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The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Six

Jeovanna

Villager
Jeovanna grunted at Metea, but didn't add anything to her statement. She'd hesitate before settling in across the fire- perhaps she was stalling. Instead, she'd dig through her pack, removing the butchered meat and passing it off to Otiroth.

Let's see what he had, then.

Mostly, she was keeping an eye on things. Half of their team seemed of the sort to be quickly trusting; and why not? The man's story was a tragedy, surely. Why would someone lie about that?

Why indeed?

<Insight check=20>
 
Carthum took the offered seat as well, alongside his sister. His heart ached for the pains of this traveler, but he knew that many others suffered like him- and some had not survived to suffer, or would not, if they lingered too long.

"We are traveling north," he'd confirm, "though to where, even we yet cannot say. The pathways south are still at least somewhat clear, aside from the dangers of hungry and agitated beasts..." which in itself was not a small threat, but this man had made it thus far.
 

Otiroth

Villager
Otiroth joined Metea and Carthum at the fire, listening to the man's tale. He would ask, gently of course, about the rumors the hills-folk had brought of the beasts from the north. Had he seen any of them himself? Either way, he had likely made the right choice, even if it was a tragic one.

They had not seen any elves themselves so far, though wood-elves did tend to be secretive and likely could avoid their group of they wished.

The sorcerer seemed quite appreciative of the warmth and look of their new friend's bread, but did not eat any, as he had his own task to take care of. Once the snake meat was provided, he got to work. Otiroth's cooking kit was neatly bundled up and there was more in there than it looked like it could hold- though when he dipped his hand into the case, it was difficult to tell what he was grabbing- something real, or something conjured?

He worked quickly and expertly to prepare and season the meat and then bury it in the coals to cook. Otiroth hadn't cooked snake before, true, but it's texture and smell was familiar enough to make some guesses...

<Cooking roll=21>
 

97mg

Villager
The hermit relaxes even further, as you settle and let your ingredients begin to sizzle upon coals and ash. A late breakfast or an early lunch? Masto the hound sniffs the air, an approval of whatever the mysterious flesh it is that you’ve donated to the cause.

Surprisingly, the bread is quite good, and the cheese though hard as stone, has a lively tang hidden beneath a thick and crusty rind. It should all turn out to be a rather tasty combination.

Jeovanna and Dain may be of few words, but hunters and trackers know how to read signals, be they broken twigs, the sounds of scurrying animals, or an elderly man’s facial expression and tone.You have little doubt that he is being honest with you. Beneath the facts though, probably lie regrets and pains that one doesn’t just share with passers by. He has lost something along the way, that much you can be sure of.

He is pleased with the ranger’s understanding, and smiles at the tiefling’s young-hearted wisdom. It is then that the half-orc speaks of their northwards journey.

“It seems none of us truly know where we are going then,”
he says not unkindly. “It is better that way, to savour the walk, rather than obsess with one’s destination. I should probably tell you that northwards is unwise, convince you to tread some other way, but all have their reasons. At least… you have safety of numbers and the liveliness of youth. Also…” he looks towards Otiroth, poking and turning meat, “a rather good cook. Smells very nice!”

“So what takes you northwards? I try not to pry, but curiosity has got the better of me. Off to serve in a battle to protect soon to be besieged settlements perhaps? Or family, family calls? There must be duty in what you do, to take such risk.”

“They are ugly, the beasts that come. Searching. Feeding. Clever. Varied. Beware those with a broken red stripe on their back, even the small ones.”


The man hesitates a moment, as though contemplating revealing something further, when a sharp wind gusts through the trees and a swirl of leaves and grit cuts through the air. It lasts only a moment, until once again all is still.

“The Sands blows upon us, and each time a little stronger.”


Thankfully, for now Magaw is still safely perched atop his well-placed staff, listening in, and you can probably almost make out a grin on his "face".
 
Dain absorbed the information the man was giving as thoroughly as he could. So it was all real. The visions of the creatures might have begun to fade, with each passing day becoming more like a dream than a prophecy. But now, as the man spoke of them, his eyes filled with horror and sadness at their recollection, the images of the creatures returned to Dain's mind fresher than ever before. This man was not lying.

"We go north to try and stem the tide. Or even stop it altogether." It sounded ridiculous, Dain knew. They were young, inexperienced, and perhaps reckless to the point of suicidal. He stared into the fire.

Even so, Dain had nothing to return to in Kalair. If there was a chance he might find some trace of his past beyond the mountains and the sand, then creatures be damned. Better to die yearning to live than waste away.

Fluttering banners, snapping in the wind, passed before his eyes briefly but long enough to tease his memory. But then there was only the fire, and the void of his origin. The smell of bread and exotic meat coiled around him, and he wondered what hearth smells had welcomed him as a child.

Foolishness. Essithea alone knows my past, and yet she torments me with her passion instead of telling me...why?
 

Metea

Villager
The smell of Otiroth's cooking was amazing. Then again, Otiroth did always tend to smell good. How did he do it?

Well... she knew how. And maybe she was biased, too. She was tempted to reach out and take a little pinch of the sorcerer on offer, but he looked quite obsessed with his current work, and Metea knew she rated just below cooking when it came to his interests. A pout very nearly developed- she was barely listening to the man pour out his heart to them- but was distracted when an unnatural wind blew through their camp, stirring some dried grass fronds and summoning another lovely whisper of cooking meat.
 

Otiroth

Villager
Otiroth began to carefully uncover the cooking meat, before carving off pieces to hand off to everyone around the fire. Yes, including the dog!

But he did know where he was going. Alath. A place that would give her answers... that could tell him about the past that was growing even now in sparkling scales across his back and arms.

Where Alath was... that was the question! And not one he expected a wanderer on the road to know about.

"Perhaps we are foolish," Otiroth had to admit it. "But someone must go north."

It wasn't always destiny that drove men forward... though it was certainly as such in this case. Desperation was sometimes just as good as destiny.
 

Jeovanna

Villager
Someone must...

Duty.

Obligation.

Jeovanna stiffened a bit at the unnatural wind, muscles tensing like a cat ready to pounce- but she'd relax almost immediately afterwards. It was imperceptible, really. Only a moment. She'd take her share of lunch when Otiroth offered. That was a decent distraction as well.

So they would go north, and for perhaps a little while longer, it would still be safe on the roads. But only a little bit longer. And who knows far the creatures from the sands had already dug their way in on the heels of their camp friend?

It didn't matter.
 
Carthum looked skywards for a brief moment. Into the blue skies- so serene, but carrying tremendous heat from the north. Monsters. Ruin.

He seemed to snap back to reality soon enough. Of course, he would impart a blessing upon their meal- of the 'speaking Suru's grace' part, not an actual spell. Let Suru look favorably upon this succor, and let it carry them onwards to their needs! Though their two groups traveled in opposite directions, they both were set upon a marked path.
 

97mg

Villager
The meal and company is pleasant, despite the temporary interruption of a southbound gusty breeze.

“North,” the hermit repeats, clearly curious as to what inspires this group to go against the grain, to face that from which others hastily retreat. But he does not press you or request elaboration on what lures you so. Perhaps he thinks you fools, young and naive, but it doesn’t show. If anything, it is more likely that this man respects your decision. Each to their own path.

There is honor in the ranger and sorcerer’s words. A sense of duty, that the fit and willing go to aid those weaker and now under immediate threat. The elderly man nods, and smiles as he finishes his final piece of meat. The hound of course, finished his long ago. A few licks, a quick gulp, and the offering is long gone.

“Tasty!” the canine remarks to Dain with a small yap. The treat is appreciated, and likely better than most of the meals he’s had for many a day.

As your lunch concludes, the dog turns to watch a half-orc, apparently transfixed by the skies overhead. A blue which is being eaten at, gnawed away by the taints of dusty sand-coloured hue and splashes of gray. The weather is soon to change, it takes no expert to notice that.

The hound too looks upwards then, spotting a small dark shape flapping about, forced backwards by a strong wind high above the treeline before pulling in its wings and diving down to rest in some distant tree… perhaps.

“Hrrrumph,” the dog snorts. “Birds. Why are the tastiest things so damn hard to catch. Wait…”

He stands on all fours to sniff the air, catching the scent of something close and to your northern edge. He growls quietly.

“I know that smell. Annoying!”


Without further ado, the dog rushes off, it's old paws scattering leaves as it darts off into a nearby bush.
 

97mg

Villager
Interlude: Another severed rope

With back resting against a hilltop tor of granite, Raian confronted a fresh obstacle as though most other roadblocks in his short life. Through quiet and the peace of a nap. The young man enjoyed some temporary shade and contemplated the bridge now gone, considering the long way around, the tiring walk to backtrack and the ankle-jarring descent down hard, potentially leg-breaking scree.

He sighed.

The winds were picking up, almost shoving like a hand determined to stir the boy from slumber. Opening his eyes, it was time to accept that none of the predicament had changed. The last day’s travel had been little more than wasted time and a reduction in limited rations. The time had come to make a choice. Turn back now, and meet the river’s edge by nightfall, or wait here and attempt the sweaty descent in the relative cool of morn.

The sound of a stone skipping upon the track. The crunching of loose dirt underfoot. Someone was coming, and swiftly! He jolted upright, grabbing the strap of his leather satchel, peering towards the way from which he’d arrived.

Like a wild hare she ran, no, this woman had the smooth swaying motion of a serpent and the speed of waterfall’s drop. An angel? Probably not. Angel’s didn’t wear the deep reds of ironstone and carnelian, as far as he knew.

Raian was stunned for a long moment. He was only a man after all. Her features carved at his young mind like a flame-licked lustful knife. Eyes of deepest brown. Long waves of hair in charcoal’s shade. A fine, pale-skinned form of slender limb and ample bosom, half-concealed beneath a well-cut flowing dress, the color of firey scorched earth.

“Hey,” he called out. “Slow up! The bridge aint there!.”

Their eyes met. She showed neither alarm nor emotion as she quickly regarded him, before letting a knee drop a touch, gaining purchase to jump and lift her weight upwards.

Raian’s jaw dropped. Who was he, to behold such a beautiful dance? She twisted in the air, the hem of her dress curling to follow as she twisted to face away from him, back down the track. From nowhere, sunlight glinted off short-edged steel now held in both hands.

It began to make sense.

The sunlight illuminated more than just a lady. He watched in outright shock as a pincer snapped at where her leg had been, less than a moment ago. A beast! No wonder she had been sprinting upon the track! She was… pursued. Pretty, but prey. And this was no wild arachnid. Darting backwards, upon six legs the height of a child, the sandsborn savage was of size comparable to boar, and uglier than any excrement-encrusted pig.

He could only watch, as with blade pointed downwards the woman landed. A crack, as thick shell-like exoskeleton was split. A squelch, as metal slid within the soft meat below.

“Run!” She called to him in a voice unusually calm and clear, given the situation.

A look to the left. A few yards of hill’s edge and a steep drop. A look the the right. Granite. Tors. He might be able to climb. Raian took a few steps back, a final glance towards the woman, and then took a run-up. Boots and hands scraping against rough stone, he attempted to free-climb. Not so difficult at first, with a little momentum, but once that was spent it came down to weight, skill, the grip of one’s boots, and how much blood was on offer, a sacrifice from one’s palms to the stoney gods of old.

Now, Raian was a small man and rather slim, so that was on his side at least. His boots? Hardly new by any standards, but good enough, and his hands? Well… grazed skin sounded a lot better than a scorpion’s barb. Behind him, he heard a “yah!” as he scampered upwards. Hopefully that meant another hostile had met its match!

Two feet from the top of the first tor, and he heard a hiss.

Sh*t.

He looked upwards. Something was waiting.
 
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Release the Hounds! - Dain

Dain ate his food in relative silence, occasionally scanning the surroundings with squinted eyes. The sky troubled him. The wind troubled him. Guiding a group of good people into a coming storm of death troubled him.

In his mind he heard the blaring of trumpets, and the anxious stomping of heavy horse hooves. Armor creaking, banners fluttering. Men muttering prayers and oaths. Dain's heart raced for a moment before the sounds faded, leaving only a sickening feeling in his stomach.

Everything troubled him.

Everything except the dog. Dain responded with a grin to the dog's mention of enjoying its meal. Then he uttered a quiet 'yip' back in its direction, conveying a sort of 'good to hear, friend'.

This traveler is lucky to have such a companion as this hound. Its honor is unassailable, as only a hound's can be.

When the dog caught sight of something in the trees, Dain's eyes followed. When it sprung to its feet, Dain did the same. As it recognized the scent and bolted off, Dain made to follow, pausing only to address his comrades with hurried words. "The hound recalls an old foe! It seems the savage north has found us! To arms, friends! To arms!"

Then Dain streaked away after the hound, eager to ambush whatever foe might be hiding in the shrubbery. He had a penchant for impatience when his hackles were up...not unlike the hound!

<Dread Ambusher: +10 movement speed in combat. Not sure if that applies to pre-combat, but worth a shot.>
 

97mg

Villager
The Chase

Magaw resisted the temptation to rotate his view on the world, instead letting the old dog and Dain depart from peripheral vision.

What on earth is going on?

The ranger felt it not long after the hound had. Eyes. Movement. Something had been moving up on them...

< For those interested in chasing Masto and whatever he has sniffed out, lets roll initiative. Those remaining at the campsite do not need to roll, and can play on or declare alternative actions.

Dain can have the +10 movement to equal the dog's speed, and if he ends up in combat next round he can have the extra damage too.

Dog init = 21
Unknown foe init = 8 >
 
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Metea

Villager
Metea perked up a bit as Dain rushed off- following the dog. Was the dog seeing a rabbit? Because most dogs chased rabbits, didn't they?

She'd stand up, ever so gracefully- maybe the tail helped with that- and snatched her staff. She'd follow Dain- but at a good distance! After all, she had fantastic range!

Well... she did with her magical bolts. Which may not be the best to fire off near a stranger. Not that Metea was particularly known for careful thought, so what she might do next was truly an unknown.

<Initiative roll=20>
 

Jeovanna

Villager
Jeovanna almost managed to snag Metea's tail... almost. But the tiefling could be quick when she wanted to be...

Foolishness was rarely tempered, after all!

But Jeovanna was to her feet immediately after the others. She'd reach for her sword for a moment, but hesitated to charge after the others. The pack. Prey.

They'd not be surrounded like prey! The barbarian drove the point of her greatsword into the soil alongside her so it would be close to hand- and drew her bow.

<Jeo init=20>
 

Otiroth

Villager
"Metea!" Otiroth yelped. He'd leap to his feet... but he wasn't charging into the brush! While his opinion might change if he saw Metea in immediate danger, at the moment they were rushing at shadows.

"He, uh, really likes dogs," Otiroth offered, for Dain seemed to be speaking the creature's language still!

Otiroth pulled out his crossbow from his pack. The weapon felt awkward in his hands... but they could not afford for him to be snobbish about using weapons instead of magic! He'd slot a bolt and observe...

<Oti Init=22>
 

97mg

Villager
"Masto! Back, back!”

The hound’s master calls towards the bushes. Beginning to stand, those around him might notice a wince upon his face, a tiny hint of pain in the old man’s bones.

The half-orc stood abruptly as Metea gracefully made off to follow the ranger and the hermit’s hound. “Wait!” His grunted suggestion came too late. He looked at Otiroth then with a knowing expression. His sister wasn’t one to shy away from adventure and mischief. Jeovanna looked firm and strong, ready to wait and protect camp, good. The sorcerer was preparing a range weapon, excellent. There was only one thing for Carthum to do. Follow Metea, carefully, and keep an eye out along the way. Without rushing, he kept behind Metea and disappeared into the bushes.

As Dain throws himself through the thick and tangly shrubbery, he moves with speed. A man of pace equal to a hound on the hunt! Dodging small branches that threaten to whip one in the face and jab at ones chest, weaving between pockets of densely formed, ground-hugging plant life.

Then he bursts out into the open. Forest. Tall trees and deep shade ahead. There! The tip of the dog’s tail disappears behind a row of great towering oaks, barking wildly. There is another bark then… but not a dog. And finally, a great crunch as though wood splits and branches bend… somewhere beyond the hound. Yes, there is movement a plenty.

Back at camp, the old man dusts himself off and nods to the towering woman of muscle and the polite young chap.

"My apologies. Masto is very much himself. A hunter. Sometimes troublesome and prone to foolhardyness... but he's also... well... protective. I thank you for waiting here, just in case..."

< Metea can react next because of her initiative. I've assumed that she has proceeded at walking pace. By the time she emerges from the bushes Dain will be a full round ahead of you but still in view, and Carthum is close behind you.

Dain can have his go then. Feel free to make a check to recognize the sound the other "bark". Your passive perception brings you a sense of unease. A medium sized shape ahead behind the trees, but very difficult to make out and pinpoint. Feel free to make a perception check for more info.

For those remaining at camp, there is no need to keep your replies in initiative order. React at your leisure :)

Outside Camp:
Dog = 21
Metea = 20
Dain = 15
Carthum = 9
Foe? = 8

Guarding At Camp (for reference):
Otiroth = 22
Jeo = 20
Hermit = 15

 
Dain had a head of steam that was hard for him to stop. Or maybe it was that it felt too good to stop. Either way, he barely broke pace when the hound vanished around the trunk of a huge oak and in fact sped up at the sound of the strange 'bark'. What in the gods was that?

<Perception check: 2+5=7 Assuming a fail>

Well whatever it was, the hound didn't like it, and so neither did Dain!

With a burst to the side, and then a spin, Dain sidled around a huge oak before springing to action on the other side of where he assumed the hound was making its own stand. It was not alone! Besides, the further the struggle with...whatever this was...stayed from the camp, the better!

Essithea...hear my plea. Let me strike as if from the shadows! And whatever creature may be before me, if it be my foe, let it bemoan its fate!

<Prepping for 'Dread Ambusher' feat, adding an attack at +1d8 damage>
 

Metea

Villager
Metea was... welll, 'close on the heels' was the wrong turn of phrase, as she had darted out of Jeovanna's clutches quickly enough, but she wasn't getting lost in the brush. As exciting as the unknown was... there were thorns in those bushes. She'd already lost some tail feathers!

Said tail feathers were rustling, and hanging back a bit gave her perhaps a slightly better view of what was ahead of her.

Were they far enough from camp? Metea couldn't help but feel the need to blast whatever had upset the poor dog!

<Perception check- 16>
 

97mg

Villager
Woods & Foxes

Close on the hound's tail, Dain is something to behold as he zips and weaves after the old mongrel, legs ablur with light steps and arms pumping his form between branches and the trunks of tall trees. Somewhere behind Metea, Carthum sighs.

Suru protect us, I fear our Ranger has gone half-mad, or half-canine.

He calls out to Metea then, "wait up!" Her brother is desperately worried that whatever has lured the dog and Dain away from camp, could be a trap large enough for three... or even four? After all they had been through in the mines and beyond. With Kalair's future quite possibly in their hands... well the priest's pack actually. What a tragedy it would be to become separated in these woods and picked off whilst scattered.

Carthum's thoughts may be flashing with images of bandits and woodland traps, but Metea might think otherwise. Her eyes serve her well, spotting an oddly familiar branch of wood far ahead. It waves into view for just a moment, an arm? Surely that length of wood moved much like a limb, a knot as its elbow joint, and five short twigs sprouting from one end as though fingers on a misshapen hand. Then it is gone from view.

Magaw turns upon his mount, finding Metea's facial expression quite perplexing. "What my dear, seen a ghost?"

Dain's boots skid against undergrowth and before him lies something of an unusual scene! Masto halts in front of him, cocking his mangy head sideways, a little bewildered too.

A tall humanoid form covered in bark and small sections of greenery (naturally placed well... to conceal intimates), stands upon stumpy feet with arms outstretched. The woodland being's head is thick as an aged oak's stump, and within it holes like small hollows form a pair of asymmetrical eye sockets, and a ragged zig-zagged jaw. In an elongated right arm it tightly grips a fox, a familiar vixen too. Twisting, digging into bark with scratchy rear paws, gnawing at the forearm, the fox struggles valiantly yet in vane. The hand of timber isn't letting go. In fact, the grip appears to be tightening. Then the treeman's face turns to regard the arrival of a man and his dog.

"Gravurig!"

With the other arm, the creature points to Masto angrily.

"Gravurig!", it growls.

Metea and Carthum probably heard that...

<Dain and Metea can make a check of their choosing to see if they know anything about this creature. I'm assuming Dain's speak with animals spell has worn off by now for dog communications. The being's language is unknown to you.

Those back at camp who wish to do so, may make a perception check to hear a distant growl in an unknown tongue, DC18.

Creature strength check to hold fox = 16. Fox opposed check = 4. Magaw perception check = 13.>
 
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