"Are... are you guys OK? Did anyone get hurt?"
Ruka shakes her head. "Just you. I'm the one that's sorry. I should have been paying better attention." And have trained how to hit enemies grappling allies...and have brought more healing potions...
Sam is not the only one who's not a happy camper.
"Asuka killed it." Ruka will give credit where credit is due, even as she's reminded of her own incompetence. "We'll just have to be more careful."
Ruka barely lifts her gaze from the ground as they continue, peering behind every bush for more snakes. Her hands reach for Murasamemaru's hilt at every strange noise. Which in the middle of a swamp, is a lot of reaching. It's one of those strange noises that makes her look up and see the ramshackle house in the distance.
"Anyone know who that house belongs to? Maybe they'll know where the goblins are."
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"Asuka killed it."
"She did?" The wizard was not able to hide the surprise in his voice. "I mean... right. Of course. Well done, Ms Narukami."
So the tengu wasn't all fluttering flamboyance and bellowing bombast. Who would have thought? Sam was glad to know that his favorite author apparently wasn't just too big for her britches - although it had to be said that with the way she could talk, said britches could fit an elephant. Maybe two.
"Anyone know who that house belongs to? Maybe they'll know where the goblins are."
Looking over the ramshackle hut, Samton remembered yesterday's discussion at the inn. Eager to make himself useful, even if only to share what he knew, he spoke up:
"Supposedly there's a halfling who lives in the marsh. This is probably his house. You're right; we should check in. If anyone knows what's what in the swamp, it'd be him."
Perhaps this halfling could help him fill in a few details on his map.
The danger of death passed, Asuka preens proudly once more, her talons on her sides in a typical hero pose. "It is the least that I could do, young Sam! A True Hero requires no thanks, but they are appreciate nonetheless."
Asuka pauses and writes "Snake-Splitting Slash" in her notebook, underlining it three times. When she looks up from her writing and notices the house, she initially begins imagining some kind of outrageous ogre or swamp hag inhabiting it before Sam mentions the halfling.
"Aha! If this is the halfling's house, I see no problem with simply going right on up."
Asuka strides right on up and knocks on the door. "Greetings! We are traveling through the woods and thought we should check in on you. There are goblins afoot! Or perhaps with how many of them there are, I should say 'afeet.'" She laughs to herself and notes down that joke before returning her notebook to her belt.
She has her journal on a tether attached to her belt for easy access
Asuka furrows her brow in confusion. She most certainly did not say anything about selling. Whoever is inside must be hard of hearing? She couldn't think of how they could be so mistaken otherwise. She attempts to compensate by speaking louder and slower. "We are not selling anything! We just wanted to make sure you are doing alright."
She'll take 10 on diplomacy for 16 if that's what you are looking for, GM
Kaji speaks out, ”Your pardon for disturbing your solitude. We are from Sandpoint. Sheriff Hemlock informed us the Licktoad goblins have acquired fireworks, and are apparently attacking caravans. We have come to try and stop them, and we wished to ensure you were safe, as well as see if you could direct us to their lair.”
Diplomacy: 1d20 ⇒ 9
Kaji spoke calmly and clearly, telling the halfling exactly what they were about. After all, no reason to lie.
Only once Sam was up on his feet, did she shake the tension from her shoulders. She accepts his gratitude warmly, pleased that so many had come forward to aid their comrade. Poppy breaks into a wide grin and lets out a hearty "Ha! I'm sure it won't be the last time.", slapping him perhaps a little too roughly on the arm.
This spoke well of their teamwork for the future.
Bending down by the giant snake, she begins to clean it with a set of thin knives, to obtain a smattering of future components for meals and potions. Will you be soup or kebab? Better put it to a vote. She works quickly so as to not keep the group waiting for too long.
Craft Alchemy: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (6) + 11 = 17
Making their way towards the shack, Poppy inspects a jar of snake bits which included fangs, meat, scale swatches and a couple other pieces, tapping it in thought. She'd done well but knew she coud've saved more if not for their current environment. She quickly puts it away in a nearby saddlebag with the others, as soon as Asuka begins knocking on the shacks door. Perhaps the halfling knows some tips to fielddressing in a marsh. I'll have to ask.
"Maybe they hate visitors on principal? Vho can blame them when some armed group shows up unannounced.", she offers to the group quietly.
As Poppy harvests the snake, Lor-Sinn watches curiously. "So...it *is* edible? I was wondering earlier. What does it taste like? Is it like fish? Or more like an eel?" Once they start going, she is again on high alert, pointing her arrow tip at every branch and log, just in case they're actually disguised snakes.
Upon reaching the dilapidated beach house, she remains at the back of the group, trying to lurk out of sight. People were rarely happy to see her on their doorstep, and she doesn't want to antagonize this mysterious halfling any further. She pokes halfheartedly at some bushes lining the path, just in case there are snakes hiding there.
Perception: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (10) - 2 = 8
The front door to the building opens about two inches, a short male creature looking out from a darkened interior. He looks around at the strange party at his doorstep and asks "I'm safe, everything is fine. The goblins are somewhere to the south. My house is too messy to entertain right now."
His tinny voice is curt, not allowing much in the way of negotiation. "Is that all?"
7d20 ⇒ (12, 16, 7, 3, 6, 20, 7) = 71
"Where precisely to the south? Do you have a map of the area?" Ruka's not the most diplomatic of people at the best of times, and now she's getting very frustrated with the halfling's lack of useful information. I can understand not wanting to be bothered, but one would think he'd be more concerned about the goblins on his doorstep!
Asuka gives a concerned glance to her comrades, unsure if it was just her that is noticing something off. She is usually the last to notice something off, so she is more than a bit surprised when nobody else seems to show her same level of concern.
Asuka looks to Ruka, even as she speaks towards the person in the door. "I see. There's no reason for us to go in, I suppose. Since you don't think that something's wrong."
Bluff (pass secret message): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16
"Go in, I suppose. Something's wrong."
Asuka made the DC 15 check, so Ruka automatically gets the message. Anyone else (including tin man) can figure out the message with a DC 16 sense motive
Asuka then leans in towards the door and whispers to the voice inside.
"Blink twice slowly if there is something wrong and you can't say what it is."
Sense Motive: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (5) - 2 = 3
"Well, there's no snakes here that I can find, at least!" Lor-Sinn announces to the rest of the group cheerfully. "So, to the south?"
The halfling obviously didn't want to be disturbed, so she doesn't understand why Asuka lingers on his doorstep.
The halfling takes note of Asuka's whisper and pauses, thinking for a moment. After five seconds of silence he says "What? No. Nonono. I think you're misinterpreting my intentions. My home is a mess and I'm not fit for company. That is all, really." he says nodding. "How about you come back in, oh, say two hours? I'll cook you a nice meal and we can sit down and I'll draw you a map to the goblins and we can talk."
The halfling smiles up at Asoka, nodding.
1d20 ⇒ 16
Ruka glances sideways at Asuka. She hadn't noticed anything wrong. Of course the halfling hermit wouldn't want a bunch of strangers in his house. It was frustrating, but not odd. However it seemed Asuka had, and strange though it might seem Asuka was probably more familiar with normal behavior than she was.
Besides...inviting them back for a meal? That wasn't the behavior of a grumpy hermit. That was the behavior of someone desperately trying to get them to leave right now. Since he hadn't followed Asuka's whispered instructions, it didn't seem like he was being coerced. Which meant he must be hiding something.
By nature Ruka is a shy, quiet girl, constantly terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. But one can't have grown up with Lonjiku Kaijitsu as a father and not learned a few tricks.
Ruka draws herself up to her full height, straightening her shoulders and fixing her posture. She takes a single step forward, standing uncomfortably close to the door and practically looming over the halfling just inside. Her face is a mask of icy disdain.
"No. No we most certainly will not come back in two hours. We are here on a mission from Sheriff Hemlock to eliminate the goblin threat. We are not here to be entertained. We don't care about meals, or about how messy your house is." Her eyes narrow. "You are going to let us in your house, now, and we will discuss this further inside. Understand?" She places her foot in the doorway so he can't slam the door in her face. She doesn't actually make any threats. She doesn't need to.
("Never threaten, girl. Don't tell an employee you'll fire them if they don't shape up. Tell them what you expect from them, and let them fill in the gaps themselves. Maybe they're afraid of being fired. Maybe they're afraid of having their pay docked. Maybe they're afraid of being run out of town because they pissed off the Kaijitsus. Let them decide what you'll do to them, and it will be more effective than any explicit threat you could have made.")
Intimidate, Size Bonus: 1d20 + 8 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 8 + 4 = 26
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
Sam was thoroughly confused. By everything, really. And given that the studious young man wasn't used to being confused, said bewilderment also made him anxious. The halfling turning them away was... odd, though perfectly understandable. Hermits weren't known for their hospitality. His reasoning, however, was bizarre, as was his refusal to answer simple queries. A messy home? This was a swamp. The young man failed to see how anything could be kept neat here.
But Asuka's and Ruka's determination to enter the rickety hut was equally weird. The younger Kaijitsu in particular surprised him with her rather aggressive demand. Sam had to suppress the urge to step back as she spoke up. For being such a short little thing, the woman could have some serious presence. Regardless, he could only assume that they had noticed something he hadn't.
What is it I've missed...? Samton wondered, trying to look over the house and through the doorway.
Perception: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 1 = 19
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (13) + 3 = 16
Kaji picked up on Asuka’s message, and looked at the little Tengu. She is more capable than I thought.
Kaji looked at the halfling with a stony look on his face.
Intimidate, Aid Ruka: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (12) + 0 = 12
The halfing in the door seems taken aback by Ruka's assertive behavior. He stares up at her, his eyes twinkling mysteriously at her as he tries to decide how to handle this. In the end, her tone and harsh words have their desired affect and the door slowly opens. He sweeps his hand inside and insists "Please, come in. I'll make some tea."
Walking inside you can see the halfling was not lying to you. Potted plants around the room are broken and turned or their sides, dirt spilled here and there. Furniture is upturned and it looks very disheveled in the living room.
Moving through the kitchen he points to a small table with a single chair. He offers "Please sit. I only have one chair as I do not entertain guests often."
He moves off to the stove and starts a kettle of water boiling for tea.
"Thank you! We appreciate it. And I don't worry about messes. Mother always said I was too messy, but sometimes you are just too busy thinking about important things to worry so much about where you put your keys or whether your furniture is upright. That's just basic rules of living." Even though she knows more is going on, Asuka is completely earnest in her attempt to assuage the halfling's worries about the messy house, completely oblivious to how upturned furniture is typically a very concerning development.
Asuka motions for one of the others to take the seat. She begins attempting to triage the poor potted plants.
"Don't worry! I'm a professional gardener. I know what I'm doing."
Profession (gardener): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
Almost as soon as she begins, she starts thinking What if he thinks I'm just using being helpful as a cover to take a closer look at his place? Wait, that's a good idea! I should do that. Except then I can't focus on fixing the plants. But I'm already thinking about using it as a cover, so maybe I should just do that anyways? Though that's not very nice of me, especially to the poor plants. It would be cool though! Sneaky is the same thing as cool, and--aww hells, I shouldn't have trimmed that....
"Thank you." Ruka is cold but polite as she follows the halfling into the house. She starts to take off her shoes at the door, then freezes as she sees the mess. Um. Maybe the shoes can stay on.
Although...this doesn't look like the kind of mess that would be caused by a lack of housekeeping. This looks like a fight broke out. A vicious one. She looks around to see if there are any signs of blood or a trail that might indicate where the other party went.
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (1) + 5 = 6
Unfortunately she can't focus with Asuka prattling loudly about messes and plants and...wait. If Ruka is this distracted, surely the halfling is as well?
She wanders over to Sam. He'd known whose house this was; maybe he'd met this guy before. Trying to act casual, she leans against the wall next to him. Voice as low as she can get it while still being audible, she murmurs, "What do you know about this man? It looks like there was a fight here, and he didn't want us to know about it. Something's wrong."
While Asuka and Ruka may suspect there is ill doing around, neither are able to pick up as to what exactly went down here and why the halfling is acting so funny.
Walthus doesn't appear overly troubled by Asuka's failure at fixing the destroyed plants. He grabs some tea out of a canister and continues get items out for tea. He asks "So. Looking for the goblins? I can show you where they are in the southeast, no problem. I show you and then you go, okay? Deal? I'm not feeling well and need to get to bed."
"Well, uh, let's see," Samton whispered back to Ruka's murmur. He busied himself fixing a broken shelf next to the younger Kaijitsu, turning his back to the halfling.
"I think the man's name is Walthus Proudstump. He comes into town every now and then, though I couldn't tell you for what. Guess that makes him a quasi-hermit at best. He's supposed to know the marsh really well; Mr Parooh has nagged him on occasion for details on a map. Allegedly, he considers himself a sort of warden to the swamp."
The shelf fell down from the wall again with a clatter as soon as Sam let go of it. He found himself wishing he had prepared his mending cantrip this morning. Truth be told, however, although he was the helpful sort, the young man had been more occupied surveying the interior of the hut. Because Ruka was right: something was wrong here.
Perception: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3
Unfortunately, he saw no more clues as to what, who & why than her. Then again, he supposed this wasn't any of theirs business - if this strange halfling was alright and just wanted to be left alone, then what right did they have to deny him?
"Yes sir, the goblins," Sam answered him, a little haltingly. "I actually have this, uh, preliminary sketch of the marsh. If you could show us where the goblins' hideout is on it, we'd be very grateful. We'll be off and let you sleep then. Anything else you could tell us about the goblins would of course be appreciated."
The halfling stops making the tea when Samton offers to leave after help with the map "Oh would you look at that? I'm all out of tea. Let's do that map thing now then so you can be on your way."
He calls Samton over before he breaks any more furniture, putting the map down on the table. He takes Samton's drawing instrument and places an X in one location and says "We are here." and then moves halfway across the map in a different direction and places another one "... and they are here."
Nodding in satisfaction that he has fulfilled his end of the bargain, he rolls up the map and hands it back to Samton. "Here you go now." he says as he marches to the front door and opens it up, sweeping his empty hand out the door. "Best of luck now."
Knowledge Geography: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (19) + 8 = 27
Something is very wrong. Not only did he place the X for where you are in completely the wrong location, but he placed the X for the goblin camp in a direction other than south (which he said earlier).
Kaji enters the house and looks around. There was clearly a fight here.
”Yes, we are looking for the goblins. Are you sure they haven’t troubled you?”
He looks pointedly at the chaos.
Perception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25
Poppy had decided to stay outside near the door to watch after Art. The snake had spooked him terribly so he was still a bit antsy, shuffling his feet about. She offered him a small amount of grass hay while stroking his mane. The Halfling had seemed far too anxious to be open to discussing cleaning procedures of the swamp fauna, so outside she would stay. Though I could do with fewer mosquites... ,she thought, as sh hid more of herself in her hair than usual to guard from the insects' onslaught.
Poppy waved at the group awkwardly as the door opened again with the halfling gesturing . They just went inside and they were done already? Kaji entered, leaving Poppy outside to watch how the grouping was fairing in the crowded space.
"Are ve staying for dinner?", she asked half jokingly.
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X marks the spot. Back home in Sandpoint, X signified buried treasure on all of Parooh the cartographer's homemade treasure maps. But here in Brinestump Marsh his apprentice could only reach a different conclusion. Sam looked at the crosses dotted onto his sketches by the halfling. No, the only thing X signified here was lunacy. Proudstump's directions were, to his eye, blatantly and obviously wrong. Never mind the final destination, their starting point didn't even make any sense. They were useless. So evident was this, that a rather unbidden thought entered the young man's mind.
Is he deliberately misleading us?
Asuka and Ruka had been right. Something was terribly wrong here. A recent struggle within the hut. A warden professing no interest in protecting his swamp from a goblin menace. A native of the marsh with no idea of how to navigate it. With his young age, unassuming appearance and deferential demeanor, it was easy to forget that Samton Verro was really terribly clever. And that great intelligence was telling him that these facts did not correspond to Walthus Proudstump the swamp warden he'd heard about. Logical reasoning dictated that some base assumption of his about the halfling was wrong.
But what if that wasn't the case? An unpleasant idea came to him. Had anyone spoken the man's name yet? No, Sam didn't think so. Ruka had felt it necessary to ask him about the halfling, and at no point had Proudstump introduced himself. Right. This should work then. Samton decided to go for it.
"Alright then, um, Mr Proudfoot, if you're sure everything's okay, we'll be on our way. Thank you very much for your help, Mr Proudfoot. We appreciate it... Mr Proudfoot."
He made sure to repeat the erroneous name twice, partly so that the others would catch on. Proponent of rationalism though he was, the young man had to admit that logical reasoning led you to funny ideas every now and then. Such as here, where A did not correspond to description given by B, leading one to conclude that either B was plain wrong or... A was actually C. What if this wasn't Walthus Proudstump? What if this was some other halfling, or an impostor, or the poor man had had his mind altered somehow? The wizard knew that such magic existed. Regardless, getting his name wrong acted as a simple test. It didn't even carry any risks. If the halfling corrected him, then Samton could simply apologize; an honest mistake. If he didn't... well, then something was well and truly wrong here.
So they were going in after all? Alright, then. Following the others, Lor-Sinn edges cautiously into the house, half-expecting the halfling to yell at her. Seeing Asuka and Sam starting to fix up the mess inside, she joins in, perhaps as an attempt to justify her presence there. Keeping out of the way as much as possible, she is soon engrossed in the task of righting furniture and realigning picture frames.
Perception: 1d20 - 2 ⇒ (10) - 2 = 8
Kaji looked up the stairs, then back to the halfling. ”It is obvious that something happened here. There is blood leading upstairs, and clear signs of a fight. You will answer our questions, now!”
Intimidate: 1d20 ⇒ 3
'Proudfoot'? Didn't he say Proudstump earlier?
Ruka may not have been particularly smart, but she was good with names. Lonjiku had ensured that much. Messing up someone's name when you were trying to do business with them...it made the company look bad. So she was certain, absolutely certain, that Sam had called the halfling 'Walthus Proudstump.'
He's purposefully getting the name wrong. He must think this isn't really the warden.
They'd been assuming this was the warden because, well, who else could it be? But if this was an intruder, who'd broken into the house and injured or killed the real Walthus Proudstump...
It would explain a lot.
The signs of a fight. How jumpy he's been. Why he was so reluctant to let us into the house, and so eager to get us out as soon as possible. The blood Kajiwara apparently saw on the stairs.
Of course, all that could be explained just as well from the opposite direction, and Ruka personally thought that might be more likely. If Walthus had killed an intruder and was worried about being accused of murder, it would also fit the facts.
It doesn't matter. Either way this is something we should bring to the sheriff.
Ruka draws her nodachi. While she doesn't want to have to use it, the reminder that they're all armed might keep Walthus from doing anything stupid. "You need to tell us what happened here. Who were you fighting? Did you kill them?"
Intimidate, Size Bonus: 1d20 + 8 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 8 + 4 = 18
Poppy froze midway through the door at the distinctive sound of Rukas' lengthy blade being drawn. She hadn't observed it clearly in the Rusty dragon and takes a moment to marvel at it's craftmanship, but her fascination was shortlived, quickly undercut by Kaji and Ruka's severe tone. Poppy clearly had missed something in the minute she was outside, but it was not hard to catch up and understand that this halfling was probably not any kind of an ally. Though she still had reservations about drawing her own weapon first in someone else's home, as Poppy was generally a big adherent to guestrights. "Respect the host when you share their hearth.", her adoptive father had often told her. She did her best to heed these words as they'd served her well in the past.
Taking a hop step back so she was outside the home, but still blocked the egress, she unlatched the light crossbow from her side, and loaded it quietly. Bolt tip pointed earthward, she called out to the so called Warden, " Şase against unu iz bad odds, maybe answering questions is best bet?"
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Asuka was barely paying attention to the halfling's name the first time she heard it, and she knows he has a tendency to mishear things, so she just assumes that Proudfoot was the guy's name and she remembered wrong. What does finally get Asuka's attention is Ruka's (quite intimidating) turn. She then remembered this one performance she saw back in Kwanlai in which there was this villainous creature--perhaps a homunculus?--that could transform into different people and used those disguises to attempt to murder people! Maybe this was a situation like that?
Asuka stands up dramatically, then walks over to Ruka.
"Or maybe he IS them!"
Intimidate Aid (larger): 1d20 + 2 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 2 + 4 = 9
As the tide turns and everyone begins to crowd the poor halfling with questions, he cowers and crouches down and begins crying, tears bursting from his eyes. He keeps this charade up for a minute or so until he can feel some of the pressure relieving and causing the group to question their motives of whether they should be so hostile and direct with Proudfoot. Or Proudstump. Or whatever his name is.
Then he changes from a he to an it.
One moment he is a cowering halfling, the next something unnatural happens. His arms dislocate, popping backwards at an angle that should not be possible. His head turns 90 degrees to his shoulder and his legs explode outward in size. Different bones and muscles expand and contract, contorting his body in the span of a second. When it's done changing, it is a hairless, leathery biped that has a face dominated by grotesque and unsettling whorls and slits instead of actual features.
It growls at Ruka as it rises up, clearly very angry with her. "YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LEFT!" it screams as it lashes out with its fist, slamming into her chest and nearly knocking her off her feet. (7 damage).
R1: Monster, Lor-Sinn, Ruka, Asuka, Kajiwari, Samton, Poppy
Init: Monster: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (11) + 9 = 20
Init: Ruka: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11
Init: Kajiwari: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 2 = 9
Init: Poppy: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (1) + 3 = 4
Init: Asuka: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10
Init: Lor-Sinn: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (16) + 3 = 19
Init: Samton: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8
Attack Ruka: 1d20 + 7 + 2 ⇒ (7) + 7 + 2 = 16
Damage: 1d4 + 3 ⇒ (4) + 3 = 7
Asuka steps to the side, moving into a flank with the injured Ruka. Five foot step
"Prepare yourself, Craven, to face the Unstoppable Martial Techniques of Thunder-God Asuka!"
She then unleashes a torrent of blows, biting and then taking two slashes with her claws.
Bite (flank): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (12) + 4 + 2 = 18
Bite Damage: 1d3 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
Claw 1 (flank): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (20) + 4 + 2 = 26
Claw 1 Damage: 1d3 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 2 = 5
Crit Confirm: 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 4 + 2 = 20
Crit Damage: 1d3 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
Claw 2 (flank): 1d20 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 4 + 2 = 17
Claw 2 Damage: 1d3 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 2 = 5
If it matters at all for DR, Bite natural attacks are considered Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing and Claw natural attacks are Bludgeoning and Slashing
In a flash of furry feathers, Asuka's claws rip shreds of flesh from the beast and splash a black blood across the room. When her face lunges forward and rips another gouge out of its body, the former halfling and shapeshifter collapses to the ground in a pool of spreading black ichor.
Out of combat. Nice work Asuka! Give Ruka some lessons on combat?
|Kajiwara Shogahiro|Kaji takes a step beck to get a better view, then looses two arrows at the monster.
5-foot step, a Flurry of Blows.
Flurry, PBS: 1d20 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (4) + 1 + 1 = 6
Flurry, PBS: 1d20 + 1 + 1 ⇒ (19) + 1 + 1 = 21
Damage, PBS: 1d6 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
Edit: Ninja’d by the GM...
Asuka finished the creature before Kaji could even react. He had clearly underestimated the little tengu. Beneath her bubbly exterior was a a fearsome, highly trained warrior.
The creature dead, Kaji said, ”Let’s find the real Walthus. Hopefully he’s alive. We’ll start upstairs.”
He then turns to ascend the stairs.
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Ruka doubles over as the...monster? slams into her chest. She clearly feels her ribs cracking from the strain. How did it move so fast I was watching it what just happened?
She starts to retaliate, then has to check her blow as the monster dissolves. Looking up she sees Asuka, ichor all over her feathers. Oh.
"Thanks Asuka," she manages through gritted teeth. She is grateful. She is. She's not at all worried that Ameiko was right, she clearly wasn't experienced enough, not if she can get caught off guard like this even when she was expecting a fight...
Stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself!
It's the ribs. That's all.
She forces herself to stand up straight, wiping any trace of her emotions, (or the pain she's in), from her face. "Yes. Let's look for Walthus."
Following the blood trail, the group ascends up the steps to the second story. They take their time moving together, slowly , wary for additional dangers that may lay ahead.
At the top of th stairs the hallway turns right and extends for 20'. There are three doors ahead of you, one straight ahead, one to the far left and one to the immediate left.
Opening them one at a time you find a supply room, a guest room and the blood trail leads into a master bedroom. All three rooms are empty however, no signs of a halfling, either dead or alive.
Asuka is as surprised as anyone when the creature falls over, defeated. She was not expecting that to all work as well as it did.
”Shapeshifter who looks kinda like that homunculus I saw back in Kwanlai, your death will be remembered.” She can easily draw out a fight like this for a chapter or two, play up the drama, have the shapeshifter give a sympathetic backstory about how they always just did what other people wanted, shifting to suit them, and culminate with a tearful death that muses on the tragedy of being born different.
She then stands tall in her hero pose as Ruka thanks her. ”Any time, dear friend. Any time. I could not have done nearly as well without you providing a distraction! He clearly saw you as the greatest threat.”
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"There!" Lor-Sinn steps back, hands on hips, as she admires her handiwork. While it probably won't win any interior decoration awards, she has straightened all the furniture that was still intact enough to be straightened, put away all the scattered smaller objects on some sort of surface (she hopes they are more or less where they belong), swept the floor of shards, dirt and debris, and has even dusted the rug.
"It looks better, don't you think, Mr. Stumpfoot?" She turns around to get the halfling's opinion on her housework achievements, and freezes. What had happened? Why did her companions have their weapons out? What was that mess on the floor? "Where is Mr. Footstump...?"
Glancing around the empty rooms, Ruka considers. If he's here, he's hiding somewhere. She heads into the master bedroom, concluding that if that's where the blood is, that's the most likely hiding spot.
"Mr. Proudstump? If you can hear me, the monster is dead. You're safe now."
Colors. The whole scene had really been little more than flashing colors for young Samton. One second the group had been looking at a convulsing halfling and then... a grotesque mutation into leathery brown - a flurry with all the hues of the rainbow - a splash of blood all black. And then it was over. Just colors, honestly.
When the wizard's otherwise impressive wits finally caught up with him, still caught in their game of deductive reasoning, Sam saw a very dead monster with a very proud tengu standing over it. Wow, he thought. The others hadn't been kidding when they said she could handle herself, huh?
"Where is Mr. Footstump...?"
He turned to look at tiefling, she evidently being even more confused than him by all of this.
"I'm uh, I'm afraid that is Mr Footstump," he said, pointing to the corpse. "I mean Mr Proudfoot. I mean Mr Proudstump!"
What the heck had that thing been, anyway? Some sort of shapeshifter, he assumed.
Know (dungeoneering): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (14) + 8 = 22
Did it matter right now? No, the others were right in seeing if they could find the real Walthus. It hadn't escaped Sam that the creature's blood was black, as opposed to the red blood Kajiwara had noted earlier. The halfling, dead or alive, was most likely somewhere here. He joined the others in searching the hut.
Perception: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16
Asuka scratches her beak and tilts her head. ”I thought it was Proudfeet?”
We planning on just taking 20 on perception on searching this place?
Samton knows that “thing” was a young faceless stalker. Ugothols (as faceless stalkers call themselves) are one of the many tools created and then discarded by the aboleths in their long war against the surface dwellers. Scorned by their former masters when the scheme for which they were designed unraveled, the faceless stalkers fled into swamps, marshes, or any other dark, wet places they could find—the closest they could come to the aquatic cities they once considered home.
After calling out for the halfling, a muffled voice full of fear calls out from behind the wall in the bedroom ”Is it gone? Are you sure it’s gone?”
Fortitude: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
Poppy wretched. She had seen her share of death and worked with bodies both strange and damaged for cooking but this was different. She's uncertain if it was the dark streaks of gore that now filled the interior of the cabin, the vicious swiftness with which Asuka dealt with the imposter, or the hideous beast that the halfling had morphed into. Though she couldn't see everything from her vantage point it made the horrific display all the worse as her imagination filled in the parts she couldn't see.
She moved a distance away from the grotesque heap on the ground, hugging her bolt thrower. After a few wipes of her mouth she decided to check around the outside of the shack. "I vill take valk. See eef more Proudstumps running around. ", she declared a little shaken. I need the walk anyway.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (16) + 4 = 20
"Um, yes. It's gone. Unless it can come back from being a puddle on the floor..."
Could it come back from being a puddle? Ruka doesn't actually know anything about what the creature was or what its capabilities might have been.
Let's just assume it can't.
Trying to sound reassuring, (although she's not very good at it), Ruka reiterates, "It's gone. You're safe."
From the other side of the door there is a pause and then very distinct sobbing. After a few more seconds pass by, the door slides open and for the second time today you meet the halfing Walthus. Tears streaming from his eyes, he looks around nervously and only peeks out from behind the door at first. Not seeing the creature or signs of trouble he opens the door the rest of the way and crawls out on all fours.
Once outside of the room, Walthus's injuries are quite noticeable. He's bruised, bleeding and looks extremely pale like he's lost a lot of blood. He's shaking and barely has the strength to make it out of his hidey-hole before collapsing on the floor in front of you, still sobbing.
Sam's face went white at the sight of the pitiable halfling. Despite the marsh already introducing him to more death and dismay than he had ever experienced before, including his own near-death, the young man was more struck by this than anything else. Giant predators and Aboleth experiments were one thing. Gods forbid, even one of the group perishing was a manageable thought - they all knew what they had signed up for, they should all be prepared for that awful eventuality.
But a perfectly ordinary person attacked within their own home and forced to hide as they desperately clung to life? This was truly frightful.
Samton's hand snapped to his side and began hurriedly rummaging through the spell component pouch. Quickly enough he found a small vial with a dark liquid, dabbed a droplet onto one finger, and crouched down by the halfling. There he anointed him with the viscous stuff and began an incantation.
"Mr Proudstump?" he said upon finishing. "The ugothol... the creature is dead. You're going to be alright, sir."
His words seemed to ring true; while they emitted a faint, unpleasant smell of sulfur, the man's wounds began slowly stitching themselves together.
Expending the bonded item ability to cast Infernal Healing. Walthus will recover 10 HP over the next minute. Apologies to Ruka, but Poppy seems to have another CLW prepped for you.
Lor-Sinn winces in sympathy as the halfling crawls out of his hiding space. "And don't worry about the mess in your house, we fixed what we could of it." she declares, trying to be helpful. After all, the first halfling had been very concerned about his abode not being in a proper state to receive visitors.
Asuka waves happily at the apparently-named Proudstump. "Hi Mr. Proudstump! You're safe now. We defeated the evil Proudstump. I can bring him here to show you if it would make you feel better, so that you know for absolute sure that we aren't also shapeshifters."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (2) + 6 = 8
She tap on her beak as an idea comes to her, though. "Though I suppose we could theoretically be friends of the original shapeshifter. Though I suppose that wouldn't make sense because why would we have killed him? OH. Maybe a party of people just like us came to check on you, but then a bunch of shapeshifters killed us and replaced us with them. So that would mean that we right now are them. Or they are us?" She then opens her journal and begins furiously writing notes.
Ruka stands back awkwardly. Sam seems to be healing the real Mr. Proudstump, (at least she assumes he's the real one), and Asuka should be able to calm him down...
"Um, I think what Asuka is trying to say is that we're definitely not shapeshifters, and the one that attacked you is dead." Realizing that looming is probably not the tactic to use here, she crouches down to his level. "We were sent by the sheriff to investigate goblin activity. The shapeshifter tried to send us away, but we realized something was wrong and pressed him for answers. He attacked us and we killed him." Well, Asuka killed him, but close enough. "You really are safe now."
Diplomacy: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (15) - 1 = 14