GM Doug — The Mosquito Witch [Gameday VIII PFS2] (Inactive)

Game Master Doug Hahn

This is a PF2E game for Gameday VIII, running from September 9, 2019 to November 17, 2019.

Maps & Resources.


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Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Well met, Haru. We were sent to look into the insect problem. Would you happen to know who this calf belongs to? We rescued her from a few of the larger insects..."


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Hmmm… the calf? No, I'm sorry. I really haven't been in town long — just passing through, doing some scholarly work on local legends. I haven't talked to anyone missing a calf, but if I hear anything, I'll let them know.

Spoiler:

1d20 ⇒ 3
1d20 ⇒ 2
1d20 ⇒ 9
1d20 ⇒ 12
1d20 ⇒ 5

Seebonickk:
Haru has a much more personal investment in current events than she is admitting to.

She whistles at Peaches, whose prancing in circles around the calf. Peachy! Down!

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"Did you know anything else madame that you aren't telling us?"

I had a medical procedure Friday and had issues logging in over the weekend

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Local legends? If you have a minute, you may be able to help us. Supposedly a witch who lived in this area around 60 years ago is the source of the insect plague and general mess this place is in. Would you have more info on that? We should also warn you about the dangers of some of these insects, especially the larger ones.."


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Hope you're feeling well! Yeah, site was up and down for me, too.

Haru smiles. Everyone always knows more than they let on! It's nothing strange, is it? I'm sure there are things you aren't telling me, as well.

If you want to press her for info, you can make a Diplomacy check to Request More Information, or an intimate check to Coerce. Now that Seebonickk has put his suspicion into the open, anyone can attempt one of these checks.

Horizon Hunters

Male champion of Cayden Cailean | HP 17/17 | AC 18 (20 w/ shield raised)| Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7 | Perception +7 | Conditions:

"Hey, Haru! Nice to meet you and Peaches. Can I pet him?" Bramble smiles. "We're here to help with the bug problem, is all. Any information would be greatly helpful, really."

Diplomacy to Request: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 2 = 18


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

We crossposted, Zallarra! Here is Haru's response to your query.

Zallarra wrote:
Supposedly a witch who lived in this area around 60 years ago is the source of the insect plague and general mess this place is in. Would you have more info on that?

Yes, these mosquitoes are horrible! The only things I know about the witch are what I’ve heard from the townsfolk.

Mordha Lyons saw the witch when she was a teenager, so I tried talking to her first, but her caretaker slammed the door in my face, babbling nonsense. I suppose teens don't make for a good firsthand witness, anyhow. She shrugs.

Some villagers seem to think it’s a hag, others a demon, and others a ghost, and others a priest of Ghlaunder (although, you might not want to bring up THAT theory again, considering what they did to the last one…). Oh, and then there's something about rocks. I heard Tanner the tanner has a piece of one, but I don't see how a rock could be connected to all these bugs.

All kinds of contradictory theories. But the only thing I know for real is that I'm covered in bug bites! Peaches! Come here!


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

And here is the response to bramble's request for more info.

She looks at Bramble.

Well, you seem like nice folk. I’m looking for a friend of mine, and I don’t care to tell you her name, but she's a half-elf with black hair and gold armor. She sent me a letter a month ago, claiming that she intended to go to Shimmerford to investigate what was going on here. I intended to meet up with her here, but when I arrived, she wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Peaches is happy to get pets from Bramble, and runs around in circles, doing a happy dance. Cupcakes joins in, but her gamboling is quite wobbly.

Horizon Hunters

M Half-Orc Fighter 1: Spd:25, HP:20/20, AC:17, Fort:7, Ref:7, Will:2, Per:5 Darkvision, Stealth:5

When you say gold armor, you mean gold colored or actual gold? Cause gold is a softer metal than stainless steel.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Gold-plated.

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"Where do you think your friend is now?"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

She shrugs. If I knew, I'd be on my way there now! Come here, Peachy! She calls the dog to her side, moving to depart.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Well. It seems you've talked to a few people we haven't! Perhaps we should go see the Tanner as well, check out his rock. Well, here's where we've been and what we've learned.." Zallarra passes on info on all the locations and tidbits we've found so far.

"Wait? Gold armor? We were told about someone in gold armor heading a certain direction. Anyone remember which way that was?"

Zallarra will also happily pet and play with Peaches.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Thank you, Zallarra.

Peaches is happy to receive all the attention, even though Cupcakes tries to constantly butt in!

You all seem to have a way with animals. I wish you luck in your search.

Spoiler:

Gaz's Occultism: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
Zallarra's Occultism: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24

Zallarra, you recognize that Peaches is a Sapsali, a breed of dog from Hwanggot (a nation in eastern Tian Xia) that is rumored to be able to dispel evil spirits.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

As Haru turns to leave, she pauses for a moment. And a word of advice. Hide that witch doll if you go to Mordha Lyon's home. I hear she doesn't like how the town celebrates. She points to the witch doll that Smine gave you… which is now poking its needle-nosed face out of the top Max Titan's pack — almost as if it's eavesdropping!

Envoy's Alliance

M Gnome Sorcerer (Draconic) 1

Gaz frowns when Haru directs the party's attention to the witch doll. He eyes it with more than mere curiosity. "I do believe that doll is causing me to become..unnerved."

Vigilant Seal

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Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"I don't like the doll either!"

I just realized that there's 3 gnomes in the party!


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Let me know where you'd like to go next. Looks like there was a vote for Tanner the tanner?

Horizon Hunters

1 person marked this as a favorite.
M Half-Orc Fighter 1: Spd:25, HP:20/20, AC:17, Fort:7, Ref:7, Will:2, Per:5 Darkvision, Stealth:5

Max grabs the doll, holds it in his left hand out in front of him. If I need to hide it, I just stay out of sight or pull my arm inside my sleeve. Even if it is magical, it would have to disappear out of my grasp and that is something I'd love to see.
I vote for the tanner. Now if the doll leaves me I'll know I plan to keep it in my hand everyone I go.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

I believe the first order of business was to find an owner or at least part time caretaker for this calf. Heading to the tanner would be fine as well.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

You can ask around as you explore in regards to the calf, unless there was a specific spot you wanted to try and put her. Or, spend an hour gathering info (I'd make the check half the standard time since you;re already exploring town).

Spoiler:
7d20 ⇒ (11, 14, 13, 10, 15, 18, 10) = 91

Max Titan clutches the doll tightly as you move through the village.

The tannery is easy to find, with its painfully simple sign written in small, tidy letters:

sign wrote:
THE TANNER

Inside is a person in Taldan clothes. They have long, jet-black hair slicked back and tied in a knot at their back, pale skin that's unblemished from bug bites, and beautiful emerald-green eyes. They are wearing long sleeves despite the heat, and seem unaffected by the pungent stink of the tannery.

The pieces of leatherwork on display are of artisanal quality, featuring amazingly precise stitchwork and intricate geometric patterns that demonstrate mathematical rigor.

They greet you with a shallow but formal bow. Hello potential customers. I am Tanner. The Tanner. Welcome to my tannery. Please feel free to view the items that I have tanned, or tell me how a simple tanner such as myself may be of service to yourselves upon this day. Cupcakes sniffs a leather cloak, with some unease.

An aside for clarity: please note the gender pronoun "they" being used here — it is this NPC's preferred pronoun.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Do you have any questions for Tanner? It seemed like you had a couple leads here: 1) The rock that was mentioned by Haru and 2) a possible home for the calf.

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"Hi there tanner, we found a missing calf. Did you know anyone missing a calf?"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Tanner bends down and grasps Cupcake's collar, examining the name. What a fascinating creature. She is named after a flower. How odd.

They stand and look at the gnome. I do not have this information. Few villagers visit the tanner shop, so I am not an accurate source for this type of information. I have noticed, however, that 96.27% of the town's inhabitants have departed; statistically, your chances of success become much greater with each individual that you speak to — even if you do so randomly. If you do not wish to search randomly, however, I have observed that there is only one human family left in town. This calf might be an appropriate companion to the youngest one. They are referencing he Bell family

Was there anything else? I should get back to my work.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Actually, yes. We've heard that you may have found a very interesting rock, something that may be connected with the problems in the area. Could you tell us about that and perhaps show it to us?"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

The rock. Yes. I met a half-elf in gold armor who called herself “Hunter.” Hunter was angry at the town smith and attempting to identify a strange ore. I took several samples, and you may keep one. I could not identify it at a glance, but promised to examine it more closely at a later date. They walk over to a workbench, pull open a drawer, and hand Zallarra a tiny chunk of shiny, crystalline rock.

Spoiler:

Seebonickk's Nature: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 4 = 10
Gaz's Crafting: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21
Max's Crafting: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (8) + 4 = 12
Zallarra's Crafting: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (10) + 1 = 11

Gaz can see that this is magnetite, an iron ore that is heavily magnetic.

Where to next? To reacp quickly, Haru mentioned that she had problems getting to Mordha Lyons, Tanner gave you a lead on placing the calf, as well as a lead on this "Huner" being angry at Luca Braybon the smithy. You saw bloodseekers flying to the northeast, and heard the man in white went to the East.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Thank you, Tanner. We appreciate your assistance."

As the group walks out of the building "Well, I say we run by the Bell family, see if we can get this calf to safety.."

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"What kind of rock is that?"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

You move on to the Bell family's place. Seebonickk, Gaz can inform you that the rock is magnetite, an iron ore that is heavily magnetic. When I don't put a piece of info in a spoiler, we can assume the character told everyone what they know.

You move on to the Bell family. Mrs Bell, a weary-looking middle-aged woman, opens the door. A breeze blows in and causes an empty glass to fall off a shelf, shattering on the floor. Her daughter skips out of the other room to see what happened and trips on a shoelace before catching herself on her hands. Mr. Bell comes out and stubs his toe on a table and hops on one foot before knocking into his daughter and falling with a crash.

Mrs. Bell hardly glances at the chaos behind her… it seems as if she's all too used to this kind of bad luck. But then, her grey eyes lock onto the doll that Max is holding! She frowns and points accusingly at it: Put that thing away, quick! The witch can see through the eyes! It's watching us!

She slams the door in your face. Something else crashes inside the house.

From the other side, you hear her muffled words: I won't talk to you until you put that doll away.

Horizon Hunters

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M Half-Orc Fighter 1: Spd:25, HP:20/20, AC:17, Fort:7, Ref:7, Will:2, Per:5 Darkvision, Stealth:5

Max pulls his arm inside his sleeve still holding the doll. His arm is inside his shirt and he will use his other arm to hold his the collar of his shirt out and look inside his shirt the entire time, so his head is constantly looking down inside his shirt and armor. That way the doll can't disappear teleport and put similar soft object into my hand by magic while I'm not watching it. He returns. It is inside my shirt and armor to block vision and hearing and Max is looking down. His hand is covering the head to cover the eyes and ears to make sure it can't see or hear anything even though it shouldn't be able to do that through my armor anyway. It is put away put away out of sight. The thing likes to play tricks even teleport away, so I had to make sure it never left my sight.

Really trying to cover every basis here to outsmart the magical doll and any magical trick it could pull.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Hello? We actually found this calf out near a farm and were wondering if it belonged to you or your family. The poor thing was attacked by huge insects and needs some TLC.."

Diplomacy, if needed: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

You hear her horrified whisper on the other side of the door. It teleports!? You should THROW IT AWAY, young man!!

Knowing the doll is being protected for the moment, she cracks open the door and peers down at you. Below her face appears the husband's, and at the bottom emerges the daughter's face. All three stare at Cupcakes.

The daughter reaches her hand through to try and per the calf, just as the mother accidentally leans in close and shuts the door on her arm. OWWWW! — she pulls her limb back inside.

Mrs. Bell looks down at her daughter. Sorry, dear! She peers at the calf. What a lucky little thing that you found that calf, just as it were being attacked! What a lucky little calf, indeed! We don't own no calf ourselves, but, well, I suspect she was left behind. What luck, to be saved in the nick of time!

She whispers: And, why, we could use some luck ourselves. This whole family seems cursed with accidents and clumsiness — day in and day out. Uncanny, it is.

Louder: Why, we'll take her off your hands if you like, and promise to take good care of her, as if she were one of our own. And if her owners come back, might be we can have a reward for her return. From what you could see inside the house, the family is rather destitute and could use a reward, if someone were to someday offer one for the calf.

Will you let us keep her safe? What's her name?

Envoy's Alliance

M Gnome Sorcerer (Draconic) 1

Gaz seems a bit unsure of the zealous attempt to keep the calf. He looks at the poor creature curiously, as if thinking.

"Well, um...I don't think we have a name for little one. I am not sure."

Gaz seems unsure of whether or not to allow the calf to remain, he looks to Zallara for guidance.

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"If you can take care of her you're welcome to keep the calf!"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Mrs. Bell smiles. We can, and we'll call her Lucky. She opens the door wider and lets the calf inside, who immediately starts gamboling around. The little animal smashes into a table full of glassware; glasses rattle around but don't fall over. The daughter runs over to the calf and stumbles on her shoelaces but doesn't trip. The husband goes to sit in his old chair and it creaks ominously under his weight, but doesn't break.

The mother beams. See? Lucky. We'll keep her inside, where it's safe, 'till the bugs're gone. Now, make sure to get rid of that doll! You may be cursed next!

Where to next? Haru mentioned that she had problems getting to Mordha Lyons, a primary witness. Tanner mentioned that this "Hutner" was angry at Luca Braybon, the smithy. There are other locations in town. Finally, you saw bloodseekers flying to the northeast, and heard the man in white went to the East.

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Lucky indeed! Thank you for caring for her."

As the group leaves the home...
"Well, where to now? We still have quite a few leads. Stay in town, see if we can talk to the supposed witness?"


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Spoiler:
Bramble's Survival: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8
Gaz's Survival: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (4) + 0 = 4
Max's Survival: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
Seebonickk's Survival: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
Zallarra's Survival: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (15) + 0 = 15 woof, those are some bad rolls.

Zallarra recognizes that once leave town, you can't be sure just how long you will be gone for: the swamps you'll be exploring are difficult to navigate and treacherous, so even going a short distance might take a long time. You probably do not need to talk to everyone in town, but it might be a good idea to gather all the leads you want before choosing a direction and entering the swamp.

Horizon Hunters

M Half-Orc Fighter 1: Spd:25, HP:20/20, AC:17, Fort:7, Ref:7, Will:2, Per:5 Darkvision, Stealth:5

Max once he leaves the house holds the doll out again. He will hide it again the same way when we approach another house.

Envoy's Alliance

M Gnome Sorcerer (Draconic) 1

Gaz nods to Zallara. "Yes, I would like to hear what this witness, well, witnessed. Let's find out."


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

You make your way to the Lyons estate, and knock on its old wooden doors. A long moment passes before they are opened by a young Tian man with dyed white hair. He wears flowing green robes and a crescent moon pendant around his neck.

Spoiler:
Bramble's Religion: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17
Zallarra's Religion: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (4) + 0 = 4

Bramble:
You recognize the jade moon as the symbol of Tsukiyo. Tsukiyo is the Tian god of jade, the moon, and spirits — as well as a protector of the psychologically distressed and misunderstood.

He frowns. This is the third day in a row you have come to bother my ward. Please, leave her alone. Mordha needs her rest. He begins to close the door.

Horizon Hunters

Male champion of Cayden Cailean | HP 17/17 | AC 18 (20 w/ shield raised)| Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +7 | Perception +7 | Conditions:

"Wait, please!" Bramble reaches after the man, then stops. "We just arrived to town, and we're just trying to help."

"I'm sorry that others have been bothering Mordha. We will respect her privacy and her need for a bit of solitude and respite in these trying times. Could you maybe help us? We just want to know what's going on Any information would help us get to the bottom of this."

Diplomacy, if needed:
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 2 = 14

Envoy's Alliance

M Gnome Sorcerer (Draconic) 1

Gaz stands next to Bramble and listens to his plea to master Lyons. He does his best to appear as non threatening as possible, a feat that seems more difficult than it should be for what appears to be a non threatening gnome.

Aid Diplomacy:

Diplomacy Aid to Bramble: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (9) + 7 = 16


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

You did not just arrive. You have been here three days in a row, bothering my ward.

Nevertheless, perhaps the third time is the charm. You may speak with Ms. Lyons if you make me a promise — though she has little else new to tell you. Do you promise to leave us alone, if you see her this one last time?

He looks at Max. And that doll is not coming inside. The dolls upset her, and I don’t want her suffering more.

Horizon Hunters

M Half-Orc Fighter 1: Spd:25, HP:20/20, AC:17, Fort:7, Ref:7, Will:2, Per:5 Darkvision, Stealth:5

I probably wasn't really clear with my last post. Max reput the doll back in his shirt as he approached the house like he said he would do. Before we even knocked on the door and the second we even saw the house. When out in the open he holds the doll out. If we see a house even say 200 feet away, he will put it away and walk with his head inside his shirt always watching the doll to make sure it don't teleport away. They probably just think I'm being weird unless they somehow know the doll is in my shirt or saw me from a distance put it away.


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

OK! That sounds good. Max won’t be called out about the doll. Thanks for clarifying.

Vigilant Seal

Male Male Gnome Rogue 1 | hp 16 | AC 17 | Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +6 | Perception +6 Rogue 1

"OK we won't bring the doll inside"

Envoy's Alliance

F Gnome Sorcerer 2 |NG | AC 16 | HP 22 | Fort +5 Reflex +6 Will +7 | Perception +4 Sorcerer 2 (Hag sorcerer)

"Thank you. We will be gentle with her."


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

He steps aside and lets you in, leading you to the sitting room. It's dark in here; the old wooden floorboards creak and the furniture is dusty. Mordha sits in a rocking chair, staring into the shadows. A single beam of sunlight knifes in from behind the curtained window and falls across Mordha's blanket-covered lap.

She clutches her shawl and stares at you. Art on slide 1.

The Tian man (whose name you don't know), says Be quick.

Envoy's Alliance

M Gnome Sorcerer (Draconic) 1

Gaz cannot help but feel great sorrow for Mhorda when he sees her condition. Something stirs within him, awakening an old memory.

"Hello dear. Sorry to disturb you..er..." Gaz struggles with what to say, finally deciding on being direct. "We are here to help. We need to know what you saw. Sorry to ask but we would nto if not so important."


Fall of the Plaguestone & Casefiles of Smokeworker G'nak | Siege of Gallowspire | Lions of Katapesh | Flooded King's Court

Mordha slowly turns and looks into Gaz's eyes. She knows he's asking about the witch.

It was all just a joke to them, the old woman says, her voice pinched thin with bitterness. They pretended to care, a little, when they were all scared that they would be next. Not much, even then.

Her voice rises. It was up on Witchtop Hill. Up to the north, a little left of the three boulders and past the bend in the stream. We thought it was a dead animal at first, lying on the ground. It was when we got close that it sprung up, tall as a full-grown man. Came after us on its thin little legs. Didn’t matter how fast we ran, it was right behind us. I thought my heart would burst with the running. It was only when we got to town that we dared to look back. But we didn’t find it. Just sharp footprints in the mud, and smears of sickly-sweet blood.

Mordha rocks faster in her old chair. Her eyes bulge as she begins shouting. And them, with their masks and their dolls and their festivals. They didn’t know what it was like. To have it in their dreams at night, to wake up with its little paper dolls by the bed. If they’d seen it, they’d never have dared. They don’t know what it’s like to see its eyes in every filthy little bug! The whining of those insects, screaming in my ears…

Mordha clams her mouth shut. It's dead silent for a few heartbeats. She leans in close and whispers: It took something from me. And I don’t remember it. I don’t remember it. No one will ever remember it.

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