Weather: 1d100 ⇒ 31
RE1: 1d12 ⇒ 9
RE2: 1d12 ⇒ 2
RE3: 1d12 ⇒ 7
RE4: 1d12 ⇒ 11
1d100 ⇒ 96
RE1: 1d12 ⇒ 4
RE2: 1d12 ⇒ 8
RE3: 1d12 ⇒ 4
RE4: 1d12 ⇒ 8
The rest goes by uneventfully although the collective stomachs of hte group seem unsatisfied with the nourishment provided by the dried rations in Tacal's packs. During the last watch, several grunts can be heard in the distance to the south. Verthag, who sat quietly sharpening his weapon with a smooth whetstone, looked up momentarily but did not otherwise react. Another of the Nightblood soon emerged from the forest, speaking to Verthag before departing swiftly.
After another sampling of dried rations and stale water, the group continued onward for several hours before following a narrower road that branched off to the west. The sounds of the forest were alive here. Animal calls became common and even Tacal bemoaned his boredom. The forest was dense, and its vaulted canopy thick with the crunch of leaves under foot droning. So, Niyut and Malthazir, who headed the marching column, were startled when they entered the Nightblood encampment without fanfare or recognition. No gates nor walls protected the village. A steady flow of orcs moved about barely acknowledging the arrival of strangers.
The only permanent structure was a wooden hall with an oversized roof that extended to within a few feet of the ground. The wooden planks of the roof were covered with moss, rocks, bushes and several smaller trees. The hall was alive with the forest. A single blackened tree trunk over ten feet around, extended through the center of the roof and joined the canopy above. Skulls and larger bones littered the living roof along with many weapons, broken or rusted. Many were piled upon the rocks or stacked in repeating patterns. Squatting under the eaves, several guards watched the groups approach. Verthag led the group directly to the single doorway that entered the hall of the Nightblood. He motioned from them to follow, then ducked his head under the roofline and entered.
Niyut always has heard that the majority of Nightblood villages were in caves hewn from the earth. This great hall is not what she expected.
Niyut closes her eyes in the waking world and opens them in the Dreaming. Her grandmother is singing softly and frying corn cakes for Niyut to eat. Astahane is studiously ignoring the unwelcome guest at her fire. Eszira, for her part, is examining four skulls. She is dressed the same as she was when last Niyut dreamed -- rich and out of place.
"Darling girl, did the ritual work? It's a clever bit of work, if I do say so myself."
Niyut is slightly agog at seeing the hag skulls she had claimed being examined by the Hazard. "Yes, the ritual worked. The staff led us straight to the Forest of Night. What are you doing with those skulls? They are mine."
"La, of course they are yours, pet. Otherwise, I could not see them," Eszira replies in a lazy drawl. "You are my only conduit to the world. The bond we share, bound together by my old, allows me to rummage through some of your memories. Those that touch magic at least."
The young spirit-talker is not especially comforted by the idea of Eszira sharing her memories, but the dead woman could be a treasure trove of information about not only magic but also the past. She holds so many secrets.
Pushing past her discomfort, she asks, "I have so many questions about your life and your accomplishments . . ."
Niyut is interrupted by Eszira holding up an imperious hand. "I do not doubt that you have many questions, child. Yet, I'm not obliged to answer them. I tutor you in the ancient magics not in ancient history. Do not tell me that I have already exhausted your curiosity in these arts?"
"No, of course not, there is so much that I would like to learn . . ."
Again, Eszira interrupts Niyut with an imperious hand. "Then tell me, darling girl, about your magical ambitions. Are you ready to create something truly wondrous?"
At this point, Niyut is quite tired of being interrupted by this arrogant spirit. "I claimed those hag skulls so that I could learn and claim the secrets of their coven. How do hags work such powerful cooperative magic? I was thinking about creating a curio to bond that would be my key to their well of power. To truly make their craft my own."
This time Eszira waits for Niyut to finish. "Clever girl. Now that is an ambitious project. I have been learning of these hags and this 'witchcraft' from your memories. There is power to be claimed there, but I have another question for you. The ritual to create such an object of power will be more potent than any you have attempted before. I sense from your memories that not all of your companions are comfortable with your growing power. What will you do should they refuse to help you?"
Niyut ponders this question. While Malthazir helped her with the past two rituals, he had refused to help her with the first. She resents that she needs his help, though if she is being truly honest with herself she does like working magic with the elven conjurer. He is so skillful. "If they refused, I would hone my craft and use essences to bolster it. It would take more time, but I could likely do it."
"Time!? Time is something you can ill afford, pet. What you truly need is a helper or mentor working with you who is reliable and not so squeamish when it comes to the practicalities of blood magic. Would that I could help you, but I cannot. What you need is something to bolster and center you so that you may work these rituals by yourself should your companions churlishly refuse you. I know such a spell. I learned it from the Magi of Air. It focuses intellect, wisdom, and ego to impressive heights. Alas, I cannot teach it to you. It is a spell only one of the learned can cast. While you are impressive, pet, and clever, your magic is an outgrowth of your will and spirit and not of learning."
The Hazard of Carnémorto places the hag's skull she is holding and picks up the canid skull of the gnoll. "However, this gnoll, this Geugal, priest of the Eater of the Dead, now he could cast such a spell. The second problem is that this spell can only target the self. This is where my new understanding of your 'witchcraft' will be useful, perhaps with an offering of blood."
Taking up a stick from the fire, Eszira carves a series of five runes into the earth. The first rune is the most complex. Niyut nibbles on the food her silent, disapproving grandmother hands her and studies it. It shares something with the complicated summoning circles that Niyut noticed in the three towers. Inside this runic circle Niyut sees that Geugal's name is phonetically spelled out in the draconic alphabet.
She looks up to see Eszira watching her. "That must be carved into the crown of the skull. It will be the focus to call and ensnare a sliver of the priest's soul. Don't give me that look. His soul is unlikely to be intact. Worshipers of the Flesh Eater often become his meals and he is an untidy eater."
Niyut shudders and looks at the other four runes. The second is a circle supported by two triangles. To the oracle, it looks like a lowlander priest praying. The third rune looks like a very odd key. The fourth is a crown. Niyut recognizes it because it looks like part of the rune that depicts chiefs and leaders in the First Lands. Finally, the fifth rune almost looks like staff.
Eszira continues, "The learned, intellect, wisdom, and ego. Four runes whose meanings much depend on the ritual or incantation in question. Remember, pet, runes and incantations are in conversation with each other. They inform the meaning of the other. Tonight, I will show you how to make these runes and where to carve them on the skull. It seems you have some skill in this regard. When we are through this skull will be a totem through which you will learn and accomplish much."
Over the next several gruelling hours Niyut painstakingly masters these runes and where they must be carved into the gnoll's skull to prepare it for the ritual.
Slipping under the eves of the shelter, an expanse of roots dominates the interior. Digging down through rocky ground the foundations of the tree have split the earth, exposing a set of rough hewn stairs of stone that descend into the darkness. Gruskorb's eyes look upward to see the under side of the roof. Dripping with moss and muck, the ceiling crawls with all types of snakes and other small creatures. They retreat to the crevasses of the wooden structure as the group passes underneath.
Verthag stands on the first steps of the descent. Once everyone is inside, he turns and continues. Gruskorb, followed by the others, crosses to the stairs and looks into the cave entrance. The warm outline of the orc can been seen momentarily before he turns a corner and is lost. The hobgoblin looks right and left around the lodge, noticing a thin orcish woman squatting at the far side staring at a small pond of putrid water. She mumbles incoherently before pawing at the water. She reaches into a a leather pouch and pulls a handful of grey dust. She drops it into the water and swirls the liquid with her hand before hacking loudly. She draws the phlegm to her lips and lets it drip down. Gruskorb looks back at Niyut and Garidan cocking an eyebrow before turning and following Verthag.
Is there a knowledge check to determine what she is doing?
If she's making tea for the guests, I'm out.
Mindful of the "good" times that the party has experienced on their previous jaunts belowground, Garidan trails the party downward with visible reluctance. [b]"I really do hope that we don't have to fight our way out,"[b] he mutters as he considers the close quarters. The swashbuckler's sense of calm is already ragged from the situation, and the location does little to sooth him.
[b]"We aren't here to fight. Let's do our best to keep it that way. Though we are estranged they are still kin to my brother and I."
Niyut sees little of herself physically in the Nightblood, her frame much more lithe and graceful than their brutally strong ones. She sees much of Truk in them, he could easily pass as one of them.
Despite their physical differences, she can feel the forest call to her. She can hear it in the thrum of her blood.
Above all, I must be respectful. She whispers a warding charm to keep her thoughts clear. Protection from Evil
As Niyut protects herself from the dark forces, the old woman glances up and scowls. She observes the oracle with a discerning eye, watching her every movement. Once the spell is cast, the woman returns her attention to her work.
The stairs under the darkwood tree descends deep into the earth, spiraling and twisting upon itself. Truk'tosh has to duck several times to avoid the massive roots that partial block the passage. Everywhere the rocks split creating small vissures and nooks. Most contain the bones of departed Nightblood, their tusks conveying their ancestry. Dried, black wax covered in moss and slime cover much of the skulls and remaining bones. Some of the remains are in late stages of decay while others are clearly more recent as some of their shriveled flesh is still intact. Insects, worms and grubs feast upon those fleshy remains. Upon these remains a small candle still burns.
Steam rises up from the depths of the passage, bringing the stale smell of death. The moisture clings to the rocks, making the steps slick and the ancestral remains teaming with life.
"Sixty-seven steps," Gruskorb mumbles under his breath to the others when they reach the bottom. A tight passage continues forward, slowly descending further into the earth. The flickering light of fires can be seen in the distance. As the group continues, they pass several small alcoves into the split stone. Black candles of varying sizes pressed into the alcoves flood their light into the passage, but a larger fire beacons the group forward. At last they come to a low archway carved into the rocks. Orcish voices echoe from within. Verthag's among them.
Craft (alchemy) Check: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (5) + 16 = 21
Dang, just missed the full sweep. And the fact that the last one was something only he could have revealed makes it sting just that much more :p.
Looking to keep his mind off of the prospect of a fight--Niyut's own feelings on the matter notwithstanding, there's no guarantee that their hosts feel that way--the swashbuckler's thoughts turn to something he finds enjoyable. And those thoughts, in turn, quite unexpectedly lead Garidan to realize that he recognized a good bit of what that old orc upstairs was doing. Keeping his voice low, he offers this information to the rest of the party, wondering if they have any insights to share.
Knowledge: Arcana: 1d20 + 23 ⇒ (19) + 23 = 42
Every time that Niyut sees a bit of the craft that she doesn't fully comprehend, her mind alights with curiosity. Few things bring her as much pleasure as learning a secret. The older woman's potion work was far from her own. It seems more a magic of water and earth than the magic of blood, bone, and shadow that lie within her talents. Potion work requires patience, foresight, and a willingness to do repetitive labor. One needs to foresee what will be useful, and be at peace with knowing your magic will not last. While shadow is an often fleeting magic, blood and bone lend themselves towards durability.
Still Niyut wishes she knew the secret to the other woman's craft.
"Potions. Perhaps protective or disclosing of secrets."
She steels herself to meet the living ancestors as she enters the fire-lit room. The shadows her her robe obscure her features.
The rest of the group follows Gruskorb through the low entry into the chamber. The irregular shapped room is lit with hundreds of candles recessed into the cracks and nooks of the stone walls. The smell of of sweet, perfumed smoke fills the air, mixing with the high humidity making it entirely uncomfortable. A tall, thin orc with long black hair pulled into a topknow sits upon a stone throne along the far wall. He taps his long finger nails on the arms rests as Verthag speaks softly to him.
In the center of the room a small pit is filled with a crackling fire. Its dark smoke rises to the top of the vaulted ceiling before disappearing into the fine fissures high above. Two orc women sit before the fire, sheer robes draped over their bodies. Their shapely forms visible through their clothing. Their eyes follow each of the group.
Finally, Verthag turns to face you. The seated orc speaks with a deep, baratone voice, "Come closer... Verthag tells me you claim a similar story to our own." His voice is calm and soothing. He speaks effortlessly in a quiet hush that seems to echo throughout the room as though he whispers in your ear. Gruskorb looks over his shoulder, then around the room suspiciously. "That your warriors were killed... your elder slain and taken. Tell me." He looks at Truk'tosh, nodding approvingly.
Niyut does her best to remember the proper forms she has heard only in story and song. How did Alsvart placate Hymir?
She places a hand to her heart and then raises it to her lips. "Ancestor whose wisdom and power bring everlasting victory to those of the blood, it is I, Niyut, twin of Truk'tosh. In our veins flows the blood Simur and Vash. These are our companions from the lowlands, Malthazir, Garidan, Gruskorb, and Raektov. From my lips you will hear nothing but truth in this moment."
"We were not in the First Lands when it happened as we were caught by the Storm and pulled to a strange place in the lowlands. We met these companions as we traveled. When we returned, we heard that our mother had gone to speak with the Nightblood, though Járnviðja was destroyed by the Storm, or so whispered the spirits. We heard that she had gone on the word of someone she trusted, though we did not hear who this person is. She went with an escort of warriors. The Dream Runners found the bodies of the warriors slain with weapons the Nightblood favor. Our mother's staff broken and our mother missing."
She gives Verthag a bold look and says, "Some voices that spoke at the elders' fire suggested that this was an act of war, breaking the long peace that has stood between both clans since the binding of the Bone Mother, bane of the Living Ancestors. I, however, do not jump to conclusions. I have discovered a way to track down the power stolen from her staff. When I find who profited from her harm, I will learn more and teach that person or persons a sharp lesson."
After her dig at Verthag's assumptions, she turns back to the living ancestor. "As we tracked the stolen power, we encountered Verthag who accused our mother of villainy and denied our blood. His story was a mirror to the one we had heard upon our return. This rang as treachery among our tribes or malice from those who wish our clans ill."
"May we have the blessing of your name, Ancestor-Who-Lives-Among-Us?"
She hopes that she remembers the proper customs. If not custom what binds people together, the strong and the weak to a greater purpose?
Gz: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (15) + 12 = 27
"I have been known as many names through the ages," the ancient orc says confidently. "I am known now as Gzenkathu, the Gáj’Akavor. Come closer so that I may see you." He beckons the group to approach. The rocky floor of the cavern is broken and slimey.
Now is not the time to lose heart.
Trusting in the flicker shadows that guard her flesh, the charm that guards her mind, and her brave heart, Niyut steps forwards.
A small part of her is happy that the fire-hardened soles of her moccasins are easy to clean.
She is not comforted by the fact that Gzenkathu in no way addressed the story for which he asked.
Following his twin's cue, Truk'tosh steps up beside her but he doesn’t share her confidence. It was important in normal interactions with the Nightblood to display strength above all else. Granted an audience with a Living Ancestor, Truk was confronted by exactly how dangerous their situation was. A single Nightblood warrior was more than a match for him in the wild. Within their deep cairns and supported by one of their elders, he doubted the party stood much of a chance if the encounter took a turn toward violence.
Sensing his master's anxiety, Nethuns hides behind Truk's shoulder.
N: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (6) + 10 = 16
T: 1d20 + 15 ⇒ (15) + 15 = 30
Ga: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
Gr: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
M: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 21
R: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
Gzenkathu smiles as Niyut approaches, relaxed yet mindful of the oracle's posture. He eases into the throne, crossing his ankles. He shifts his gaze to Verthag, "Have some wine brought for our friends from the west. A reconciliation between our peoples would be welcomed if they speak the truth." He gestures with his open hand and the warrior slips through a crevasse in the back of the cavern departing from sight.
"Asulad never came to us, nor did we send for her," he says nonchalantly as his piercing eyes return to Niyut. "If she is dead, it was not by our hands. I suspect that we share a common foe." He shifts his attention to Truk'tosh before continuing. "Although, this could be just a ruse. You could conjure a tale similar to ours to gain our trust, wishing to finish what Ygrna started." The druid's stern exterior is memorizing to the ancient orc. The corner's of his mouth curl up and his eyes brighten. The pair lock in a battle of wills for several seconds before Gzenkathu laughs and claps his hands together.
He turns next to the others and holds his hands open, towards them. "Or these, Lowlanders! Perhaps they were the cause. Did they take your mother and squeeze the life from her? Break her staff?" He stares at each of them in silence, weighing the worth of the man. When he, at last, brings his eyes to Raektov, the young wizard waivers and stumbles to a knee. His hands slip from the rocks and falls nearly prone before gathering himself. Raektov comes up wiping his hands. He pulls a rag from the folds of his robe, cleaning them. The crimson smears of blood stain the cloth.
"No, it wasn't the lowlanders... at least not these four," Gzenkathu decides. "Lyréla believes it to be an immortal. She wishes you to reawaken the Daguják... the Making Stones. Toppled, she believes them to be." Finally, his eyes return to Niyut, "And what do you believe?"
I believe that I was wise to ward my thoughts.
Niyut doesn't let a smile touch her lips she continues to address him in the Nightblood dialect of Orcish which shares a surprising amount of loan-words with Sylvan.
"I believe, mighty Gzenkathu, that you are strong enough that if you were responsible for our mother's misfortune you would not lie about it upon your throne. I believe that if it were an enemy immortal, then they have unwisely challenged you. I believe that something has harmed the Dreaming, and that it is a problem for all peoples who make this place our home. I believe in my craft, and the staff has revealed no stolen power here. I believe that when it comes to secrets some always knows something. I believe we should find out."
Her tone remains respectful throughout and she still holds herself in the postures of deference and supplication spoken of in legends for time out of mind.
I also believe that Ygrna's story is a tragedy and a caution that the price of revenge can be too high and threaten the remainder of what one holds dear.
She glances at her brother, before turning her eyes back to the living ancestor.
@Niyut - Missed your +2 from Protection from evil, but wouldn't have affected the outcome.
"And I believe you may be correct," remarks Gzenkathu. "At least as far as you finding out who is behind this." The ancestor looks up to the ceiling of the cavern. Slowly turning his head as if following the flight path of an unseen bird. He broadly grins to himself in amusement as Verthag returns with a young orc male carrying a tray lined with silver goblets. The smallish boy goes first to Gzenkathu, delivering the largest of the goblets to the ageless orc. Then passes the remaining ones to the others.
Gzenkathu raises his goblet in the air but remains comfortably seated. "To your continued health and that of your people," he offers as he indulges in the contents of his goblet. Watching carefully for all to consume his peace offering, he continues, "I shall send Verthag with you if you wish it."
Malthazir remains quiet and respectful during the scene. This was Niyut's game, and she would call on him via telepathy if the need arose. Nevertheless, he was somewhat impressed, surprised, and wary of the power they were showing off. Torenz, remain close to me. Assume they can see you.
Then Gzenkathu prods into their minds, harming Raektov. Malthazir's brows furrow in displeasure. Powerful, but crude. He has no respect for the basic rules or respects of his craft.
Malz transfers his thoughts to Raektov. Do not drink. He takes a look at the drink.
Perception to notice poison/magic/anything else unusual: 1d20 + 13 + 2 ⇒ (15) + 13 + 2 = 30
Torenz will also examine it for magic, since he has detect magic up constantly. For that matter he will examine the room as well.
Niyut believes that whatever is in the goblet is not something she wants to drink -- blood or even Gzenkathu's substance -- but she also knows that not drinking would be a breach of hospitality. She suspects that the living ancestor is mocking her with his adherence to the forms, but she plans to give him no excuse to do her harm.
She sips her goblet. "Gracious Gzenkathu, your hospitality will be spoken of at many fires."
Her face remains pleasantly placid. Niyut's control of her own comportment is strong, despite her internal appreciation of the multiple interpretations of her statement. I am deferential not daunted.
"A warrior such as Verthag must have many ways he serves you. I'm loathe to take him away from his service, especially since this task may be dangerous. What if our shared enemies brought him to harm? Yet, if it would please you, wise Gzenkathu, then we will welcome Verthag as a brother in battle in recognition of your council and hospitality. Do you know anything of the trouble that besets our lands and the Dreaming? Any council you would share?"
@Valjoen: I notice a Will save was required. Would Garidan using Charmed Life (+3 to his save) have made any difference?
Keeping quiet during the discussion, Garidan's attention is fixed on the party's surroundings. Niyut seems to be dealing well enough with Gzenkathu, and aside from keeping an ear on what they're saying, the swashbuckler keeps out of it. Only when Raektov unexpectedly stumbles does his attention shift, and Garidan frowns as he watches the young mage tend to his hand. [i]"Odd, that. What did he trip over, he wasn't moving,"[/b] the young man wonders to himself.
Upon receiving the goblet, the swashbuckler gives the contents a very dubious look. From threats to a friendly drink, and in so short a time too? His eyes flick briefly to Niyut, who doesn't seem particularly worried or wary about the proffered goblets, but he decides to give the liquid a close examination in lieu in just trustingly swallowing it. He peers at it closely, then gives a few quiet sniffs, and even (cautiously) dips the very tip of his tongue into the substance.
Let's see if Garidan can figure out what the mystery drink is.
Craft (alchemy) Check: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (12) + 16 = 28
If questioned about why he doesn't drink:
Garidan looks up from his inspection of the liquid and gives Gzenkathu a slight smile. "Oh, I've got a bit of interest in unusual drinks. Making instead of partaking, that is, so I'm always looking for new recipes or inspiration for such."
[oos]@Garidan - Nope.[/ooc]
"Urzoth has felt a new presence in the First Lands since it was torn apart. We suspected that perhaps Vash had returned or maybe Simur had escaped. But that is not the case.," Gzenkathu reflected. He twisted in the chair with a sullen look crossing his face for the first time. "Yes, something tears at our world and the Dreaming siphoning the essence of our ancestors who have left us. Urzoth, has pondered these questions since the Wiavch was lost."
The old orc stops speaking and takes another drink from his goblet. Eyeing the group, he stops at Garidan and motions up with his empty hand. "Drink, drink... or shall I call for a wetnurse to offer a drink for the young ones?" His gaze does not move from the swashbuckler as he waits in silence for a long minute. Without taking his eyes from Garidan, he finally speaks, "Urzoth, have your eyes been opened?"
Behind the group, a voice hisses softly. Raektov jumps when the sound startles him, his wine splashing on the slick rocks. "Yes, they have," an raspy voice says. The orcish woman, who was crouched by the black pool outside the cave, steps out from the shadows. Her skin is pale and scarred. Long, thin fangs protrude from her mouth.
Niyut keeps from flinching. Her self control has been honed over a life time of mistrust from her tribe. Though she is quite startled, she knows that displaying negative affect in front of those who wish you to fail is a path of suffering.
She repeats the heart to lip gesture, and acknowledges the orc woman. ""Ancestor whose wisdom and power bring everlasting victory to those of the blood, what have your eyes seen? In my dreams I saw the moons crack. Has Simur not hatched? Or have they not returned to our lands? What new presence have you felt?"
Her craft was divining not protective it would seem.
How does Niyut interpret "Gáj’Akavor" and "Wiavch"?
So Gzenkathu is claiming a first among equals position among the living ancestors? As in of all of us, I'm top-dog?
Not finding anything suspect about the drink, Garidan cautiously sips at it and swallows before replying to Gzenkathu. "Appreciate the offer, but let's not. I'm a bit old for that," he says with only a hint of embarrassment flushing his cheeks. In his head, his sister's voice is ringing with laughter, and she sputteringly suggests--and how can she be out of breath in her current state, the swashbuckler wonders--that maybe Gzenkathu would provide a pair of breasts for something else if her brother asks nicely. Fortunately, the unexpected arrival behind them of a voice and its owner provides a marvelous distraction for Garidan, and he twitches hard before looking over his shoulder at the source of the words. Damned wine and his sister had him so distracted that he missed the orc's appearance at the party's back. That could have been had if she'd been attacking them.
@Niyut - not leader, but rather their voice. He has taken Járnviðja place, although his goals and disposition are quite different.
Urzoth speaks as she walks past, "No, haven't felt Simur at all. The moons are hidden from our eyes but the prison of Simur remains. And Vash, is elusive and ever present within the First Lands, but I do not think the disturbance is him." Having made her way to the throne, she leans in and whispers to the Gáj’Akavor. The orc smiles and gives a nod to her.
The immortal orcish witch circles around behind the throne, looking over Gzenkathu's shoulder. "Leeluran has awaken from her endless nightmare and once again walks the First Lands. I have seen her thoughts and felt her desires. She feeds upon the Dreaming... and seeks to gather a coven. If she does, the Soulbleed will destroy the tribes of the First Lands." She hisses at her own words, torn of two minds.
Gzenkathu does not move, but rather takes another drink from his silver goblet and chuckles. "That would be a shame," he muses. "I suspect the lowlanders have good wine. Yes? I should like to taste such a fine vintage." His eyes transfix on Malthazir, unblinking and with great expectation.
Gzenkathu does not move, but rather takes another drink from his silver goblet and chuckles. "That would be a shame," he muses. "I suspect the lowlanders have good wine. Yes? I should like to taste such a fine vintage." His eyes transfix on Malthazir, unblinking and with great expectation.
"Depends on where you go in the lowlands. My people make the most exquisite vintages, some aged for centuries. Imagine the mastery of a craft where beings that have lifespans of half a millennium devote their entire existence to it." He gives a wry smile. "Even if you would damn the rest of our world, I would argue to save it just for the tastes you would miss out on. Perhaps if this all resolves peacefully I can bring some casks and we can indulge." He raises a brow and turns to Garidan. "Actually, Garidan has managed to nearly replicate the taste of one such vintage, if you were to water it down somewhat. If you are interested?.."
"Perhaps, perhaps if she is seeking a coven, then she took your Wiavch. Perhaps she does not thinking the living ancestors can stop her from taking whatever she desires."
From Asulad, Niyut had always heard that the living ancestors were possessive and territorial. She is trying to balance the flicker of hope that her mother might still live with nudging the living ancestors into helping them fight the ancient hag.
Let's see if Garidan gets a clue and figures out the meaning behind Gzenkathu's words.
Sense Motive Check: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16
Prior to the Shaping, Truk'tosh would have been terrified by the notion of an outsider's voice speaking clearly within his own thoughts. Fortunately, the presence of Morgrym had normalized the phenomenon to a degree for the Firebird warrior. He takes a deep breath and then inwardly answers.
Gzenkathu's lips part and eyes widen at the oracle's words. He then turns to Urzoth and laughs quietly. "Yes, perhaps she doesn't consider us a threat," he says in response. He holds out his hand, and the two orc women by the fire rush to him. The first to arrive grasps his hand and holds it to her face while the other paws at it. The Gáj’Akavor pets them with his other hand, pursing his lips at their obedience. The display disturbs Garidan's senses. The lustful stare by the immortal orc causes the young human's hair to stand on end as he divines the true meaning of Gzenkathu's words of worldly wines.
Looking back up at the twins, the living ancestor grins. "It is settled then. Verthag will go with you and deal with the Soulbleed. We shall observe from here... what else can we do for you? I suspect you have more requests of us."
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (18) + 13 = 31
What does Niyut sense vis-a-vis Gzenkathu's position on the Soulbleed? Are they enemies or potential allies? "She doesn't consider us a threat" could be read a number of ways.
"What treasure, mighty ancestors, would be equal to the value of your revealed wisdom? We but seek your blessing in vanquishing the Soulbleed and in restoring the First Lands. Do we walk the Forest of Night beneath your aegis?"
Though the living ancestors held many secrets and could do wonders, the young oracle does not want to grow too entangled with them.
Figuring out what Gzenkathu is actually talking about has Garidan's various portions drawing up tight in fear, and he leans in to Malthazir to hiss quietly at the elf, the fear driving him to an unusual degree of bluntness in speaking. "He's not talking about wine, you grape-obsessed clot. He means to sample blood, those are the 'vintages' he's referring to!" Then the meaning of his words registers more fully with the swashbuckler, and he turns a sudden, horrified look onto the goblet now held in a faintly shaking grip. Only the knowledge that flinging the container and its contents aside would probably draw a very poor response from Gzenkathu keeps it within his grasp. That knowledge is also the only thing keeping Garidan's stomach from returning what he's already consumed.
Hearing the elf's reply, Garidan just stares blankly at him for a long moment, his mind quite unable to process a response that doesn't involved screaming. But, eventually, he manages one, and even remembers to deliver it via Malthazir's dragon. "Gzenkathu can drain us like waterskins, and turn us into his personal meatpuppets in the process. I really, really don't think that this is the time or place to be facetious, or really anything less than absolutely polite for that matter." His eyes shifting over to the rather disturbing display of worship, Garidan continues. "If you say something that results in me ending up like those two, I'm going to spend my unlife very upset with you. I just want you to know that, Malthazir."
"Verthag," Gzenkathu says, calling the ord to his side. "Accompany Urzoth to the living crypts, draw an ampoule from the well-spring. Let the others join you if they wish..." the ancient one smiles as he takes another sip from his goblet and leans back into his stone throne.
Turning to Niyut, he motions towards Verthag as if she and the others should follow him. "Verthag will offer you a chance to gain that which few outsiders to our clan have ever seen. May their blood bring you strength."
As those last words echo in the cavern, The two women at the living ancestor's feet respond softly, "May my blood forever aid the clan."
Verthag looks at the twins and then to the others before turning and departing through a small tunnel opposite the entrance. "Oh, and little sister," Gzenkathu calls out. "You have our leave to step in the Forest." He bows his head but does not avert his eyes from the oracle and her brother.
Niyut's self control may be legendary, but even she has her limits. When Gzenkathu calls her "little sister," she freezes and her head whips back, her glorious mane flying, her dark eyes glimmering at the living ancestor from her veil of shadows.
"Little Sister" is what Korlez calls me. Did the living ancestor read my mind despite my wards? Does he compare his stature to that of the greater spirit? Worse, is this an oblique recognition that I am becoming less mortal? It could mean anything. It could mean that we are related on my father's side. It could mean he heard my invocation to the forest when I first arrived. It could mean nothing. Control. I must maintain control.
Unwelcome thoughts and less welcome questions roil through her mind. Yet she softens her gaze, bows to Gzenkathu, and continues to follow Verthag.
A point, Gzenthkathu. A point for you.
The group follows Verthag down a narrow passage, winding its way deep into the earth. The air grows heavy and moist. The smell of sulphur intensifies. No longer do they see the black candles illuminating the way. Several hundred feet pass before the passage coils upon itself diving straight down into the depths.
"53... 54..." Gruskorb counts the naturally formed steps of the spiral stairwell. The sound of foots steps and heavy breathing reverberates. "97... 98..." Niyut looses sight of Verthag as she makes sure no one is left behind. "121... 122..." She turns a corner to find the orc staring at her. He nods then continues seemingly forever.
"365... 366... 366 steps," the hobgoblin whispers to Niyut. The tight passage is partially blocked by large, jagged rocks. Scaling the rough stone, the group finds their way into a massive cave with a low ceiling not more than five and half feet high. The smooth floor is slick with red algae that shows the worn path of water that drips from the ceiling and pools in the shallow recess in the center of the cave. Hanging from the ceiling, are countless small glass vials that dangle from thin cords made of braided fibers. Each vial is flanked by a pair of fangs of various sizes and shapes.
Verthag squats low and crosses the cavern, stopping near the pool. "Choose," he says gesturing up to the thousands upon thousands of ampoules. He reaches up and gently takes hold of one. Carefully releasing the cord from the grasp of a stalactite. He makes his way slowly to the edge of the pool and dips the vial into the crimson liquid. Slipping the cord over his head, he returns to the entrance.
Garidan, after setting his goblet aside with only a faint grimace at the reminder of Gzenkathu's preferred drink, follows after Verthag with wariness evident in his every step. He keeps silent the entire way, and so can easily hear Gruskorb counting off their steps, and he gives the hobgoblin a curious look as he tries to figure what that's about. Unfortunately, there's no time to ask as they reach what is apparently their destination, and the matter slips entirely from the young man's mind as he enters the chamber. Once Garidan figures out just what those fangs are about, his eyes widen and a shudder of fear wracks his body. "T-that's... a lot of vampires," he stutters as quietly as he can manage to the others.
Whatever else he might say is cut short when Verthag rises from pool after getting a bit of its contents into the vial he's chosen. With only Verthag's cryptic command to go by--and the swashbuckler doesn't really think he'll be interested in explaining the matter--Garidan spends a few moments considering the vials before finally shrugging and selecting one attached to the most impressive pair of fangs he can find without engaging in a total search of the chamber. He then fills it at the pool, caps it tightly, and steps aside to consider the object now in his hand. Stepping closer to the party's two main sources of magical and esoteric knowledge, Garidan whispers to the pair. "Do either of you have any idea what this is about," he asks while carefully--and with no small amount of fear--putting his head through the vial's attached cord.
We all can choose one? May I make a spell craft check to help determine what the stakes of this choice are?
Niyut is troubled by Gruskorb's counting -- it strikes her as obviously compulsive behavior -- however she focuses on teasing Gzenkathu's parting shot over and over in her mind as they descend deep in to the dark, fetid earth.
When they finally arrive, she like Garidan marvels at the countless fangs she sees before her. Her mother had told her she believed that there were less than fifty active living ancestors among the NightBlood. Did these fangs belie that figure? Or did it speak to a high turn over among the vampires?
A living ancestor cannot be destroyed? These fangs suggest that is no truth to that notion.
Mhmm, very dangerous indeed. I wonder what would happen if somebody tore off the roof of their home at high noon. Although he continues to think callously, he can't help but feel nervous at the sheer power before him. Yes it's all well and good to theorize about how to take on such odds, but if they had half a mind to do anything right now he would be powerless to stop them.
Malz examines the vials and the blood for a moment.
Detect magic, detect good (heh), blindsense, etc. Trying to get anything I can.
Spellcraft (with Torenz auto-assist): 1d20 + 25 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 25 + 2 = 38
@Malthazir: Not to mention the minor little issue of there not really being any such thing as noon, high or otherwise, on this side of the world any more :D.