A scarred woman in well-worn leathers and mud-caked boots lets out a cackling laugh. She saunters over to the table sits down, and slaps her hatchets onto the table. "You're gonna regret that, hon." She raises a hand, beckoning a server over, and orders a few pitchers of ale and some mugs. With a wide grin -- marred by two missing teeth and a scar cutting across her lip and chin -- she adds, "Hope you've got the coin to back that up."
She watches the woman for a while then announces, "I'm Samar. Samar Ashaad. Don't think I've seen you around the Lodge before. So tell me, who's got the honour of buying me drinks?"
Her feet formerly kicked up onto the table, a burly half-elven woman of Garundi heritage with dark braided hair and an infectious grin on her face rotates in her chair to swivel her legs down, a gesture that says things have moved to as close to professionalism as she is capable. "HA! You've got Cayden's own liver, you do! I like that. Try not to drink me into the poor-house before the paying gig's even begun, eh?" She slaps the coppers on the table like they insulted her mother. Her dress is 'explorer casual': well-made but homespun linen better suited to southern climes, though wool and fur clothes peek from the ill-kept pack by her chair. "Fa'Dimah Eloseele. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. If I have my way, this job'll be smooth and dreamy as Ekujae mead from a gold-trimmed snifter, it will." She sticks out a hand. "My pleasure, uh... sorry, name again? I suppose this is my unofficial Confirmation, as it were."
"Still Samar!" Samar replies with a cackling laugh. "You drunk already?" She laughs again, then leans back in her seat, throwing an arm over the chair back. "My folks are from Katapesh, but I'm Absalom born and raised -- and proud of it!"
"Been a Pathfinder a few years now, but ain't got a big find yet. Ah, but mark my words, Fa'Dimah, you'll see my name on a chronicle yet!" She winks, then takes another swig of her ale. "Maybe this'll be the big one, eh?"
She hiccups. "Mighta had one before you set down, just to ensure the quality." Three empty pint mugs tell a different tale. "I'm hoping it'll pay out nicely, for certain- dunno about you, but a Pathfinder without work is like a bartender without ale. A sad sight either way." She pauses. "If we're on the big one that gets you in the Chronicles, do we get our issue free, or are they gonna make me cough up for that like a wayfinder, as well?"
"Pfft! I'm gonna nick mine from the print room!" She suddenly falls silent and leans over the table, real close to Fa'Dimah. "Tell anyone and I'll break your fingers." Then she leans back and grins.
It's difficult to tell if she's joking.
"Ah! Aha. Ahahaha. Well," she says, clearing her throat. "I wonder when the others will get here?"
Samar smirks, pouring another mug full for herself. "Aww, you in a rush to head out? Fearful for your coin purse?" After a few long moments she shrugs. "Folks show when they show. Ain't no rush. Why? You got places to be?"
Leaning back in her chair she kicks a muddy boot up onto a nearby chair -- one clearly meant for her future companions -- then another, crossing her feet up onto the seat. "Tell me a story, Fa'Dimah. About where you've been. Who you are. I like to know whose backside I'm protecting. Got anything good?"
"Still a bit of jingle in the ol' purse, no worries," she says, patting the purse at her side. "As for me? Hmm. Well. I was born and raised in Merab, in Thuvia. Parents ran a little tavern with a good bit of through-traffic from folks traveling in by sea or caravan. Been helpin' to roll kegs since I could walk, you could say. But you spend years and years hearing these folks talk of their travels, and tending bar just stops seeming like the only way to live your life, y'know? So I saved up some scratch and headed off to Absalom, and shortly afterwards joined up with the Society." She takes a sip. "Now, while I haven't been on any expeditions for 'em yet, don't worry about me- I've been in my share of scraps. Sounds like we'll be doing a lot of the muscle work together."
She refills her mug. "So tell me about you! You've definitely seen some action, by the look of ya."
Samar grins, "Me? I've been working gigs for coin since I could count. Used to haggle with my folks over everything. They're merchants, so it made 'em proud as %$&#!" She lets out a cackling laugh, then smirks. "For a while anyway. 'Till I told them to stuff it. I didn't want to sell carpets and horses and spices all day -- or whatever. I told them I was going to be a mercenary. Adventure for coin!" She slams her hand on the table, sending ale splashing across the wood. "Yeah, it was good for a time. But the jobs ain't always legit, the work's far from glamorous, and the reputation I was earning made my folks blush." She shrugs. "Besides, I always wanted adventure and fame. You know? See the world, explore unknown places, uncover ancient ruins, push the boundaries and get famous! So I joined the Pathfinders."
She leans back and thinks a bit. "Yeah, I've been on plenty of jobs before joining the Society. Got my boots plenty muddy and my fists plenty bloody. But with 'em? I've only been on one mission. They sent me down Katapesh way -- back home, you see? Figured I'd be a good fit for a snatch and grab for this group of stuck up scholars. Anyway, I had a team there. A gnome wizard, a cleric of Sarenrae, and... others. We headed off into the desert to reach some old tomb that had recently been uncovered in the Pale Mountain region. Ran into gnolls -- no surprise there." She rolls her eyes, then takes a swig of her drink. "Fought our way through a manticore's hunting ground and got to the back door of the place. Got inside. There were traps and elementals and... weird #&%@." She groans. "Lost folks there. I nearly died. But, we grabbed the weird little clock they sent us to fetch and got it back to the scholar's that had hired us before the other adventurers some other group had hired got it." She shakes her head. "Cowards. Anyway, we were lucky to get out of there without becoming gnoll food. Those that survived, anyway."
She leans back in her chair, tilting it back so its precariously balanced on its back legs. "Ain't seen the gnome or cleric since. Don't think they stuck around." she shrugs. "Anyway, I'm ready for something new. Hopefully something glorious this time around. And less deadly."
With a smirk at Fa'Dimah she adds, "Try not to die, eh? Carrying corpses on my back ain't my idea of glory."
(I used a different version of Samar in the Doomsday Dawn Playtest).
"Katapesh, eh? Further east in Garund than I've ever been. Sounds like a rough place to make a go of it, for sure." She lets Samar finish her tale.
At the last comment, Fa'Dimah barks out a laugh. "Agreed!" She raises her mug. "A toast, then, to getting out alive!"
"To getting out alive!" Samar echoes, raising her mug in a toast. She takes a long chug, then slams her mug down on the table and hops to her feet. "YOU HEAR THAT?!" she bellows to no one in particular. "I REFUSE TO FALL! SO BRING IT ON!"
The lets out a loud laugh, then takes her seat again, putting her feet back up on a nearby chair.
A tall Keleshite woman enters. Her expression is stern, but when she sees you, she breaks into a broad grin.
"Ah, I see I'm not the only capable one tapped for this mission. Did you hear, we are headed for a River Kingdoms? A wild place, but it has its charms."
Fa'Dimah bids the stranger sit. "One more for the crew! Welcome!" She pauses. "You seem familiar, but I can't place from where. Drink?" She motions toward the pitchers with her own mug while sliding an empty one across the table.
"Thanks, I would love one. The company here is wonderful, but I will never get used to the damp." Kyra takes a healthy drought of her beverage.
"You seem familiar to me as well. Perhaps our paths crossed in training? I spent some time with the Scrolls, Spells, and Swords--perhaps we both received some bruises from Marcos Farabellus?"
"Ah, that makes sense! Even training swords hurt when Marcos is around." She gulps down some of her ale. "Kyra, was it? I'm happy to have someone along who can help out if we need patching up. I've picked up some of the healing arts myself, but I don't think I could handle anything more serious than a shallow cut or some light bruiding."
She pauses. "Wait, the River Kingdoms? That's up north, innit? Glad I brought warm clothes."
"The River Kingdoms?" Samar raises an eyebrow. "A pit of lawless scum, ain't it?" After a moment of scowling she grins. "I love it already!"
"River Kingdoms? Speaking of the damp, that place sounds... soggy."
Kyra grins. "Let's just say there is ample opportunity to offer people repentance there. Some of the River Freedoms encourage rather uncouth behavior."
Kyra grins, as if remembering some long-ago adventure, "It is a place where one has the opportunity to make a significant impact, usually without interference from bureaucrats or busy-bodies."
Kyra finishes of her drink with gusto, "The beer's no good though."
Fa'Dimah pales noticeably. "No... good beer?" She sits up straight, face marked with determination. "This 'River Kingdoms' needs our help more than I thought."
Okay, we're going to get started in earnest. If Andrew wants to jump in at some point, he can pilot Kyra.
DWarven Venture-Captain Holgarin Smine walks into the common room above his smithy that serves as Pathfinder Lodge in Tymon, where you have traveled. The voyage to the River Kingdoms was uneventful, but judging from the look on the Venture-Captain's face, things are about to get more interesting.
The dwarf sets down a tray loaded with an assortment of bread, cheese, and cider. In the center of the arrangement sits a bizarre doll made of dried wheat stalks.
“Hope the journey went well.” Smine greets. “Dangerous these days. More dangerous further west, so suppose I shouldn’t complain.” His short sentences almost matching the staccato cadence of the forges below. “Won’t waste your time. Ever heard of the Mosquito Witch?”
Smine grins and leans across the table, picking up the grotesque doll. Beady, painted red eyes and a needle-like snout is barely visible through shaggy wheat-stalk hair, and six handless arms are clutched to the doll’s chest. “Local legend. Ugly thing. People claim it lives near a town out here called Shimmerford. Hunters have been trying to catch it for over fifty years. No one has managed to. Villagers sell the failed hunters dolls and souvenirs instead. Fun for all.” He frowns and sets the doll down.
“Not now, though. Mosquitoes and bloodseekers started plaguing the villagers. Killing livestock. Swarming people outside. Getting into food. Been happening for a year or so. People are starting to leave the town entirely. They blame the Mosquito Witch. I don’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s a problem either way. You’re going to stop it."
No secrets yet.
"Mosquito Witch, eh? Huh..."
Occultism: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 1 = 17
Fa'Dimah perks up. "Wait! I've heard something about this! Scuttlebutt and rumors, of course, but better than nothing. About 60 years ago, several folks- mostly teenagers- spotted the Mosquito Witch in a place called Witchtop Hill. I believe that was the first sighting." She turns to the rest of the table. "Maybe y'all have heard more? At the very least, it's a lead."
"Soooooo... I'm not exploring an ancient ruin or tomb filled with riches? You sure you've got the right mission there, Cap?" She chuckles, then picks up the wheat doll, turning it over in her hands. "Creepy little thing, ain't it?" She shakes her head, then drops it back down on the table.
"Mosquito Witch, huh?"
Nature (trained) on Mosquito Witch: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
Society (trained) on Mosquito Witch: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (1) + 3 = 4
She shakes her head. "Nope, never heard of it! Mosquitos and Bloodseekers, though... That's another story."
Nature (trained) on Mosquitos: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
Nature (trained) on Bloodseekers: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (11) + 4 = 15
You know that mosquitoes are irritating biting insects that sometimes spread disease. They breed in stagnant pools.
Bloodseekers are giant mosquitoes. They've been known to latch on to their victims and drain every last drop of blood!
Bloodseekers have 2 well-known abilities:
Attach: When a bloodseeker hits a target larger than itself, its barbed legs attach it to that creature. This is similar to grabbing the creature, but the bloodseeker moves with that creature rather than holding it in place. The bloodseeker is flat-footed while attached. If the bloodseeker is killed or pushed away while attached to a creature it has drained blood from, that creature takes 1 persistent bleed damage. Escaping the attach or removing the bloodseeker in other ways doesn’t cause bleed damage.
Blood Drain: <Single Action> Requirements: The bloodseeker is attached to a creature. Effect: The bloodseeker uses its proboscis to drain blood from the creature it’s attached to. This deals 1d4 damage, and the bloodseeker gains temporary Hit Points equal to the damage dealt. A creature that has its blood drained by a bloodseeker is drained 1 until it receives healing (of any kind or amount).
"Sooo... mosquitoes, and... bigger mosquitoes. Sounds lovely. Definitely something we should put a stop to." Fa'Dimah sips on her cider thoughtfully.
"Yeah, they suck," Samar laments. A moment later the contemplates her own words. "Ha! Sucks. Pretend I meant to do that."
"Well?" she asks the Venture-Captain. "Anything else we should know before heading out? You got a map or directions for us? Have there been any sightings of the Mosquito Witch nearby Shimmerford? Or just rumours? Any important or mysterious locations nearby the town we should know about?"
The Venture-Captain answers in his clipped style, “Never been to Shimmerford myself. Small town. Cheery place. Tourist attraction. Sells Mosquito Witch dolls, masks, bread. See them in the markets here sometimes. Hold a big festival for the witch once a year. I’ve never gotten to go. Too busy.” Smine pauses to consider his next response.
"No verifiable sightings of the witch lately. Only rumors. No one’s proved it. No one’s caught it. No one’s sure what it is. Would be exciting if we found out.” Smine smiles wryly. “Don’t expect us to.”
"I've hired you a boat. Good ship. Good crew. They’ll take you down the river to Shimmerford. I’d stay inside while traveling, though.
Clouds of mosquitoes are hanging by the shore and above the water. Doesn’t sound pleasant."
"Once you arrive, Find a gnome woman named Galia. Not a Pathfinder.
Knows me, though. Knows we fix problems. She’s the one who sent a letter about the situation. Would have a better idea of the situation on the ground. After that, find what’s causing the problem. Stop it. Report back."
"Well, shall we head out, then? Might ask around for some of these rumors while we're scooping up any last-minute supplies." Fa'Dimah grabs her pack and readies herself to go.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
(Hobnobber feat reduces Gather Information time by half, typically 1 hour)
"Hmph. Rumors indeed. Apparently everyone's pretty burnt out on that particular topic."
You travel to Shimmerford without any incident, though as you approach,
thick clouds of mosquitoes hanging over the shoreline become more prominent, until the earth seems covered with writhing black masses of flying insects.
When you disembark from the boat, a gnome with blueberry-blue hair and copper skin emerges from a tiny house that has been mosquito-proofed with cloth and wax crammed into every crack and seam. She hurries over
to greet you, wringing her hands and swatting away any mosquitoes that come near her.
“Oh, thank goodness! Oh, thank goodness! You actually came! Smine actually sent someone! You must be them, right? No one comes here a-anymore unless they’re planning to help! Do you want to talk inside? My house is mostly mosquito free! Can I get you anything? My beet juice is also mostly mosquito-free! Would you like to sit down? A fresh haircut, maybe? Oh, thank goodness you’re here!”
"Quit talking and let me in!" Samar exclaims, slapping and swatting mosquitos that are landing all over her. "Ugh, they're in my mouth!"
"For the love of the gods, yes, let's take this conversation inside," says Fa'Dimah, muffled under layers of clothing worn as a futile anti-mosquito barricade. "Forget bleeding us dry- the damned things're thick enough to choke on before that."
You bring the conversation inside the (mostly) mosquito-free house, though you have to duck a bit to move around inside.
"Oh, it's just been awful. The mosquito and bloodseeker attacks have intensified over the course of the last year, and now the town is practically abandoned. That's why I sent the letter to Smine. I'm so glad you agents were available to help!"
Samar swats a few stray mosquitoes and spits, apparently to clear the bug corpses from her mouth. Then she covers one nostril and blows, sending snot an a few bugs flying onto the floor. She repeats with with the other nostril. Finally, she sticks a finger in each ear and rubs. "GAH! THIS PLACE SUCKS! HOW DO YOU LIVE HERE?!"
After regaining her composure, she starts to scratch her arms. "Right, right. The Mosquito Witch and her bloodsucking brood.... Do you put stock in the stories? What do you think is going on?"
"I am merely a humble barber--I don't have the means to move away! Plus, the constant flow of monster hunters through here keeps it interesting--or it did, anyway." Galia sighs, disappointed at the town's decline.
“Most people think it’s…” Galia lowers her voice to a whisper. “…the witch. I thought that maybe it could have been a c-cultist of Ghlaunder, but that turned out to be wrong, so I don’t know what else it could be.”
“No one knows anything for sure about the Mosquito Witch! It’s a thing that shows up outside of town sometimes, b-but I’ve never heard of it causing this much harm! I even think the little dolls people make of it are k-kind of cute. We used to throw a festival every year for it. Anna always made the best witchbread for the festival…”
"I hate to say it, Samar, but it sounds like we might need to ask around town, maybe do some investigating in the town's hinterlands. Being devoured by mosquitoes ain't my idea of a fun time, but we need some solid leads and we're sadly not gonna find 'em holed up in Galia's house hiding from the bloodsuckers." She pauses. "I don't suppose you happen to have anything to ward off the little buggers, do you? The big ones I think my axe will handle nicely, but it's not going to do much to swarms of the small ones, though I suppose a torch might do in a pinch."
Samar scrunches up her nose in distaste. "Swarms of them?! Uh... no?" She shakes her head. Then she looks at the gnome. "You got any advice for keeping away the skeeters?"
"I mostly stay inside these d-days, which is so drab. The only place they don't really bother is the inside of Luca Braybon's smithy. She might have some ideas." The gnome looks a little despondent. "I c-can only cut my own hair so many times. I hope you Pathfinders are able to get to the bottom of this!"
Fa'Dimah turns to Samar. "Let's ask this smith Luca. Then I think it's time to get down to investigating. I'm sure some folks have seen or heard something- aside from incessant droning- that can point us in the right direction. Stay safe, Galia. If we've got any more questions or need a break from the mosquito armada, we'll call upon you, 'kay?"
Samar prepares herself for a mad dash to the smithy! Hand poised over the door handle, legs warmed up and ready to run, she looks at the gnome and asks the only question that matters right now....
Galia is impressed by your enthusiasm! She gives you directions and briefly describes the layout of the town for you.
She doesn't do much more than sketch a map and name places for you. You can ask her about specific places now or by stopping to check back in with her.
Samar takes a deep breath, clamps her mouth shut, whips open the door, and makes a mad dash for the smithy.
Fa'Dimah turns to Galia. "Nice meetin' ya, but I gotta go, bye!" She hurries after Samar, closing the front door as she does.
The hurried walk through town could best be described as extremely unpleasant. Mosquitos are not only buzzing around your face and hands, but the bugs also quickly infiltrate your armor and tangle themselves in your hair.
The door to the smithy is a welcome respite. A muscular red-haired woman answers your knocks and quickly ushers you inside. While the interior of the smithy is almost stiflingly hot and very smokey, it is free of mosquitos.
Noticing your relief, the woman says, "I throw some pine boughs on the forge during slow times. Keeps those cursed biters out. Luca Barybon, town smith, though mostly kept idle these days. What brings you to Shimmerford?"
Samar swats the mosquitos off her skin and untangles them from her hair. Scratching her arms and face she groans. "The Mosquito Witch. Heard of her?"