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The undead-populated nation of Geb is the principal food exporter to many nations throughout the Inner Sea. Few foreigners hold the undead nation or its melancholic ghost king with anything other than distaste, but they’ve come to rely on Geb’s cheap, zombie-raised food.
Geb, the infamous necromancer, founded the nation millennia ago. After his earth-scorching war with the archmage Nex ground to a halt, Geb found no passion for ruling and no meaning without his rivalry, so he ended his life, but arose as a ghost. No more interested in rulership as a ghost than he had as a living man, Geb mostly retreated from public view and entrusted control of the country to his 60 apprentices, the Blood Lords.
Geb has recently become more active, shaken from his melancholy by rumors that his old rival Nex might soon return to the world. He began gearing up his nation for war, which demands maintaining its role as an economic powerhouse. These are interesting times. Times rife for opportunity for several up-and-coming troubleshooters in the city of Graydirge. For while they each have come from humble beginnings, their ambitions are lofty, indeed. For these individuals desire to rise through the ranks of Geb's political landscape and one day become--
Chapter 1: Zombie Feast
Bone-shrouded Graydirge is a remote city located in the eastern foothills of the Shattered Range. Ancient and grim, the city has remained free of significant invasions or disasters for thousands of years, despite its distance from larger fortified cities like Mechitar and Yled. This is largely due to the city’s impressive fortifications of bone and stone, sizable population of ghouls and necromancers, and the zombie-tilled fields that surround it for miles in every direction, providing a natural—or unnatural—barrier to any would-be invaders.
Graydirge once served as a remote military outpost positioned to intercept troops invading Geb along the eastern edge of the Shattered Range. The war between Geb and its rival Nex caused it to expand rapidly. The city’s architects first decided to use bones to construct the city’s buildings and fortifications simply because the material was so plentiful and provided an unmistakably disconcerting appearance. What began as a convenience quickly evolved into a tradition, then a respected architectural style.
Blood Lords visiting Graydirge were impressed by the intimidating edifices and began another grim tradition: punishing those who refused to serve Geb in undeath by sending them to Graydirge, where their flesh would be violently stripped from their skeletons to produce both building materials and food for Geb’s ghoul population. History tells of at least one wealthy aristocrat who provided the exorbitant funds to have the dead resurrected before putting them through the excruciating rendering process, ensuring the punishment wasn’t easily avoided.
Graydirge has changed little in the intervening centuries since the Nex-Geb War ground to a halt. Far removed from politics (both international affairs and the internecine strife between the Blood Lords in Mechitar), the city has had little reason to expand or adapt. The most significant change has been the steady expansion of the zombie-worked farms surrounding the city, coinciding with the nation’s increasing dependence on food exports as a significant source of income. Otherwise, those in power have been content to remain in power, while those living under the heel of their oppressive undead overlords have no voice in the city’s future. Only very recently, with Geb’s return to the public eye, have the Great Factions’ machinations begun to reach as far as Graydirge.
The only Blood Lord in Graydirge is Berline Haldoli, a halfling necromance who is affiliated with the Reanimators factoin and who oversees Graydirge’s zombie-run farms. Always on the lookout for opportunities to bring up-and-coming individuals under her wing in the endless scheming of Geb’s undead rulers, Berline has called upon each of you to attend a feast at her manor tonight to discuss a matter that she needs help with. You have agreed to meet with each other at a tavern called Deathknell to get acquainted with one another before attending the feast together...
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An elven woman enters the bar, lovely and poised, in a rather well-made almost elegant servant's dress. Coal black even sporting a white apron. She pauses at the entrance, scanning the tavern with a keen eye, taking in all the detail that she can, before moving to the barkeep.
The raven-haired bun dips slightly in a nod of greeting to one of her own station and then smiles at the person "My Lady Cort is attending a meeting here tonight with new business partners. Would you by any chance know of such a gathering and point me to the scheduled room? My Lady has particular tastes so needs me to prepare for her arrival." she settles into a weary air, searching for connection in mutual understanding of having to deal with the entitled.
deception?: 1d20 + 6 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 6 + 1 = 22 the +1 is from nocturnal charm if her is a humanoid, charming liar will increase his attitude if that is critical and that her conversation is ingratiating herself or inflating at least Cort's status.
In truth, Aily is the forward scout in case of her mutual father (in different ways) decides to come for them, though she is not always sure if her mistress understands that this is what she does.
Without want of recognition or...
She steps on her wandering mind, rubbing her heel in it for a few moments mericously so her face doesn't fall into a scowl instead of the weary smile she is portraying, like she gives a fig about what this bag of... she stomps three or four times to SHUT her head up.
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"I don't think the floor did anything to you?"
The sardonic comment comes from the literal ray of sunshine in the room, a young looking man with jet black hair and an easy attitude who sprawls in a chair by the window, bathed in warm afternoon light.
He waves Aily over to his table which, as well as being washed by unseasonable sunshine, is tactically positioned in the corner of the room so that the young man can see everyone who enters and exits.
"Can I offer you a drink? Let's see... the spiced ale I think. You don't need an actual blood drink, but I suspect you like the taste anyway."
He grins as though he hasn't just made a huge, potentially extremely rude assumption. "I'm Caraid, and you?"
Aily moves over to the table, eyes suspicious until he says his name. They were informed of the other participants, and this 'Caraid' was one of them.
"You are correct, I no more need to drink blood than you need to feast on the flesh of plump children." she says noting his mismatched eyes as he had noted her small fangs.
"Aily is my name, but that is no consequence. I am the servant of the great Lady Cort, who will be along shortly." Aily slips a satchel from her side and fished out a cloth. After choosing the one chair that is in the shadows she starts wiping it and the table in front of it down.
Having carefully removed the detritus of the workday from his clothes, Telvir made his way to Deathknell with barely a whiff of embalming fluid.
A quick word with the tavern keeper, and Telvir pointed himself to the corner table where his future teammates were waiting. The elf raises an eyebrow at the tidy state of the table as he sits down.
"Lord Haldoli's manor is an exciting, and dangerous, place for a dinner party. You look like a capable group of companions. My name is Telvir Stanton, apprentice necromancer."
Caraid inclines his head as Telvir joins them. "Caraid, a pleasure. If the sunlight bothers you both we can close the shutter. I'm afraid its an occupational hazard of spending time with me." He smiles and gives a lazy shrug. "I'm told my charm and good company makes up for it though." A flirtatious wink gets thrown Aily's way for good measure.
Aily raises an eyebrow at including her in the 'companions' wondering if the other elf had eyes, since she hadn't bothered to look up from setting out her master's place. Lace dolly, crystal wine glass, and a bottle of wine, all from her satchel.
She finishes, catching the flitatious wink, which does tug at her lips for a second before she swats it away. "Salutations Mr. Stanton. I am Aily Yor." she starts to give a slight curtsy, but then notices his fangs and gives a bit of a stare, before realizing she is being a rude ass "My apologies sir, it is not often I see another of our particular heritage."
Her slight curtsy turns into a deep one instead "My lady Cort will be your companion, not I. I am just her servant."
Rising she does smile briefly, before moving toward the shutters. "Thank you for understanding, Caraid. While the rays of the sun does not affect me, sunlight can be a... distraction to my lady. I can manage though, please remain seated."
The servant closes the shutter, then moves back to the chair she was preparing. One last thing is pulled out of her satchel, a plush pillow, that she fluffs, then sets lightly down for her master to sit in.
Her eyes look over the table setting searching for an imperfection. A moment goes by, before she mentally nods to herself. Done she steps before the chair, folding her hands behind back (and near the dagger hidden there, just in case)
"She's a full vampire then?" Caraid asks casually. "Oops. Well apologies in advance, hopefully she doesn't take bad moods out on you? Or I suppose we could just do everything at night... moonlight is less annoying I assume. Although changing my sleep cycle would be a pain."
He seems to be musing as much as making conversation.
Aily lips tug up again, making her force them back into standard servant bland. "It is my lady's prerogative to do whatever she wants with her moods." she responds, but there is amusement in her voice. "I am certain she will feel utter despair on having caused you the 'pain' of messing with your sleep schedule." her eyes shift over to the attractive man briefly, before snapping back to looking at nothing.
Caraid notices the look Aily give him and his lips part into a smirk which the servant misses as she makes a point of looking away.
"Well I hope your lady isn't too much longer." He says, glancing around the empty inn. "There's fashionably late and then there's too late to get anything done."
"My lady is never late. She arrives exactly when she means to." Aily answers, with a tone that means to be matter of fact edging close to curt, but there is tension laced in, signifying some worry on the matter as well. Her eyes drift to the door, as if to wish her appearance.
"There is another is there not?" said mostly to distract herself.
Mithralline Cort enters the tavern, darkly iridescent wings flapping, barely relieving the darkness of the rest of her leather armor. She loos around imperiously, red eyes finally lighting on Aily Yor.
"There you are, Alsabet! About time! I hardly thought this place would ever be ready for me. And is this really the best place we could find. That shutter is almost letting a little light in. And there's a scratch on the wood, like a ghoul tried to sharpen its claws on it -- better to have sharpened its wits. Who are the rest of you? Can't you even make introductions, Allise? Out with it, all of you! I don't have all day to sit around and lollygag, like I was some sort of Shelynite. AND WHY -- in the sweet scent of pestilence -- is there an empty seat?!"
She takes a breath and dismisses her servant from consideration as she turns her attention to Caraid and Telvir.
Aily relaxes as her mistress shows up, and almost instantly tenses as her mistress opens her mouth. For the tenth, no twelfth, time today, she considers stabbing the great Lady Cort, and just ending this miserable existence of hers.
A long sigh later she decides not today. "There is an empty seat, mistress, because the fourth member of the party has not arrived yet." offering the obvious, like a tired revelation.
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"Well, where is he? Or she? Or it? Go find her. Tell her I do NOT appreciate being kept waiting!" Mithralline orders. "Must I do everything myself, Anise?"
For the tenth, no twelfth, time today, she considers how her supposedly faithful servant seems far less helpful than Mithralline knows she deserves. Hasn't she suffered enough? If she didn't think Aurora would taste so horrible -- incompetence has a distinctly sweet, unpleasant flavor, she's found -- she'd just make a meal out of her and find someone else to do the job. She is loyal, though, she supposes, which makes up for the lack of both initiative and follow-through. She'd certainly never think of disobeying or hurting or betraying her master (if only because that too would take some initiative).
"Mistress." the dhampir elf draws out the word like she is wringing its neck. Somehow she manages to simmer down to say politely, "Perhaps the He/She/It that is missing will arrive while you spend a few moments taking to these fine gentlemen? While you enjoying a nice glass of blood wine?" the bottle on the table speaks for itself.
Caraid meanwhile lounges without a care in the world and seems to be enjoying himself immensely as the vampire and the demi-vampire sharpen their metaphorical fangs on each other. He doesn't say anything, there's no need to at this point although he does raise a languid hand when 'Lady Cort' complains about the sunlight.
Neither of them seem interested in what he has to say though, so he puts his hand down again and just enjoys the show.
"I didn't expect entertainment before dinner." He murmurs to Telvir.
A pair of dust-kissed boots step into the establishment not long after the sprite's tirade. The greying man scans the room for his would-be companions and joins them. Neither tall nor short, the stocky Garundi gives you the impression he's used to long hours out and about.
Unceremoniously and somewhat heavy-handedly he removes a pair of steel gauntlets and dumps them on the table as he sits down. "Ceceka," is the concise introduction he offers to those present. It is accompanied by a curt nod but already his eyes are drifting towards whoever is tending to their cups. Parched lips then make a sensible request which will hopefully improve his mood. "Whatever light ale you got, and whatever these here fine gents and ladies wish for."
Ah! Ceceka stretches his legs underneath the table and tries to relax after spending most of the day traveling the countryside. Today had been a long one and it seems it won't come to an end anytime soon. "My apologies, t'has been a long day for me. Work."
Work. That singular word often explains it all.
Once everybody has gathered and had a chance to introduce themselves, you head out Berline Haldoli's estate. Berline operates from a sprawling estate abutting the south edge of raydirge’s old bone wall: a 30-foot-high wall of gruesomely fused bones that surrounds the city. A 10-foot-high stone wall encloses the other three sides of Berline’s property. As you approach the archway that serves as the main entrance, a finely dressed ghoul ushers you into the villa’s sprawling grounds.
"I am Majordomo Mhyurk. Welcome," he says, baring his gleaming teeth. "The mistress is expecting you. Please, pay no heed to the workers."
The ghoul leads you across the orderly yard, where a dozen or so workers busily till the gardens, pushing wheelbarrows, and hauling heavy loads; their rigid movements and rotting flesh reveal that these workers are mindless zombies. The villa’s primary residence is a large house built in a more modern style, with ribs, skulls, and femurs accentuating the predominantly brick construction. A few outbuildings—storage sheds, workers’ homes, and the like—also surround the courtyard.
As you approach the residence with Mhyurk, a nearby zombie stops dead in its tracks, slowly turning its head in your direction. The zombie gnashes its teeth and lets out a low, drawn-out moan from deep in its torn throat. The sharp creak of a door cuts off the rasping noise.
A halfling of medium height and middle age stands on the villa’s front porch. She wears a yellow dress with ruffles, an orange cloak with the hood thrown back to show her brownish-red, curly hair, and necklace of grisly charms. She holds a gnarled black staff topped with a pig’s skull, which she taps on the porch’s wooden rail to keep the zombie’s attention as she takes a few barefoot steps in its direction.
"Glorinsa? Glorinsa!" the halfling calls out in a peppy voice as she keeps the zombie’s attention focused on her. A young human woman in plain but well-kept servants’ clothes comes running, her eyes wide at the sight of the zombie. Glorinsa gives a quick bow and apologizes, first to “Mistress Haldoli,” then to Mhyurk and you. She draws the zombie’s attention with gentle snaps of her fingers and makes soothing noises as she leads it back toward the gardens to work.
Berline waits at the top of the porch steps. Mhyurk gives a sheepish grin, mutters something about how long it takes to train good corpse tenders, and gestures for you to enter the residence. Berline greets each of you in turn, welcoming you like old friends.
"So good of you all to make it! You are most welcome here, indeed. If you would follow me to the dining room?"
The dining room is just beyond a small entryway. Tiny, colorful bone tiles in intricate patterns decorate most of the walls and floor. Much of the furniture is made of a mix of wood and polished bones. Most of the rooms are designed with comfort in mind: Long, cushioned benches line many walls, and plentiful cushions, rugs, and blankets surround numerous low tables.
"I'm just about to put the finishing touches on our meal! Would you mind waiting here for now? A few servants are busy cleaning the other rooms, which means they need to keep their attention focused on the zombies they’re commanding to do the labor. Distractions can lead to inconvenient messes in a corpse tender’s work," Berline opines with a smile.
Mithralline finally settles down, though she scowls as the latecomer makes a barely sufficient attempt at an apology -- not even the slightest bit of groveling! -- and the other two don't speak up.
"Well, hopefully you all will be of greater intellect and prowess than Adabin here," she says, gesturing to Aily. "She's my servant, though barely competent to do that. Fortunately, she's rather homely, so attracts little attention when she travels with me. If she bothers you, please just kick her or something and she'll get out of your way."
She stops for a moment, cocking her head as if thinking, then gives a decisive nod. She's definitely sufficiently introduced what's-her-name and hopefully made it clear that they shouldn't physically harm her, or try to eat her, more than necessary, as she's Mithralline's servant and no one else is allowed to do anything to her without permission.
"Now, I have a very important meeting coming up, that I understand you're all attending. Adiot will come too, of course, to open doors and carry anything. I'd say she'd take notes, but I'm honestly unsure she's capable of writing. Affity, can you write? Legibly? In Necril, or Common, or any sort of civilized language? With proper spelling and grammar?
"At any rate, considering we already have to deal with her lack of literacy, is there anything you all can do to help that I should know about? Even the littlest thing. Like you -- nameless person No. 1, was it? -- can you manage to walk in a straight line and take dictation at the same time?"
AT THE MANORHOUSE
Mithralline watches and frowns at the zombie before its led away. She sympathizes with the Blood Lord as she casts a glance at Aridhol -- she knows just what it's like to have servants that can barely make themselves understood and struggle to do anything they're supposed to do.
Waiting for Andra to prepare her seat, she nods sympathetically
"Completely understandable," she says. "Good help is hard to find."
Telvir casts a critical eye over the working corpses as he makes his way into the estate, though he keeps his thoughts to himself.
Torn throats? They will last longer with better care and maintenance.
Taking a seat at a low table, he gives his attention to the host.
Ceceka balls his hand into a fist out of frustration and annoyance. He's dealt with bullies and the privileged before and what little he learned from those encounters is that you best draw a line in the sand right away. And stick to it. Weary eyes focus on the sprite as he picks up his gauntlets and puts them back on again. The leather groans. "We've all been invited as equals by Haldoli. You best remember that."
The zombie's groan is answered by Ceceka stepping forward to meet its challenge. Cold eyes assess the zombie, but then the lady of the manor bursts onto the scene. Lady Haldoli quickly and deftly defuses the situation. "Thank you for having us, lady Haldoli."
Without any further fuss, he lets himself be guided into the manor proper and nods when asked to wait. With so many seats to choose from, Ceceka simply picks the bench closest to him and sits down. No point in standing around when one can sit.
"Apologies my lady, my name is Caraid." The young man in question offers with a sweeping bow. Somehow the light falling through the shutters illuminates him perfectly, giving him a momentarily angelic appearance as he does so. "I am capable of walking in a straight line when required although I often find that a more wandering path leads one to more interesting locations. As to dictation I have always tended more towards the fairer sex, but we should all experience everything life has to offer should we not?"
Aily at least can see that he's baiting the lady - relatively gently, but with a decided layer of irreverence.
When it is Caraid's turn to be presented her produces a gorgeous red rose from somewhere and offers it to the Blood Lord with a flourish and a kiss to her small hand. "Being in your company is more than enough compensation, My Lady." He says, and this time the compliment seems entirely sincere. "I confess my own investigations into the Great Art are barely beginning but it is always a pleasure to see a mistress of the Art at work. Anything I can do to help, you need simply ask."
"Reading and writing, yes. I do answer the majority of your correspondence, my lady, since the basics of polite communication is seemingly beneath you." Aily responds about the literacy portion of the tirade, but leaves the rest unanswered. Her musing about urinating in the wine next time since her mistress's tastes are so refined she would never notice is interrupted by the man named Ceceka strength, with word and movement. She wonders instead about how easily that man could crush the Lady Cort's small head. And then further is distracted by the man named Cariad's every movement, wondering... well other things.
At the mansion, she stays quiet during the introductions, a step behind and to the side of her mistress ready to open doors and things that her lady cannot be bothered with. While also keeping an eye out for escape routes, dangers, and various details that might be important later.
exploration action: search if possible without looking like she is searching, deception below if needed
deception: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (17) + 7 = 24
As always she cleans the lady's seat, and sets out her favorite pillow.
Berline smiles prettily up at Caraid as he kisses her hand. "Very pleased to make your acquaintance," she says with a grin before heading off into the kitchen.
Aily looks around the dining room, but there doesn't seem to be much of interest here.
After several more minutes, Berline returns with several servants and serves up a delicious feast. The main course is a sweet-and-savory chicken, egg, and almond pie. She also serves bowls of steamed grains with caramelized onions, raisins, and stewed vegetables; a tomato-and-cucumber salad; a hearty stew of lamb, carrots, and potatoes; and a basket filled with loaves of crusty bread. Berline insists on you enjoying a hearty meal with her before discussing serious business.
She has a variety of offerings for individuals with other appetites as well—this is Geb, after all. She bounces around the dining area and makes trips to the kitchen to grab forgotten utensils, happily fetching whatever blood or other grim sustenance you might require with no less enthusiasm than she shows for mundane food.
Berline is polite and pleasant when interacting with her servants throughout dinner; these servants include Mhyurk the butler, a number of living halflings and humans, and a lanky skeleton named Reacher who helps fetch things on high shelves. Berline’s staff goes about their duties with seeming cheer, but it's not difficult to discern that they are actually utterly terrified of her.
Once the meal has concluded, Berline gestures for her servants to clear the table. Three servants and four disembodied, fleshy hands come forward. The hands pass the cutlery along, dumping it all tidily into a large basket, while the humanoid servants gather larger items. As they work, Berline speaks.
"Thank you all for joining me today. I trust you enjoyed the meal? If not, we can always turn you into a zombie. They’re far less picky, right? Very low maintenance. Well, that’s not entirely correct, which I suppose is the reason I’ve gathered you all here.
“I am a necromancer by trade, and I am also a Blood Lord, so I’m basically a necromancer with lots of paperwork, responsibilities, and competition. As I’m also closely affiliated with the Reanimators—one of the Great Factions—I am responsible for raising and maintaining the undead labor force that operates Graydirge’s farms. We grow lots of food in Geb, not just for Gebbites, but for trade across the Inner Sea. I’m talking about actual people food. I mean, food for living people, not food that is living people. That’s not my specific business.
“Zombie farmers are my business. The zombies don’t run the farms; they just work the farms under the direction of my chargehands. It’s a difficult and dangerous line of work, but it’s possible to turn most zombies into relatively docile creatures with the right techniques. The chargehands keep the working zombies from shambling this way and that. Most of the chargehands are zombies themselves, in fact, but ones that have retained their personalities and memories. They do good work.
“However, in the last few days, I learned of some trouble at one of the farms that supplies food for the people of Graydirge itself: Old Ergagh’s Farm. It’s built on the foundations of an old stone dwelling of some kind, possibly as old as Graydirge itself. Well, the farm missed a few shipments. I sent some workers to investigate, but they couldn’t get too close—there were zombies roaming everywhere. I can’t imagine any of the chargehands abandoning their duties, much less all of them, so I suspect foul play.
“That’s where you come in. I want you to go to Old Ergagh’s Farm and put the place back in working order. From the sound of it, the zombies caused a fair bit of damage: broken enclosures, doors wrenched from hinges, crops trampled, chargehands slain... Fix what you can, recover any food that’s worth eating, and make sure the zombies can’t do any more damage.
“Most importantly, I’d like you to find out what happened and report back. You should seek out Brahdek—he’s in charge. He’s the only living member of the workforce, and he’s a distant cousin of mine. You’ll know him by his bare feet and red hair. If he’s not there, look around and see what you can find out.
“As payment, I’ll sign over the deed to an abandoned manor just outside the city. It came into my possession recently, and I can think of no better use for it than to reward my new friends for their service!”
Hmmph! Mithralline thinks at Ceceka's response to her perfectly reasonable question. Impertinent!
"Hmmph!" Mithralline mutters to Aily. "Impertinent! Get us better allies next time..."
She nods graciously to Cariad, resolving to remember his name. The boy seems polite and deferential, the way he should be. She can see Avistania seems interested. They might make a good match, but she'll have to make sure her handmaiden doesn't get distracted from her duties. One more thing she'll have to keep an eye on... Of course, she's still not completely sure how he can be of specific use to her, but she's sure she'll figure something out. If he can't use that crossbow, perhaps she can stick him in front of any swords or arrows that come her way. Just like a good zombie.
"Outrageous!" Mithralline objects to the zombie's impertinence, once she'd done picking at the food (no blood pudding? Really? She'll have to talk to Absalomia to make sure her preferences are made clear before future engagements). "Of course we will go make sure these zombies get back to work at what they're supposed to be doing! Adara, go make our preparations for our journey. Now, where is this place?"
She immediately lets her mind wander -- Alkenmoon will presumably listen for the answer to her questions and make sure to note them -- as she starts thinking about what she'll do with her new fortress. It's about time she's had her own base of operations. This Blood Lord clearly is a fine judge of character, even if her table is somewhat lacking...
"Delighted to be of assistance, of course." Caraid says with another smile and a seated bow to his host. The excellent meal has put him in a particularly good mood, even if his bed is beginning to sing its siren call. "I presume you would like the zombies undamaged where possible? And if we can find the source of the problem, should we deal with them or bring them to you my Lady?"
"The farm is located about 16 miles southwest of Graydirge amidst some of the lowest foothills of the Shattered Range, on the way to precisely nowhere," Berline says. "I will provide you with directions."
She turns to Caraid. "Yes, please. Zombies are mindless. Their behavior is predictable unless they’re under somebody’s direct control, and the problem is they’ve broken that control. I would ask that you leave the zombies alone if they’re not acting aggressively; some of them might just be standing in the fields posing no problems, for example. If the you can avoid disturbing docile zombies, my chargehands can command the zombies later without trouble. Agitated zombies need to be destroyed or contained. Either option is acceptable, as long as we can get back to farming.
"Oh, and by the way, one final warning: watch out for Mosghuta. She's a massive and practically unkillable zombie boss cow that I raised myself to do the most strenuous labor on the farm--and to fight off attackers, should the need arise. I suspect you may have to put Mosghuta down if she’s broken from her chargehand’s control, but I'd urge you to keep your distance and plan carefully. If Mosghuta’s on the loose, she is extraordinarily dangerous!"
A zombie boss cow??? Ceceka can't help but wonder if the halfling is testing their wits or whether she's serious. He eyes his companions to gauge their reaction to the cow story before committing himself to the job. "Alright, we'll put the cow down if necessary."
He gets out a pocket journal and starts scribbling down key notes from tonight's meeting.
"We'll try to cause as little damage as possible."
Telvir knows what messy work it is to reconstitute dismembered zombies.
Inwardly the elven servant is groaning off the scale. Calculations of how much this mere 16 mile journey is going to cost them. Sleeping arrangements for the outdoors alone, given the lady's tastes, might beggar them. They have so little gold left in the accounts.
At least luggage will be easy since most possessions were sold long ago.
And the 'reward' so eagerly accepted by the vapid Lady Cort. An abandoned manor. How abandoned? How run down, probably filled with rotting wood and maggots. No offers of gold or power, just a broken down property that probably needs major renovations. And a meer suggestion of more WORK to come???
Add in now a practically unkillable cow that needs killing?!?!?
The mental ranting continues.
Outwardly she dips slightly into a curtsy and says "Yes mistress."
Caraid glances over at Aily and its almost as though he can hear her raging voice inside her head.
"May we set off in the morning My Lady? I suspect the zombies may be more docile under the noon-day sun."
Is that a wink at Aily? Surely not!
"Unless there is anything else we should know then I will bid you all goodnight." He bends to kiss Berline's hand once more. "I shall count the hours until I may see you again My Lady."
With that he sweeps out of the room and something about it becomes a little less vibrant without him there...
Aily catches the wink which disrupts her perfectly reasonable mental ranting with a sudden spike of... interest. Her ever watchful eyes track the man until he leaves. "Mistress, there are details to see to before leaving..." she prompts the lady cort to leave as well without fully suggesting it.
Mithralline looks horrified at Caraid's suggestion.
"In the morning?! Absolutely not! The sun, it burns us! Filthy, nasty changeling. We will go at a decent hour, when the sun sets. If you can't see in the dark, well that's your own fault! In my day, we didn't suggest --"
She's distracted from her rant by Aily cutting in. "Yes, of course there are details. Go see to them!"
She follows the dhampir servant out of the room, her harangues echoing back until they finally, mercifully fade from hearing distance.
In the evening -- at the proper time -- she emerges from the manor, decked out in armor made from the hide of some sort of creature (better to not look too closely) with a large fly on her chestplate. A shield is strapped to her arm, and a lion scythe on her tiny hip. She flies up to alight on Aily's shoulder.
"Well, let's go! We've wasted enough time already, and have things to be about!"
Aily had a backpack filled to the brim with ridiculously useless things she was certain that her mistress would insist on her producing on the trip at a moments notice. Over her servants dress she has heavy leather accent pieces to aid on her protect, as well as her favorite stabbing knife hidden in the folds of her apron.
Opening her deep lavender parasol over herself and her mistress, even though it is night, the elven woman/sprite carriage heads to the meeting place.
"Looks like we are keeping twilight hours." Telvir sighs. Not the first long day he'd had to pull to clean up a Blood Lord's mess.
The next evening, you set out from Graydirge towards Ergagh's Farm. There are no other travelers on the dusty road, though you do pass distant stone-and-bone walls of other farms and estates in Graydirge’s hinterlands. The road winds between a few low foothills before leading to a sprawl of tilled fields nestled in a wide, flat valley. A large, rocky outcropping dominates the center of the valley. Despite the harsh climate, the crops are healthy and vibrant.
Narrow paths branch from the main road and into the fields, but the road itself leads to a sturdy, wrought-iron gate in a twenty-foot-high wall of weathered red stone. Several low stone buildings stand silent around a trampled yard beyond the gate, where two human corpses in soiled, ragged clothes lie. One sprawls facedown in the dirt, the other slumps on the gate with its arms hanging through, its head jammed awkwardly against a small gap between the iron gates.
As you draw near, the corpse jammed in the gate begins to stir. It turns its head towards you and issues a groan. The corpse on the ground likewise starts to push itself up as it looks towards you with a menacing growl!
Caraid: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20
Ceceka: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21
Mithralline: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Telvir: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (11) + 5 = 16
Zombies: 1d20 ⇒ 17
Caraid and Ceceka may act!
Caraid spends most of the trip out to the farm yawning and seems more inclined to curl up and nap than anything else. Then the zombies appear and begin to show signs of unlife. His face clouds and with a flick of his hand a beam of coruscating light flies at the zombies. It passes through the bars of the gate, missing the trapped zombie by eight or ten feet.
Divine Lance: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (1) + 7 = 81d4 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
Ceceka darts in and strikes the moving corpse that seems to be ground-bound. Knowing that you do not go toe-to-toe with zombies, he then falls back.
The bright beam of light fired by Caraid, however, screws with his vision. From relative dark, to very bright, and back to the dark. He isn't blessed with non-human eyes.
Action 1) Move into range (10ft reach) | Action 2) Strike | Action 3) Move out of range (10ft reach can trigger an AoO if they move in on Ceceka)
Strike: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (1) + 9 = 10
Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
AoO if it triggers: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11
The zombie on the ground rises to its feet and shambles at Ceceka. He slices it as it draws near, almost cutting it in half, but still it comes. The zombie stuck in the gate grunts and wrenches its arms free, causing the gate to swing open. Then it lurches towards the rest of you as well!
Everybody may act!
Ceceka continues his lethal dance with the zombie. He throws in the full weight of his body into the next strike and then darts back.
"They lack numbers. Strike, then fall back."
Action 1+2) Power Attack | Action 3) Move out of reach
Strike: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (6) + 9 = 15
Slashing Damage: 2d8 + 4 ⇒ (6, 8) + 4 = 18
AoO if it triggers: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (13) + 9 = 22
AoO Damage: 1d8 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
Telvir has as much practice taking zombies apart as putting them together. He falls back from the creatures and waves a hand in their direction, willing them to break apart.
Telekinetic Rend on both, Basic DC 17 Fortitude
Slashing: 1d6 ⇒ 5
Fortitude: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 231d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
Though both zombies resist Telvir's magic, the violent ripping tug is enough to tear apart the zombie that Ceceka previously struck. Ceceka delivers a powerful slash that bisects the second zombie!
The gate to Old Ergagh's farm hangs open, and you can hear more zombies groaning from the fields beyond...
Aily's hand was behind her,wrapped around the hilt of her hidden knife. But she was not needed. "Your allies seem quiet capable, mistress" she prompts softly
The reinforced door to this empty brick room has fallen—or been torn—from its hinges. It lies haphazardly on the ground outside. The interior is bare.
From here, you have a good view of the central stomping ground. A low wooden fence, fallen in many places and with all its gates thrown open, once enclosed a wide dirt yard. The dirt is trampled with an unsettling amount of blood and gore. Various parts of roughly five corpses lie strewn about, most of them trampled into mangled flesh and bones.
Here stands what can only be the boss cow, Mosghuta. Mosghuta is large, even for her breed. Her hide is mottled red and white, though much of her skin and flesh are missing. Her flesh and bones are studded with iron rings, some trailing ropes and thick leather straps. She only has one horn, and a gleaming scythe with a dark shaft and leather-bound grips is embedded deeply in Mosghuta’s side, just above her shoulder, so deep that the blade pokes through her ribs on her other side. She doesn’t seem to notice, let alone mind. She idly paces around the yard.
Eyes like burning coals take in the lay of the land beyond the gate. Ceceka can feel the fire of combat burning in his blood, and if he were to give in to its all-consuming song, he'd blindly rush forward in the search for more.
But that would be a sure way to get killed.
Can we determine anything special about the cow zombie? Religion +5
"Perhaps we can find a higher vantage point and attack the cow from above? Typically such creatures are not clever enough to counter such tactics, and she looks unable to climb."
Telvir looks to see if any of the surrounding buildings might be appropriate perches.
"No, Adiot!" Mithralline scolds Aily, who's trying to take them right into the cow's path. "Not toward the cow!"
She pulls Aily's hair, trying to make sure her servant doesn't go into the zombull's line of sight. "Wait here, and let's see if it goes away. If not, you'll have to sneak. The rest of you may want to go first, so Abuela here doesn't make some noise and bring it down on you. Or we can send her out first to lure the cow away. Does anyone have a red cloth we could tie to her back? That often interests cows."
A sizable building across the way (A5) looks intact enough for you to climb on top of. The brick structure is 10-feet-high, which should be high enough to keep you out of Mosghuta's reach.
The boss cow definitely looks bigger and tougher than typical zombies, but Telvir is unable to discern anything more specific.