"This fog has such a way of making everything difficult. It always seems to come at the most unwelcome time! I suppose the best we can do is guard the entrances and make sure nothing comes in the compound. May the Dawnflower protect those innocents!"
Our heroes stand amid the swirling mists hard by the vaguely discernible silhouette of the barn, debating what to do. Though their sight is occluded, their other senses aren't. They hear the muted crackle of a cheery fire and the mist carries a hint of the rich smell of smoke.
Then there is a roar and the cheery fire sound takes on the angry urgency of a maelstrom. The sun's dull glow is outshone by the bright, flickering yellow light of a bonfire somewhere in the western portion of the town. It is coming from somewhere well beyond the Tull compound.
Sorry for the silence. The busy weekend spilled into yesterday.
After a long, quiet, anxious night, Jak’s nerves are on edge. The roaring sounds create a much-needed outlet. ”Was that the opening bid, first signs of bluff, or just noise from the bar?”
How long would it take Jak to get back up onto the roof to try to get a looksie? And does Jak think that vantage point (in this lighting and with the fog) would give him a view of the sound?
"It's worrisome." Ezekiel grinds his teeth, not liking the options. "Not really sure if we can chance it. We said we'd help the people, I think we best head back that way for now."
If Jak wants to take a look, I'd definitely agree. By western, looking from the map, would it be the direction of the Fletcher farm? Also how easy would a fire spread to other buildings. They look far enough apart to not be too much of an issue, but just a worry.
West, in this case, would be more towards the Pegason fields or the houses out that way. The houses are reasonably spread out and with the thick mist, the chances of a fire spreading are reasonably low... assuming someone isn't trying to burn the entire town down.
From the barn roof, above the mist, the fire's position is much easier to guess, particularly with the column of smoke rising through the fog. It appears the Pegason house is thoroughly ablaze. Looking around, Jak also notes that a more modest trail of smoke is rising from the East and there is a hint of of firelight from that direction as well. At a guess, the Waveharp house has been set afire.
... assuming someone isn't trying to burn the entire town down.
Ayup... wouldn't put it past 'em a this point. :)
"Pegason's house and Waveharp house!" Jak barks down. "He's either very thorough or we're being baited. Can we make sure everyone's still at the church? The Tull house may be a target soon, but I guess we knew that."
He slides down the ladder, "Not to be harsh, but I think we prioritize the lives of the townsfolk over their houses at this point. If we can keep them in that church and try to keep the fires from spreading, maybe we can avoid additional deaths.... deal-makers notwithstanding. Let's touch base with Galt and Mordecai; make sure they know what's happening... and then head over to the Tull compound."
Jak nods and — unless there are objections or better ideas suggested — heads to fill in Galt and Mordecai. When he arrives, he pulls the two men apart from the people they're protecting, and quietly fills them in. "We need them calm and we need them safe. Whether you tell them what's going on... I'll leave that up to you. You know your folks better than we do. We should expect the other deal-makers' houses to go, as well. Should we be concerned about fires spreading from any of those? Or that people might have skipped out of here and are in one of those homes?"
He hikes a thumb in the general direction of the Tull compound, "We're going to go wait with the mayor and the Tulls. If things get dangerous, it's most likely to do so where they are. If you have any blessings or prayers, now's the time."
If they have nothing else, Jak nods solemnly to the two men, smiles encouragingly to the townsfolk with a thumbs-up sign, and heads back towards the Tull compound.
Galt and Mordecai do a quiet head count, and find that no one is missing. It appears the innocents are staying put, for the moment. The smell of smoke raises some concerns but Galt informs them about the isolated fires and reassures folks that they are safe in the church and anything destroyed can be rebuilt. You would say his hold over his flock is still pretty strong though some folks watch anxiously out the windows for any signs of spreading fire.
Galt conveys a blessing on your group as you head to the Tull compound...
1d100 ⇒ 86
As you reach the Tull compound, the smell of smoke weighs more heavily in the air. The Tulls and the the mayor don't try to hide their agitation. They watch the glow coming from the general direction of the Pegason house obsessively, when they aren't looking over their shoulders, halfway expecting to see knife-wielding dolls clinging to the mist-tinged windows.
Jak stops at the entrance to the compound, watching the smoke billow ominously up out of the mists.
”Mayor, Mr and Mrs. Tull… you guys alright?” When they turn to him (no doubt angrily), Jak holds up his hands in a stalling manner. ”Despite what you think, I don’t want anyone to die.” He continues watching the billowing smoke, trying to watch every direction at once.
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (14) + 5 = 19
”You know this town, so you’ve probably figured it out, but so far it’s the Pegason and Waveharp houses. We’re guessing the other deal-makers’ homes will join them soon. Father Galt and Mordecai say everyone is safely in the church, though, so hopefully no one will get hurt if thats the case.” He shrugs, his face set in a determined look. ”Which means it could get exciting here soon.” Whether invited in or not, Jak doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.
Lyrica joins Jak and talks to the Mayor and the Tulls as well.
"Did any of you see who or what started that fire?"
After a long pause of looking out at the fire, Lyrica says, "Clearly whoever did it wants to instill fear in the lives of everyone in this town. It is sad to watch someone's home burn down, but I think it is better that everyone remain safe. I'm just glad that so many are safely protected in the church. Now we just need to make sure that the church is protected!"
From within the fog, you cannot see the houses on fire - just the glow. So no one saw who set the fire, etc. You have ZERO vision beyond 10'.
From the sky above, you hear the squabbling caws of what sounds like a legion of crows. Shortly there-after something drops into the center of the Tull compound with a dull clank and a meaty thunk. Through the mist you can see the silhouette of a strange object. It seems kind of like a hat, in that it has a broad narrow brim of some sort and a central mass offset from the brim.
As you approach closer, you see it is a silver serving platter with a head spiked to it, like a roast. Yenamro Waveharp's face gapes at you. What's left of his tongue lolls out. Zeke notes clinically that the head was taken with a single stroke across the neck, probably from a sizable, heavy blade since it neatly sheared through a vertebrae.
Written in delicate floral script along the platter's rim - penned with Waveharp's congealed blood - is a playful message.
... And then there were two. >:)
"Perhaps we should all retreat to the Church? It is holy ground. It could be safer?"
"It would certainly make protecting all of you much easier, but the safety of all of those innocents is still our biggest concern. Tell me, Mayor, do you get fires around here often? This cannot be a common occurrence."
As Lyrica recognizes the head, she quickly turns her head as she feels squeemish and calls out, "My dear Sarenrae, protect us! Waveharp has been murdered!"
Jak looks between the mayor and Mrs. Tull, his voice even, ”Lyrica’s right. We think any added protection the church has to offer should go to those we’re trying to protect most… the town’s families. We—”
He’s cut off by the landing of the message, and Jak frowns even as Lyrica squeals. ”If this is his plan to try to scare us… well…” Jak makes a self-effacing shrug, ”… it’s actually working pretty well.” He looks over at the mayor and the Tulls, giving a wide smile that doesn’t fully touch his eyes, ”Unfortunately for him, I’m told i’m either too stupid or foolish to know when to be proper scared.”
Jak continues looking around, now particularly interested in the local aviary population.
Do we have many crows around us?
"Hey, Black!" Jak begins making a series of incredibly crude hand gestures at the two crows, then draws his bow and begins shooting at them.
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (5) + 4 = 9; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (19) + 4 = 23; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 = 5
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (16) + 4 = 20; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
shortbow: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8; Damage: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
He talks while he shoots, ”I wonder" thwip thwip "how this translates" thwip thwip "across bird-talk.” thwip thwip
The crows look initially confused at the arrows whickering out of the mist at them. Then they caw and hop about agitated. As Jak rushes in close and puts an arrow into one of the birds - dropping it - the other shrieks and takes flight.
Concealment Miss %: 1d100 ⇒ 29
Concealment Miss %: 1d100 ⇒ 49
As the fleeing crow cries fade, another sound intrudes. There is a WHOOSH as another house - somewhere near the Pegason place - goes up in an impressive torrent of flame and smoke. As far as you know, it isn't a house that belongs to one of the guilty.
From down that road, you hear a contented sigh followed by a delighted chuckle at the flames and destruction. Then the chuckle turns into a light, fanciful, and unhurried whistling tune. Someone, a hundred feet or more away, is slowly meandering up the road towards the Tull compound, kicking stones and enjoying a pleasant walk in the spring fog.
Peeking over the fence, it isn't possible to see even the silhouette of the approaching traveler... yet.
Belatedly, you realise you didn't hear the sigh and laughter with your ears. It sounded within your heads.
1d20 - 5 ⇒ (13) - 5 = 8
"Jak, what in the world did you do?! I think that bird was a pet of that evil creature! Now he sounds really mad!"
"I can draw my sword, but I do not think that it will be much use against a creature who can send a house into flames at will and laugh about it in my head! Almighty Sarenrae, protect us! Quick, what do we do? Run? Hide? Stay? Speak to it and talk reason? Attack it? Whatever we decide, we will need to choose now!"
"My dear God, protect me and guide me! Let me do your will in this world, but let me live to do it for years to come!"
Not gonna lie, I'm kind of rooting for Black to collect the last few souls he's due. He's pretty awesome ;-)
Though Waveharp's fate is not surprising to Marcus, the manner in which his head is delivered into their midst is enough to make him shiver in fear. He'd felt so confident after seeing some of the prophecy fulfilled in the White Barrow, but now his thoughts only fled to his family and how he hoped he could see them again. Why leave them fatherless, unprotected, just to die for some fools with too little sense to trade their own souls?
But their were innocent lives here, and some already lost. How could he face his own children knowing he'd let others die here? As the demon approached, Marcus turned to the deal makers and the hapless husband, frantically searching his mind for the right words to say.
Not much time, heed my rhyme--talk like this, Black gets pissed,but he can't hear you in the mist.
Marcus sets his shield and draws his axe, looking at the blessed blade with some doubt.
Really sorry for the delay--lots of work and I started up a class I'm taking. Availability should be back to normal soon with me.
The whistling continues, getting ever closer to the compound. Over that, you hear Galt yell from the Church, "There's something coming from the East fields towards you! It's... No wait, it stopped! It stopped! It's at the gate to the churchyard. It's looking at us. I think it's looking but it hasn't come in.... God's help us. It's a scarecrow with a big scythe and a flaming jack-o-lantern head!"
The whistling comically changes to a wah wah waaaaaah briefly before resuming its upbeat measure.
OK, guys, where are you all standing - or cowering - your call :p. Is anyone looking over the wall to see what's coming or are you all content to wait in the compound?
"Ok, friends, here is a quick decision. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I think we should try and talk to it. If we don't like what it has to say, we can always attack it. If we don't think we will last long, we can always run. Are you all with me on this one?"
"My dearest Sarenrae, are you with me on this one?"
Lyrica tightens her grip on her shield and draws the curved blade given to her by her father and proceeds to wait for the scarecrow just outside of the compound. As her heart begins to race, she tries to calm her nerves and listen with mindfulness to hear Sarenrae's guiding spirit within.
Just want to be sure we are all on the same page. You guys are at the Tull compound. There are two gates in. Jak is at the secondary one, straining to get a look. Lyrica is outside the main gate. You have two opponents to consider. There is 'the whistler' (aka Black) who is coming up from the Pegason house. You also have his scythe-wielding Scarecrow protege who is hanging out by the Church. Though not pictured, the Tulls/Trannyth group are by the main house in the Tull compound and fully intend to stay shielded behind you guys.
At the moment, Jak, you can't see Black... but you can retain that roll for when he does come into sight.
Now, you guys can leave your positions as they are or amend them. I'd like to know where each of you are planning to stand, if you haven't declared it. If you are standing by a gate, which gate? Inside the compound or outside?
Yah, I definitely didn’t realize we were up against 2 opponents here. Since it’s been rolled and allotted, I’d like to save that Know (Planes) roll for Black when/if Jak gets a visual on him. Secondarily, based on Galt’s description of the jack-o-lantern head guy, can Jak ID It?
Knowledge (Arcana, local, or planes): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8
Jak seems to be trying to watch two places at once. His voice is urgent, ”Any of you know what the thing by the church might be?”
If you have appropriate-seeming knowledge, now’d be a good time to try a check.
I did not realize that we had two opponents either. Let me consider. Can I see either Black or Scarecrow? Does it appear to be scarecrow who is burning up the buildings? Does Lyrica know what it is?
Knowledge, Religion: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (16) + 7 = 23
Knowledge, Planes: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Arcana would be the correct roll. Unfortunately, Jak, the best you can say is that the scarecrow sounds like a construct of some sort. It seems Black got tired of playing with dolls...
As Jak mentioned - visibility is limited to 10'. You can't see either opponent yet and since the scarecrow is now hanging out at the church, you won't see him unless you head over that way. You would guess, given that fires are now burning at opposite ends of town that Scarecrow lit up the Waveharp place and Black went 'flame on' at the Pegason house.
Jak curses and looks over at Lyrica and Marcus, "You realize he's probably trying to draw us out, right? Unfortunately, I kind of agree with you two. I think we need to try to draw the pumpkin-head thing away from the church." He looks back to where he thinks the pumpkin-head thing is. "I think it's a construct, which means it may have some kind of intelligence... but very possibly not. And any protections against evil that Galt or the church offer the townsfolk may not apply to it."
He looks over at the remaining deal-makers, "But if we're going to do this, we need to do it as a team, and we have to take them with us if we want to make any shot at negotiations with Black. Mayor, Mr. and Mrs. Tull, if you want any shot at living, you have to come with us and do as we say." He looks around at the Tull compound, "Plus, its not exactly as if this place is going to afford you any real safety."
"I'll take point, but I'm going to try to move quietly. Stay close enough so you don't lose me, but give me some space in case I stumble onto something unexpected. Hopefully Old Gray will be as much an ass to the pumpkin-man as he is to us."
Ready to roll out? If no one has any objections, Jak will lead out by heading west/southwest across the road to those trees just northwest of the barn we used as a lookout the night before. Then he'll use those trees to come at the church (and pumpkin-head) from the north, trying to get eyes on him before we make any further plans.
Taking 10 on stealth, keeping eyes and ears open for unexpected threats...
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13
Stealth: 10 + 6 = 16
With 10' visibility, Jak can't be too far ahead without losing the rest of the party so you'll have to bunch up a bit more than you'd like. As for the Tulls, etc. they had no intention of sticking around if you left so it isn't a hard argument to convince them to come along.
While the whistler continues his unhurried approach, you all slink out of the main gate of the Tull compound and cross the road by the looming shape of the Fletcher house. You slide across the wet grass towards the swathe of trees north of the communal barns. Skirting through the trees, the air is thick with smoke. Through the mist and trees you see the glow from the flaming ruins of the Waveharp home.
You continue on, bending south and heading toward the intersection of paths just north of the church. Behind you, at the Tull residence, you hear someone politely ringing the bell at the Tull's main gate. After a long moment, the bell is rung again. Then there is a loud, knuckle-breaking knock on the gate.
Pressing on, you move into the road hard by the Church. Perched on the posts of the low fence that surrounds the holy ground are a motley conglomeration of crows. In fact, the birds have settled all over the area. You push forward cautiously until you spy one more crow... standing on the rotted straw hat of the 6' scarecrow that stands idly by the entrance to the churchyard. One arm sticks straight out, much as one would expect from a scarecrow... but the other holds a massive rusted scythe resting lightly on its shoulder. Despite the rust, the blade appears freshly honed. The flame-filled jack-o-lantern head spins slowly and continues to spin. The triangular eyes and jagged mouth cast a bright light in whatever direction they face. Like a lighthouse light, the head spins and casts its hellish red glow. The head pauses briefly as Jak comes into its sphere of illumination, and then it sweeps onward.
Having received no answer at the Tull residence, the voice of the Whistler sounds unpleasantly in the skulls of everyone in town.
The voice sets off a ripple of panic among the townsfolk. Only the strong intervention of Galt and Mordecai keep the townsfolk in check.
OK, Jak is 10' from the scarecrow and can just see it through the mist. Given the 'hang back' plan, everyone else is further back and can't see more than the vague glow from the beastie - i.e. it has full concealment. What's your play?
Scarecrow PER: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23
Crows PER: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15
Town Morale: 1d20 ⇒ 6
Jak shakes his head at the sounds of Black’s rings and knock at the Tull’s gate. ”The game’s on, now,” he mutters as he continues on.
He sits in the mist watching the pumpkin-head, then jumps slightly when revealed in the light, cursing quietly. ”What’s it doing here?” he hisses towards at the group. ”Waiting for you three? If it hasn’t attacked the church, what’s its instructions? And what do you think would happen if we attacked it?”
He looks back at the group, ”Thoughts?”
Well, it hasn't attacked yet. Probably has orders to defend itself, though. I think we should just stay here, make sure it doesn't try to break the doors down. Don't attack unless it does.
Then, Marcus thinks for a minute and tries something--he thinks in the direction of the Tull compound, trying to make contact with the demon.
Mr. Black, we're here at the church. Let's stop these games and get this over with.