"Well, you're far from the first to come looking for her, though traffic here has been a bit thin of late, as you can imagine." She gives you a stern look-over, as if appraising you. "I must say, you look like a more prepared lot than some that we gets through here. A half-elf hunter in gold armor bought a new compass from me a number of weeks back, claiming hers had broken. Wandered around a bit, and when I asked her about how the compass was serving her, she had said that it turned out neither compass would work and that her original compass wasn’t the problem. Bit scatterbrained if you ask me. Haven't seen her in a while."
Survival: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
"Sounds like something magnetic was interfering with her compass." Samar remarks with a nod. "Know of anywhere around here that might do that? Or did she say where she was looking?"
"How about the folks around here? You and the other locals. I've heard there's been disturbances and everyone's blaming the mosquito witch. Any idea why? What's been happening?"
Craft: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
"That's all beyond me, but sounds ominous."
"The woods are odd at the best of times. The half-elf told me that the strangeness was occurring out to the east somewhere, but then again her compass wasn't working, so..." the blacksmith shrugs.
"Everyone around here knows better than to irritate the Mosquito Witch. Someone did something, though! The town hasn't been the same over the past year. Bugs everywhere, and folks going off into the night and not coming back. Really put a damper on our tourist industry, I can tell you. And with little work, those that could move on did. Me, I'm hanging on here. Hard to move a forge."
"Fair," Samar agrees. "Thanks a lot. Any idea who else around town might know more? And was the half-elf here alone, or with a group?"
Fa'Dimah takes Samar aside. "Hey. Could that- magnetiwhatsit- be drawing the mosquitoes? Maybe if we had a compass it'd lead us to the source? Very least, it'd tell us where the source of the magnetowhosit's coming from. That can't be something no one noticed 'til recently, unless it's a new problem, right?"
Samar considers this, wondering if mosquitos (or other bugs) are drawn to magnetic anomalies and forces...
Nature (trained): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
With a shrug, Samar replies, "Could be. Let's look around town a bit more first. If we don't get a better lead we'll give it a shot. You got a compass?"
"I'd say that Miss Mordha Lyons is the expert on the Mosquito Witch, seeing as she and her friends saw it face-to-face so long ago. She's a bit...prickly...though." To your other questions, she says, "The half-elf was alone, though there's always an adventurer or two around town looking for information. Usually they end up at the Whitefish and Stag, Shimmerford's inn."
Rummaging around the shop, she adds, "I've a compass around here somewhere, if you have the coin."
"I... may have spent most of my spare coin on the pre-shipping out celebrations. Samar, do you have a gold coin you can spare for a compass? If not, I can perhaps part with some of this gear."
"A whole gold? Ha! Nope. 'Fraid not."
She turns for the door, ready to head out. 'Who's closer? Lyons or the inn?"
Hmmm...just realized some of the map labels didn't come through. Sorry, I'll fix that!
The smith tells you that the inn is much closer. Lyons lives up in the northeast corner of town.
The Whitefish and Stag is the tallest building in town, and one of the few that has a view out over the town walls. The common room is mostly empty when you arrive, with one human man polishing glasses behind the bar.
A bedraggled figure also sits in one corner of the tavern, a haggard human with dark messy hair, stubble sparsely forming a goatee, and gaunt cheeks. He is hunched over and appears to be muttering to himself.
The tavern keeper greets you as you enter. "Ah, you have the look of adventurers! Callum Shay, at your service. Are you looking for a room? Come to Shimmerford seeking monsters?"
Fa'Dimah drops a copper for the smith, fleeing behind Samar and snagging a pine branch from a tree along the way if possible. The extra time leaves her a bit behind. She catches up to find Samar asking about the Mosquito Witch. "Whew! All this running around to avoid bugs is exhausting."
"The Witch? An intriguing figure! No one in Golarion quite like her. Tell all of your friends to come to Shimmerford and investigate for themselves!"
After that full-throated endorsement, the tavern-keeper sighs. "Not many visitors these days, though. I'm not sure what went wrong."
"Well, we're here to investigate the mosquito witch and set things right. So, if you've got any actual information, now's the time to share it. Well?"
"Miss Morha Lyons and some friends of hers were the first to see the Mosquito Witch. Happened ages and ages ago. Since then, there have been lots of sightings and plenty of mysterious happenings in the woods around town. Your occasional disappearance or crazed monster hunter, but nothing too terrible. We loved the Mosquito Witch--even had a festival for her." The tavern-keeper shakes his head. "That all changed about a year ago. Mosquitos and bloodseekers started coming from everywhere. First they infested the woods, then the town itself. I'm not sure what changed."
From the corner, you here the straggly man perk up and say "Change? Yes! Is that what she wants?!" before he goes back to muttering to himself.
Samar raises an eyebrow and looks at the fellow who made an outburst. After an appraising look she turns back to the barkeep. "There were people in town looking for the witch recently, yes? The blacksmith told us about a half-elf with a compass that wouldn't work? Do you know anything about the people who've come here looking for her, where they looked, and what they gossiped about?"
After the barkeep answers her she gives him a nod of thanks. Then she wanders over to the crazy fellow in the corner. "Hello conveniently mysterious and outrageous stranger." She claps him on the back. "Change. Is that what WHO wants?"
Fa'Dimah interjects. "Apologies for my friend's blunt demeanor- the mosquitoes have her a bit on edge. I'm Fa'Dimah, and this is Samar."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
"So, uhhh… is that what WHO wants, now?"
The man looks up at you, "The Witch! It brought me here, because it wants me to be here. I shouldn’t have come... but no, that’s what it wanted me to do. It was trying to scare me, so I wouldn’t come... but what if it was being straightforward with me to trick me into thinking it was trying to trick me into staying away?” The man twists a ppaper doll in his hands. The sweat from his skin starting to cause the paper to melt into something horrific looking. “It doesn’t matter... it always gets what it wants.”
Samar asks the man a series of questions, giving him time to answer each one.
"How did the witch bring you here?"
"Where'd you get the doll?"
"What does it want?"
The man answers, “It lured me here. It’s in my nightmares. Go on, laugh!” he snaps. “Laugh at the paranoid madman! Ever since I came too close to this damned town, I can’t get rid of it. It shows up and doesn’t say anything but when I wake up, I know things. Six and four dead on the Shimmerford road. But how? But why? Is the witch causing it? What does that have to do with the mosquitoes? And why is someone stealing shovels? I don’t even know how I know it... Maybe I’m supposed to cause it.”
He squints at you for a moment, "What doll?" Following your gaze to his hands, he seems to realize for the first time what he is holding. "Ah! Get it away!" He tosses the doll onto the far side of the table and seems to immediately forget about it, caught up in his reverie again.
"In your nightmares, huh? Interesting. IT shows up. What is it that shows up and doesn't speak? The doll? Or something else?"
"There were people looking for the Witch. Do you know where they went? Or what they were looking for? A place where compasses stop working and folks get turned around?"
"Six and four dead on the Shimmerford Road?" She looks over to the innkeeper and calls out, "Does that match how many you know about? Folks dead, I mean?"
Looking back to the man, she claps him on the back. "Thanks, pal. You got a name?"
The innkeeper responds, "Doesn't match anything that I've heard. It would be strange for people to just die on the road."
The man replies, "Who it IT? The Witch, of course. The doll's following me too. Yes, I'm being stalked by a doll!" Quintus reaches out and crushes the paper beneath his hand. “’The iron cave will fall’... what is that supposed to mean? What do you want from me?!”
When he lifts his hand, you can see that the words “the iron cave will fall” are scrawled on the doll’s paper scarf in jagged writing.
"Who am I? An idiot. An absolute idiot...” The man laughs sadly to himself, before jerking himself upright. “Oh, wait, you’re... where are my manners? Sorry. Introductions. I’m Quintus. Quintus Chevunier.”
"Thanks, Quintus. You hang tight, pal."
Samar picks up the doll with the writing on it and heads back over to the innkeeper. "You seen any other dolls like this one around town? And Iron Caves. Have you heard of any caves around like that?"
Did we come into town via the Shimmerford Road? Or is that someplace we haven't been yet?
The Shimmerford road runs right through town, so you've been on it. It runs down to the dock where your ship dropped you off.
Before you leave him, Qunitus says to you, "Don't do what it wants! It’s trying to make me do something and I have to make sure I don’t... ah gods, what if telling you was what it wanted? No, no, it couldn’t have known I would talk...”
The bartender is puzzled. "I can't think of anything like that. The smith might know more about iron mining."
"Hey. Have y'all been digging somewhere? Somewhere new?"
"Compasses not working correctly... and now shovels are going missing? This is incredibly odd." Fa'Dimah scratches her nose. "Perhaps we should inquire with that Mosquito Witch expert, Lyons." She turns to the innkeeper. "I'm sure we'll be back to rent out a room, good sir."
You make your way through the small town toward the house of Mordha Lyons, pestered by insects the whole way. By the time you reach the small house on the west side of town, you have mosquito bites on most of your exposed skin. No sooner do you brush bugs off than new ones settle on your body.
When you approach the door, a young Tian man with dyed white hair opens it. A look of vague annoyance clouds his face. "Again? This is the third day in a row you have come to pester my charge!"
"Argue inside!" Samar exclaims, pushing her way into the building a slamming the door. She swat the mosquitoes off her angrily, and shudders, then scratches her arms. "Yeesh, this place is a death trap!" She gives the man a nod of her head. "Hey guy, I'm Samar. Who are you, what do you mean charge, and this is our first time here. Who's been bugging you three days in a row?"
"Now, everyone calm down, and we can get to the bottom of this. We've only been in town for, what, an hour or two? There's no way we could be who you think we are."
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (6) + 4 = 10
"I bet it was the one with the wonky compass! Amirite? Eh? Eh?"
These dice do not like my Diplomacy attempts, huh?
"Yeah, nice try. We've never been here before, we literally just arrived in town, and if you think otherwise you're clearly the one who's messed up from the mosquito bites or the witch or whatever." She crosses her arms, and taps her foot in irritation. "Now who the heck are you, and why won't you let us in to see Lyons? You causing trouble? How do I know Lyons is really your 'charge'? What does that mean, anyway? You a doctor or something?"
Samar eyes the Tian suspiciously.
Perception (sense motive, expert): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
The man seems to believe what he is saying is true, though he certainly has a strange demeanor.
Samar: Intimidate: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
The man is cowed by your questions, and a bit exasperated. "Well, I'm not the one who burst into a stranger's home demanding answers..." he mutters under his breath.
"If it will stop your loud protestations, I shall ask Ms. Lyons if she will see you."
The man slips into a back room for a moment, then returns and beckons to you. "Come in, quickly. I don't promise anything."
He leads you into an interior room, where a woman sits, staring into the far distance. Mordha Lyons is a frail old woman, wrapped in a blanket and sitting in a wooden rocking chair. Her hands shake, badly, and she doesn’t respond at all when you enter her room.
"Hey there, I'm Samar. We're here to ask you some questions. If you can hear us. And speak. And understand." Samar pauses awkwardly. "...Can you?"
"Hello, I'm Fa'Dimah. Is it alright if we ask you a few questions?"
Diplomacy (Trained): 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
"We want to help the town in this time of need, and we understand you're an expert on the Mosquito Witch. Anything you could tell us would be of immense help."
“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.”
“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."
“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, for the whining of those insects to be like screaming in my ears.”
Mordha clams her mouth shut, before speaking again, in a trembling tone. “It took something from me. And I don’t remember it. I don’t remember it. No one will ever remember it.”
"You've been finding little paper dolls, too? For how long? Since you saw it? Or only recently?"
"Witchtop Hill? Is that a common place for it to be sighted?" After a moment she adds, "I guess so, from the name, huh?"
"If I wanted to kill this thing, do you know where I should go? I heard some people went looking in a place where compasses go haywire. Do you have any idea where that might be?"
Mordha meets your questions with stone-faced silence. In a moment, the Tian man comes back into the room and ushers you out. "That's more than she's said in weeks!" He tells you.
The old woman might not have been very informative, but with her directions you have a pretty good idea of where Witchtop Hill lies in the nearby woods, and several landmarks that would help guide your way.
"Absolutely. Let's go and put a stop to all this, if we can."
So sorry about the delay, folks! I got slammed at work this week. Should have said something earlier, I apologize!
Heading to the outskirts of town, you hear a disturbing noise--the screaming of horses, mad with pain.
As you enter the main road, you see that a runaway carriage is barreling down the street toward you. The carriage, pulled by six horses, tears down the road at a dangerous speeds, the animals driven wild by the biting bloodseekers—though the bloodseekers themselves were not fast enough to keep up with the carriage and are not present, though the horses are clearly bleeding from numerous tiny wounds. Four terrified passengers are clinging to the carriage.
The carriage is headed for certain disaster unless someone takes decisive action!
To save the passengers:
You can attempt one of the following checks to save a passenger. Everyone will get a chance to make one attempt. If you have a creative solution, I'm open to hear it--DCs will be similar to what the scenario calls for.
Leaping onto the carriage: Holding on long enough
to pull a passenger to safety requires a successful Acrobatics or Athletics check. If you succeeds, they extract one passenger and toss them to safety. If you succeed, you can continue attempting these checks until they fail, at which point you slip off the carriage and
cannot continue. On a critical failure, you will also take bludgeoning damage from the fall.
Calming the horses: This method requires a successful
Nature check. On a success, the horses hesitate long enough for one of the passengers to leap to safety, and two leap to safety on a critical success. On a critical failure, the horses charge at you, knocking youm aside and dealing bludgeoning damage.
Creating a barricade: This method requires a successful Athletics or Crafting check, and likely involves you quickly shifting nearby barrels or maneuvering nearby crates into a somewhat stable configuration. On a success, the barricade slows the carriage enough for a passenger to leap free.
Falling back on a lifetime spent stacking barrels and boxes at her parents' inn, Fa'Dimah jumps into action, grabbing anything and everything that might slow or halt the advance of the carriage horses.
Trained Athletics: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
"Finally, something I've trained for all my life!"
Samar leaps aboard the carriage, grabs onto a passenger, and tosses them off into the grass.
Acrobatics (trained): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (19) + 6 = 25
Samar leaps upon the carriage and tucks a passenger under each arm before jumping free of the runaway vehicle. Just in time! The panicked horses dash the carriage against a curb and it over-turns, smashing to splinters. Anyone left inside of it would no doubt have been seriously hurt or killed.
The passengers thank you profusely and introduce themselves as travelers passing through the area. "We must leave, post-haste. I don't suppose there is another team of horse to be had in this cursed town."
They tell you that they are going to sleep the night at the inn and hope to board a riverboard tomorrow, or the next day at latest. In return for your hospitality, they give you a fine collection of silver jewelry and a minor healing potion.
After the scare with the carriage, the streets of Shimmerford return to their usual quiet buzz. You keenly feel the renewed interest of insects drawn by your sweat. After your adrenaline ebbs, you head out toward Witchtop Hill.
Though the mosquitoes are less visible through the thick fog in the misty woods, they can still be felt crawling on the skin.
Survival check to navigate through the woods to Witchtop Hill, please. You have some information about it, so it will be slightly easier to find. One person should make the check, with the usual rules for Aiding. Feel free to strategize--you would naturally talk about who is the best in the wilderness.