Preparations made, the group returns to the cauldron in the entry room. Conveniently, simple magical commands have been in scribed on the rim which conjure water and warm it, although it still takes time to come to a proper boil.
It is a simple enough task to enact the ritual now that the means are known; it feels more like cooking then magic. The ingredients, however, make for the strangest goulash imaginable: a dash of paprika, some pepper, one frost giant's beard for substance and a plague doctor's mask floating on top. The mask dissolves into a bubbly foam as it floats upon the liquid.
As fumes waft from the cauldron, strange things begin to happen. Wherever they touch the walls, they seem to sizzle and boil, and the barriers evaporate into a cloud of particles. Beyond the cloud is a partially glimpsed patchwork of vistas: treescapes, mountains soaring into the air, stars and seas. None look like they are from quite the same place - trees and shrubs wildly varying - but they all seem to be snow or ice bound.
Time seems to stand still for a moment, but the stillness is broken by three ravens bursting out of the cloud. They caw loudly and circle the group three times before scattering back into the mists. They eye the heroes closely as they circle. A short time later the cloud begins to settle again, whirling and clumping until they form back into the shape of walls and furniture, doors and floorboards.
The sturdy black cauldron now sits in the middle of a rustic room with timber floors, log walls, and a high ceiling framed by long beams cut from whole trunks. A grand cobblestone hearth fills one corner, its dying embers feeding the room with a dull red glow. Various barrels, farm tools, crates, and other miscellaneous items clutter the remainder of the space. In the corner opposite the fireplace, a rickety wooden staircase climbs to a small wooden landing. A shallow alcove off the landing holds two thick oaken doors.
I was still laboring under the misapprehension that we needed the egg to go anywhere - this is a better way to travel! Cool description of the process, Rango.
Kalt watches in wonder as the room they're in seems to dissolve piecemeal into the steam and mist. He starts when the ravens appear, but restrains himself from slipping his bow off his shoulder to take them down. When the mists clear, he shakes his head in amazement that they seem to be in entirely different room without having taken a step.
"Everyone okay?" he asks the group, his gaze resting longer on Shanya as he raises an eyebrow at her. That was quite a ride... he seems to be saying.
"Well, Bjornson, shall we see what's up those stairs? I'll go first, in case they decide they can't bear your weight."
He moves lightly up the stairs, eyes and ears alert.
Perception: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (10) + 14 = 24
The entire time the ritual was being performed, Shanya was filling the party in on the Hut's fey guest. She has no idea what this 'Russia' is or where it is on Golarion.
"I suppose it's a newly-formed country or some such..."
Shanya observes the ritual quietly, with one hand on the hilt of her rapier as the ravens circle them. By the time the ritual is completed, she meets Kalt's gaze and nods. She's blushing slightly, but her stoic demeanour doesn't change.
"I feel alright so far... now, I think it's time to see where we've arrived." She follows Kalt up, ready for trouble.
Perception?: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (20) + 11 = 31
At the top of the stairs, Kalt listens and looks closely at the first of the doors, then opens it.
Open whichever door, since we don't have a map.
Perception: 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (19) + 14 = 33
Only one set of doors out of the first room. I'll work on the map.
As Kalt opens the door, he finds himself looking at a long corridor stretches out to both sides, the aged plank floors seeming to continue forever. Solid logs form the passage walls, intricately carved with knotted designs and images of lances, and centaurs, ravens, and female figures. Pale-winged moths and tiny fireflies flutter through the hallway, their flickering glows filling the corridor with dim light.
However, Kalt's and Shanya's keen eyes notice something amiss with the far wall. It seems to flicker ever so slightly - an illusion! Behind the illusion, as the pair ascertain after a minute of reflection, is another adorned piece of wood, but this one some manner of door without handle or hinges.
Shanya blinks several times. "Oh my... I certainly didn't expect this to happen."
She pokes and prods at the wall across from them with her rapier, trying to figure out a way to open it. She wasn't going to touch it with her hands--Desna only knew what would happen if you stick your fingers where they don't belong in a legendary witch's abode.
"That was....Amazing! And weird, I liked it..."
Coming back to his senses he notices Kalt and Shanya zipping up the3 stairs...
" Wait! We should all stick together...."
He trails off as he loses his wind running up the stairs to catch them.
"hugh. c-come on! We n-need to stay together, no telling what may happen here!"
The door seems quite solid, despite Shanya's prodding, and safe. It is merely the mechanism that holds it in place that defies explanation; it almost seems held in place by magic.
Both ends of the hallway seem to curve around at their ends, their walls gradually disappearing from view rather then forming hard corners.
"Russia? Perhaps it's in the Worldwound somewhere. I hear the cities there have strange names", Sven answers Shanya's description of hut's unseen keeper.
Based on how tightly he clutches the handle of his axe, the chaotic wheeling magical transport leaves the big ulfen a bit unnerved but once things settle he's all grins again. Chuckling at Kalt's quip, he follows after the ranger - once he's determined that the stairs down are truly sound. Unlike Shanya and Ankih he's less astonished by the colorful artwork and more suspicious.
"Is this Iobaria?" he asks softly Kalt leads the way.
Knowledge (Geography) *Inspiration!*: 1d20 + 7 + 1d6 ⇒ (16) + 7 + (6) = 29
Shanya scratches her head, her scraggly locks becoming somewhat tangled around her claws. "Hmm... judging from the artwork here, I think we are indeed in Iobaria. It's known for having a large population of centaurs." She produces her lockpicks and takes a closer look at the secret door before them.
Knowledge (Arcana) *Inspiration!*: 1d20 + 8 + 1d6 ⇒ (18) + 8 + (3) = 29
"And it appears that the door before us is locked with magic, probably by Baba Yaga." She smirks. "Let me see if I can get this open..."
She gets to work on the door.
Taking 20 to open the door with Disable Device. 20 + 13 = 33. Adding Inspiration: 1d6 ⇒ 2 for a total of 35.
Know (geography): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (15) + 10 = 25
Knowledge (geography): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (2) + 9 = 11
”Iobaria? Has a lot of centaurs? Really?” says Kalt, accustomed to knowing more about the places of the world than he knows of this one. ”We’ve come all the way to Casmaron?”
He steps out of Shanya’s way and lets her work on the door, holding her tools as she works and handing her what she needs.
"Strange..." murmurs Lana, glancing around as if trying to remember something. "But why? Is this where the witch is hiding— or imprisoned? And if not... why bring us here?"
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Shanya skillfully cuts gaps in the magic tracery of runes festooning the door; as the final mystical connection is severed the door slides open.
Once again, the party finds themselves in a spacious room resembling the interior of a wooden cottage. Two sets of stairs ascend from this level to a balcony, atop which rests a table; everything seems to be made of some manner of fresh pine. Beyond that balcony, another set of stairs rise to a small alcove and a door. Through the small window of the door streams the sunlight of the outside world.
Upon the balcony sits a formidable looking Kellid human, a battleaxe in his right and kite shield strapped to his forearm. He is clad in thick mail coat. As the door slides open he whirls about and issues an exclamation followed by what sounds to be a harsh sounding invective. The well-muscled man quickly repeats his warnings in a hissing tongue.
The man gestures towards the front door with his axe, indicating clearly his desire for the groups departure.
Knowledge (History): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Linguistics: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Lana frowns and closes her eyes, letting the sounds wash over her as she reaches out with her mind toward the stranger.
See discussion post. :)
Having vague knowledge of the location of Katapesh , and possibly Irrisen, Ankih is at a loss as the talk turns to Iobaria.
" He seems to want us to leave. To where I am not sure. What's the plan? Did we free the hut or just travel through it?"
The northwoman's eyes open suddenly as she recognizes words here and there. Without really knowing what she's doing, she grasps at the fleeting memories of this tongue and tries to form a reply. "Wait! We... mean no harm. Who is it that you serve?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (8) + 15 = 23
The brawny man lowers his axe, but does not drop it. Realizing the words are a bit like those of Giant, Lana is able to make out a few more words:
The man, although still menacing, relaxes his posture and suddenly looks very tired, as if a great weight lay upon his shoulders.
Lana frowns, feeling as well as seeing the great strain the man is under. In words that she herself isn't fully aware of knowing, she replies...
The warrior’s tongue was lost on him but his intent was not. Sven holds his weapon at the ready but makes no move to strike the first blow. He looks to his companions for a cue.
Kalt is relieved to see the dangerous-looking man lower his axe, but is still puzzled by the situation. "What's going on, Lana?" he asks quietly.
As Lana speaks her words, the man gets a look of hope in his blue eyes. He starts speaking quickly in the low Iobarian tongue.
The witch bound me with a book - a cookbook of spells it was, but it looked like a woman's cookbook. If you could find it, perhaps you could work the witchery to free me. It was in her dungeon, Artrosa - "the place where three watch" Northeast of here, it was, beyond the forest and up the canyon.
Lana starts at Kalt's address, as if she'd forgotten his presence. "What? Oh. He... I... I know his meaning, sometimes... some of it, anyway. It grows more clear, the longer I listen. He's bound here... bound to attack us. Wait, he's speaking again."
Closing her eyes once more to better concentrate on the man's words, she nods slowly and begins speaking the strange tongue again.
Hearing the man is bound to attack them, Kalt gives Sven a quick look and a nod, gripping the hilt of his sword tightly and rocking up on the balls of his feet, ready to strike...
The man seems to relax his posture entirely with Lana's words.
He looks confused for a moment as he attempts to parse Lana's latest question.
For those of you who don't speak Iobarian
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27
Shanya is at a loss for words as Lana communicates with the warrior.
Dammit, of ALL the times I don't understand what they're saying...
"Well, at least he's not going to try to kill us now..."
Lana lets out a long breath, her relaxation closely mirroring the stranger's. "We need to go northeast... to a dungeon there. It's called... Three Seers? There's a... spell cookbook there."
She turns to the man one last time.
With that the Iobarian steps aside, and does not further block the parties passage.
The room holds little else of note beyond mundane supplies; there is only the door out of the hut and the passages behind.
One statue is in the shape of a maiden, one a mother, one a crone; their race is somewhat vague. They are reputed to be a mile high, which is of course nonsense. Nevertheless, they are at least as impressive as the monuments of distant Magnimar.
This revelation would likely place your current whereabouts in the Hoofwood, a taiga frequented by centaurs.
Knowledge (geography) : 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29
Kalt relaxes when he sees the tension leave the guardian, glad to have avoided this fight.
"What did he say, Lana? Did he give you any idea where we are? " Kalt asks.
Once she answers, Kalt realizes he has heard of this place, and tells his friends what he knows. Please read spoiler above.
Shanya listens to Kalt's explanation while trying to remember what she's read of centaurs.
Knowledge (Nature) *Inspiration!*: 1d20 + 8 + 1d6 ⇒ (7) + 8 + (2) = 17
Knowledge (nature): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
Kalt sees a considering look come into Shanya's eyes as he tells what he knows of Artrosa, and particularly of the Hoofwood and its denizens. "Thinking about the centaurs, are you?" he asks, as if he's read her nimble mind. "Me too. I don't think I've ever met one in the flesh, but I've heard a lot about them."
"I just hope we won't have to come to blows with them." Shanya nods. "I haven't had any experience with them--I'm afraid all my knowledge comes from what I've read..."
K (geography): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
K (nature): 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (1) + 15 = 16
Avora thinks for a moment, trying to recall what she knows of centaurs. Doh! "I think they sacrifice human children to their dark gods?"
And what does Kalt, who rolled a 23, know of the quadrupedanoids?
Ah, my eyes just skimmed right over that roll
Kalt knows that the centaurs organize along clan structures, and have three major "breeds" - the Azorva of the western mountains (rather far from here), the populous Rashalka of the plains and forests of central Iobaria, and the hirsute Tsolniva of the eastern ice steppes (which are closer). The Rashalka are the most accepting of outsiders, but even then they are a private race wary of outsiders. The Tsolniva are the most hostile, raiding everyone (including other centaurs) so they can supplement the meager foodstuff found in the Ice Steppes.
Not having much knowledge of geography, nor speaking the languages, Ankih remains quite at the back of the group, waiting to figure out their next move.
Centaurs...Horse men? Might be interesting, never have I met any of those. Don't sound too friendly though.
The man points back in the direction from which the party came. [b]Nik Kawacii[/i] he repeats the Iobarian word for "Three Ravens" again.
Lana: you have seen ravens both during the huts jaunt from Irrisen to here; you have also seen ravens as a motif in the walls.
As Ankih looks around he notices one of the bluish, mystical marks poking out from behind a pile of crates. Just for a moment, he can swear that he see's an eye staring out from within the center of the mark on the wall - but it quickly vanishes as he turns his gaze to it.
Greta pads up behind Ankih a scratches her ear, clearly as restless as the other warriors.
Kalt is glad he knows some useful information about the society of centaurs, but looks around restlessly, wishing he understood a word of what was being said.
"He says we should talk to the ravens," says Lana hesitantly, as if sensing Kalt's unspoken wish. "If we walk along this corridor, it'll return back here, after we pass three rooms... and perhaps speak to some ravens?"
"He seems to think they will aid us in our quest to Artrosa," she adds.