"Ah! how nice, little kitty! let's see what food I may still have on me from the carriage ride... we'll get you some milk before we go to bed tonight!"
Valeria fishes the leftover of a small fruitcake out of her pocket. Hoping the rum-soaked fruits in the little cake don't give the cat an upset stomach, she errs on the side of caution and hands only a small piece to the cat by the palm of her hand. If the cat likes it, she can always give it more...
Valeria ask one of her remaining maids to go fetch some milk at the village down the hill.
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Sveng smiles at the cat, surprisingly giving a smile that doesn't appear orchestrated in some way. "Ah, what a unsurprising lack of rats down here. I think we have a well trained mouser on our hands."
Toby is a little disappointed. "Gads! A basement needs rats. How else am I supposed to get my new underlings a bit of experience? The cat has hogged the action."
What happens if you eat a conjured animal?
Big burp when the creature disappears? :P
As soon as a creature dies it disappears, so the only interesting scenario would be if you managed to swallow it whole, in which case you would be very full until your stomach acids killed it, at which point you would be suddenly hungry.
As Val plays with the cat and offers to get it food and milk Sydney examines the hole further. Its clear that without something tiny climbing through, there is no way you are going to get a look at what is on the other side.
Unless you plan to send the bird in alone I'll assume you all leave this be for the time being and we'll move to the next morning?
Sydney will spend some time researching spells and trying different things before turning in for the night.
First, he tries casting Knock to see if that will open the secret door.
If that doesn't work, he will cast Alarm to be alerted if anything else comes out of the hole during the night.
If nothing helps, he will turn in for the night and prepare soem new spells for the next day.
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Before Sir Toby turns in for the night, he sets his men in guard positions.
"The six of you are to set watch, evenly distributed through the night. Two on, four off. One guard is at the front door-- yes, OUTSIDE the front door, Squire Pudge. The other guard is in the stables, watching the house from a distance. NO, I don't care that it smells, Squire Lanky. Hayseed needs his sleep more than you. Alright, that settles it, Pudge and Lanky, you two get the middle watch. Squires Podge, Handy, Seth, and Tim, you get to sleep first. And yes, this will happen every night. Squires do not get to sleep. It is part of the process that all knights go through. You watch, you protect, and you do not complain. Am I understood!"
This last part was not a question, and the six nod and keep their traps shut.
Sir Toby hunkers down on his bedroll in the front room, and the Pudge, Lanky, Seth, and Tim join him there as Podge and Handy take the first watch.
Piri, overhears Sir Toby commanding his squires, and smiles to himself. Now that is a man that is accustomed to leading. It is best when there are no questions in the air He sets up to do a little reading before turning in for the night.
Valeria hears Toby direct the men on the first floor. For the first time in weeks she truly relaxes, and settles comfortably in her large four-post bed for a full night of sleep.
I must be careful and make sure I have my beauty sleep from now on, if I am to play the part of the baroness...
Sydney is still unsuccessful in getting the door open which is really odd considering the use of magic he employed, perhaps something is barring it from the other side that wouldn't be effected by his spell. Giving up on the secret door for the time being the group disperses to take care of their own business before turning in for the night.
Eventually laying down to sleep after the long trip, it is good to be somewhere more 'permanent'. You drift off to sleep pretty quickly and sleep through the night. As sun breaks through the windows in the morning though you open your eyes to find your room an absolute mess. There are papers hung up on the wall with messages scribbled in them "Get out!", "Don't squat here!", "Leave before it is too late!" and much more. Looking at the pages you look over to the desk in your room and you see your spellbook open with several pages torn out, quickly you check your book and luckily none of your spells have been removed but that are no blank pages left in the book, necessitating you get a new book should you want to inscribe spells in the future.
After getting your men set you decide to go to bed. You layout your bedroll and get comfortable. Sleep finds you quickly, after the long days of travel and the perceived safety of your new home. As sun breaks through the windows you stir and you go to check on your men. The two on guard are fast asleep and when you wake them up they look at you doing their best to hold back a laugh. Eventually one of them can't help it and starts laughing right at your face.
Heading off to bed you read for awhile until you eventually get drowsy, you set your book down and turn over to go to sleep. Your sleep is restless and you wake up with the dawn's light freezing. As you open your eyes you are surprised to see you are no longer in your bed room. Instead you are outside the estate near the road that leads up to the estate, all your gear is there with you and there is a note that says "Don't come back!"
Enjoying the comfort of a bed in your new 'home', you quickly fall asleep. Your rest is peaceful and you awake to the morning light. Sitting up in your bed you stretch and look about only to see that aside from the furniture none of you gear or clothes are in the room where you left them any longer. You look about and check the drawers until you pass by the window and see outside all of your belongings are strewn about on the ground outside. Even more concerning it is laid out in such a way that it spells something out "GO!"
Whether it is finally being off the road or being 'home' at a grand estate you now actually own yourself, you get ready for bed with an ever present smile on your face. Just as you are getting ready to go to sleep you hear the faint sound of scratching at your door, opening it you find the cat you befriended earlier, it slinks into the room and jumps up on the foot of your bed nestling down into a spot it is comfortable in. Content it purs before closing its eyes. You lay down and follow quickly behind as you pass out.
You have strange dreams, it's almost like someone is talking to you through the night, and you eventually awake to the morning light having not slept that great. You sit up and see the cat still resting at the foot of your bed and you look around thinking on your dreams. You don't remember what you do remember is all of your companions leaving the estate, taking everything they could get their hands on, even stealing your valuables. They seem dark and evil, which is something you've never sensed from any of them. You find yourself alone with not one but three cats in this new estate. Even with your companions gone you felt at ease with your new feline friends and your new home.
Heading to your room you take some time to double and triple check it, ensuring it is secure as possible. You pop up a floorboard under your bed to hide anything that you might not want someone to find. Eventually, you settle in and go to sleep. You sleep well and eventually wake up to the noise of others moving in the house. You aren't sure what time it is with no windows for natural light, but it feels like you slept a full eight hours. You feel your way around until you feel the lamp on the nightstand. Lighting a match you turn on the lamp as light spills out into the room.
Immediately you note your unholy symbol pinned to the door of your room with one of your own daggers. Carved in the door is a message "EVIL! LEAVE NOW!"
To note this is just kind of some free RP time I'll move us on to the next 'story' by Monday at the latest (unless there is still RP going on), but feel free to interact with one another as appropriate from your spoilers.
"Oi... I wish I would have slept better last night, little cat... today is the first day in our crusade against the big bad Count! I hope some coffee will perk me up and allow me to look good for all the nobles assembled at the Jubilee! we must get them all on our side, before we try to kick out the evil Count! you see, the Princess of Taldor has sent us here, allowing us to use Lady Betony's estate in order to fix up the County for her and make it all nice again, as she wishes to come live in Merrat again and tell the Bartlebys their time is up here. You see, they were stewarding the County for her, but I think they've grown a little too comfortable ordering people around and exploiting them by drawing way too many taxes!! Hmmm... <YAWN!> I wonder if we'll have to go to the village for coffee or if we can find some downstairs...
Oh!!!!! I see you brought two little friends with you! how come you're all sooooooo cute!!! let's go downstairs to see if my assistants brought some milk back from the village as I asked. Hopefully they all brought some food too... you're all no doubt hungry... and so will my friends, who will have to stand with me in front of the nobles and play the part of my noble friends from Oppara. Oh my.. I had a horrible dream they were all gone... I wouldn't know how to begin this monumental County-wide revitalization mission without them! so... yes... FOOD!!! We must all be in tip top shape for the upcoming Jubilee, as I think it will last longer than one day..."
Valeria puts a bathrobe and heads downstairs, asking the little kitties to follow, and setting up some milk down for them while she looks for a bag of coffee grounds...
Eregos looks down at his belongings, carefully laid out to spell "GO". Definitely not recalling going on a drinking binge last night, he mutters and walks downstairs in his pajamas to retrieve everything. As he goes through, he looks for whichever of Toby's squires are on duty and asks, "Did you do this?" with a glare on his face.
Intimidate: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (5) + 2 = 7
Seeing Valeria in her bathrobe, he says, "Did your stuff get thrown outside, too?"
"No... I just promised this cat- and his friends now- a nice bowl of milk. Say, did any of you see coffee in the cupboards somewhere? and what do you mean by 'too'- what's going on?"
Piri, looks around, startled and perplexed. How could I have gotten here with all my stuff and not been awakened? Piri loads up his stuff, has a couple of his agents carry his stowables and does some basic navigating to head back towards the castle. I wonder whom it is they want gone, us actually or who we are pretending to be? I'll speak with Valeria about this, she has a better handle of these goings on. I wonder where everyone else is? Did they get re-located as I did or did they end up resisting. I must hurry.
Toby is appalled at this lack of disciple. "Squire Seth! Pull yourself together man!" Sir Toby will backhand him across the face.
"Where is your dignity? Explain yourself this instant why sleeping on duty should make you laugh!"
"I mean someone," Eregos glares at the apparently laughing squires, "has been playing tricks. All of my stuff is outside, arranged so it spells the word 'Go'. I'm on my way to get it. Given you were in your bathrobe, I thought the same happened to you. If you'll excuse me."
Eregos goes to the front door and opens it so he can gather his things. As he is picking his belongings up and repacking them, he sees Piri walking up the road. "Taking an early morning walk?"
"No my friend, but I am glad to see you in good health. I went to sleep and me and all my stuff woke up down the road, on the way out of town, with the message to not return. I hoped to rush up here and insure that nothing had happened to the rest of the party. I am glad to see you healthy. Are you getting some fresh air? Have you seen anyone else?"
Piri instructs his minions to carry and put away his items he doesn't have equipped.
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When Toby smacks his squire he stiffens up and says "Sorry sir! Um... your hair sir and the... is it makeup?"
Toby finds a mirror to see that his hair has been shaved off and he is completely bald, a mustache has been drawn on his face and his eyebrows have been dyed pink.
The squire Eregos approaches looks at him with a quizzal look and then sees all his stuff outside he shakes his head "No, I didn't do that... how did your stuff get outside?"
"Egads! What... what... Okay, your laughter is forgiven... I am quite the doofus, aren't I? But there is no excuse for falling asleep on guard duty. None. That could have killed us all. Get some sleep, and then I expect you on repair duty for the rest of the day. Hammer and nail. Get this barn and the house fixed up. And you are banned from any alcohol consumption for the rest of the week."
Toby raises his voice... " TEAM MEETING! GATHER IN THE KITCHEN! PLEASE AND THANK YOU!"
Sveng comes downstairs about ten minutes after the others. He is dressed, but his hair, normally neatly tied back, has a few strays this morning. Sveng always had a commanding presence, but this morning his aura is practically weighs down those around him, as if a sleeping bear was woken and nobody wishes to provoke it.
"We need to gather all the information we have. Start talking." It was not a suggestion. Sveng looks at the party first to explain everything they've experienced, then moves onto all the underlings.
"Well, okay... Sveng... by the goddesses, you are cranky before your coffee! I'm trying to solve this now, by the way, and thank you. As far as I'm concerned, if it wasn't for that dreadful nightmare where you were all gone and I was left alone, I would have had a great night of sleep. The rest of you seem to have been the subject of a well-orchestrated mass prank! if I may say so, quite expertly done! so well in fact that I wouldn't be so quick at chastising our dear supporters who have deigned to join us all in our risky enterprises... surely they didn't follow us all from Oppara to delay us the exact morning we're due at the Palace of Birdsong to impress Meratt's nobles!"
"We must not underestimate whomever or whatever executed these elaborate 'pranks'. In order to successfully pull them off without any of us awaking or any of our guards, servants, agents...etc. There must have been a gas or potion or spell involved, would be my estimation. Not that it was evil otherwise I think we would all be injured or perhaps worse. Someone certainly doesn't want us to continue this mission, and being political in nature, we need to think who would gain politically. Also, we have to consider how anyone knows our actual reason.
By the by Sveng, why is it that it seems it is only your mood has been soured, you seem to have suffered no vandalism or prank. What transpired in your room? It may help lead us to the who or how."
Toby sputters and tries to half hide his face as he talks.
"The... the answer is obvious! It was no prank. This house is... haunted! Ghosts! No wonder it was left abandoned!"
While Toby is proving himself a bit superstitious, I suggest a k: religion or k:nature if someone has it. Toby doesn't!
Sveng narrows his eyes at Valeria for a moment, then it transforms into a pale smile. "Coffee sounds lovely. How about we make some, you go wait in the dining room and I will have it brought to you."
Sveng shakes his head to Piri. "I simply cleaned up before I came down, notice how I descended later than the others. Interesting that you would notice that, however, given that you have just entered from outside and haven't been upstairs yet."
What kind of time schedule are we working on? How long until we have to depart for the Palace of Birdsong?
"Whatever it was we don't have time to dwell on it. You must all put on your formal attire and leave immediately for the Palace. We can nap on our way there as I'm sure it's at least one barony away from here..."
Upon arriving back from the village with some food and milk as instructed, Valeria's supporters activate themselves in a frenzy of cooking, carrying luggage, attending to Valeria's dress/hair/makeup and a score of other tasks. The cats are all fed some milk, and Valeria further spoils them by adding samples of some charcuterie brought from the village. Within the hour the carriage is ready, complete with some food and drinks for the road to the Palace. The heroes can detect a subtle aura of high-quality perfume surrounding Valeria as she strolls through the manor on her way outside. Sleep comes easily to Valeria once the carriage in underway...
Eregos answers Piri, "No, all my things were strewn about outside, so now I'm picking them up."
Sveng's apparent reaction was...puzzling. He seemed quite perturbed about something, even though he appeared to be the least disrupted of any of them. Valeria seemed to only have had a nightmare, at any rate - good for her, he supposed.
Toby looked rather ridiculous, what with the shaved head and pink eyebrows. Eregos looked at Valeria as she complimented the mass prank and said, "If it wasn't anyone in the house, then that means we have a problem. Toby's head is shaved and Piri was literally carried out of the house. Neither of them woke up. Whoever 'pranked' us, likely has either powerful magic, or, as Toby said, is a ghost of some kind. If it was someone from outside, then they broke into the house, committed all of these pranks, and then left, with no one noticing. Given our mission, you don't see cause for concern in this?"
"I'M concerned!" Toby says earnestly. "First of all, my men failed in their watch and how can I trust them in future? Secondly, how am I to be a respectful knight, to serve you, Lady Valeria, looking like this? I shall need to shave my eyebrows entirely to let it all grow back in the proper color! I suppose I shall be keeping my helmet on for today's proceedings."
"I'm concerned yes, but this will have to be shelved for another time. More concerning is us not showing up to the Jubilee, our main objective here. Without the support of Meratt's nobles the task ahead of us will be impossible. We should have never come to the Betony Estate last night in retrospect. What were we thinking? The inn in Stachys or Lotheedar would have been more appropriate considering the Jubilee is beginning TODAY!"
"Toby, nonsense! let two of my supporters attend you this morning. One is a well-versed makeup artist and she will have you look respectable in no time. Don't shave until they've tried their craft..."
@GM: if the agents can't help Toby on the way to Lotheedar then Valeria will assist with her own Disguise skill...
You have maybe an hour to eat and get ready before the coach will arrive to take you on to the Jubilee. As for skill checks, no one actively saw anything occur so nothing to check against. The assumptions people are making definitely make sense though. :) As for Toby, his eyebrows and fake mustache could be fixed with prestidigitation, his hair on the other hand... of c ourse disguise could help.
Once Valeria is out of the room and working on her preparations, Sveng turns his face to the servants, a dark scowl. He stalks up to them and looms, his aura seeming to make even the burliest of the guards shrink next to him. "Tell. Me. Everything. I want to know what happened and when. If you took a piss you tell me on what tree. Start talking. Now."
Intimidate: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
Sveng wants to gather as much information as he can of the events of the previous night. The party members he will ask politely but firmly, but these mooks he wants to fear him.
"Yes, my lady. Have your maids disguise me up. Makeup is for females, but I will grit my teeth and bare it for the good of our mission."
As Sveng works on interrogating Toby's men who were supposed to be standing watch Valeria goes off to start getting things in order for the day and the coming Jubilee. The cats, now three follow her about after their meal.
As Sveng questions the squires the two last on watch note that they were fine standing guard and then the next thing they knew they woke up and it was morning, it was like something came over them all of a sudden that made them really tired. Another one chimed in that he swore he heard all sorts of eerie sounds like people whispering or things moving around upstairs but no one ever came in or out of the house so he just assumed it was people from the group getting situated in their new rooms.
"Someone cast a spell on you men. I have heard that nymphs and sprites and fairy tricksters could do that very thing. Forget ghosts! We are living in a faerie house!"
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (20) + 12 = 32
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (17) + 12 = 29
"You two, where were you standing guard, and at what time? Have you ever fallen asleep at your post before?" He looks to Toby for confirmation. "How long were you out?"
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (3) + 12 = 15
"Describe the noises, and when they happened."
Toby leans over and mutters to Sveng. "Sorry friend. They are brand new. They've been good so far, but... I don't really know them yet."
Sveng nods subtly to Toby. All new recruits. S@++. That means we know little to nothing about them. Sveng looks down the line, trying to distinguish the faces that are young and eager vs the more experienced ones. Are they new because they've just started or new because they're transferred to this job?
Sveng is pretty sure that the men are all telling the truth and not hiding anything. The two men point to near the two exterior doors, one at each door, as they note they were standing watch there. The other man shrugs when he notes he doesn't know exactly, he thought he heard whispers, and the noises from upstairs sounded like someone moving around, he thinks he heard a window upstairs creek open at one point but they were told to stand watch downstairs and he didn't see anyone come or go so just figured it was the people upstairs doing their thing.
Sveng lets the men sizzle for a few more moments, then nods and dismisses them. He turns to Toby. "We need new guard policies. Sleep magic typically works in bursts, if we spread the men out it will be harder to catch them all at once. However in reality we won't be able to fully keep out anybody wanting to get in without at least triple the guards we have now, as well as some magical precautions, because this simply isn't an easily defensible location. We will have to take further measures later. For now let's get prepared for our meeting."
Eregos grumbles about Valeria's attitude. While it was true their primary mission was to influence Merrat's nobles, his concern was that someone would figure out who they really were, as well as their association with Lady Lotheed and the Princess. If that happened, then they would still lose the support of the nobles. They needed to come up with some way to increase security. "Fine, we'll get ready, but seeing as sitting in a carriage doesn't take a lot of effort, let's at least discuss ways to increase our security here at the manor on our way to the Jubilee. After all, we're just as likely to lose the nobles' support if they find out who we work for."
Eregos carried his belongings up to his room, where he put them away again and got dressed and ready for the Jubilee - including disguising himself so he would pass better as Sir Kalegos.
Disguise: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24
Piri, readies himself with the help of Valeria's people and assumes his alter ego previously established on the way here. On the ride to the Jubilee he is observing his group but more importantly the people that may see them on the road and the ones that saw them yesterday. I want to see who carefully details our travels and are just a little too focused on it.
Sydney comes down, dressed for today’s mission. Only when he hears the others speak of the nights events does he offer his own. ”Someone came in last night, ripping apart my books and notes. There are papers hung up on the wall with messages scribbled in them "Get out!", "Don't squat here!", "Leave before it is too late!" and much more. Even my bird didn’t squeak. I don’t much appreciate it, whoever is behind this!”
With little time to investigate the incidents of last night the group gets ready for the day ahead as they turn their attention to more important matters.
The carriage arrives and once everyone has had an opportunity to get ready in their party attire and eat you climb in and set off toward the Lotheed estate. The carriage carries you down the hill, through Stachys, and back onto the Oppara Highway's final northerly stretch. The sunrise hours of early morning eventually carry you to the small town of Lotheedar at the fork of the Dalaston Highway and the North Cassomir Highway, the county of Meratt's capital as well as its most prominent trading hub seems almost a metropolis compared to the hardscrabble Stachys.
Beyond the town, you soon lay eyes upon the sweeping estate of the Palace of Birdsong, nestled among beautiful vineyards and orchards heavy with apricots, olives, and plums. From afar, the first features to seize your attention are the graceful arches and domes made from imported marble.
Behind the facade of opulence, you can see hints of neglect even here at the seat of Count Lotheed's power. The marble is crumbling, and ivy creeps up the gates unchecked. While Bartelby's family have obviously gone to the trouble of ensuring the palace's basic upkeep is handled, no loving hands have seen to the estate's finer details in many years.
As your carriage rolls up the meandering drive, you find an astonishing array of guests at the foot of the palace, all being fussed over by an army of servants sporting masks. As carriages and coaches disgorge their well-dressed occupants, they are immediately occupied by an array of entertainers - ferret-jugglers, fire-breathers, and stilt-walkers all ply the paths and lawns.
As a porter, his face cloaked behind a mask of red feathers, unloads your baggage, you are approached by a tall, thin man with thick hair and expressive eyes.
"Well met, newcomers. I am Count Bartelby Lotheed, steward of the county of Meratt, landgrave of the Hyden Marches, and tribune of Lotheedar. We understand one of you is the new heir to the Betony lands. It is quite the honor to be our new neighbors, we're sure."
Updated map so you can get an idea of your location in the county.