Verik Vancaskerkin

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216 posts. Alias of stormraven.


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At Jak's response, the Demon moves out towards the fields. Our heroes accompany or follow along as they feel is safest, with at least two of them escorting the deal-makers. With some prompting Trannyth leads you quite a bit east of town where, not listed on the town records, the Phibes and Waveharp fields meet. Conscious of his effect on the deal-makers, the Demon is silent and stays out of the way.

Sadly, the Mayor says, "We buried it there." He points to an innocuous spot beneath the hoed rows.

OK, who is doing the digging, watching the deal-makers, keeping an eye on the Demon, etc.?

Faced with the true horror of the creature before them, the Mayor and the Tulls fall apart and flee. Seeking any salvation, they do the only thing they can think of that will provide an ounce of safety. They stumble/run across the road and throw themselves over the church-yard fence trying to get onto holy ground. The crows that were sitting along the fence explode into the air, startled by the panicked humans. Fear propels the threesome into the churchyard despite their years. They stumble towards the Church door and pound on it. "LET US IN! FOR THE GODS' SAKE, OPEN UP!"

All three step into the compound and welcome you thought they wear various shades of worry on their faces. Mr. Tull - an innocent despite the machinations of his wife - suggests, "Perhaps we should all retreat to the Church? It is holy ground. It could be safer?"

Jak Howell wrote:
"She’s right. Look what the current deal turned into." he pauses to shoot a dirty glance at the mayer and Mrs. Tull, seemingly unable to help himself. "Some players you should just know you can’t beat."

Having tolerated the team's heaps of self-righteous verbal abuse - including an open threat on her life - Glinnora Tull storms off before Jak gets much further than his last dirty look. The Mayor seems inclined to follow suit but he politely stays for Jak's final question.

Jak Howell wrote:
" said you tried the witch... Victahana first. What was her response? Did she point you in Black’s direction?"

He replies, "She said she wouldn't twist the laws of nature to serve any man. She said only tragedy would result from 'subverting the natural order'. We asked about other powers that might be willing to help us. She refused to speak of them. She didn't point us to Black, he found us himself."

Before he has to endure yet more snide comments, rebukes, or death threats, he leaves to work on the mundane defenses of the town.

You have burned your bridges with Tull and the Mayor. You will receive no more information from them.

The mayor looks alarmed, "That's how you plan to help?!"

When they are alone, the Mayor recounts the agreement, "We were promised 13 years of abundant crops and prosperity for our six families at the price of our souls. After the 13 years, nature would again rule our fields and we'd be responsible for their continuing success." He concludes, "What we didn't know is we couldn't all benefit from the blessing at the same time."

The Mayor hands over a yellowed piece of folded parchment, his tone cold. "If you think you are so clever that you can get the better of Master Black.... be my guest."

Aerik Wynn wrote:
"Why don't we call him and ambush him? I'd much rather be the predator than the prey. I don't much like sitting around waitin' to see who will be the next to be attacked..."

The Mayor says, "We already tried. He hasn't come yet."

Lyrica Strom wrote:
"So how many of you have met this Master Black in person?"

"Philmore (Phibes), Glinnora (Tull), Jannys (Pegason), Fruhand (Fletcher), Yenamro (Waveharp), and me."

Master Black is a pseudonym at best. It tells you nothing about the guy.

"We're thinking that breaking his doll will draw his attention. He gave us a rhyme to call to him. We already tried, nothing happened. Now, maybe he'll come."

The Mayor, revealing more of his shocking naivete about his opponent (remember these are commoners and K:Religion is not in their skillset) says, "Of course there was a contract. He's got it. He called himself Master Black. He looked like a pudgy merchant. There is still room for negotiation here and he's collected more souls than he was owed... with Jannys' family. That should be enough to satisfy him. We just need you to keep him from getting to us until we can haggle a bit."

Jak's insults draw cold, hostile stares from the old woman and the Mayor - who clearly don't tolerate such impertinence. And they erode any confidence the two might have in Jak's assurance that the team is trying to help.

Glinnora silences the priest with a scathing look. Her answer is all but a hiss, "Fletcher was an ignorant fool. And you're no better if you think it's only our necks on the block. You finished off that doll. You thwarted it. Do you think that interference comes without a price?" She gives Jak a cruel smile, "You've tied your fate to us - like it or not. So call yourself an idiot as well."

The Mayor stays on point, "Fighting among ourselves does no good. Stop it." His comment is directed at both Glinnora and Jak. "If you haven't figured it already, I'll spell it out. We fell on hard times... so some of us made a deal to save the village. We were promised 13 years of prosperity for... well... the obvious. It wasn't the prosperity we expected. We couldn't all benefit at one time. The deal was a trick. The doll was sent to collect but we shouldn't have to pay when we didn't get what we were promised, right?" He watches Jak's reaction, hoping to see agreement. "Now that his collector has been beat, we think we're in a position to re-negotiate a bit. He only gave us part of what was promised and he's collected Philmore, Jannys, and now Fruhand. Partial payment for partial service. We could call it even." He concludes.

Jak is left with the impression that this is all mostly true and/or represents what they actually believe.

Save your spell, Jak. It is far too late for it.

DMPCing Aerik here...
The druid has been silently witnessing the meeting between Jak and the town elders. When Jak takes Fletcher aside, Aerik remains with the others as they continue to discuss the best course for the town. He pays little attention when Jak and the farmer leave. Only when he hears Jak's call for aid, do he and the locals in the Tull compound spring into motion, fearing the worst.

Galt is summoned as quick as he can and young Rynn is left in the care of several young women from the village.

Within a few minutes, half a dozen townfolk are gathered around the body of Fruhand Fletcher. A stunned silence sits on the group. Galt quickly confirms what is apparent to all and covers the gore of the cooling corpse with his cassock. He can only shake his head at Fletcher's actions. He leaves the farmers to build a makeshift stretcher and pulls Jak and the others aside.

"Did he say anything to any of you that would explain this?"

Lyrica and Marcus can decide whether they were in range to hear/respond.

Mordecai gives her a gauging look. "I couldn't say how long it's been since anyone saw the lights in the fields. I've heard the tales a few times over the years. I've maybe seen the lights once, but I can't swear to it. With the night fogs and distances, coulda been a trick of the eye. As I recall, it seemed the people were carrying the lanterns and if anyone recognized a body, they never said who it was."

Jak follows Fletcher through the gate and up the road. He smiles at Jak's belated optimism and shakes his head in answer to one or more of Jak's questions, "You're a good man, son. If your Pa and Ma are still in this world, you tell'em I said that. The only safety I'm buying is for the sweet girl on that porch." Fruhand looks to his young wife, still on the far side of the road. There is longing and shame in his look. He gives her a hopeful wave, receives a confused one in return, and adjusts his course. He bypasses the house and heads straight toward the fields. He notes that Jak is still dogging his steps. "It won't need to follow me because I'm gonna to it. I'm playing the only cards I got. Maybe it'll buy you all some time... but I wouldn't count on it. Don't waste your time with Davril or Glinnora, they'll talk you in circles. The Witch probably knows what you're dealing with... Gods knows I don't." He stops briefly, "You ought to head back now. This a two-hand game and you don't want a seat at this table." He leaves Jak in his wake and walks along the road out of town, in no hurry. Less than a quarter-mile away, he turns and waves at Jak. Then he pulls a well-used farming sickle from his belt and tears his own throat out with a single expert motion, a slash to sever crops. His blood sprays across a few sheafs of ripe corn. Fruhand's body drops - unconscious in seconds and dead before Jak can reach him.

That die roll kinda screwed you but here's something for the effort...

Fletcher squares off with the smaller man and looks like he's about to find out how many pieces he can break Jak into, then he backs off a step - anger replaced with a haunted sort of grimness. "Never had time for games, Mister. And if you think the people of this town are looking to me for leadership, then you don't know this town." He casts glances at Davril and Glinnora. "They lead here..." He gives Jak a smile, "You got some brass balls there, son, I'll give ya that. Yeah, we're in deep - but so are you. The minute you started helping us. I can't tell ya what's going on - couldn't explain it all to you even if I wanted to. I don't know the rules to the game or the players. But the one thing I do know is my wife is safe as long as I ain't around her. Jannys should never have gone home or that family would be alive right now. That's the truth. And the other truth is knowing the truth ain't gonna help you."

He glances at the sky, weighing the weather. "Spring's coming. You're wasting your time looking for a killer in town. He ain't here. If you wanna know what you're huntin' that's huntin' us, try the Witch. We went to her first, after all. We should have left it there. Damn me for a fool for not leaving it alone."

The bearish farmer turns and heads for the gate, throwing his final words back at Jak, "You're right, Mister. The games gotta change or ya gotta walk away from the table. This deck has been stacked for 13 years. That's all there is to it. Good advice, damn good advice." Fruhand Fletcher continues out the gate, heading towards his house and fields.

"Of course she is worried about me - she's my wife after all." Fletcher listens to the rest of Jak's message with obvious concern - whether at his conclusions or the information that Jak has ferreted out - is hard to tell. "You think that creature was sent after us land-owners? Maybe we should fortify the defenses around our homes then, and you can ambush them... But I really can't think of anything that would help you keep us alive."

Jak Only:
He's lying, like a rug. You haven't said anything he doesn't know, and he clearly knows far more about the matter. He is being utterly truthful in one thing - he doesn't know a way to stop what is happening... not even by giving you the whole story. That being the case, he sees no benefit in laying out the truth. It seems pretty clear that he hopes you guys will defeat this/these baddy/baddies without knowing the full truth. Maybe he just wants his secrets to remain hidden, or perhaps there is something more to it.

One other thing, your mention of prayer, innocent as it was, shook him.

1d20 ⇒ 5

The gruff bearish man raises an eyebrow at the mention of his wife. He casts a questioning glance at the Mayor before he agrees, "A'right."

He walks off a short distance with Jak and gets right to the point. "What's a matter?"

Mordecai gets a hard, bloody, look but his steps never falter, "Mister, you ain't never been a tenant-farmer, that's clear. We barely got time to get our noses out of the dirt - ain't no time to spec'late on the doins of the town's high and mighty. We're busy keeping food on the table. But the only 'luck' a farmer knows for true is weather that causes your crops to grow well or a touch of late frost to kill locusts. So I don't think much of you saying that I know something about spells or deals - which I don't. What I do know is corn don't grow in winter. So, I guess maybe you shouldn't have broke that doll before it could finish off Waveharp, if he was one that brought this disaster on us. Huh'n."

He continues walking and thinking for a time, "There's always the odd grumble spread among those of us who work hard every damn day of every damn year... sometimes it's sour grapes, sometimes not. More'n once, folks been spotted with low lanterns in the far fields, here or there around the village, late at night, always around the time the crops are rotated. Some say they seen these shadows luggin' something heavy through the fields. Some farmers got all sorts of strange rituals trying to help their crops. I just figured it was maybe one of those. But with what your sayin', and the bodies droppin'... well maybe it is somethin' more than superstition."

The Mayor looks irked, "I'm not taking this lightly, Master Braun. I'm wondering how we defend against a doll that moves like the wind, had the skill to kill half a dozen people, and was in position to kill a bunch more."

Marcus wrote:
"Mordecai, you mind showin' me around?"

Mordecai takes a second before he nods, "Sure. I'll show you what we were thinkin' of for defenses. Probably won't stop those little demons but maybe we'll see them comin'." He follows Marcus out of the Tull compound.

Marcus wrote:
"Tull, how did you get strawberries to grow this time of year?"

Hugh (Tull) shrugs, "There's no better soil anywhere and we've got some skilled farmers here."

5d20 ⇒ (11, 19, 20, 11, 2) = 63

I did the greeting the way I did to remove the chit-chat. Their self-intros really wouldn't tell you anything.

Jak wrote:
Jak nods respectfully as the different people are introduced, continuing to smile warmly and generally put them at ease. "I'm Jak. It’s nice to meet everyone."

Jak learned long ago to compare what people say to what their expressions and body positions say. In this assembled gathering, some reactions ring false and some ring true. Davril (the Mayor) seems pleased to see them. Regis (the innkeeper) seems relieved, hopeful, and friendly. The old man, Hugh Tull looks worried about the events in town and his greeting is perfunctory and distracted - understandably. Mordecai has always been an open book - from the first day you met him when he was tempted to put a hoe upside Lyrica's head. He seems pleased to see you and relieved at your appearance as you have all proven yourself more than competent. In fact, given his subtle change in stance upon your arrival, you think he has far more respect for you than the members of the town council. You realise he is listening in to the discussion but wasn't really an invited part of it. More interesting than that is the old woman, Glinnora Tull. Her tone is friendly but her body is saying otherwise. She's weighing you and weighing her words. She seems relieved for your aid but not happy about it, and is worried about your involvement as much as she is about the threat to the town. The bearish Fruhand Fletcher is polite but seems suspicious of you. He also seems more positive than his wife's words would indicate. Possibly, he thinks the doll was the end of the threats.

Jak wrote:
He meets Mordecai's eye levelly, respectfully, "Mordecai. These are certainly terrible times, but I’m constantly impressed with how you folks are handling it. I’ve heard good stories. And we’d be happy to help out thinking through some precautionary measures. At least we’ll do our best."

Mordecai nods back. "'Preciate the help. You just let me know what needs doin' and I'll get people on it."

The Mayor raises an eyebrow at that but his smile never fades. "The council will, of course, act on our friends' good advice after considering it. Let's not move over-hastily."

Jak's attempt to infuse confidence in his group seems to register with Regis, Mordecai, and Hugh Tull. It is hard to say with the others.

6d20 ⇒ (10, 2, 3, 2, 5, 2) = 24 You lucky son of a...

Our heroes cross the road to the Tull compound (#8 on the map). It is easily one of the largest houses in town and is surrounded by a stacked stone and mortar wall with three gates set in it. Within the compound is a small vegetable garden, several trees, a chicken coop, and a small stable. The house itself is set near the northeastern wall and is a freshly painted two story affair.

The main gate is half open and the team can see a number of locals at tasks inside - tending the garden, carrying message to and from the house, etc. There is a small knot of people close to the house holding a tense discussion. It seems to be about the events in town - who's been hurt, what additional defensive measures should be taken, etc.

You recognize the Mayor (Davril Trannyth), the Inn's owner (Regis Ahhn), and the peasant farmer Mordecai, among other people you may have seen but have never formally met. Your presence does not go unnoticed and the Mayor quickly waves you over and makes quick introductions.

He indicates an older patrician woman with grey hair, sharp features, and her hair pulled back severely. "This is Glinnora Tull and her husband Hugh - two of our leading citizens." The latter you assume is the older man standing next to Glinnora. He is also sharp-featured but carries himself far less regally.

The Mayor continues, "And this is Fruhand Fletcher, gentleman-farmer." Fletcher is a bear of a man with flinty eyes, wiry eyebrows, and a scowl that could curdle milk... in the teat.

They all make noises of polite greeting to your group, except for Mordecai who merely nods, before the Mayor pushes on, "We were just trying to figure out our next steps here... and frankly we're a bit lost. Hopefully that doll was the end of the matter, but we want to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, it seems we can't agree on how best to defend ourselves from evil toys. Do you have any ideas?"

Not sure if it legal, Marcus, but your post made me laugh so hard, I don't care. We'll say you can reload on the run across turns.

Marcus frantically winds his crossbow while sprinting across the field.
Galt, seeing the wide-eyed local standing in the path of the demon, runs towards him shouting, "Yenamro! For the Gods' sake, RUN!"

The local farmers, galvanized by Marcus' words and fighting their own fears, spring into action. Some fall back towards the center of town. A smaller contingent dogs the doll's steps. And a lone man sprints for the Inn to deliver Marcus' message in enthusiastic terms.

~ Round 12 ~

INIT: Aerik, Ez, Jak, Doll, Galt, Marcus, Locals


The farmers may have little chance to harm the doll but at least they can slow it down. Mordecai spurs them on. They rush past Marcus and the doll and form a line, two men deep, blocking the road into town.

Waiting on AoOs from Aerik's dog and Ezekiel then we'll kick off the next round.

The doll nearly impales itself on Mordecai's scythe as it tumbles past him. Silk rips and stuffing comes out. The other farmer, losing his nerve, makes a wild and futile swing.

Farming Scythe 2d4/2x
Farmer #1 HIT: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23 Crit?
Confirm: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5 No
Farmer #1 DAM: 8 + 2 - 5 = 5 DR

Farmer #2 HIT: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (1) + 1 = 2
Farmer #2 DAM: 2d4 + 1 - 5 ⇒ (1, 2) + 1 - 5 = -1

The remaining farmers waver in their determination. At a word from Mordecai, they slash at the little monster from all sides. Flanking the doll, two of the scythes strike, chipping their blades but at least doing some damage.

Mordecai orders his friends back, "Fall back - SLOW - don't give it a chance to use them knives!" All three men cautiously retreat.

~ Round 10 ~

INIT: Aerik, Ez, Jak, Doll, Galt, Marcus, Locals


Farming Scythe 2d4/2x
Farmer #1 HIT: 1d20 + 3 + 2 ⇒ (19) + 3 + 2 = 24 flank
Farmer #1 DAM: 2d4 + 2 - 5 ⇒ (3, 1) + 2 - 5 = 1 DR

Farmer #2 HIT: 1d20 + 1 + 2 ⇒ (16) + 1 + 2 = 19 flank
Farmer #2 DAM: 2d4 + 1 - 5 ⇒ (1, 3) + 1 - 5 = 0

Farmer #3 HIT: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (10) + 1 = 11
Farmer #3 DAM: 2d4 + 1 - 5 ⇒ (2, 4) + 1 - 5 = 2

One group of farmers heeds your warnings and hustles into the fields near Ezekiel and Father Galt. The others look over their shoulders and see the unprotected town behind them... filled with the aged, the young, and the infirm. Trembling, they decide to defend their homes and their people.

They close in and strike at the foul doll before it gets clear of the entangling vines - slashing at it desperately with their scythes. Their blades all but bounce off the creature when it doesn't dance around their blows.

~ Round 9 ~

INIT: Aerik, Ez, Jak, Doll, Galt, Marcus, Locals


Farming Scythe 2d4/2x
Farmer #1 HIT: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (10) + 3 = 13
Farmer #1 DAM: 2d4 + 2 - 5 ⇒ (1, 4) + 2 - 5 = 2 DR

Farmer #2 HIT: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
Farmer #2 DAM: 1d20 + 1 - 5 ⇒ (17) + 1 - 5 = 13

Farmer #3 HIT: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (11) + 1 = 12
Farmer #3 DAM: 1d20 + 0 - 5 ⇒ (7) + 0 - 5 = 2

Tamor thinks about it briefly before responding. "I don't think so. As I recollect, he struggled as much as everyone else."

I sense hijinks!

Regis nods, "This is the only Inn in town. Two rooms it is. We'll make ya a good price on it."

Handwaiving the coins here.

"I was here all evening, and he didn't come in. So if he was with anyone that night, I couldn't say. But that wasn't odd; Philmore didn't come in often. He was kind of a loner. As far as people go, he was friendly with Jannys - Jannys Pegason - and her family." He adds hastily, "I don't think they were intimate or anything like that. She's got a husband and all. Jannys is just the motherly sort, if you know what I mean."

Having clarified his point, Regis rubs his chin and considers. "I really don't recall anything odd happening that day. It was all pretty normal, I think."

Regis shakes Jak's hand and refills the scoundrel's drink. Davril already bought a round for you all. He's a man approaching 30, somewhat paunchy, and his hair is receding slightly. Jak detects nothing untoward in his answer, "That night? Nothing especial happened as I recall. I closed up the tavern just after midnight and went home. When I came back well before dawn - to start the breakfast baking - I found ol' Philmore in the road. He was dead but still bleeding."

DM Stuff:

Mordecai gives a surly grunt at the heroes' statements but his grip on the hoe slackens somewhat and his expression no longer displays a desire to bury the hoe in someone's skull. It seems he finds some truth in your words.

"A'right, a'right. Sorry to hear of your troubles... I guess it's best to make allowances for each other in these dark days. If ya been up-mountain all this time, maybe you don't know... things are bad all over. Never saw no mist but strange creatures been coming and going; foul things like twisted wolves and such. The dead, too... Our folks been in some scrapes, fighting these things off, time and again." He sighs and continues, "And then there are the wanderers, all hollow-eyed, telling tales of waves rollin' over their towns, drowning villages, smashing ships to splinters, lighthouses falling into ruin, and the like. It's all bad. But things been quieting down somewhat lately... and then Philmore got butchered. No one saw nothing. He lived on his own, just the other side of the river. Whoever killed him, they hamstrung him first and let him drag himself around awhile before finishing him off." He shakes his head, not comprehending such an act.

"You wanna help, talk with Davril Trannyth - our Hetmon. You'll probably find him at the Inn, right on the other side of the bridge. If you see a sharp-nosed older woman, that's Glinnora Tull, she'd be another one to see."

Map Updated

His wife safe, Mordecai comes away from the post and turns his attention on the armed and armored woman. He repeats her words slowly, his tone acidic. "Compared to the death we've seen.... a single murder doesn't seem much trouble... That's a pretty phrase, girl. You come to our town and tell us the death of one of our own don't matter. Well, it may not matter to you - but it sure as hell matters to us. How many deaths does it take to matter to you, eh? Ten? A hun'ert? Or does it only matter when the dead is one of your'n?" His hands wring the neck of the hoe like he wants to strangle it, the rest of Lyrica's and Jak's questions are lost to his sharp anger.

Just to be clear here - I play all NPCs as real people. If a member of your family died and some stranger walked up to you and said "Only one dead? That's not so bad..." how would you take it? Poorly, I expect. I know I would and that is how Mordecai is reacting.

Lyrica wrote:
"Compared to the death we've seen in the Drear, Mordecai, a single murder doesn't seem like as much trouble..."

Oh boy.

Mordecai's hesitant openness turns into a cold scowl as he chews on Lyrica's words. His voice is hard as he calls out to the woman in the field and takes a firmer grip on his hoe, "Nyssa... time to get supper on."

Mordecai looks uncomfortable with this turn of the conversation. "Murder is bad business anywhere, friend. Philmore Phibes," he continues, "was a good man, liked. He never turned away a hand needing help... and someone kilt him cold and cruel."

"There's the red moon, o'course. That's bad enough..." Mordecai's expression goes grim and just a little pale. "Take my advice - just keep walking. You don't want a piece of our problem, unless trackin' a murderer is what you do."

Mordecai gives a friendly nod, "That's the fella! Don't recall he did anything that'd cause you trouble here... but then agin I wasn't there. He was haggling with some of the important folk." He casts his eyes across the road at the large white-washed house with the groomed yard.

SM Check: You'd say Mordecai is being friendly in an understated way. If he is leery, it's because of the armaments and armor you guys are sporting.

Mordecai gives Jak and the rest the same discerning look Jak's seen his father use when offered questionable wares. He turns and fetches a large clay jug from among the leeks and motions our heroes over to the rickety deck that sits off the front of the raised shack. The deck is battered but it is clean, high enough to make a passable bench, and is under the shade of the shack's awning.

After you all sit down on the deck, Mordecai takes a healthy swig from the jug and passes it along as he leans against one of the awning posts. "Sorry about the lack of chairs. We don't get many visitors." The water (for those who drink) is clean and cool. "Heard of Dies Drear. We've done some trading with a fella from there, but it's been a couple of years." The woman in the field continues to hoe her row but is clearly keeping an eye on everyone.

Jak notices nothing out of the ordinary so far.

Our stalwart adventurers march down the road at an easy pace, enjoying the level path and hard-packed surface. After a week of slowly navigating through the wilds, it is a blessed relief to hike along without having to worry over turning an ankle. The miles disappear beneath their boots as do the days...

Nearly a week later, they shake the dust from their boots on the pebbly cart path that leads into Albridge. The heroes wander through open fields along the winding path - called the King's Road - dotted with trees. The open fields give way to tilled furrows and houses, some humble as those in Drear and some more impressive.

Albridge Map
This isn't my map so ignore the numbers and the compass should be inverted. You are standing on the road near the bottom of the bridge - between #1 and #2

The babble of the river beckons you forward to the edge of a stone bridge spanning the distance. On the far side, is the town of Albridge nestled amid fields of various crops, mostly corn. Thin wisps of smoke spiral from a few chimneys. The town is quiet, almost subdued. Directly to your right is a small field of leeks fronting a well-worn shack. Working the field are a young couple perhaps thirty years old. Both of them stop their hoeing and watch your party beneath the dirty brims of their corn-husk hats. The man looks to his wife, wipes his hands on his pants, and approaches stopping at the edge of his field. He nods, "Afternoon, folks, I'm Mordecai. Help you with somethin'?"

Pence shrugs, "Been pretty quiet here, Jak. Lotsa meetings trying to figure out how best to get about planting and foresting with fewer hands. I think your Da is planning to head down-valley."

The guards are well known to you. Pence Rallo (21 yo) is a childhood friend and co-conspirator with Jak in his youthful misadventures. He is Ritti's eldest brother. With him is Nyssa Odenbrand (24 yo), a young woman known by both Marcus and Jak but not really close to either.

Pence and Nyssa emerge from the darkness beside the trail. They wear piecemeal leather armor and bear spears and daggers. Pence smiles "What's-a-matter Jak? Got mud in your ears that you don't recognize my voice?"

Nyssa is more business-like, "Things are a'right here - quiet. Your family, Marcus, is in the Assembly Hall but they've been talking about moving back home."

I'm going to waive tending to all of the locals, so no rolls needed. I'll wait to adjust HPs until Ez has a chance to post and let us know if the physician will 'heal thyself'. As for Harmon Strom, coming back from the dead is traumatic so while the Goodberry helps, he is going to be out for awhile.

Eluon pops the berry gratefully and finds he no longer needs help to stand.

Marcus has to half-walk and half-carry Eluon down the mountain. To his credit, the lumberjack tries to stagger along as fast as possible.

Through the bloody and bruised ruin of his face, Eluon words are full of shock. "I can't believe anyone would know about this, Marcus. This is beyond any old wives' tale I ever heard - and I heard'em all."

Both men note the subtle and gross signs of corruption: twisted trees sprouting thorns, dead wild-life, even the wind seems to have shifted from its normal howl to a funerary lament. Neither comments on it, very real worries about their homes and families coming to the fore.

As they stumble down the mountain, they notice a thin flicker of light off to the right some distance away, just past the tree-line's edge. It might be a torch but it is impossible to tell from this distance in this alien, crimson-stained, landscape. The direct path to Dies Drear is down the mountain. Checking on the eldritch light would make the journey longer.

As the strange Skull climbs to avoid the Ranger's blow, Eluon strikes again - knocking teeth from the damaged jaw.

2H Axe (20/3x)
HIT: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (20) + 3 = 23 Crit?
Confirm: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (1) + 3 = 4 No
DAM: 10 + 3 = 13

Seeing Marcus' axe bounce off the thick cranial plate and using the distraction provided by the Ranger, Eluon lunges uphill and buries his axe in a softer target - the joint of the creature's fanged jaw.

Next up... the Skull!

2H Axe (20/3x)
HIT: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 3 = 21
DAM: 1d10 + 3 ⇒ (7) + 3 = 10

Marcus wrote:
"Eluon, run! You have to warn the others in town!" He rips the axe free and brandishes it towards the skull, despite being pinned.

Despite his fear, Eluon shakes off the suggestion and throws his weight against his axe trying to get Marcus free. He gasps his response through gritted teeth, "That mist is movin' faster than I can fall down this mountain... And I'm not gonna explain to Sara how I made your kids orphans. That ain't my way."

I'll leave the rolls until I do the full update with baddie init, etc.

Aerik - There are any number of dead branches littering the scree - from twig-size to club-size.

Marcus wrote:

Marcus half-smiles at the comment and puts a calloused hand on Eluon's shoulder.

"Thanks, friend. Lemme talk to Sara--I might can smooth things over, or at least take the blame off you when I tell 'er it's my idea. Could be fun for the kids tonight, too, though less so for Sara. I'll meet you at your house in a half-hour. Evenin', Howell", Marcus nods to Mattin, then walks off in search of Sara and the kids.

Eluon shakes his head ruefully at Marcus' confidence. When the other lumberjack has disappeared into the crowd, he turns to Mattin - his father-in-law as well as Marcus', "That poor bastard. He just stepped into a hurricane."

The old trader chuckles in silent agreement.

Aerik wrote:
"Father. Mother. It is good to see you both. You look well. Do you need anything? I mean to come into town in a few weeks or so. I can bring food or remedies if you or the herd need something in particular. Any sicknesses or injuries that I should know about?"

His father pipes up, "The goats are fine. Brownie's broke his leg but we got it splinted and he's hobbling around faster than us. A couple of the does are ready to give birth. If you'll be by in two weeks, that'll be just about right. I'd appreciate the help bringing those kids into the world."

Aerik's mother contents herself with leaning against her tall son. Out of long habit, she straightens his hair.

Before Jak teases Lyrica...

Lyrica wrote:
"Thank you, Papa! There is a dance move that I am trying to work out, and can use the time to practice, but what I'm really looking forward to is after dinner when we can practice the art. Are you still free to work with me, tonight? I would be willing to work more around the house, if that would be helpful?"

Harmon shoos his youngest daughter away to enjoy her evening and glances around to make sure his wife is not in earshot before answering. "Your mother, Sarenrae bless her, doesn't like what you're learning. "Isn't proper for a woman", she says. And Melodica is getting to that willful age where she won't be your tag-along any more - the signs are there. Girlish resentments being what they are, she might say something to your mother that will get us both in hot water. So, have a care what you say and in front of who..." He looks his daughter over a little sadly, "You are all growing up so fast."

The aging farmer puts the maudlin thoughts aside, "I'll get you time to practice by yourself tonight - after dinner. Now go, and don't let me catch you saying 'art' in public again."

Harmon gives her a small smile and speaks with certainty, "The spring crops haven't broken ground yet, Daughter. Featherworms will have little to feed on for several moons. The Hetmon is no fool and a farmer that feeds his family has no room for pride in the face of blight... They will listen and they will accept our help. Do not worry." He wipes the dust from his hands, "That is enough work today. Go and enjoy yourselves while the light lasts, then supper."

Lyrica Strom wrote:
"I never thought of it that way." Lyrica replies, clearly thinking about the druid. After a moment, Lyrica asks her next barrage of questions, "Papa, I suspect that Master Wynn is the type of person that could sit quietly and meditate. Do you think he is familiar with the ways of the Dawnflower? I mean, I know he is a druid, but do druids still seek the Everlight?"

Her lay priest father considers the question. "Among the Dawnflower's servants, there are some druids, yes. Is he among them? I've never seen him at our services so I assume his faith lies elsewhere." He smiles. "But he isn't a man to talk of his beliefs."

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