Faun chuckles a bit, tells Ornmeil'lon to relax, then climbs up to rest in his branches. She watches and listens to the sounds of the village. She imagines things are much busier than usual, what with the "celebration" and everything.
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (20) + 9 = 29
(The only nat 20 I'll get the entire campaign!)
Meanwhile, inside both the inn and the tavern, Zokar and Sarianna explain the common complaints they've heard from residents in Ravengro and other neighboring hamlets. There are two prime sources of woe for these locals. The first is the perpetual threat of orc raids from the west. The second is the shadows that spread north from the haunted county of Virlych to the south.
Two main armed forces protect Canterwall. The first is the Wallguard, based out of Tamrivena and charged with protecting the county's capital. The second is the Foreguard, tasked with patrolling the county's borders. Despite the protection of these militias, locals complain about increasing disappearances among not just villagers but entire villages, especially along the county's southern border.
In addition to the Palatinate Council in Tamrivena, many locals also lay the blame for mismanagement at the feet of Captain Balton Rhasrakin, commander of the Wallguard. Notoriously racist against all orc-kin, he continually consolidates the county's forces and resources in the north, preparing for an orc invasion through the mountains that he, and many in the capital, see as inevitable. This leaves the southern county to fend for itself against both orcs and undead - at least, that's the way many disgruntled locals see the situation.
Is there any peace to be made with the Orcs to the West? It would seem much more likely that with undead to the South.
But, what can the Captain and the guard be doing better? Is there an immediate need in Ravengro? Waiting for the conversation to continue, Valeska swirls the wine in her glass, appreciating the bouquet.
Faun instructs her companion to stay put,
"...and play nice with the cat."
She gracefully makes her way towards the gazebo, relishing the feel of the earth as her feet and boots wrap around it as she walks. She observes the villagers working on the "wicker man" for a full minute before asks no one in particular,
"Who is he?"
Her eyes stay fixed on the construction with a fiery future.
Shontar listens interested and wonders what one would need to do to improve these people's situation.
"Well, you're in quite the mess, it seems. I wish we could do anything, but I'm just a hunter by profession and an archaeologist by passion."
"It's the Lopper," the one man among them speaks. The two women shoot him glares, shocked that he would speak so readily with a stranger. These icy looks do not stop him from speaking further, though.
"We're burning him this year. Last year it was the Mosswater Marauder, and the first year of the festival we burned the Splatter Man. We burn the worst of the murderers who died in the Harrowstone Fire to keep their damned spirits from rising up again."
Zokar rubs his stubbly chin and runs his eyes appraisingly over Kain, Shontar, and Chao. An impish smile crosses his broad face.
"Of course, if you're really looking for a challenge - and I mean something a lot more intimidating than spending a night alone in the Restlands - you could try wooing Kring the Beautiful."
The tavern keeper arches his eyebrows, enjoying the looks of bafflement that he finds.
"Kring's something of a tall tale that's come down from the orc holds. They say she's a powerful chieftain, a real warrior princess, and that she challenges champions from other tribes to single combat, all to find a man worthy of siring her children. Rumor has it, she's even turned to challenging knights from Lastwall and adventurers out of Tamrivena, so I suspect she still hasn't found anyone who can best her."
Zokar interrupts his own story to laugh, clearly amused by the rural legend.
"Local toughs and traveling bravos will often hurl it like a insult: 'Go court Kring!' they'll say. It's akin to telling someone to go make love to a logsplitter."
"A few months ago, an injured knight from Lastwall came stumbling into town. He had one foot in the Boneyard, but someone had tried to bind his wounds. I put him up for a couple nights. He told me that his patrol was set upon by orcs, he got separated from the rest, and ended up lost and alone before blacking out in the Hold's wastes," Sarianna recounts. She pauses, as though weighing whether or not even she believes her own story before telling the rest.
"He said that, when he woke up, another tribe of orcs had taken him in and were tending his injuries. Their leader, a fire-haired chieftess, told him that 'the burning angel' had commanded them to save him. It was a curious, almost romantic enough tale that I looked into it further. It seems there are other rumors going around about a tribe of orcs doing good at the behest of some burning angel."
As for matters of the militia, the captain, and Tamrivena, Miss Vai is uncertain.
"When I was a singer in Caliphas, I was privy to bits of courtly politics, but never any real politics. I've learned about running a business, but running a town or county is well beyond me," she admits. She taps her fingers on her cup again, before adding, "I suppose getting some new industry in Ravengro would be a good start. Locals are doing all right for themselves with their farms and ranches, but everyone still misses the income the prison brought in. Of course, a lot of people always saw that as a devil's bargain, anyhow."
"Hohoho. That sounds like a fine woman then. But I am afraid I am not worthy. I pass."
As they all laugh and toast their mugs, they appear to have a fun for a brief moment in this dreadful place. Even Chao smiles.
Let's not reopen the prison, perhaps we can come up with something better. I dare admit that we can. As if the very acts of listening and thinking and hoping made the girl hungry, though she's been eating... I'm famished!
Does the man still live here? And, being the breadbasket... what are some signature dishes from this region? Breads, pastries, pies... Mmm.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
"Um, er...well..." one of the women stammers. She idly scratches her crooked nose as she finds the words. "I guess no one thought of it. When Mister Elkarid came up with the idea, he suggested burning one each year. I guess to make it like a theme for the festival?"
The other two pass looks to each other, as though wordlessly asking "Why didn't we think of that?"
"Anyhow, the 'damned' spirits are the ones that always come back. The grave offers no welcome gifts," she speaks again, this time with greater certainty. "Especially not with the Lopper and his ilk. After all, their ghosts already came back once before. They used to haunt the old prison, then started to spread their curse closer and closer to town, up 'til some adventurers went and purged the prison."
"As for food, visit any farmstead within a league of Ravengro, and they'll insist theirs is the signature dish for the southern county," Sarianna explains before listing some examples. "Minced lamb pies, walnut sweet rolls, and baked pears are always popular. And most mornings, the smell of the local pumpernickel baking can carry for miles."
Times have been a bit tough, anything to bolster the business would help. I'll be having done fresh baked pumpernickel with breakfast, it's settled!
|Arden Kain Brandt|
Such is there way. If she is truly posing a threat to travelers, perhaps she does indeed need to be dealt with. I'll keep it in mind if I am ever in that area. he gives a nod and a half smile to the innkeep. Making him unsure if he was merely jesting or being serious.
|Sibeesha the Bold|
Speaking gently, yet excited,
"This sounds like quite the story! I'd love to hear it. These evildoers have risen once before, you say? When did this all happen? What was, the curse? And who were these brave adventurers... that you obviously feel didn't do their job properly?"
She adds the sly quip at the end with as much charm as she can, not intending to insult, but rather to invoke critical thinking in these villagers.
If they really believed the prison had been purged, then why do they fear the return of the spirits? Not that there ever were any to begin with...what nonsense.
The three locals share anecdotes of friends and neighbors driven to wrath and madness by the creeping influence of the dead murderers, spreading from the ruined prison. Of course, from the way they recount the events, it seems as though they're quick to attribute any deviant behavior to a spirit's curse.
"It ain't that they didn't do their job," the man replies. "It's just that it seems like the wicked don't ever stay dead."
At the inn and tavern, you each pass time pleasantly - learning about the local color while sampling the local flavor. You come away not just with some recipes but at least a slight endearment to the insular village. In a couple hours, as the sun begins to set, the villagers begin to gather in the town square, carrying lanterns and awaiting the start of the festival.
|Sibeesha the Bold|
Valeska seems to be ignoring you for a short time, then... Oh! You mean me!
Of course, I'd be delighted to do that very thing. Shall we reserve one room or two, then? We should probably do so, now.
Faun thanks the villagers for their time, and for speaking with her. She explains she left a friend back at the Outside Inn and wants to rejoin him before too much of a crowd surrounds them in the square.
She'll place her arm diagonally across her chest and nod to each of the individuals, as a means of farewell, almost like a salute, though not quite.
Faun would like to view this event from as far away as possible. However, should she come across Valeska and/or Sibe on her way, she will accompany them.
She strongly suggests, of course, that they stay near the back, though she volunteers no reason.
As dusk falls, the town square is thronged by close to two hundred people, comprising the majority of Ravengro's population. The overwhelming majority are human, although you spot a couple of halflings mixed in among the villagers. Many carry lanterns and pass around lit tindertwigs to light the wicks within. You notice that no one carries candles, torches, or other naked flames, perhaps to prevent an accidental outbreak of fire.
A handful of more prominent residents, clearly more than mere farmers or ranchers, stand in the shadow of the gazebo. A man clad in a leather duster and wide-brimmed hat steps inside and seizes the wicker effigy and lifts him upon his shoulder. As he does, a gray-cheeked man with sharply manicured mustache and sideburns gestures accusingly towards the effigy.
"There he is, the Lopper!" he bellows. "Scourge of Ardeal, this monster in the skin of a man must be reminded of his punishment! As our good sheriff keeps the fiend restrained, would Councilwoman Faravan recount his crimes."
A well-dressed woman, her closely brushed hair barely betraying hints of gray in the growing lamplight, steps forward at the summons. She clears her throat before speaking in a clear, even tone.
"Vance Saetressle, better known as 'The Lopper,' slew five men and one woman in and around the city of Ardis in Ardeal County. He would stalk his victims for days, hiding in the unlikeliest of places with scant supplies. When he struck, he would leap out and chop his victim's head off with an axe."
As the councilwoman speaks, with all the professionalism of a barrister or accuser, the crowd grows more enrapt with the macabre details.
"Saetressle was sentenced by Jurisdeclaris Axenris the Third in 4661 AR to be imprisoned in Harrowstone, there to eventually be hanged, drawn and quartered. Alas, he helped lead the prison uprising that led to the burning of Harrowstone Prison and the loss of more good souls."
The crowd offers indignant harumphs and growls, incensed at the heinous crimes committed by the long-dead man. However, you can see that many of the arrayed faces struggle to hide the fear lurking behind the memories incited by the Lopper.
"To ensure that the condemned does not avert justice again," the first councilman speaks up, his arms raised to attract attention to himself again, "Let us now return him to his prison and convey him back to the Abyss upon the flames that he deserves!"
After having a nice dinner with some good stories, Shontar and Chao had settled in their rooms. Shortly after the ceremony began and people gathered. Of course they joined the crowd quickly and listened interestingly to the procession.
Shontar shuddered at the description of the Looper.
|Arden Kain Brandt|
After his meal, Kain makes sure to take some left overs to silverwing and tending to him for several minutes before heading back to town to view the ceremony. He takes a spot near shontar, giving him a nod and watches the spectacl, To which he shook his head, undoubtedly this did nothing to actually help ward the town, however, he couldn't dent that small traditions like this added life to places. And if it helped ease the folk, and brought in travellers, it at least did help the town in some ways. At the end of the details on the lopper, Kain shakes his head. Almost as bad as an Orc, maybe even worse. he half mutters under his breath.
Unbeknownst to him, His horse had managed to untie himself from his post once again, and was enjoying himself as he trotted around the small town. As he did so, he tried to determine which of the folk in town was most likely to give him a treat, after skirting the edges, he finally comes to Faun, after staring a bit, and a couple of ear twitches, he walks up behind the elven druid and gives her shoulder a gentle nudge. After getting her attention, he gently nudges her pack, and looks at her, almost expectantly.
Feeling a sudden nudge in her back, Faun is momentarily startled. But turning and seeing the innocent creature, she simply smiles, gently rubs him between the eyes and combs her fingers through his mane. He nudges her pack and looks at her, almost expectantly.
"Kyllä, rakas ystävä. Tietenkin voit."
She flips open her pack, reaches a hand in, and withdraws a beautiful looking berry, held between her fore and middle fingers.
"Tätä halusit, eikö olekin? Varoitan teitä, he pakastavat melkoisen. Mutta se pitää sinut aina aamiaiseksi."
She allows the berry to fall into the palm of her hand which she holds out under the horse's mouth as she continues to stroke him. The animal licks up the berry, and before he can get too excited, Faun keeps a strong but gentle hand on him and stares hard into his eyes. After a few seconds, the horse calms down again.
"No niin, mene etsimään joku, jonka tunnistat."
She guides the horse with her hand to turn him around, and she lets the horse lead while she walks beside him, no longer paying attention to the festivities she thought were ludicrous and a waste of resources.
"This is what you wanted, isn't it? I warn you, they pack quite a punch. But it will probably hold you over until breakfast."
"Alright then, let's go find someone you recognize."
|Arden Kain Brandt|
The horse gladly accepts the berry from her hand and returns the stare for several seconds, before plunging his nose further into her bag the moment she looks away. It takes a moment to get his head out again as he munches on another snack he managed to find. You almost swear the horse looks pleased with itself, and makes a motion and sounds that almost seem to be chuckling.
he is a smart horse. 7 int haha.
At shontars call, Kain looks around before spotting Valere. Kain lets out a sigh, before walking closer and gives a shrill whistle. At which point the horse seems to go rigid, ears up and tense, like a small child that knows they got caught. The horse droops his head as it walks over to Kain. Who stands, arms crossed like an angry father. You know better than to wonder around bothering people. The last time you did that I had to pay a farmer 3 gold for all the fruit you ate from his stall. the horse lets out a short whinney and twitches its ear before stamping its foot.
Kain tilts his head before wagging his finger at the horse.
I do feed you, quite well and more than any other horse would ever get. You hadn't got any food that day because you had been causing trouble. the horse stomps again indignantly with a small snort, but Kain turns his attention away and regards Faun.
I am terribly sorry for all the trouble my lady, Valere here is sometimes more trouble than he is worth. He is often too intelligent for his own good. Though he wasn't always like this. I'll gladly repay you for any trouble he caused. Kain keeps a serious expression on his face as he speaks.
He also turns to regard Shontar thank you shontar, for bringing it to my attention.
"No problem" He answers Kain, before turning to Faun. Trying to be a gentleman he bows to kiss her hand.
"Seurasin vain lumoavaa ääntä. Shontar Hadove, olen iloinen voidessani tavata sinut."
"Faun Daedys, ja... ilo on minun" she replies to the elf. She stares blankly at her hand a moment, as if not sure what to do with it. She then looks up at the horse's owner and speaks in a sweet, gentle voice
"Ah, he was no trouble at all. Valere here is beautiful. He did grab my last two berries, but it's no problem. I'll simply go search for more at first light."
She continues to pat the horse playfully.
"Friends call me Faun Daedys, and so may you. Did I hear mister Hadove here refer to you as 'Kain'?"
|Arden Kain Brandt|
Kain instinctively salutes. Kain, Ardent Kain Brandt, precisely ma'am. Kni-.. mercenary, and wanderer. It is a pleasure. he gives a small bow.
Valere shakes his head happily from the pats.
As you grow acquainted with your fellow visitors to Ravengro, the procession of locals begins to depart the town square. Bearing lit lanterns, they march down the curving road towards the fields girding the southern edge of the town. The procession crosses the wooden bridge spanning a narrow branch of the Ravengro Creek, then turns right at the forking road. Near the head of the crowd, the sheriff still holds aloft the wicker effigy of the Lopper.
In an open field overlooking the water below, the crowd surrounds the straw "prison," and the sheriff jails his "prisoner" within. The four town council members light torches, the only naked flames allowed, then toss them at the foot of the straw prison.
As it catches alight, a bald and wizened man - his face topped by bushy white eyebrows - steps forward to speak. His dry, cracked lips offer a brief Pharasmin litany, beseeching the Boneyard to keep its dead.
The ceremony is interrupted by screams. The sounds of terror and panic ring out from the far side of town, across the stream.
|Arden Kain Brandt|
At the sound of screams Kain immediately mounts Valere and tries to see what might be causing the commotion. Using the extra height from Valere to get better field of view. He also makes sure to keep an eye out for more immediate threats.
perception: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (15) + 10 = 25
The screams are unsettling, people needed help. But, with no way to assess the situation and get there quickly... Valeska considered options.
She shouted up at Kain. You there, Knight! Take this Lady with you.
Faun's normal soft disposition vanishes in an instant. She rushes back towards Ornmeil'lon, signaling him from afar. She and him head straight for the sounds of chaos and screaming.
To give her a better view, the treant lifts the druid up and places her in his upper branches.
Perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (10) + 9 = 19
Across the way, what at first appear to be large bonfires prove to actually be farmhouses set ablaze. You can see dozens of residents who had not been attending the festival now streaming towards the two bridges - one very near to the south, and one further downriver to the north - seeking to flee something in the fields and knolls beyond. Squinting through the dusk, you can all see large numbers of dark figures quickly approaching from the northwest.
|Arden Kain Brandt|
Orcs! Kain manages to spit out through gritted teeth.
Not again, this time, I'm here.
Hop on! quickly.
He turns to the crowd in the area and shouts.
Quickly! Move together to the nearest safe place! Board yourselves up. Stay together and protect each other, I will do what I can to slow them down or route them.
He turns to Shontar.
Shontar, try to pick them off where you can, you said you were a hunter yes?
he turns to valeska.
I assume you can fight? If not, you should return to the others.
whether she stays or gets off, he rides towards the bridges.
Shontar looks at Kain and then to Chao. Chao nods in agreement and then Shontar looks back at Kain. "we will help as much as we can."
He searches for a good vantage point from where he could snipe ta the orcs.
Faun, hearing his words, signals for Ornmeil'lon to follow Kain. Then she perches herself atop her companion, utters strange secret words, and stretches her arms out for a moment before tucking them beside herself. Feathers grow rapidly out from the side of her head, and her eyes become wide, raptor-like.
Casting Aspect of the Falcon
|Arden Kain Brandt|
it is possible, but if there is another band of similar size moving behind us, There will be little to do about it. I did not see signs of one, and for all out sakes, I hope there is not. As that would likely spell doom for most here. he keeps his eyes forward as he responds, and his face is set in a stern scowl.
As the townsfolk flee from the scene, taking their glare of their lanterns out of her face, Valeska is able to better distinguish the approaching raiders. Perhaps three dozen orcs are charging across the open farmland, organized into squads of six to eight warriors.
Faun, Knowledge (Geography): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22
Kain, Profession (Mercenary): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (17) + 3 = 20
Faun remembers that Ravengro Creek, which bisects the village, is a tributary of Lake Lias to the north. The two bridges inside the village represent two of the only nearby crossings, so it is highly unlikely that any of the raiders could have encircled the village.
This also prompts Kain to identify the north and south bridges as effective choke points to hold back these raiders.
Looks like 30-40 Orcs, in groups several groups, as many as 8 individuals working together...
Sasha, scout... A slender form akin to a black panther, that had been shadowing the riders, veers at a slight angle, with feline grace.
She shouts out towards Valeska and Kain, and anyone else within ear shot, "It's unlikely they'll flank us! Keep your focus on here on these ruffians!"
She draws out her longbow and nocks an arrow. With her falcon-focused eyesight, Faun searches to see any trees stand in the farm land, or if these bands of orcs will pass any trees near the bridges.
Perception: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (7) + 12 = 19
Aspect of the Falcon
+3 Perception (+12 total)
+1 to Ranged attacks
Crit range and multiplier is 19-20/x3
|Arden Kain Brandt|
Is anyone else near us, militia, others PCs?
A knight with a sense of humor... I cannot hold the bridge alone, but as a team, we might be able to.
Certainly, we can't be the only ones that understand the tactical import of the bridges.
She dismounts, drawing a starknife as she approaches the bridge and beyond it, the Orcan horde.
As townsfolk flee from the far side of the near bridge, they join the crowds of farmers, laborers, and tradesmen who also retreat from the site of the burning wicker prison and seek shelter away from the encroaching raiders. The sheriff rallies his four deputies, but they each have the look of farmhands who merely dabble at serving the law alongside their agrarian responsibilities.
"Gharen! Help me fetch and don my old armor!" Councilman Hearthmount calls to his friend, only for the younger man to hold him back from crossing the river.
"By the time you even pick up your old sword, you'd be overrun!" Gharen insists, pulling the older man back from the bridge.
Other locals seem intent to take up spears, pitchforks, heirloom blades, and other simple weapons to defend their village. Counting the sheriff and his deputies, you estimate that Ravengro can muster a militia of a dozen and a half in time to meet the rapidly approaching orcs.
"They are stupid if they think they can fight orcs. But I guess it's an honor thing to defend what's yours." Shontar says studdering, while out of breath and running for the bridge.
what kind of bridges are we talking about?
|Arden Kain Brandt|
Kain gives her a grim grin and a nod. you get used to dealing with things alone or undermanned in my work. as he turns back, he notices the militia gathering and frowns slightly.
I'm proud they are willing to fight, but I worry they may just be running to death... still.
Kain moves up closer to the two that seem to be the best leaders of the ragtag militia.
Sheriff! Can you have your men form up two back lines, one for each bridge. Make a firm line to Just keep the orcs from flooding out if any get past. If we lose the bridges I fear we will lose much more! I will.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
how wide are the bridges? 10-15ft?