The summer was hot and dusty, unlike those in his homeland far to the north. His reminiscence of summer was time spent on the open sea, when the ice had broken up and his family could take the catch that would have to hold them through the long winter, when the bay froze. He could almost feel the salt spray on his face, even in this far away land. He realized it was only sweat, not salt spray, running down his face and stinging his eyes. Stopping to wipe the sweat from his brow, and take a few gulps of water from his skin, Wulfgang could see the smoke curling from the village just on the horizon. It didn't look like much, but hopefully there was an inn where he could find a cheap meal and a flagon of mead. Maybe even a bit of work, while he followed after his uncle, who was posted at a place called Zimar, which was near the border.
The viking warrior was just about to set out on the road again when he heard the sound of thunder on the road behind him. Turning, he saw a cloud of dust billowing along the road, and realized it was riders coming, not the weather. Soon enough, a single rider could be seen leading a horse-drawn carriage and a contingent of other mounted guardsmen. "Clear the road!" cried the vanguard, without reining in his mount. "Make way for the Lady Argentea!" The man sweeps past, his adorned breastplate gleaming in the southern sun.
As Wulfgang steps from the road, the rest of the horsemen and a finely appointed carriage fly by, kicking up more of the accursed dust which cakes the sweat beaded all over the northman. As the group disappears, headed for the small village, Wulfgang catches the glimpse of something familiar -- the long braided plaits of fellow north-men. Whoever was in that coach, they had their own Ulfen guard around them.
Wondering at the sight, the viking man could do nothing else but plod after his kinsmen towards the small village of Heldren and whatever awaited him there. As he walked, he felt the wind change, and a cool breeze stir the hair from his shoulders. An unseasonably cool breeze...
Pardon my correction to the above, but there are two carriages in the entourage. The first, which is done with filigreed scrollwork and red lacquered wooden frame, and a another which is more plain and loaded down with baggage. About 8 horsemen in all, one more if you count the man in the shining breastplate in the vanguard
The Varisian girl shivered as she stepped out of the small cottage at the eastern edge of Heldren. The wind had picked up since she had gone to see Old Mother Theodora and brought with it an unseasonable chill to the air. To the southeast, heavy dark clouds brought a hint of rain and the wind, from that direction, ruffled her hair once more and gooseflesh broke out on her bare skin.
Here in midsummer, it that cold breeze felt almost as out of place as the Irina did here in the south, far from her people in her native Varisia. She had found a kindred soul in Old Mother Theodora however.
That ancient crone, now one knew her exact age but it had to be over 100, was the town's wise woman. She had been in town as long as anyone else can remember, and as the town's only midwife, had delivered nearly every current resident of the village. She is also a soothsayer and a hedge witch, and the locals come see her to have their fortunes told or to buy herbal remedies or love potions. Irina had taken to calling on the old woman on her day's off in order to discuss the finer points of witchcraft and to hone and practice her arcane talents.
Irina rubbed her shoulders and bare arms and started to walk briskly back towards the Silver Stoat. To her surprise, a rider barreled into town from the west, followed on by a pair of carriages and a host of mounted soldiers. The squadron pulled to a stop in front of the inn, the dust blowing away quickly in the stirring wind. The leader of the crew shouted some orders and the men all dismounted, the captain entering the inn.
Wondering what could bring these soldiers here, the girl hurried on. Then suddenly she stopped, with a wry smile that belied her worry. Was that a snowflake she saw? And then another?
The elf sat in the barber chair with his feet folded under him, nodding off to sleep. Not much happened in the shop on any given day, but today was especially slow. His boss, Argus Goldtooth, was away at the Stoat, having lunch with his sweetheart, the apothecary Tessaraea Willowbark who ran the store next door. Argus had pulled the impacted tooth of one of the hunters, a grumpy fellow named Dryden Kepp, who stalked game in the Border Woods near Heldren earlier, but that was the only traffic this sleepy town brought to the barber's surgery today.
Wondering why he bothered working here, or why Argus had agreed to bring him on, at least it kept him out of trouble. Argus seemed a good sort, showing Ruso the art of leeching, which he used to treat most maladies -- from stomachaches to broken bones. And the elf began to learn that being a barber meant more than just cutting hair, especially in small villages like this one. Ruso tried hard not to think about the jar of gold teeth on the shelf above his head, teeth Argus used on his patients and on himself. That jar might keep him set up for several weeks...
A clatter of hoofbeats and the sound of harsh voices from outside, shook him from his daydream. Walking to the window, the rogue saw a pair of fine carriages come to rest in front of the inn. Surrounding them was a platoon of soldiers led by a captain in a sparkling silver breastplate.
The elf's eyes widened in alarm, and his first thought was that the soldiers were there for him -- bringing him back to Oppara for the heists he pulled while there. But then he saw most of the soldiers resting, strolling about or grabbing a quick nap on the ground near the The Lady, the statue erected in the center of the town's only crossroads. They seemed to have no real urgency about them.
As he watched, he saw the Captain enter the Stoat, and for a moment, a pretty female face peer from the curtained window of the finely appointed carriage. Stepping out onto the porch of the shop to get a better look, Ruso whistled in dismay as a blast of cold air hit him. He didn't remember summers in Taldor being this cold, but there it was nonetheless. Careful not to attract too much attention, he moved closer, his curiosity about who might be in the carriage getting the better of his good sense, as was often the case.
Iriana looks to the skies when she thinks she saw a snowflake. Snowflakes in summer. I must be seeing things. She rubs her eyes and looks again still seeing the occasional snowflake fall to the ground.
She resumes her trip to the Stoat. Just about time to start my shift. She smiles flirtatiously at the guardsmen sitting around the Lady statue, and gives a couple of the more handsome men a saucy wink as she passes the fine carriage on the way into the front door.
Nice carriage. I wonder who is inside.
Slipping quickly and quietly towards the carriage he is intent on seeing who would come with so many guards. A shiver runs down his spine as the cold air strikes him just as he nears the lady. Ruso strains to see in through a carriage window.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Jack was sweating profusely as he climbed the small hill northwest of town. Summers were sure hot here in the southern clime to which he was still growing accustomed. He sweated all the more due to the heavy load he lugged along with him. He had agreed to move some arms and armor up to the small tower atop the hill which served as the militia's storehouse and a place of refuge for the villagers in an emergency.
The local blacksmith and leader of the militia, Isker Euphram, had asked Jack to carry the load to the armory. Isker, who mostly shoed horses or repaired farm tools, could craft a nice blade or even a suit of armor at need and when he had no other work, he crafted items for the militia. Since his shop was getting cluttered, he had contacted Jack, and the big man easily obliged, always on the look-out for a way to earn a coin or two.
Now, he stood top the hill near the tower, wiping sweat from his brow. He looked to the south and saw a big build up of dark storm clouds. "Looks like we're in fora big storm." thought the northman who loved the outdoors. "looks like it's going to be a bad one." Watching the sun's position, he also realized it would soon be time for Irina to start her shift down at the Stoat, and he didn't want to be late for that.
He finally hefted the load to the locked storeroom and re-arranged the new items. As he came back out, he was surprised at the cold biting breeze that had kicked up. Blowing heartily from the southwest, the wind reminded him of his time in the far north. The chill went right through a guy, but Jack felt more at home in it then he has in some time.
Hustling back to the village, Jack saw a troop of horsemen escorting a pair of carriages race into town, stirring up clouds of dust which blew around in the wind. He was surprised to see the caravan stop at the Stoat, and decided to go see what the story was.
As he moved down the hilltop, much to his surprise, he felt the tickle of snow flurries blowing into his face, his former thoughts about the southern summers all but forgotten.
Nothing much ever happened in Heldren. That's what Peltra had learned during her time stationed here. Officially detached to a guard unit in Zimar on the frontier, she had been re-deployed to this sleepy nowhere town a few weeks ago. She was, in fact, the town's only garrison.
Sure there was a militia under the "command" of the local blacksmith, Isker, but those were a bunch of shopkeepers and farmboys and acted like it. True, the smith could turn out a nice weapon, but in the hands of inexperienced lad it was useless.
So with nothing to do, and no one around to give orders, Peltra ended up spending most of her time in the Stoat. And that's where she sat today, absently eating a mid-day meal and sipping a flagon of ale.
The house specialty was Three Devil Ale, brewed in-house by the Stoat's proprietess, Kale Garimos, and Peltra had taken quite a liking to it. Kale was behind the bar now, washing the pewter mugs, readying for the evening rush. It was about time for that Varisian girl, Irina to show up, the soldier reckoned. And where Irina went, Jack Forrester was never far behind. That boy seemed to be stricken with the barmaid, no question.
When the door to the inn blew open, and a cold breeze bleew in, Peltra expected one or the other of those two, but she turned in surprise when a man dressed in a silver breastplate with a hawk emblem embossed upon it, stalked in instead.
"We need your best hot meal, and some soup for my men." the man called imperiously. He pointed at Kale, behind the bar. "Quickly, woman! The lady is impatient to be home. Now snap to it!" The man was clearly used to giving orders and having them followed. Kale jumped to, bustling about getting things ready as quickly as she could.
Peltra looked closer trying to see if she recognized this fellow. He was a tall, broad shouldered fellow with close-trimmed dark hair and a thick handlebar mustache. He did look like a veteran of a few scrapes, but with that shiny armor, he could've been just another Taldan pretender. She didn't recognize him.
Kale quickly came back with a trayful of steaming mugs of soup. Her husband, Menander, wasn't far behind wearing a stained apron, and carrying a plate of his specialty, venison flank steak and numble pie.
The captain nodded as the pair approached. "Damnable cold out there for summer time. Funny thing. Blasted hot when we left Oppara, but out here, cold as winter."
He dropped a few coins on the table nearby, and made to leave with the meals.
Like soldiers everywhere, given a few minutes of respite from riding, the men are stretched out on the ground, some already dozing despite the cold. As Irina walks by flirting with them, a few call out to her in a rough language that she doesn't understand, but the meaning is quite clear...All the men, about 8 in all, she reckons, are heavily bearded some with long hair, others with braided plaits running down their backs. All where a hawk emblem, usually a pin of a cloak or a badge on their chest. All have the grizzled and scarred look of real fighting men.
As Irina saunters past to the door of the Stoat, she nearly runs into her employers, Kale and Menander, bringing trays of food outdoors. They are followed closely by a close-shaven man wearing a shining breastplate. The girl turns on a heel to watch as Kale passes mugs of soup to the resting men, and Menander holds a tray to one of the carriages parked outside. A matronly lady-in-waiting opens the carriage door from the inside, accepting the tray, and closing the door quickly against the lowering temperatures.
Turning back inside, Irina sees little out of place, Argus and the apothecary are lunching in the corner as they often do. The new guard-woman is eating alone in a corner, and few other townsfolk are about their business here.
One man, a local trapper, calls out "Girl, how about a fire? It's cold as mid-winter in here. Ain't seen nothin' like it."
Knowing better, but unable to stop his innate curiosity, Ruso slinks up the street near where the carriages are resting, the horses stamping in the cold, their breath creating billowy clouds of steam, which also rises from their sweating flanks.
The elven rogue sees the soldiers lying on the ground, but when their attention is distracted by the shapely barmaid walking by, he slips to the other side of the carriage in a flash. Leaning against the side, he hears a conversation from inside:
"Your father will NOT be pleased to see you back, my lady. Your betrothal was supposed to give him an inroad into society in Oppara, and now he will have been embarrassed. No good will come of it, I can tell you." The voice is a woman's, but deep and scolding.
A young woman's voice, with the rich tones of the upper nobility, answers, "We've been over this Marda, I will not marry that man who is three times my age and prefers young boys. Not matter what the cost. I will stay on at the castle and rule in my father's name. It is more of an embarrassment to the Malassene name to live that charade."
When the carriage door opens for food to be handed in, the wind ruffles the curtains in the far window, and Ruso takes the opportunity to peek in quickly. Inside, sits a young woman, perhaps 16 or 18, covered with furs. Her dark hair and eyes set of a lovely face. She wears fancy noble's attire, silk and brocade and lace along with some alluring jewelry. But she appears tired and drawn, her mouth set in a frown and her eyes downcast. Standing at the door, is the matronly woman, Marda, who is typical of the chaperones for noble girls in Taldan society. Large, imposing, proper, and severe, Ruso can see in an instant that she is not to be trifled with.
Then the door is closed and the curtain falls back into place. Pondering for a moment, Ruso thinks he knows who this is.
Irina hurries into the Stoat. She smiles at the well armored man and sashays past him.
Wonder what that's all about. I haven't seen Menandar move that fast in. Well ever.
She starts when she's called lost in her wondering. "Yes sir, I'll get a fire built. It is cold today. I swear I saw snow on the way in, but it couldn't be."
She bustles about preparing kindling and stacking wood for a fire. She gathers a few coals from the kitchen fire and starts the fire in the common room.
The young man shivered as he walked. The bitterly cold weather that had fallen on the Border Wood reminded him of his young days in far north, but that was long ago. Since then, he had lived in all the corners of Avistan, his father looking for backers to reclaim their lost nobility, all to no avail.
And now, he found himself in a gods-forsaken corner of Taldor, working as a roughneck in a lumber camp, and it was snowing in the middle of summer! He grimaced, and then winced with the pain. His cut lip and bruised eye reminded him of the scrape he had been in with one of the lumberjacks. Unsure why, Skyne had stood up to the man's verbal taunting even though he was 4 inches and 50 pounds smaller than the burly man. Skyne had struggled valiantly but couldn't overcome the man's girth and was left with a busted lip and a large black shiner over his left eye, which was partially swollen shut. That was when the foreman had sent him home for the day...It wasn't his first dust-up with one of the men at camp, and it probably wouldn't be the last.
Indignant, Skyne had picked up his sack and headed for the village, thinking of a bite at the Stoat, and perhaps to get out of this cold snap. The snow was already an inch deep on the ground as he left the woods, but it appeared the village was still under blue skies.
He was about half through the 6 miles between the woods and Heldren when he saw the horsemen and carriages rumbling his direction at breakneck pace. Moving quickly to the side of the road, Skyne tried to warn them of the winter storm ahead, but the group rushed past unheeding.
Shaking his head, the youth continued his walk back to the village.
Like soldiers everywhere, given a few minutes of respite from riding, the men are stretched out on the ground, some already dozing despite the cold. As Irina walks by flirting with them, a few call out to her in a rough language that she doesn't understand, but the meaning is quite clear.
I wrote this the other day and realized that I was wrong. Irina does understand the language. It is Skald, the language of the north. These men are Ulfen Guard which happens to be a very fashionable thing to have in Taldan society these days.
Wulfgang wanders down the road into the Stoat and looks at the barkeep. "Ale good sir." he requests.
Sorry Wulfgang I was getting to you next.
After trudging the rest of the way into the village, Wulfgang arrives in time to see the soldiers remount and the carriages pull away from a building with smoke rising from the chimney. By now the traveler's hunger is forgotten and he just wants out of the bitter wind and biting cold. Pleased to see the building is an inn of some kind, he makes to enter.
He does see an elven lad skulking about on the streets and a man with a bruised and bloodied face heading up the street from the south. Shrugging at the sights, he stamps his feet and enters.
The place is cozy and comfortable with a fire just starting in the center to challenge the creeping chill that has pervaded the place. There are a few folks present, a female in soldier's livery, an elfin woman and dwarvish man eating together and a few other locals.
The barkeep in question turns out to be a barmaid instead. Shapely and vibrant with dark black curls and an odd white streak in her hair , she smiles at him warmly. In a well- practiced motion she grabs a pewter mug and fills it to the rim from a wooden keg nearby, sliding the mug down the polished bar until it comes to rest in front of the stranger.
Another young man, with burn scars marring his face sits at the bar and turns to look at Wulfgang with interest
Peltra frowns as the newcomer barks orders, keeping the peace was her job and surprises rarely helped with that. Maybe something interesting will finally happen around here. At the mention of the odd weather, she frowns further and heads outside to take a look.
Brushing the snow from his clothing, Jack rumbles down the hill back to the village. There the innkeeper and his wife are serving soup to the soldiers and the troop is preparing to mount back up.
Jack catches the words the soldiers say in his native tongue. Looking closer, he sees the pale skin, blond or red braids and beards and emblems common among the fighting men of the North. The warriors drink their soup, muttering about the captain, who is Taldan, and eventually begin to mount back up, riding away in support of the carriages that clatter along the road south towards Zimar.
Once the hubhub has died down, Jack enters the Stoat, where Irina has just lit a fire to keep the chill away. Smiling at the sight of her, Jack takes his accustomed seat at the bar, where he can be near the girl.
Skyne blindly follows another man into the Stoat and up to the bar, listening to his own thoughts more than to the other patrons. I showed them all. Dorfur Ivarsson was a man, a hero. I showed them.
The accents of Skald-spoken Common pull Skyne out of his rut, though. He looks at the man's pale skin and hair, then slaps him on the shoulder and says, "Another Northman, I take it? Any news from home?"
Iriina gives Jack a bright smile as he sits at the bar. The usual tonight Jack? I think there's soup on. If those soldiers didn't get the last of it."
She gives Skyne a smile as he takes a seat. "Ouch that looks like it hurt. You want a cold compress for it? I can grab some cold well water. Might take some of the swelling down."
She wipes down the bar in front of her, and asks both men. "Did you want something to drink or eat? We've got soup I think, and the specialty of the house is venison flank steak and numble pie. I think there might be some roast and taters too. I'd have to check. I just got on shift, and the owners are busy with the nobility and the solders outside." It'd be nice to be a fancy lady and not have to work.
Disturbed by the demanding captain, Peltra rises to look outside. When she steps outside the Silver Stoat, the first thing she notices is the biting wind, blowing in from the southwest. That breeze should usually be a warm dry one, but this is a bone-chilling cold, heavy with the threat of snow.
The Ulfen soldiers gather and finish their steaming mugs of soup and Peltra can just catch the flash of bright clothing from inside the carriage as the door bangs shut.
The captain barks more orders and the troop is set to ride off in short order. "We must make Zimar by nightfall." cries the captain. "Let's move out." Steam rises from the flanks and muzzles of the mounts in the now-cold air as the are pushed to quick trot and the carriages begin to bounce down the main street of Heldren to the south.
The company seems to be headed right into the teeth of the odd weather, but they seem unfazed as they reach the edge of town, and start to disappear around a bend.
Peltra has a very real sense of foreboding as she watches. But she is unable to communicate that feeling to the others. "Might be last time anyone sees any of them," she whispers in quiet frustration as snowflakes gather in her hair.
Just then a burst of wind blasts Peltra slamming the door of the Stoat open and then closed again with a punctuating bang.
"Soup sounds nice. Thought I saw snow outside, but must just be my imagination. The usual to drink, miss, thank you." The usual is lukewarm water.
"Looks like money out there. Maybe your tips will be good tonight."
"I'm looking for ale, not a mother."
Skyne forces a smile to dull the barb, and reopens the cut on his lip. Turning to the scarred man with the longbow, he says, "Looks like you've survived a few scrapes yourself. Name's Skyne, Skyne Dorfursson."
Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (14) + 8 = 22
Well this a curious thing. Why would the baron do that to his daughter? That is just plain uncouth. Ruso gets a lopsided grin on his face. She sure is a pretty little thing though. It is shame that she was being forced to marry a man like that.
Ruso decides that now is a good a time as any to take a break and heads over to the Stout for a quick meal. Walking in he glances towards women on duty and takes a seat at a nearby table. As the waitress comes by "Ma'am, might I get a bowl of soup, some bread, and mug of ale please and thank you."
He then surveys the room and sees many of the locals that walk past the barber shop each day. He gives a friendly nod or wave to each as is common custom in the smaller towns and villages just about anywhere you go in the world.
"Ale it is then. Hope you it doesn't burn on your cut." Irina shoots back at the man name Skyne. She slides an ale in front of him, and moves down to Jack. "I hope the tips are good tonight. That odd weather should bring more people in.
She puts the cup of water in front of him, and moves around from behind the bar to take Ruso's order. [b]"Coming right up Ruso." as she hears his order and moves around to draw the ale, and call into the kitchen for the food order. After dropping of the ale she stokes up the fire.
"Odd weather we're having. I swear I saw snow as I was coming to work. It's not the time of year for snow. Any ideas what might be happening?" she asks the question to the room at large.
All of you are gathered in the Silver Stoat where a common fire warms the room trying to keep the growing cold at bay. The company here is like a pub in any small village, except the strange weather has the usual good cheer a bit muted.
You each spend the rest of the evening at the Stoat, interacting with each other and the locals, some telling strange tales, others sharing more mundane stories.
One man, a trapper of some renown, a man named Dryden Kepp, who is little loved in the village due to his unfortunate manners and hygiene stands on a table, boasting: "I tell ya, it were 's big 's a horse, it were. An' its pelt were white 's a baby's bottom. Saw that damn big white weasel up on High Ridge, I did. Gonna trap 'im an' skin 'im, I is. I'm a-gonna own that big bastard!" He finishes that pronouncement with a hearty guzzle of ale, swaying a bit as he bends over backwards to drain his mug.
"Give it a rest, Kepp!" calls one of the roughnecks from the lumber camp. "You've just been hitting the sauce out o' that flask o' yours. Ain't no critters that big up on High Ridge. I been up there many times t' rough cut. I call you a liar, a stinking liar at that!"
Red-faced, Kepp throws some coins on the table. "I'll show ya! I'll show ya all! I seen it! An' I'll go an' trap it an' bring it back here. You'll eat them words. See if ya don't." And Kepp staggers out into the night, intent on proving his naysayers wrong.
Throughtout the night, you may have the chance to hear some other stories:
You may read any of the spoilers under the roll you make. You may share what you hear in-character as you see fit at any time. After this, the curtain will fall on this day, and the game will begin in earnest the next morning, unless you have other actions/activities to still accomplish this strange night.
"Name's Jack Forrester," the man replies gruffly to Skyne, unconsciously raising his hand to cover the worst of the scars. It appears he is trying to be polite, though.
"Usually pretty quiet around here... but life ain't always been that way. What brings you around these parts?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 ⇒ 13
Irina keeps bustling around the tables keeping the drinks topped off. She sighs as Kepp stands on the table...again. As she moves around the room she hears some things that concern her and some things that are interesting.
Old Mother is not involved in this. How could you think that? She considers spilling the next drink on the people who dared say such a thing, but decides against it.
"Jack some people think Old Mother is involved. That's as likely as Qadira doing this. It's too widespread for magic if Old Man Dansby is to be believed. You might want to ask about his bull. He swears it was stolen. You could could ask for a reward to get it back." She fills up his water glass as she relays the things she's heard at the tables to him.
Diplomacy: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (5) - 1 = 4
"Reward, eh? Yah, I could use the money. People are quick to judge, around here. If they knew Theodora, they wouldn't be talking so outta turn. Shame that, but she knows who her friends are. Now Dansby, he's a good man, tough farmer. Bet someone's just playing a prank on him, but I'll go see him in the morn and see if the bull ain't turned up yet."
Irina may make a profession:Barmaid check using the spoilers above as well...I can see her picking up all kinds of stories while working the room.
How much snow has fallen by now?
In Heldren, it is just a dusting, but the temperature hovers just above freezing, and the wind is fierce. In the Border Wood, there was an inch or more when Skyne left there earlier, and he was just on the eaves. No telling now...
Peltra watches the group from her table by the wall. Just what we need, people stirring up trouble. When Kepp finishes his speech, she quickly moves to intercept him at the door. "Hold there Kepp. You're in no state to be out in this weather. You can go find your weasel in the morning once it's light."
Kepp makes an obscene gesture to Wulfgang without even bothering to turn around. "I doan care if'n yer Aroden hisself return from the dead. I'ma gettin' that pelt an' showin' these louts a thing r' two 'bout trappin'"
When he gets to the door to find Peltra standing there he looks up at her, his pungent aroma mixing with the firesmoke and alcohol. His eyes narrow dangerously, and he growls in a low voice. "Step aside, missy. Unless ye plan t'clap me in irons, I'ma goin' outside there. Last I ken, weren't no law 'gainst goin' outside. Now, move out the way."
It's pretty clear the stubborn and loutish man has his mind set on leaving. You know his reputation as a woodsman and trapper is excellent, but he can be handful in society.
Wulfgang walks up to Jack and Irina and points to the trapper. "Do you know this man? He seems a fool. The weather is more like the frosty north than summer in the south."
"I know him. He can be difficult" Irina moves up next to Peltra with a full mug in hand.
"Kepp come one. It's cold out there, and getting dark. You can find the weasle tomorrow. Have another drink, and tell me about the time you caught that big wolverine."
Diplomacy: 1d20 ⇒ 17
Looks like they didn't hire this broad for her brains.
Skyne pulls out a handful of coppers and one-by-one places them on the counter until the ale is paid for exactly. Then, he makes eye contact with Irina before licking his cut lip and putting away the remaining coins.
"Work," Skyne says to Jack. "Over at the lumber camp. Worked in some mines, too. Got a good story behind any of those scars?
"Say, I've got nothing to do but drink and fight for the next couple days. You want some help finding that bull?"
"Well met, Wulfgang. I'm Skyne. Family's from Kopparberget originally, in the Kodar mountains. Yourself?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (9) - 1 = 8
Despite all attempts to the contrary, no one can stop Dryden Kepp from leaving the Stoat that evening.
Just where he goes and what he does may be revealed later in the story...Not trying to step on your interaction as your PC's meet for the first time, but to get the story started, we will advance a bit.
Throughout that chilly evening, the heroes gather together, some sharing a northern ancestry. A few have been in town for a while, others are strangers to Heldren and Taldor. Before the evening ends, Jack, Skyne, and Irina have recruited the rest to join the expedition to look for Old Man Dansby's prize bull, Ferdinand, in the morning.
The group agrees to meet on the front porch of the Stoat early in the morning and set out for Dansby's Farm which is located near the Border Wood, a little off the main road.
Not long after first light, the group gathers in the chilly air. a thin rime of frost covers most surfaces, and a trace dusting of snow covers the ground. Large, wispy flakes of snow sift down gently, not enough to make a big impact, but certainly strange for a midsummer's day. Kale Garimos makes some meat pies for the road, and ties up a handkerchief filled with bread and bacon for later on, handing it gently to Irina.
The expedition to Dansby's goes easily enough although, the chill is harsher and the snow deeper the closer you get to the Border Woods, where a layer of dark clouds hides the upper elevations. At the farm, you meet Dansby, an old gaffer of about 70 years, who has a few more hairs on his balding head than teeth left in his mouth.
He shows you his devastated crops, which have been lain down by the wind, and frozen by the lowered temperatures. "It'th going to be a total loth." he says forlornly looking over the ruined fields. His missing choppers give him an unfortunate lisp. "Lucky I got thom thavingths to make it through the thummer or I'd be ruin't. Hope thith weather blowth over thoon tho I can git fall cropth in the ground."
He leads you over to an ancient but well-maintained stone barn where the front wooden doors have been left in a ruinous heap outside. The wood is cracked and splintered in several places. The barn is spacious, with a second story hayloft accessible by a ladder on either end. There are several stalls, an old nag whinnies in one, but the others are empty, including a large billet where Ferdinand was usually housed. "Came out to check on Ferdie and when I looked in hith thall, he wath gone!" says the old man with obviously deep emotion. "Lookth like thomeone buthed in and thole him! Who would do that? I loved that old bull like he was me own thon!"
Feel free to have a look around or initiate an investigation as you see fit. No map for this location.
Skyne removes his goggles, dips his finger into a small bag of metal filings, then draws a circle around each eye. After that he spends a couple minutes walking around the barn, and then the farm, deep in concentration.
Once that patrol is finished, he returns to the barn and starts examining the broken door in detail. Was it broken form the inside or out? What with?
Spellcraft: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (11) + 6 = 17 Feel free to roll for me if multiple auras are detected.
Knowledge (engineering): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (10) + 6 = 16
Irina takes the package of food, and carefully carries it on the trip.
"Thank you Kale.
"Have you noticed anything odd, beside the weather, lately? Anyone hanging around that didn't belong? Animals acting strangely? That sort of thing." Irina asks Old Man Dansby as she studies the busted door.
Diplomacy: 1d20 ⇒ 12
Skyne's circuit of the barn reveals no magical dweomers present, and no traces left over. As he studies the shattered wood, Skyne is quickly able to tell that the bending of the hinges and the shape of the injuries to the doors indicates they were broken inwards from the outside and eventually torn off from the same direction, discarded where they currently lay.
Old Man Dansby seems quite taken with Irina. Yer a right purty one, ain't yeh?" he says with a wink. "No, I ain't theen nothing unuthual, ethept all thith thnow and iyth. That'th pretty unuthual for thummer, I'd thay. Never theen anything quite like it. But nope, no critterth or thrangerth pokin' about that I've theen.". He gives her a toothless smile that is creepy beyond words.
When Wulfgang says something about giant weasels, the man removes his hat and looks hard to the north-man, scratching is bare scalp. "You ain't from 'round here are ya boy? We ain't got giant weathelth in theeth parth. I thwear on my lovely Dorith grave, ain't theen no giant nothin'." As the ranger looks around, he does spy something amiss. Impressed in the snow outside one of the barn windows,where the snow has drifted deeper than other places, is a footprint. Only it's bigger than any footprint any man could make. The print appears to have four toes that end in talons or claws of some kind.
Have to say, after typing in that lisp, it's hard to give narration without it...