a conclusion with Megus, Tekk voices his concerns that Shalina can't argue with. "I agree, we need to get on with it. You can only try to convince someone for so long before you have to accept defeat. Let's go."
I can't really think of anything that Shalina could offer that would either mean enough or not put everyone else at risk from weakening herself too much.
The fact that she never even attempted to offer anything to Megus gnaws at Shalina while they get ready to leave.
Turning to Megus she says with an apologetic tint to her voice, "It occurs to me that I should at least offer you something. In my mind, I'm assuming that it won't be good enough for you to accept it and so it was easier to not offer than to have my offering rejected. Anyways, all of that to say, I'm sorry that I appeared to not be respecting the customs of your people."
Shalina digs through her things and pulls the following out of her bag. "To you I offer these two large rubies." She holds them up next to Megus' necklace, "A very nice compliment to your grandmother necklace." She holds out her scrollcase, "Since you are a priestess of your people, you may appreciate magic. This scrollcase contains the scrolls that I brought with me from my home in Osirion. An offering from my home to yours." She holds out three small tablets, "These are also from my homeland. They will purify tainted water. They can even help against diseased or poisonous water. As one who enjoys spending time in water, you may appreciate them."
The bard watches Megus intently to see how she will respond to her hostages, although she preferred to think about them as tributes. At least now if her offerings were rejected, that was on Megus and not her. Which is something she couldn't have said if she had never made the offering at all.
Megus eyes Shalina carefully as the archaeologist (and that is what Shalina is in the end, despite the stories) offers various items. The boggart, in turns, reaches out and handles each objects carefully, turning them over in rubbery, webbed hands. Her eyes close and it seems she can detect....something from them.
"These things have traveled many miles." Megus says finally, opening her eyes. "Over sand and sea both, close to your skin through many dangers."
"These are things you value, for one reason or another. The rubies for wealth, the case for nostalgia and the tablets for practicality. Intriguing offers indeed."
Megus puts them all on a small rock near at hand, carefully out of the grimy water still dripping from the cracked and stained ceiling. A long moment passes with the only sound being the plunk of falling water, the Chelish shivering and Gerrik's snorting.
Then, suddenly, Megus says, "These offers are acceptable. Let us be aligned, Shalina of Osirion. You and I, and my people and yours. Against the Chelish."
A radiant smile lights up Shalina's face which seems very out of place in their present surroundings. "It makes my heart glad that we will be allies against the Chelish. I truly believe that all of us together will be much more effective against them than any of us can be on our own."
She turns to Tekk barely able to contain her joy, "Megus has agreed to help us! Isn't that fantastic news? The more allies the better, especially when they've lived their whole lives in the Sodden Lands."
She looks around, aware that they needed to be moving forward. She had stayed still for too long while negotiating with Megus. "So what is next for you? Do you stay with us or do you go back to your people? One thing I am curious about and maybe you can provide an answer considering you are the Swampseer. What would the Chelish be looking for under the water in the sunken city?"
Tekk is somewhat less enthused saying in Common, 'Assuming we can trust them or, barring that, understand them. Sivvek worked with us, but I still have no idea what went on in his head."
Megus blinks slowly and says first, "I will go back to my people and tell them our victory is at hand. That we have found new allies and we seek to remove the Chelish blight from our lands. This will take time, both to find and convince them."
"As for what the enemy seeks..." The boggart grows speculative, eyes roving the stone walls as if they were covered in detailed and intricate tapestries. "I do not know but I sense....a map to another place. This is merely a way-stop for the hunters and seekers of the Devil Empire."
She grabs up the items Shalina offered as hostage and then says, 'I will go, and come back with help. Stay alive and stay safe, Shalina of Osirion. You are now, in a way, linked to the tribe of Shining Water of the Greenheart." She takes a few steps, turns and, with a sly smile adds loudly, 'And keep an eye on that lizard!" And then vanishes.
Gerrik frowns and says sourly, "She will betray you and get us all killed. Lies and trickery are all you get from boggart, everyone knows that. Now that the farce is over, shall we go on?"
At the exact same time, in Common, Tekk says, 'Now, can we get going? My feet are getting cold."
Understanding dawns on Shalina as Megus reveals what the Chelish, what Inck, is looking for. Her eyes also sparkle with excitement at the mention of a map. "That makes a lot of sense. That would be exactly the kind of knowledge that someone would spend such a lot of resources on. A map is precisely the best kind of incentive for me. We need to get to it before the Chelish, to stop them before they destroy anyone else's home."
"Go in peace Megus, Swampseer of the tribe of Shining Water of the Greenheart. And may you find your people safe and unharmed. I look forward to when we meet again."
A ghost of a smile plays on Shalina's lips at Megus' departure and her last dig at Gerrik. That boggart liked tormenting the lizardfolk a little too much. She looks at Gerrik with kindliness, "I understand that generations of bad blood exists between your two peoples. But I would wager that she would say the exact thing about you if the tables were turned. Just something to think about. So far I have found you both to care deeply for the Sodden Lands and your people. You may have more in common than you would care to admit. Besides, if she was outright evil then I'm sure Tekk would have set off alarm bells."
She grins at Tekk teasingly, "My paladin is getting cold feet? That doesn't bode well. We better get moving then before you run away and leave me with bickering locals and evil interlopers."
Shalina gathers the Chelish and they take up their original marching order as she refocuses on the task at hand and moves deeper into the ruins.
I can't remember what exits are available out of this room but she'll carefully move towards one of them. She's expecting trouble from whatever killed the spiders
Shalina leads the way. Her light-heartened banter, while well meaning, does little to disguise the danger. They are heading into dangerous unknown territory, filled with some sort of monster killer. And even if they avoid or overcome this, they will be entering a slave camp run by sadistic Chelish guards. Shalina recalls the swamp patrol group and how formidable they were. She could have lost that fight, with a little bad luck.
It doesn't take her long to see, despite more then half a dozen doors, they really only have two paths deeper into the soggy ruins. One is a narrow crawlspace leading up toward the surface which will require them to go in single file and crawl on their bellies. Shalina can see little but smells outside air.
The other way is broad and clear (although it has the ankle deep muddy water) that leads into what SHalina thinks is a large, dark chamber. She would need more light to be sure and she doesn't want to blunder in.
All the other paths are blocked with fallen stone and roots, some of which look old and natural but a few look very fresh indeed. Someone is reducing her ways forward.
How easy would it be to unblock the newly blocked paths? What are they blocked with?
Shalina pauses to consider their two potential paths. Seeing the narrow path and the broad way, she can't help but think about a morality story her mother had told her when she was little. The narrow path was rarely traveled because it was difficult but led to righteousness while the broad way was traveled by many because it was easy but often led to trouble. The story gives her pause but the thought of crawling on her belly out into the rain makes up her mind. She may be dooming them all but in her mind she chooses the broad way into darkness.
But she is no fool. Stumbling into darkness is not something Shalina is willing to do. She readies her crossbow and hums over a bolt until it begins to glow with light. "It looks like someone is shuttling us towards the place they want us to go." She motions towards the paths that seem to be recently blocked. "Unless we want to do some manual labor to undo what's been done, the dark chamber is our choice." She moves closer to the entrance of the dark chamber and looks at Tekk briefly to see if he has any objections as she raises her crossbow with the intention of letting loose the lit bolt to penetrate the darkness.
The blockages look as if someone tore down the roof, entirely filled with earth and stones. Some people just don't care about ruins and historical heritage
Tekk nods, "I agree. If we are to be ambushed, then Id rather be ambushed in a large room with space to swing then crawling on my belly through rubble." The paladin sounds grimly fatalistic about being attacked and clearly expected trouble ahead. Shalina finds it hard to disagree.
Everyone huddles between the crossbow wielding bard in the corridor, with the water slowly rising. Since they entered, Shalina notes the dirty water comes up to her shins now.
Shalina raises her crossbow, the bolt glowing with bright light, brighter then any torch. Then she pulls the trigger and it flies, trailing streams of arcane energy like a comet, into the vast abyss of the dark cavern.
For an instant the room is lit by the arcing display. A high, arched ceiling like that of a mighty cathedral, supported by many stone pillars. Smooth stone walls, stained with water and age yet still bearing signs of colorful artworks. Ruined rows of wooden benches and pews, long since rotted to mere outlines.
And in the center of the room, an imposing statue. The stone sculpture is carved into that of a powerfully built devil, with thick horns, raised wings and a gaping maw full of teeth. Stone muscles writhe along the smooth skin, as if flesh merely frown into rock. It is raised on a haphazard plinth of crumbled stone, as if rising from the muck. A bed of jewels and gold surround it, as if left in worship.
The bolt hits the statues with a loud clatter and then the light goes out as the bolt falls into the murky water, plunging the room back into darkness.
Shalina's eyes flash momentarily with anger at the willful destruction of this place. This was more than just a rampaging creature at work. There was someone malicious destroying these ruins. Not that she was completely surprised considering what had happened to the spiders.
Knowing that Tekk had her back as always, she nods at him before she lets loose her bolt. She tries to ignore the rising water as she watches with baited breath to see what the light would reveal in the darkness.
She wasn't really sure what she had been expecting but the devil statue centered in the room had not even been a consideration for the bard. "Now that looks like something that could tear some giant spiders apart or haunt your nightmares. Seems like an odd place to have a statue like that. I had assumed these ruins were some sort of settlement fortification. Could it have been some sort of temple instead?"
Does she recognize whether the devil matches any kind of description she knows from stories or what she knows of religion? I figure that if it was well known enough to have a statue made, then maybe she's heard of it
As soon as the room is once again engulfed by darkness she sighs, "Looks like I'll have to find a better way to illuminate the room."
Did she see anything that a bolt could be shot into where it would stick instead of falling into the water? If not, she'll cast light on her glaive and then move into the room
Maybe? Most of the room was stone (with everything else having rotted away) but there are some old wooden pillars and stuff in the water. You can try, I'd probably roll to see if it works. You can't ID the devil without more light or standing closer. Nothing stuck out to Shalina though, so it isn't like, Asmodues or something
Tekk looks around the now abyssal dark room, "Might not be either or. Many a fortress has a temple or church inside, for worship. Might just be a small niche of a larger complex. The ruins seemed large. Who knows what sort of men lived here, before the swamps came to claim it?"
You described the room very well. The statue seems so real that Shalina isn't trusting that it's actually going to stay as stone :)
"You're right, Tekk. It's probably a temple inside the fortress but the devil statue as a source of worship is perplexing. But whoever carved that statue did an extremely good job. They managed to make stone seem like real flesh."
Shalina loads another bolt into her crossbow that she enchants to glow with light. "I think I saw a wooden pillar that maybe I can get this to stick into so that we have some light."
If you need me to roll something, let me know. Otherwise I'll leave it to you :)
Shalina, wanting to see more of the strange room (and that off-putting statute) decides to shoot another lit bolt into the room. It isn't easy, considering she is aiming into blackness, but she can recall where bits of old, rotted wood lay.
Miss Chance, 1-4 is good: 1d12 ⇒ 7
The bolt sails through the large room, illuminating to for a fraction of a second before plunging into the murky water, and leaving the room to blackness.
Tekk frowns, "Looks like we are going to have to wade in. I hope I don't have to say, we should keep our distance from that statue?"
Shalina sighs resignedly as her bolt fails to find purchase in the darkened room. She gives Tekk a half-hearted smile, "Once again, you appear to be right."
She hums over the blade of her glaive causing it to glow with light. "Let's go see why someone wanted us to go into this room and if there are any other exits further into the ruins. We need to find our way through if we're going to infiltrate the camp from this side."
She looks over at the Chelish, "Don't worry, I won't make you go first. Although I do expect you to stand your ground and fight it if comes to that."
With all her senses attuned to detecting danger, she moves into the room with only her glaive providing light for the group.
perception: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (10) + 16 = 26
All of her spells and abilities reset after they left the orange grove, right? I don't think I reset the values in her header. I'm going to have to go back and check
"I doubt it is the Chelish directing us." Tekk remarked, peering into the gloom, "Surely they would simply block up all the tunnels. They wouldn't care about catching anyone, would they?"
Gerrik adds, "I think I saw some doors on the far end of the room. I do not think we are too far from the more livable portions of the ruins."
Yes, all spells and such reset. Do you lead the way? Anything else you want to add as you cross the watery, ruin filled room?
Shalina nods at the two, "If there are doors on the other side of the room then that's where we're headed. I must say, I don't like the feeling of being herded by some unknown director whether it's the Chelish or someone or something else. But we've come too far to turn back now. I'll go first to light the way and to look for any surprises that may be waiting for us. Let's hope that that life-like statue stays a statue."
Do I need another perception roll or is the one I gave in my post above sufficient?
With lit glaive in hand, she begins to purposefully move forward while taking care to be very aware of her surroundings.
The statue looms before Shalina and she hesitates for a moment to ask Tekk something that is weighing on her mind. "Tekk, how long does the aura of evil exist in a place? Can you tell whether something is currently tainting a place with their evil presence or whether it was previously used for evil?"
Tekk says, "I can. My skills generally work in regards to hours of evil passing, not years. However, considering the collapsed roof, I think a shorter time scale is relevant. I can do it for a distance but we need to get slightly closer, assuming you want me to focus on the statue."
A hesitation and then, "However 'evil', even if detected won't tell us much. I would think most things ahead would be revealed to have evil auras, if examined. And Evil things are not always dangerous."
Anything about that? Or shall we go?
Shalina smiles, "The statue is my concern, yes."
"I understand that detecting evil auras isn't a precise science so I will defer to your expertise on the matter considering I have none."
She looks up at her glowing blade and decides that they need a brighter light for traversing the room. She hums a tune similar to that she uses to channel light but it is more intricate and longer than before.
Casting Discovery Torch for brighter light and bonuses to perception, sense motive, and knowledge checks should we need them