DM Lament Configuration's Carrion Hill

Game Master electricjokecascade

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
― H. P. Lovercraft, The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories

[Loot] | [Maps]


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Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

There were a lot of ways Maritine saw this playing out, at least one playing unbidden as she recoils a step from the scuttling looming Yarresh. Damn that ghoul! she thinks to deflect being angry at herself for taking a step backwards - you never waiver in the dark.

At least her glare is unwavering, only balking with disbelief as the ghoul - almost certainly alone - demands they pay in bodies in exchange for knowledge, that they feed in exchange for their lives. Regathering her resolve defiance begins on her lips but is cut short as Walter speaks with the cannibalistic corpse with its own language. She pauses, unsure of what is happening save that a fight has yet to break out and nobody had moved, seemingly waiting on Walter to finish his negotiations, and only when the old man tells them to bow and pay homage does she actually take her eyes off the corpse to instead stare incredulously.

"Bow? Are you - Hrngh." She clenches her jaw shut and instead wills herself to give a variation on an Ustalavic dueling bow, at least satisfied that she's not the only one bowing and wondering how long before things come to a head.

It seems she will not have to wait long.


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M CG Dwarf Fighter 2/Cleric of Desna 3 | HP: 45/50 | AC: 21, T: 12, FF: 17) | CMB: +9, CMD: 21 | F: +10, R: +5, W: +7 (+1 against Fear Effects) | Init: +7 | Darkvision 60ft, Perc: +10, SM: +6 | Speed 30ft | Spells: 1st 1/4 2nd 2/3 | Active conditions: None

Dark Creeper Room:

Kolthis stood silently by the door as Yelena “talked” with what she called the dark creepers. He was impressed at the deftness with which she was seemingly able to relay her questions through charade form. He remembered trying that once, sometime in the past. Unfortunately, that event had ended with a lot more dead than anyone would have liked. So, he had no problem staying out of the way with this one, especially considering the dark creepers seemed to be actively avoiding his light and contact with the rest of the group. Maybe he had been too hasty in his magic, he thought, as Yelena noted that they just wanted to be left alone. Yet, he kept a pointed eye oon the inhabitants, hammer at the ready. Better to be careful than dead.

Who the hell would want to summon something so evil and dangerous? This whole thing didn’t make much sense to Kolthis. Why would someone ever put any trust into dark, self-admitting evil entities and expect them to ever care about you? Destruction stops for no one. The fire lit by a falling ember from the torch of a mad man discriminates not when it reaches back up to consume flesh. People always seemed to be so sure they could control things far out of their reach.

Arrogance. Pride. Lack of foresight. You could call it by whatever words in whatever language you wanted - the end result was always the same. Death, by their own machinations.

The ravening darkness. Now that was a proper name for an all consuming evil. Proper enough for this thing these five had likely summoned. And now, the six of them would have to try to unsummon it - whether through magic, or good old fashioned beatdown. However, it was not going to be nearly that easy. Yet, it was too late to run, so what choice did they have? None at all. At least, not for him.

Facing the stairs descending into further darkness, Kolthis made sure to keep the hammer raised, though the light did little good. His vision in the dark seemed to help a little, at least enough to get them through. ”Perhaps not man or elf, but never count out a good dwarf before he rests on the floor, lass.” he said, hiding behind the mask of humor. Starsong, guide us true. he thought as they continued their excavation.

The descent through the never-ending darkness was maddening. It was impossible to know how long, how deep this staircase went. Past ancient walls, layers of history, and walls that had seen more than Kolthis could ever imagine. The black slime followed them, ever-present, accompanied by the echoing sounds of their own descent, mixed in with the sounds of ancient earth. How long until they became just noises in the dark? Was this their fate - doomed to travel down a neverending staircase, a spiral of madness mirroring Pharasma’s own, only to end in a heap of flesh and bone to be swallowed up by the dark?

And then, miraculously, the group emerged into a new clearing. Kolthis looked around at the fallen debris within the massive room, with even more paths branching out. How had this ever come into being, and how had these cultists even found it? The air itself felt wrong and suffocating. This cave was amazing - and terrifying.

It took a moment for Kolthis to notice the altar, distracted by the rest of the cavern. The dead trees certainly drew attention to the area, which was seemingly just as intended. And then Walter decided to move closer to it, barely taking the time to think. Kolthis cursed, following the wizard. He wasn’t going to let his recklessness get him killed.

Seeing more black sludge surrounding the area was indicative that this had been a vital part of whatever inhumane ritual had taken place here. The mutilated bodies that lay in the sludge only convinced him more so. His initial reaction was to say some sort of prayer for the dead - but in this case, these men certainly deserved the result of the evil that they summoned.

And then, the ghastly figure lept on top of the altar. Immediately, Kolthis went into a fighting stance, lucerne hammer at the ready. He recognized the signs of a ghoul anywhere - he had fought and killed enough of them in his time. Yet, before he struck out, the ghoul did something that Kolthis hadn’t quite experienced before - it talked to them.

Listening to its words, Kolthis didn’t doubt that it wouldn’t be alone. However, he could honestly not care any less. He didn’t trust anything that this thing said to them, and he would certainly not pay it any tribute. If they had to fight their way out, then so be it. Undead belonged in the ground - not on an altar, bartering.

Yet, that was the exact thing that Yelena and Walter seemed to want to do. Kolthis was wary of the yellow-eyed cretin’s words, despite his inkling that it was telling the truth. The wariness only increased when Walter decided to change tongues. Why the hell would he know to speak the same language as gods-forsaken ghouls? The fact that it was actually talking was strange enough, but this just added to it. Could he be party with them - was that why he was here? Was this some elaborate plot of his? But seeing Walter put his own items down in front of this thing, he realized no, he was being paranoid. For some reason or another, the Walter he had known had changed, and he was simply trying to get them out of this, in his own way.

But when Walter finally decided to speak plainly again, Kolthis knew that there was no way his actions were going to go anywhere. He wanted them to [i]bow?[i] To this abomination of an undead? To this evil creature that so nonchalantly was eating human flesh in front of them? Kolthis had visions in his mind - flashbacks of people, friends, that he had known, ripped apart by the darkness, limbs laying on the floor. Piles of blood. Screams of agony, of destruction. The ripping sounds of flesh as abominations of nature continued.

No. No, absolutely not. Never would he allow such a thing to live in his presence. Not after all he had fought for, not after what he had seen. He bowed to no one but his Goddess. Invoking her name, he raised his hammer, eyes shining with divine fury.

”Bring what hells you will beast. You will be the one bowing.

Rolls/OoC:

Knowledge Religion: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18
Knowledge Dungeoneering: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (15) + 4 = 19
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (7) + 6 = 13
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (20) + 6 = 26
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14

If there is a chance, Kolthis will cast True Strike, and then take an attack. If there is only one action, it will be True Strike and then being in range for an attack of opportunity.

Attack: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (13) + 10 = 23 +20 if True Strike is active
Damage: 1d12 + 11 ⇒ (6) + 11 = 17


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Lys genuflects to the ghoul.

Yelena curtsies.

Maritine bows.

Kolthis grits his jaw -

And suddenly Mihaela appears as her star knife flies toward Yerresh's throat.

Only Mihaela acts during the surprise round.

Blur Effect: 1d5 ⇒ 2

The weapon misses the ghoul's neck, but tears through his chest, spraying black, clotted blood and bone fragments into the air. It's a grievous wound. Terrible.

But not mortal.

Initiative
Mihaela: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (3) + 10 = 13
Walter: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
Lys: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (11) + 8 = 19
Martine: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (19) + 3 = 22
Kolthis: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (19) + 7 = 26
Yelena: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (15) + 6 = 21
Enemy: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (1) + 8 = 9

Everyone but Walter is up. Alas, poor Yeresh.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1

Okay, well... I guess Walter is so into the conversation that he's caught completely off guard by the sudden explosion of violence. He'll have things to do and say, but not until after everyone else has acted...


Female Half-elf {conditions: none} Inquisitor 5 | HP 15/28 | AC 22 (Tch 16 FF 16) | F +5 R +8 W +9 (+2 vs. ench.) | Init +10 | Perc +12, low-light vision, scent (vs. aberr.)

...we knew him well enough to know he was a bit of a pompous prick, I guess...

Whirling and screeching, the starknife arches its way back into Mihaela's open hand. The fact her foe is still standing is a testament to its peculiarity among its kind, as most of its lesser ilk would have barely survived one of her strikes, if at all; still, years of training immediately kick into gear as she starts moving into a flanking position while inexorably renewing her attack — no quarter given or asked until either the undead abomination falls, of she does.

Actions:

Move Action: move 3 squares E, 2 squares NE

Standard Action: throw Starknife at Yeresh
   Thrown Starknife (divine favor, bless, bane, studied target): 1d20 + 18 ⇒ (10) + 18 = 28 -4 it someone has moved into melee in the meantime
   Damage (divine favor, weapon of awe, bane, studied target, sneak attack): 1d4 + 2d6 + 1d6 + 15 ⇒ (2) + (1, 5) + (6) + 15 = 29


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

Mihaela's sudden appearance catches Yelena off guard, although in hindsight she should have expected it. She knows little about the inquisitor, but she didn't seem to be the genuflecting type. Not that she'd needed to, given she was invisible and the ghoul presumably hadn't realized she was there, but the point remained.

Oh well. They almost certainly would have ended up killing Yarresh eventually. Yelena herself wouldn't have been comfortable leaving him alone with knowledge of their activities and at least one powerful magic scroll. Too much risk that he might decide to side with the creature they hunted.

"You're cursed, Yerresh. You pushed us too far, and now your body will join those you once feasted upon." Even as she steps behind the others, not wanting to risk getting in their way, Yelena follows her words with a quick spell. Sometimes fate needed a helping hand.

OOC:
As soon as initiative was rolled Yelena dismissed Heightened Awareness for a +4 bonus, so her initiative is actually 25.

For her turn Yelena will move and cast Ill Omen. On the next two d20 rolls Yerresh makes, he must roll twice and take the less favorable result. No save.


M CG Dwarf Fighter 2/Cleric of Desna 3 | HP: 45/50 | AC: 21, T: 12, FF: 17) | CMB: +9, CMD: 21 | F: +10, R: +5, W: +7 (+1 against Fear Effects) | Init: +7 | Darkvision 60ft, Perc: +10, SM: +6 | Speed 30ft | Spells: 1st 1/4 2nd 2/3 | Active conditions: None

The appearance of Mihaela and the inquisitor's starknife brought a smile to Kolthis' face. If he had any doubts about his chosen course of action, the weapon of his Goddess cut them out immediately. If this bastard of an undead seemed so confident in its abilities, let it prove so against agents of something far greater than he.

Kolthis gripped the iron butterfly around his neck, opening the torrent to his Goddess' magic. Domina fortuna, me è suis bonis et in terra impium dictitans.

Body radiating with divine energy, Kolthis then stepped closer to the altar, keeping a wary eye on the ghoul.

"You should be thankful - we will lay you to rest in this pit, and perhaps then your body will finally be useful, as feed for the earth."

Rolls/Ooc:

Move Action: Move 30 feet to the end of the altar.
Standard Action: Cast Divine Favor

Kolthis can have up to 2 attacks of opportunity a round with the 10 ft reach on Lucy. I'm going to roll both here in case they become relevant. This also assumes Mihaela's Bless is up and active.

AoO 1: 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (13) + 10 + 2 + 1 = 26
Damage: 1d12 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 11 + 2 = 15

AoO 2: 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (16) + 10 + 2 + 1 = 29
Damage: 1d12 + 11 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 11 + 2 = 24


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Quote:
Ill Omen. On the next two d20 rolls Yerresh makes, he must roll twice and take the less favorable result. No save.

Oh, that's a nice one. -- Meanwhile, in game:

"Wait! What are you all doing? We're still TALKING here -- !" It's all happening too fast for Walter.


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

The tension finally being broken by Mihaela's knives appearing from nowhere is enough to kick Maritine into gear. "Enough talking!" She shouts at Walter as she drops her torch and sprints forward to both draw the ghouls' attention and to leave the ghoul surrounded, keeping her eyes locked on the filthy creature as she rounds a dead tree and points her rapier is an informal challenge.

OOC:
Drop Everburning torch
Move action to the tree opposite Yarresh/the alter
Move Action - Studied Combat on Yarresh


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Botting Lys:

Rapid Shot + Bless: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (15) + 11 = 26
Damage: 1d10 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
Rapid Shot + Bless: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (10) + 11 = 21
Damage: 1d10 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
Rapid Shot + Bless: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
Damage: 1d10 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 8

DM Rolls:

Mihaela's Attack: 1d5 ⇒ 4
Lys's Attack: 1d5 ⇒ 2
Lys's Attack: 1d5 ⇒ 5
Lys's Attack: 1d5 ⇒ 3

It's all over so quickly. Like a finely oiled machine, the party moves the moment Mihaela breaks invisibility. One moment Yerresh looms over them, his tongue lolling obscenely within his wicked jaws, the next his chest explodes - twice - with the brutal attacks from Mihaela's starknife, even as Lys whips her crossbow up to loose three bolts in rapid succession, each punching into what remains of the ghoul's chest, throat, and left eye.

The ghoul rises to his full height... sways... and then crashes down upon the altar, black ichor running out over the ancient stone. He doesn't even have time for a death rattle. The fell light goes out from behind his yellow eyes, and as quickly as the combat began, it is over.

Silence, in that tense moment that follows, a silence filled only with the panting breath of nervous systems ramped up too high, and everyone spends a moment waiting, waiting, for something to happen next...

...but nothing does.

The ghoul only has two items on him; a golden ring of surprisingly beauty, looking to be composed of interwoven shields, and the great, leather-bound tome he'd been clutching, which even in death he clutches to his chest.

Spellcraft DC 22 on ring:
It is a Ring of Protection +2

Examining the cultist's corpse on the altar reveals that it is in terrible shape, half-eaten, drained of most its blood, and bearing those strange, circular bite marks, it's hard to make out much of who the old man used to be. Still, he wears fine equipment, speaking to some wealth in his past: a robe of black sable fur, thick and no doubt incredibly warm, has somehow evaded damage, and a ring of intertwined dolphins lies around one of his remaining fingers.

Spellcraft DC 18 on cloak:
Cloak of Resistance +1

Spellcraft DC 22 on ring:
Ring of Swimming

The other cultist floats face-down in the pool of ooze.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1

Rolls:

Spellcraft on ring...1d20 + 14 ⇒ (15) + 14 = 29
...on cloak...1d20 + 14 ⇒ (15) + 14 = 29
...on other ring. 1d20 + 14 ⇒ (13) + 14 = 27

Walter recognizes all of these items without any difficulty: they're all using standard designs. Later, when things have calmed down, he'll pass along that they're a Ring of Protection +2, a Cloak of Resistance +1, and a Ring of Swimming.

But that will be a bit later, because Walter's not in that place right now.


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Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1

"What -- what -- you violent FOOLS!" Walter whirls on the rest of the party, bristling. "Who knows what more he knew? He might have had information that could have saved this city!"

(Walter takes the book from the altar.)

"And you attacked him like, like stupid, arrogant children because you were too proud to bow! Too proud to bend a head or crook a knee, even though it might have saved innocent lives! You... you MURDER TRAMPS!"

Walter's rant is completely sincere. This does not stop him from grabbing the book and stuffing it into his backpack for later examination. After all, it's finally his initiative... So his action is, grab and stow the book as a FRA. He can rant and pack at the same time -- it's a useful life skill.


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

Yelena shrugs, used to Walter's temper and thus unbothered by it. "I bowed, but I can understand why others would not. You yourself said he seemed to know 'little enough'. We couldn't understand the exact details of your conversation," (okay, that might have been a bit pointed), "so it seemed you were negotiating primarily for the book, and for him to leave us alone. The former we have, and the latter...well, he'll be leaving everyone alone now." She looks around deliberately.

"Seeing that we're not currently being attacked by the hordes of friends he claimed to have, it seems he was lying to us from the start. I admit, it would have been nice to be certain he didn't have any useful information, but by attacking him when he didn't expect it we ensured he couldn't harm us. Or anyone else. Thus staying in fighting form for when we face the true threat."

She wanders over to the altar, idly picking up the scroll Walter had offered. Her eyebrows raise as she reads it. "Well. I'm personally glad he didn't get to leave with this." As tempted as she is to keep it, she's no thief, and so she offers it back to Walter.


M CG Dwarf Fighter 2/Cleric of Desna 3 | HP: 45/50 | AC: 21, T: 12, FF: 17) | CMB: +9, CMD: 21 | F: +10, R: +5, W: +7 (+1 against Fear Effects) | Init: +7 | Darkvision 60ft, Perc: +10, SM: +6 | Speed 30ft | Spells: 1st 1/4 2nd 2/3 | Active conditions: None

Watching the ghoul - he refused to acknowledge the once-again-dead's name - go down with nary a defense , Kolthis scoffed and spit on its corpse. "Fat load of good his information did him. If he had encountered anything close to what we're looking for, I doubt he would've been as easy to dispatch. Seeing as though we aren't being attacked, as Yelena says, clearly he was lying to us for a chance to put one over us."

Kolthis turns and looks Walter in the eyes, unflinching at the man's outburst. "You can call me whatever you want, and do with your pride the same. I'll not bow any subservience to an undead, be it ghoul, ghast, or even vampire. How you want to approach them is your judgement, but I've not an iota of trust for any of their words or promises, whether I can understand them, or no." Kolthis also says that last bit rather pointedly, as any slightly different circumstance and Kolthis could have believed Walter was betraying them. With Walter stuffing those items in his pouch, Kolthis could still see it, but he was at least willing to give the man a bit of benefit of the doubt.

"Besides, we have that book now. If there's anything it would have known, it'd be in there. Might not hurt to take a look."

Kolthis turned to look at Mihaela with new respect for the inquisitor. With a nod he says "That's a good arm you've got on you. Glad to have you on board."

Facing the rest of the party Kolthis gestures at the other tunnels in the room. "I imagine we should check those for anything else." He points at the entrance south, the one closest to them. "That one's my choice, personally."


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

Whatever challenge Maritine was going to issue as a distraction dies almost as quickly as Yarresh. There isn't even time to taunt the walking corpse before it soon becomes clear that the only thing she can hear is the pounding of her heart and the uncomfortably oppressive silence that followed. No clamor of hungry ghouls, no monstrous unhallowed nightmares slinking out of the darkness, just themselves and corpses.

Until Walter's angry outburst echoes into the dark. Still wound on adrenaline from the fight she wheels on the old man and for a second it appears she's going to scream right back at him before she reigns herself in.

"If you wish to speak with the dead so badly, give me the book and we will leave you here to do so!" Maritine hisses through gritted teeth - the sting of having bowed for a crumb of information hasn't done her mood any favors.

Stalking over to where Yarresh now lays, once again dead, she makes sure to catch Mihaela's gaze and nods in appreciation - next time they handle it like Ravengro. And speaking of...

Once Walter has taken the book and there's nothing left of value on Yarresh, Maritine reaches into her coat and pulls out a vial of alchemist fire; it feels heavier than usual in her hands. She waits a moment and looks at the group. "Do we burn it?" she asks mostly rhetorically.


Female Half-elf {conditions: none} Inquisitor 5 | HP 15/28 | AC 22 (Tch 16 FF 16) | F +5 R +8 W +9 (+2 vs. ench.) | Init +10 | Perc +12, low-light vision, scent (vs. aberr.)

As a side note, I have to say that upon re-reading all the posts that lead us to this and picturing them in my mind, I think this encounter turned out cinematically great!

Mihaela barely flinches at the wizard's outburst — instead, as the ghoul rattles and die, she seems mostly preoccupied with washing away the yellow ichor oozing down her knife in what looks like a scrupulous, methodical ritual.

When she finally speaks, she does so softly, in a flat, emotionless tone. "Bartering with eldritch abominations for knowledge — I think I understand your point all too well, Master Walter" she says. "Unfortunately, so did those two, I'd wager" she adds, nodding towards the mutilated bodies of the two dead cultists.

"Besides, it seems you've managed to pocket your reward none the less." She points at his backpack, and then at the scroll Yelena's holding, and is in the process of handing back to him. "Free of cost, as it looks like."

She doesn't feel the need to elaborate further, as Kholtis and Yelena have already expressed her same convictions with much more eloquence than she'd be capable of: that the putrescent beast was a relatively late-comer to the party, just as they were, and that in spite of its bravado (not quite matched by its prowess), it didn't have much to offer besides a tome it didn't really possess, but merely stumbled upon.

Kholtis's words put a faint smile on her face. "I am but my Goddess's instrument — as such, I must strive to be a worthy tool of her will. And just as the Black Butterfly is known through the spheres as Desna's Shadow and Servant, so too consider my arm at your service, Brother Kholtis" she says, accompanying her words with a slight curtsy. "It must be said, however, that Lys's aim is not a bit less deadly. And I can personally attest to Miss LeGrasse's prodigious fencing prowess." She nods back at Maritine as she speaks the words — memories of Ravengro suddenly coming back to her, and of times when a simple glance was enough to concoct a whole battle plan.

"You still like to play with fire, I see" she chuckles in response to the Ustalavic woman's rhetorical question.

Edited to incorporate a response to Maritine's post.


Female Human Gunslinger (Bolt Ace) 5 | HP:43/43 | Grit 4/4 |
Stats:
|AC 21, Touch 17, FlatFoot 14, CMD 21 | Fort +7, Ref +12, Will +5| Init +8 | Perception +13

Sighing deeply as she walks over the altar to pick her 'tribute' to Yarresh, Lys silently jerks the bottom of her crossbow out and starts to load it up, bolt by bolt. A moral question, isn't it? And I failed to do anything to help either side., she thinks to herself as she locks the magazine of her contraption, and shoulders it once more. "That was... messy.", she mutters out a moment later, standing in between the party with her lips pursed in unusual serious determination. "In the interest of peace,", she starts saying, raising her arms in the air as if to absolve herself of all guilt. "I can't say that I feel we did the most logical thing. Walter,", she turns towards the wizard, "you've got a point, and I can only hope we, and Carrion Hill, didn't end up shafted over it.", she throws a semi-apologetic glance at the wizard. "But I'm sure you can understand, the tongue of the dead in an ancient crypt tends to stress normal people out. And stressing professional undead slayers leads to a bit of zealous rampage." The middle way. A classic way to turn everyone against you.

The holy water bolt clicking into her wrist-strap, she continues, turning to the rest, eyeing Maritine in particular. "Nobody's leaving anyone here., she snaps back quickly, worried tone in her voice. "Now, pride I can understand, but there's a couple of steps between telling someone 'no', and..." She raises an approving eyebrow at Mihaela. "going invisible elven assassin on them. So, in the future, can we all agree to not necessarily swallow our pride, but at least give it, like, a few more chews to savour the taste, yeah?"

Exhaling loudly, Lys runs a hand across her eyes. Running with a big team. Safer, more efficient, and a great source of headaches. As she removes her hand, the look of seriousness is gone, replaced by her usual mask of feigned indifference. "That said, I'll somehow come to terms with his death, and we can focus on more important questions.", she finishes a second later. "Like what's in the book, can we figure out more about the actual, non-moral problem,", she takes a step closer to Mihaela, "And, the most important one - what the hells is that,", she gently pokes the half-elf's armour, "And where do I get one?", she gives the taller woman a grin.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Yelena Stanescu wrote:
" We couldn't understand the exact details of your conversation," (okay, that might have been a bit pointed),

"Any more than I could understand your conversation with the Dark Folk! But I waited for you to finish, like a civilized human being!"

Walter's Chelaxian accent gets noticeably stronger when he's upset.

Quote:
She wanders over to the altar, idly picking up the scroll Walter had offered. Her eyebrows raise as she reads it. "Well. I'm personally glad he didn't get to leave with this." As tempted as she is to keep it, she's no thief, and so she offers it back to Walter.

The wizard snatches the scroll away from her before she can read more than a line or two. He glares at her wordlessly, then stalks off.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Quote:
Until Walter's angry outburst echoes into the dark. Still wound on adrenaline from the fight she wheels on the old man

Hey, Walter is 34, which is old for a PC, but not /old/. He's blonde going prematurely grey, and has a face lined beyond his years, but... gosh, not /old/ old. But anyway...

Quote:
Kolthis turns and looks Walter in the eyes, unflinching at the man's outburst. "You can call me whatever you want, and do with your pride the same.

and

Quote:

she wheels on the old man and for a second it appears she's going to scream right back at him before she reigns herself in.

"If you wish to speak with the dead so badly, give me the book and we will leave you here to do so!" Maritine hisses through gritted teeth

and

Quote:
"Besides, it seems you've managed to pocket your reward none the less." She points at his backpack, and then at the scroll Yelena's holding, and is in the process of handing back to him. "Free of cost, as it looks like."

"RRRARGH!" The wizard clenches his fists --

I think Walter may need a Will save soon...


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Quote:
"I can't say that I feel we did the most logical thing. Walter,",[b] she turns towards the wizard, [b]"you've got a point, and I can only hope we, and Carrion Hill, didn't end up shafted over it.", she throws a semi-apologetic glance at the wizard.

One out of five party members is semi-apologetic. Okay, so that'll be a +2 on the Will save. DC 15...

1d20 + 7 + 2 ⇒ (19) + 7 + 2 = 28 Woo! Okay, no flashback / freakout... this time!

The wizard snarls,clenches his fists... and then, visibly, masters himself. Several seconds pass. When he speaks, he chokes out the words slowly, like a man who is parsing a difficult problem against his will."There are... innocent lives... at risk. So... we should... work together." He glares at the rest of the party, fist still clenched. "We have to work together."

DC 15 Sense Motive:
He's really mad. But he's choking it back, because he believes what he says. Yay, Iron Will.

DC 20 Sense Motive:
Most angry at Mihaela -- something she said struck a nerve. Friendly towards Lys, the only one who used reason. Though he won't easily show that friendliness, because he doesn't really know how to do that.

Also: under the anger? Fear. Terror. There's a hint of strained desperation in his voice. Pleading, really.

DC 25 Sense Motive:
Wow, you're really paying close attention. Okay, under the anger, fear. And under the fear... guilt. Deep terrible guilt, and a streak of something like madness. Walter has issues, and changing alignment didn't resolve them.


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None
Walter the Vagabond wrote:
"Any more than I could understand your conversation with the Dark Folk! But I waited for you to finish, like a civilized human being!"

Yelena blinks in confusion as Walter snatches the scroll from her. Then her lips tighten. "Actually, you could understand my conversation with the Dark Folk. Their responses, no, but you knew damn well what I was saying, and it was the only way we had to communicate with them at all." She glares right back at Walter. "Whereas you deliberately chose to switch to a language none of us knew despite the ghoul speaking Common. Leaving us with no idea what you were asking. Or offering. To pretend the two situations are the same is disingenuous at best."

Don't make things worse, Yelena. You're all here for a reason. Focus on that.

She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Was it the most logical decision? Probably not. You and Lys are both right about that." Her voice is softer now. More conciliatory. "But the deed is done. Let's just learn what we can of our quarry so we can leave this accursed place."

Kolthis Ironjaw wrote:
"Besides, we have that book now. If there's anything it would have known, it'd be in there. Might not hurt to take a look."

"Not here, I think," Yelena murmurs, crouching down beside the cultist in the puddle of ooze. The body seemed mostly intact, at least, which meant it might have more clues regarding what they were dealing with. "While I'm certain the book will be helpful in discovering what we might be dealing with, I would rather not open it in a place sacred to the Black Goat. Up above, in the sun, or at least as close to the sun as we can get given the rain, seems a safer place."

For now she focuses on looking around the room for any sign of what may have become of the other three cultists. She nods at Kolthis when he suggests checking to the south. "Seems as good a place to start as any."

OOC:
Sense Motive: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (15) + 10 = 25
Perception (to search the body): 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (19) + 10 = 29
Survival (to look for tracks): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (18) + 2 = 20

If necessary she will step into the ooze to get to the cultist's body, although if there are any K. checks to identify it I would like to roll those first.


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

Maritine simply shrugs at Mihaela's comment - fire had solved many a problem for them, what was one more?

Before she can drop the vial and incinerate the corpse her attention is refocused to Walter and his outburst and equally quick quashing of said outburst. Strong willed but revealing to the investigator.

Sense Motive: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27

She palms the vial of alchemists fire and slowly but studiously approaches the wizard and, perhaps unfairly, truly studies the man with practiced ease - Anger, yes, but more. Fear, which also made sense, but something else...

Something like...like...Hmm.

She does her best to soften her demeanor enough to hopefully not come across as antagonistic but still with the resolve of an actual inspector. "You know something." It isn't a question, but she leaves it open as if it were and waits to see what Walter will say.


Female Half-elf {conditions: none} Inquisitor 5 | HP 15/28 | AC 22 (Tch 16 FF 16) | F +5 R +8 W +9 (+2 vs. ench.) | Init +10 | Perc +12, low-light vision, scent (vs. aberr.)

Wow. Lots of things happening at once...

For an eyebrow raised in approval, another one is raised in amusement at the mention of "invisible elven assassins". "My pride I can swallow, but I'm afraid only my Goddess commands my obedience — even a feigned one" she candidly replies to Lys, neither in rebuttal nor in apology. "More to the point, I was just called an arrogant child and probably am one, and yet I understand there are things not meant to be known by children and old men alike, as there are creatures whose every word is poison, and games only won by not playing. It wasn't pride that moved my hand and stayed my knee, but fear. Of all the tales I've heard of people bartering with undead monstrosities, none ended well" she sighs.

"This?" she says as the crossbow-woman pokes at her bodysuit, its shimmering becoming suddenly visible as she's re-adjusting her trench-coat. "Bought it in Kaer-Maga. Supposedly came from the Darklands, the vendor..." a harsh, guttural sound interrupts her; one coming not from a new foe, but from Walter, whose pent-up anger is suddenly erupting all at once.

She turns, nervously facing her companion; for an instant, it looks like they'll be having a second fight on their hands. As the man clenches his fists, so does Mihaela's hand instinctively searches her knife, her eyes trying to read the situation.

Activating studied target on Walter (mostly for the +2 Sense Motive bonus)

Sense Motive (studied target): 1d20 + 12 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 12 + 2 = 25

As quickly as it came, the outburst passes; yet his fists remain clenched, his words spoken only through a titanic force of will. Mihaela has the distinct impression she's the second person around there Walter hates the most — the first being himself. Yet instead of recoiling, she calmly walks towards him, taking his fists in her hands while gently trying to pry them open in a tender, almost mother-like fashion.

"We are in a dark place, and many of us walked dark paths to get here. Yet I sense yours was darker than most. I am in no position to condemn or absolve you, but I can promise I will hear you, should the day come when you so wish. Until then" she pauses to look the man straight in the eyes "we work together."

Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (19) + 9 = 28

EDIT: sorry Maritine, got ninja'd again. Let's postpone my scene with Walter once you're done questioning him!


Female Human Gunslinger (Bolt Ace) 5 | HP:43/43 | Grit 4/4 |
Stats:
|AC 21, Touch 17, FlatFoot 14, CMD 21 | Fort +7, Ref +12, Will +5| Init +8 | Perception +13

"That's a good call.", Lys nods at Yelena. "We should most certainly not accidentally open the Book of Untold Horror next to the Altar of Untold Horror.", she breathes out rapidly, before biting her tongue towards Walter. Damn. He's... trying. He's really trying. Shrugging at the Investigator, the side of Lys' lip curls upwards. "We all know something.", she answers the investigator's question quickly. " Right now, I know we have find out what's happening, and I know the less time we spend up pointing pointy things and pointy questions at each other, the more time we spend doing that." Shrugging, Lys continues down Suspicious, and has right to be. But... ill-aimed righteousness can be quite bad. Or am I too trusting of Walter, even with all his... demons. All I know is the lake, and that he'd have never done that before.

Watching quietly as Mihaela gives her vow to Walter, Lys sends a smile in their direction, before furrowing her brow and walking closer. "Wait... Walter, you can talk to the dead, right? You were mentioning that way back when." She nods at Yerresh, and a joke is already on her lips, but she bites it back. "You can, though, right?"

Rolls/OoC:

Sense Motive: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (19) + 11 = 30 Look at Lys, being half-decent and stuff!


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Maritine LeGrasse wrote:

She does her best to soften her demeanor enough to hopefully not come across as antagonistic but still with the resolve of an actual inspector. "You know something." It isn't a question, but she leaves it open as if it were and waits to see what Walter will say.

Walter has an odd gesture that he makes sometimes: the heel of his left hand drawn slowly across his mouth, as if wiping something away.

"I know... many things," he says hoarsely. "Including some I would rather not."


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Quote:
Watching quietly as Mihaela gives her vow to Walter, Lys sends a smile in their direction, before furrowing her brow and walking closer. "Wait... Walter, you can talk to the dead, right? You were mentioning that way back when." She nods at Yerresh, and a joke is already on her lips, but she bites it back. "You can, though, right?"

Walter turns to her, obviously glad of the distraction. "Yes! Yes, I can. But there are, ah, restrictions. First and foremost --" (Walter is one of those people who ticks points off on his fingers as they talk) " -- first, it would deprive me of all of my most powerful spells. So, I would want to do it only towards the end of the day, when I was fairly sure I would not need those spells.

"Second, it won't work on a corpse that has already been re-animated in some wise... so I could cast it on one of these corpses, but not on the ghoul.

"Third, it would take ten minutes or so to perform the ritual. And fourth, I have only the power to ask two questions, and the results are not always certain -- the spirit may resist, and seek to deceive. Then it becomes a test of will and skill.

"And fifth and last..." Walter pauses, clears his throat, "last, it is, ah... an ugly thing. Ugly in the doing, and... spiritually ugly as well. I would do it if there was no alternative," (and now Walter gets that pedantic tone in his voice) "since an evil act, undertaken to serve the greater good, may be, if not desirable, at least morally necessary. Can an evil act serve a higher good? If yes, we would call this spell "malum prohibitum", certainly, but "malum in se"? This is less clear." With a minor but visible effort of will, the wizard pulls himself back to the topic at hand. "In summation: I could, but not here, and not now, and not ever unless the need be truly dire."


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1

Walter turns away from the confusing and entangling world of human interaction to study a clearer, simpler problem: how to get at the body of that last cultist.

How far out in the muck is it floating?


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1

Yelena wrote:

Quote:
If necessary she will step into the ooze to get to the cultist's body, although if there are any K. checks to identify it I would like to roll those first.

Same; also, we could try throwing a rope / grappling hook. Walter, being a fussy guy who tends to overprepare, actually has 50 feet of silk rope and a grappling hook!


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

The second body floats a good ten feet out in the shimmering ooze; it takes but two or three casts to lodge a tine from the grappling hook in the folds of his robes, and drag him slowly to the shore.

There, it's an easy matter to haul him up onto the rocky floor. The body is mutilated in similar manner to the other, minus Yerresh' tender attentions. The man's back is hunched, his visage aged, and his death absolutely brutal.

Searching his corpse, it becomes clear that the bound bracers of carefully carved bone around his forearms are of magical nature (Bracers of Armor +1) and a wand, again of fluted bone, is firmly clasped to his belt by means of a tight leather loop (wand of chill touch)

Given Walter's abilities, and my own dislike of playing 'can you guess it,' I'm going to henceforth reveal the nature of each magical item unless it is of unique power or determining its nature is important to the plot.

Continue your conversation. The below is for when you're ready to move on.

When the group moves down the broad, southern tunnel, they enter a cavern that has clearly seen much use; it contains the remains of a campfire large enough for five, the ashen remains bounded by charred stones, and a similar number of bedrolls along the walls. A few shelves with scattered books upon them and a crude table with chairs completes the chamber's decor.

Searching through the bedrolls and toeing aside the ashes in the fireplace reveal nothing of any note.

Examining the books & notes, DC 25 Linguistic Check and 7 hours study:

How many hours study?: 2d6 ⇒ (4, 3) = 7

There aren't many to go through, but these tomes are in Aklo and about blasphemous and ancient religions, the Dark Tapestry, the Great Old Ones, monsters from other dimensions, and magical portals.

The notes form a scant diary, and reveal that the five who toiled here believed the great chamber to the north - this "Sunless Grove" - to be a site used by the Old Cults in ancient times to contact entities from the Dark Tapestry. Study of these notes reveals that this group, "The Keepers of the Oldest," hoped that by opening this portal anew using the rituals in what they refer to as the Pnakotic Manuscripts, they would be able to learn potent secrets of magic and more from those on the far side of the portal.


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

Maritine isn't surprised by Walter's non-answer, but his gesture says more to her than his words could have. Accepting both the answer and that it was all she'd properly get, she waits for the end of Walter's spiel and agrees with the wizard, once again producing the vial of alchemists fire and moving back to Yarresh's corpse.

With everyone else suitably occupied she uses the magic in her gloves to force open the ghouls mouth and gently inserts the vial. Once she's certain its snug the corpses mouth the inspector stands and sharply kicks the corpses jaws shut and smashing the vial in the process, the snap and air enough to cause the volatile reagent to ignite and start burning. Satisfied that the corpse would burn she joins the others in thoroughly searching the area for anything remaining that may be of use.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Quote:
it contains the remains of a campfire large enough for five, the ashen remains bounded by charred stones, and a similar number of bedrolls along the walls.

Five, you say.

We've seen two dead bodies so far...


Female Human Gunslinger (Bolt Ace) 5 | HP:43/43 | Grit 4/4 |
Stats:
|AC 21, Touch 17, FlatFoot 14, CMD 21 | Fort +7, Ref +12, Will +5| Init +8 | Perception +13

Lys' lips purse as Walter goes onto explaining the morals and the reasoning behind speaking with the dead. Moralism? He's been reading a lot of new books, that's for sure., she adds to herself, listening closely to the wizard's assessment. "So... that's a maybe, then.", she replies as Walter summarises his thoughts, before sending an appreciative smile. "That complicates things." Her eyes glancing with equal parts distaste and approval over Maritine's brutal, but efficient dispatch of the ghoul, she joins the others by the campfire and the second corpse. Oh, Gods. That's... horrid., she thinks, looking away into the distance as the body's dragged out, though the wand catches her attention. Wonder what bone is that...

Moving around, Lys shakes her head. "I don't know what kind of person would just decide, hey, this is a good place for a camp.", she mutters in a flat tone, picking up a book, giving it a cursory glance. "And they'd decide to set up in this... horrible place. Hrm.", she ponders. "If we can't find anything else, then perhaps we can ask the locals who they were. If they were from out of town, they're bound to have stayed somewhere. If they were local, I can imagine their disappearance has been noticed, right?", she asks, picking up a book to study its cover and its first pages, before shoving it in her bag. "Let's pack those up when we leave. I don't want to spend a second longer than I have to here.", she whispers.

It might be a modern thing, but 'written by' this and that, and re-printed/scribed by someone would be around the first pages, right?


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

Yelena nods. "Agreed. We can take the notes with us and study them later, along with the other book." She shivers as she looks around the grove. "This is not a good place for a research session. The veils between the worlds were thin here even before the summoning. Reading the wrong sort of book in this place could have fatal consequences, and not just for us."

Of course, she has to admit that sheer claustrophobia has something to do with her desire to leave. Funny how even in the grove, with its high ceiling, she still feels like the walls are closing in on her.

"Perhaps we could head back to the manor, or to the Stone Circle, and do our research there." She looks at the sheer volume of, well, volumes, and grimaces. "I have the feeling it will take a while."


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Yelena Stanescu wrote:


"Perhaps we could head back to the manor, or to the Stone Circle, and do our research there." She looks at the sheer volume of, well, volumes, and grimaces. "I have the feeling it will take a while."

"There are still passages that we haven't examined," says Walter with a frown, as he rolls up his silk rope and stows it away again. He walks over to the western passage, holding up his burning staff, and peers down it.

Also, there's likely nothing there, but does anyone have a 10' pole? If yes, maybe take a quick poke in the ooze?


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Walter the Vagabond wrote:

"In summation: I could, but not here, and not now, and not ever unless the need be truly dire."

Walter pauses, struck by an idea. "But... there is a spell that gives information about the dead, without actually summoning the spirit. Perhaps... perhaps later, I could..." Walter trails off, staring into space for several moments. Then he bends down to the cavern floor, and carefully swabs up some blood.

Based on the DM's description, there should be plenty of blood around... if I have the slots to spare, I could try casting Blood Biography tonight. Not nearly as informative as Speak With Dead, but otoh doesn't have the Evil descriptor!


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Lys peers into the front covers and book plates of a handful of the tomes, but these were clearly never printed or mass produced - each has been penned by hand in various inks on divers parchments of questionable origins, and all in a tongue alien to her eye.

Walter's investigations into the pool of ooze are noisome and befouling, but ultimately prove worth the while: he hooks a heavy metal object that lies at the pool's five foot deep bottom, and drags free a gleaming scimitar with a great ruby for a hilt, its blade so sharp one cannot tell where the metal ends and the edge begins. (Well done! Scimitar +1.)

Having gathered the belongings, blood, and books of the dead keepers, disposed of with Yerresh, and given the four other tunnels a brief examination - three are indeed solidly barred with fresh iron, the fourth apparently... gnawed through? and leading down, down, down into the bowels of the earth - the group leaves the Sunless Grove for the sunlit world once more.

A wearisome trek up the 800 steps, the air close, the walls claustrophobic, the darkness pushing at your backs as you ascend interminably, until at last you all spill out into the Taldan tomb, and from there up into the ruined house.

Back into that fetid stink that hits you like a maul to the face, like a field of mustard set aflame beneath your noses and then doused with lye. Eyes watering, sinuses aflame, you make your way out of the building and back into Slipper Street.

Where your appearance causes an outcry from the lingering crows; the guards hurry up to surround you in a wary semi-circle, parting only for Sergeant Matthias who steps up, brow furrowed, fists on hips.

"Well? Is it done? Was the demon within? We'd about given you up for dead. Any sign of... Garrus?" That pause in his final question is marked by his shoulders slumping as he puts two and two together.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
DM Lament Configuration wrote:

Walter's investigations into the pool of ooze are noisome and befouling, but ultimately prove worth the while: he hooks a heavy metal object that lies at the pool's five foot deep bottom, and drags free a gleaming scimitar with a great ruby for a hilt, its blade so sharp one cannot tell where the metal ends and the edge begins. (Well done! Scimitar +1.)

There's a thin line between "interrogating the flavor text" and "bouncing off the wallpaper"...

Walter flicks the blade and it's clean: the muck simply flies off it frictionlessly. It's obviously magical, obviously valuable. The wizard holds it in his hand for a moment, contemplating morality.

Once Walter would simply have tucked the weapon away, claiming it as his property. After all, he was the only one who thought to dredge the nasty little pond. Intelligence and initiative claim their own reward; such is justice. Or so he once would have said.

Now he sees things more widely, with more... generosity. He's part of a group, a party. The group works together, sharing the danger, sharing the rewards. This is reasonable.

Of course, this assumes the group is actually working together. And not, for instance, sabotaging a perfectly reasonable negotiation with an explosion of pointless violence, endangering innocents, belittling the one who found a solution...

Walter holds the sword in his hand for a long moment, silent. Then he sighs softly and turns to the party. "Well. It seems I have found something of, ah... possible interest."


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

Yelena hadn't cared enough to dredge the ooze; no research could have survived down there, and it seemed unlikely there would be anything else of value. Certainly not enough of a chance to bother wasting the time.

Looking at the scimitar, she had to admit she'd been wrong. She may not know much about weapons, but even she can tell that this one has been masterfully crafted. "Nicely found Walter. It's beautiful."

Research gathered along with any other items of value, she focuses once more on the count as they ascend the steps. She doesn't think about the walls, how close they are, how easily an errant tremor could send them crashing down, burying the party forever in the endless dark...

Even the stink is a relief. As terrible as it is, it means they've made it back to the surface. Yelena doesn't even raise the hood of her cloak as they step into the street, choosing instead to close her eyes and let the pouring rain wash away any trace of that accursed place.

DM Lament Configuration wrote:
"Well? Is it done? Was the demon within? We'd about given you up for dead. Any sign of... Garrus?"

Yelena opens her eyes to focus on Sergeant Matthias. "No. The demon has moved on, although we did learn much about its origin. As for Commander Garrus...I am sorry. We found his body inside the house." She bows her head. "May the North Star guide him to his final destination."

Faster, faster, so much time already lost...

"Sergeant Matthias. It seems the demon was summoned by five men. We found two of their bodies down below." She quickly describes them, as best as she can. "Do those descriptions sound at all familiar to you? We need to find the other three if at all possible."


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Emotions flicker across Matthias' granite-like features: rage, loss, disappointment.

And then he visibly locks them down, his expression turning professional, and he straightens, pushing back his shoulders.

"Very well. Thank you. I'll notify his sister. You'll be telling the mayor?"

He listens intently as Yelena describes the men, linking his hands behind his back, pursing his lips, and bowing his head.

Matthias Knowledge Local: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (14) + 10 = 24

"I don't recognize the description of the hunchback, but the other, you say he was goggle-eyed? Older? Thinning hair? Aye, that sounds like Old Man Marshan, owner of the ruined house here. Moved to Carrion Hill from Illmarsh, I believe, not too long ago. Purchased this house. Got it cheap, was abandoned for as long as I can remember. Folk said it was cursed, haunted, something. He set to renovating it, kept to himself. Had nothing to do with the Slipper Market business. I've been asking around, talking to the locals, and common opinion was that he was a retired adventurer, living off spoils he'd gotten in his youth from robbing tombs or killing ogres. I asked about visitors, word is they generally arrived after dark and left before dawn."

Matthias hawks and spits. "He'd no friends to speak of. No-one will mourn his passing, especially not now. You saying he summoned this demon? Then a pox on him. May his soul rot in the abyss."


M CG Dwarf Fighter 2/Cleric of Desna 3 | HP: 45/50 | AC: 21, T: 12, FF: 17) | CMB: +9, CMD: 21 | F: +10, R: +5, W: +7 (+1 against Fear Effects) | Init: +7 | Darkvision 60ft, Perc: +10, SM: +6 | Speed 30ft | Spells: 1st 1/4 2nd 2/3 | Active conditions: None
Mihaela Stellamaris wrote:

Kholtis's words put a faint smile on her face. "I am but my Goddess's instrument — as such, I must strive to be a worthy tool of her will. And just as the Black Butterfly is known through the spheres as Desna's Shadow and Servant, so too consider my arm at your service, Brother Kholtis" she says, accompanying her words with a slight curtsy. "It must be said, however, that Lys's aim is not a bit less deadly. And I can personally attest to Miss LeGrasse's prodigious fencing prowess." She nods back at Maritine as she speaks the words — memories of Ravengro suddenly coming back to her, and of times when a simple glance was enough to concoct a whole battle plan.

With an exaggerated bow that looked quite odd on his stout, armored frame, Kolthis returned the faint smile. ”And my hammer at yours, Sister Shadow.” Turning to take in the rest of the group he added ”And at the rest of yours, of course. I would be wrong not to acknowledge the effectiveness of everyone here.”

Walter the Vagabond wrote:
The wizard snarls,clenches his fists... and then, visibly, masters himself. Several seconds pass. When he speaks, he chokes out the words slowly, like a man who is parsing a difficult problem against his will."There are... innocent lives... at risk. So... we should... work together." He glares at the rest of the party, fist still clenched. "We have to work together."

He paused, glancing at Walter who was struggling to keep his rage back. Stars, this really was a different man than the one he had met before. Kolthis was impressed at the improvements he had made, and simultaneously disappointed in himself for escalating the situation. Having been part of Hammer Hands, this kind of situation had arisen more than once, and although he had really never been one quite skilled at mediation, cohesiveness in a group was vital. He took a deep breath before continuing.

”Walter is right. We must work together. As this foray was the first we’ve all worked together in this group, there were bound to be some complications as we learn to cooperate to the best of our abilities. If we continue together on this investigation - which admittedly, I think would be best - it would perhaps behoove us to get to know each other better. Come up with a game plan, see what our strengths and weaknesses are, as a unit.” Unbidden, memories of his time with the Hammer Hands came forth. Laughing, drinking around the fire. Wisecracks, antics. Shouting matches and reconciliation. The open road, and friends, in all their intricacies, making life worth living.

He had lost that once already. And perhaps it was too early to say they were all ‘friends' for this group, but Kolthis wanted deeply to make that a reality once more, and in his own way, he would try to make that happen. Of course, he wouldn’t tell anyone else that - it was far too embarrassing.

”But first, let’s finish exploring this place, and get out of here. Probably a good call on that whole cursed book thing, not reading it here.”

Arriving in the makeshift camp, Kolthis took note of the remains. Five bedrolls, but not five bodies at the altar.

Lys wrote:
"If we can't find anything else, then perhaps we can ask the locals who they were. If they were from out of town, they're bound to have stayed somewhere. If they were local, I can imagine their disappearance has been noticed, right?

Kolthis nods in agreement. Good instinct, that one. ”Aye, that would make sense. Hopefully somebody can tell us something, otherwise we’ve hit a dead end, waiting for another attack. A position I would rather not be in.” They would have to find the rest of the people who were involved in this, before they found the group.

Offering to carry any of the books and papers that anyone wanted from the camp, Kolthis walked at the head of the trek back to the surface. The stink was somehow even worse the second time, but at least it meant that they had, blessedly, made it back alive.

Talking to Sergeant Matthias, Kolthis could see the all too familiar signs of loss. ”I am sorry for your loss, Sergeant. It seems Garrus fought bravely - as best as he knew how. He has done his Goddess, and city, proud, and lives on through your memories, stories, and love. We will, of course, let the Mayor know.” Kolthis gripped the warped butterfly pendant in his pocket as he replied, faintly sad he would never get to meet the man.

DM Lament Configuration wrote:
"I don't recognize the description of the hunchback, but the other, you say he was goggle-eyed? Older? Thinning hair? Aye, that sounds like Old Man Marshan, owner of the ruined house here. Moved to Carrion Hill from Illmarsh, I believe, not too long ago. Purchased this house. Got it cheap, was abandoned for as long as I can remember. Folk said it was cursed, haunted, something. He set to renovating it, kept to himself. Had nothing to do with the Slipper Market business. I've been asking around, talking to the locals, and common opinion was that he was a retired adventurer, living off spoils he'd gotten in his youth from robbing tombs or killing ogres. I asked about visitors, word is they generally arrived after dark and left before dawn."

”Is there anyone else with a similar story nearby? New, or new-ish, kept to themselves, the like? Anybody at all that you can think of that would be worth talking to?” Stars, they needed to move. Before it was too late.

Rolls/OoC:

Sense Motive: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (10) + 6 = 16

With Kolthis’ combination of not being affected by encumbrance movement penalty, handy haversack, and high strength score, I don’t think it would be an issue carrying anything we want from the depths.


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Sergeant Matthias bows his head grimly as Kolthis offers his condolences, but seems to have already stashed his emotions deep in an iron-bound chest that he has no interest in opening once more. Thus his expression doesn't change, though it remains respectful.

"Anyone else like Old Man Marshan?" he turns to check with some of the other crows gathered around him, but they give him puzzled expressions, a few even shrugging. "Nobody comes to mind. Not a retired adventurer type. Old men we have many. People come and go along the Kingfisher all the time. Hard to give you an accurate answer. But I can put the word out amongst the crows, see if anybody's heard of another stranger buying an abandoned home or the like."


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

"We'd appreciate that." Finding the three missing summoners would no doubt be the key to finding out what creature was currently haunting Carrion Hill. And knowing exactly what they were dealing with would be the key to stopping it.

Yelena stares one last time at the spiral symbol on the wall, eyes thoughtful. Then she resolutely turns away. "Reporting to the mayor would no doubt be wise. Perhaps there is an empty room in the manor we can use as we go through all these books." She may have a room at the Stone Circle, but it's rather small. Plus she'd like to keep Tereza out of this if at all possible.


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

Helping collect what little she can and being sure to retrieve her everburning torch, Maritine is annoyed at how exhausted she is when the trek to the surface is completed, cursing the concept of stairs in every way she knows until it is time to curse the foul and fetid stench of the ruined house. It's going to be a long case.

She blames fatigue for her loss of words as the Crows ask about their captain and is thankful that the others are more compassionate than she is able to be, moving her focus to the remaining cultists and the vanishing trail , having little to go on save slivers of information and what they had taken from deep in the darkness.

"Would the mayor have that information? And can you recommend somewhere safe for us to carry out research? We have much to unravel - any knowledge we can gain will will be invaluable in aiding us stop this madness."


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Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Maritine LeGrasse wrote:
is annoyed at how exhausted she is when the trek to the surface is completed, cursing the concept of stairs in every way she knows

Behind her is the wizard with 10 Str and 8 Con who is just a couple of pounds short of medium encumbrance...

Somewhere around step 500 she hears Walter wheeze, "My old master... told me... before he died... that the First Principle was..." he pauses for breath, "DO NOT CALL UP THAT WHICH YOU CANNOT PUT DOWN!" Walter's hoarse words echo for a long moment off the cold stone walls of the passage.

"These fools... obviously did not know... or did not heed. Fools. Fools." A long pause, broken only by the shuffle of feet on the stone stairs. Then, "I suppose a... a corollary principle would be... do not climb down... where you cannot climb back up again."

A little wizard humor there. He'll be here all week, tip your waitress!


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Sergeant Matthias considers Maritine. "I won't speak for the mayor. He might not aught about this, but then again, maybe he does. Only one way to find out. As for a safe place to carry out your research - I'm sure he could find room for you at his manor. Plenty of rooms in there."


Female Half-elf {conditions: none} Inquisitor 5 | HP 15/28 | AC 22 (Tch 16 FF 16) | F +5 R +8 W +9 (+2 vs. ench.) | Init +10 | Perc +12, low-light vision, scent (vs. aberr.)

"Sister Shadow?" Mihaela chuckles at Kholtis's moniker. "I like that."

She's not surprised by Walter's evasiveness, nor by the number of bedrolls, which seem to confirm Yelena's recounting of the creepers' tale. Five came down into the darkness, but only two were claimed by it. With their only other clue — the tome — firmly in the wizard's possession, the thought accompanies her on their long way back to the surface. Luckily, waiting for them after the long ascent is not only whatever dim sunlight filters through the clouds, but also a smaller, yet much more crucial prize: a name.

"I concur that Crown Manor should be our first stop — there there are news to be shared" her expression briefly clouds over at the thought of them having to be the bringers of such unfortunate tidings — indeed, she has just averted her eyes when asked about the Commander's fate "and hopefully, information to be learned."

She nods at Maritine's inquiries, pleased to have the woman take the lead. "We have a name. We need four more, and three people to match them to. Still looking for a junior partner?"


Female Human Lepidstadt Inspector 5 | Initiative +3 | Perception +10 | Fort +3 Ref +8 Will +7 | HP 45 AC 18

Maritine nods to Mihaela with a touch of gratitude - she has yet to find a way to make information retrieval interesting. She simply hoped the mayor had what they needed, or at least somebody that did.

"Just like old times. She says as she makes a quick mental checklist of what they had, turning to Walter and asking "The tome; how long do you think we'll need to go through it? We may be at the mayor's residence a while, might as well do as much as we can while we're there." She tries not to sound like she;s taking charge so much as nudging direction - she knows that time ins't on their side, they just have so little to work with.


Male Human Wizard | HP 22/22 |AC 17 (Tch 13, FF 14) | Fort 0, Ref +3, Will +7|Init +1 Perception +1
Maritine LeGrasse wrote:
turning to Walter and asking "The tome; how long do you think we'll need to go through it? We may be at the mayor's residence a while, might as well do as much as we can while we're there." She tries not to sound like she;s taking charge so much as nudging direction - she knows that time ins't on their side, they just have so little to work with.

"It will take some time." Silence for a moment, then "The rest of today to skim the papers and other books. The tome itself... I have barely glanced at it. Hours? Days? I cannot say." The wizard stares broodily into the middle distance for some moments, then adds, "But sooner begun, sooner done. First, I need a quiet place where I can study without disturbance. And second, if there is somewhere where we could purchase magical components... either a vendor or a temple of one of the gods... that would help."

See discussion page; Walter is looking for the "soothing incense" that's the material component for Visualization of the Mind, the second level clerical spell. It seems like the sort of thing a temple or church might have...?

Between the review of the papers and his first attempt on the book, Walter expects to be locked up with cultist papers and the mysterious, blasphemous tome for the rest of the day. At least. He has very mixed feelings about this.


[Loot] | [Maps] Toilsday the 13th of Pharast, around 11:30 p.m.

Sergeant Matthias assigns a callow, lanky youth with a dripping nose to take you back to the mayor's.

You ask to make a quick detour to locate a vendor of certain rare and esoteric goods, but when you get to Mae Beverich’s Arcane Boutique, it is closed and barred like most shops in town. "Go away!" says a scared, high pitched voice from behind the door when you knock, "business is closed today!"

Diplomacy (Mihaela has the highest score): 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (9) + 9 = 18

Luckily you are convincing enough to let her open a small window and make some transactions – the soothing incense is on hand, and after some grumbling and examining the scimitar and braces, she passes over a pouch filled with 330 platinum pieces.

She slams the window shut as soon as you take it.

The young crow then leads you back to the mayor's manor, the rain pouring down upon you all the while seemingly without end. The gutters are flooded, carrying before them seething rafts of cockroaches, dead rats, trash and the effluvia of the city.

Inside the entrance hall, the youth hands you over to Jarvis, the stoic guard who'd taken you down to the Slipper Market in the first place.

"The mayor's having lunch -" he begins, but is cut off by a hoarse shout from a tall door to the side.

"Jarvis? Who is that? Is it them? Are they back! Have them clean up and join me, blast it!"

Jarvis takes a moment to compose his features, then sketches an ironic bow. "If you'd clean up and join him through there." He's not even above taking sopping wet cloaks and jackets.

Through the tall door is a long, beautifully crafted dining table, running parallel to a large window composed of a thousand small, lead-lined diamond glass panes. Precious little light comes through their opaque faces, however, such that even now candelabra are lit, casting shifting illumination over the walls, the taxidermied animals heads that stare mutely down at you, and a massive tapestry against the back depicting what might have been eerie children dancing amidst standing stones under the light of a full moon.

"You're back! That's a victory in and of itself. Well done, well done." Heggry stands, gestures at the rows of empty chairs running down the table's lengths. "Sit down, you must be famished. Now. Tell me all about it. Did you find Commander Garrus? Is he well?"

Heggry sits and stabs his fork into a slice of beef that looks to be very, very rare, and chuckles. "That blue-eyed bastard, I'll be he was hiding out just to give us all a scare, he was. Ha! Garrus. You'd think a man so holy wouldn't be prone to such pranks."

Servants begin to filter out from a narrow rear door, bearing plates, goblets, silverware, and tureens of what appears to be a very substantial and heart beef stew.


Female Human Psychic (Esoteric Starseeker) 5 | HP 22/27 | AC: 18 (T: 11, FF: 17) | Saves: F:+7, R:+5, W:+9 (+2 vs fear effects) | Init: +6 | Perc. +10
More Info:
BAB: +2, CMB: 1, CMD: +12 | Spells: (1st) 3/8, (2nd) 3/6, (Bonus) 1/0 | Phrenic Pool 4/4 | Active Conditions: None

Yelena looks at the mayor, at the face filled with hope that she's about to dash, and feels her heart break. "I'm...I'm so sorry." She bows her head. "We found Commander Garrus' body. He and his men...there were no survivors." Her eyes clench shut as she mourns the death of a man she never knew.

She doesn't sit. She doesn't think she could eat anyway, certainly not in this room. Although she doesn't think the mayor has anything to do with what they're hunting, every decoration here sets her teeth on edge. This whole place is rotten to the core. You can practically smell the corruption.

Besides, she suspects the mayor will need some privacy to mourn Garrus' loss. The quicker their report is given, the better.

"We did not see the creature. It had moved on by the time we arrived, and we are not yet certain where. We did find evidence that it had been summoned by five fools. Two met their deaths immediately, an old hunchbacked man and another that Sergeant Matthias identified as Old Man Marshan. The other three apparently fled. We retrieved their notes, and hope that studying them will give us the clues we need to stop this creature. And to discover the identities of the ones who fled." She forces herself to look the mayor in the eye. "Is there a private room here we could use for our research?"

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