Shadows and Light: Ezara's Retreat
Part two of the Shadowood scouting PRP.
May 9, 2020, 9 p.m.
Outside Arx - Oathlands near Oakhaven - Ezara's Retreat
Comments and Log
When last we saw our heroes -- shit had gotten quite real. The main scouting party had heard horrible noises, which Kastelon, scouting ahead, identified as a massive boar in the process of killing a bear. Unfortunately, said boar detected Kastelon and charged the Keaton huntsman, though by grace of narrow gaps between trees and a life saving athleticism, Kastelon was able to warn the others.
Hearing the fighting, a passing group of Solaren Abandoned decided to use this opportunity to flank the Keaton party, though they were routed soon enough. It was not without cost, as Amari and Veronica were both badly wounded and in need of healing. They found a prisoner, Ahsero Tayo, who told them if they took him home, to Ezara's Retreat, he could promise them shelter and healing.
The sun is starting to set, not that it makes too much of a difference within the Shadowood given the great amount of interwoven limbs, heavy foliage, and darkness that clings to the general vicinity. Those that were part of the initial scouting party have heeded the words of the wounded shav'avari and sought to travel with him to the promised refuge of Ezara's Retreat. As they travel, there is a horn blown, a low thing that summons forth other scouting parties within the wood that might be seeking out where they can find additional forward operating bases for the push to conquer it in the name of House Keaton. Volunteers, allies, they might be summoned from that.
That single shav'avari, named Ahsero Tayo, leads the group on though he clenches his fist where his hand has been wounded and once they are in the general area of Ezara's Retreat (so he told the group) he makes a low sound, like a bird, but the call is an elaborate one.
There is rustling up ahead, the approach of several individuals.
Drake was useful during the battle portion of this situation... less so, when it came to patching up the wounded shav the team had found. He's keeping an eye on him, not out of concern for his health so much as watching to make sure there is no trouble. He wasn't hurt from the previous encounter and he's still fresh if something should happen. It wouldn't be hard for him to pull his sword out again if things got bad.
The sound of the bird-like cry... the call and response... they make him pause. He's still nervous there might be a trick to this, and his hand twitches to his sword, fingers lacing through spikes on Love's Sorrow's hilt, as if they weren't even present.
Someone else had better take the lead on this whole adventure, because Amari has gone quiet and very pale. She sits rigid in her saddle with a folded up linen tunic pressed to her side which is dark with her blood, despite most of it likely filling her armor and soaking her thick gambeson. Every little misstep of her horse is a new jolt of pain for her, but she's holding on and toughing it out. It's just all her focus is on that, rather than bird calls and rustling.
The secondary scouting team is here. Maybe something happened there, maybe something didn't. But considering she had a need to do something more physical, it seemed that scouting was on her regiment of losing that baby weight or so. Dressed in her leather armor, it seems that Dominique arrives with her scouting party, running her fingers through her dark locks as she squints and glances about, looking around at the others.
While she may be a Laurent--er well she was one, and now is a Fortier, she used to be a Keaton. And Shae is happy to help our family, volunteering to join one of the various scouting parties. At the sound of the horn being blown, no doubt that they would head in that direction, meeting up with the main group. As they do, Shae's eyes widen at the state that Amari and Veronica are in. Moving to ride along the two of them, to look over them both and also protect them too, if needed. Her keen eyes and ears, and maybe that trick knee of hers helping to alert her to any possible danger around them.
"It seems we've some company, approaching," after rejoining the main group alongside his wife, and hearing the rustling up ahead. Kedehern glances to Ahsero, assuming they were his people, and so hopefully, not hostile. A bit of a frown at seeing the state of Amari and Veronica, but well... Hopefully they'd be seen to shortly, once the group was able to stop and rest.
Kastelon rides along with the others, keeping a solemn eye out as he watches the surroundings. Once in a while he looks towards Amari and Veronica, establishing that they're still in the saddle. At the rustling ahead, he frowns in that direction.
Amari gives a little nod forward to Ahseyo Tayo as she notices Shae and Kedehern arrive, and Dominique as well. "We saved him from the Solaren, and he's-" Breath. "-taking us to his village." She explains to them, just loudly enough to be heard and not a whit louder. That was probably enough talking though, so she forces an inadvertantly grim little smile and quiets again.
Ahsero offers a little nod toward Kedehern in response. It's a silent thing, for evidently that silent question.
That rustling sound continues and is most definitely approaching the group. Rustle, rustle. Two men - guard-sorts, if the bows slung on their back and spears in their hands are any indications - break into the clearing as Ahsero stands there becoming pale. The one on the right looks angry while the one on the left looks concerned about Ahsero, but most definitely cautious.
"Why have you come?" asks the one on the right, voice tight. "Why did you bring them?" This accusation is levied to poor Ahsero, who attempts to gain his mettle and reply, "It was the Rite of Reprieve; they stopped the Solaren from using me for their dark purpose."
The guards both look at the group, assessing.
Oh noes. Hostile guards. Dominique nods to Amari as she takes it all in for a few moments before she gives the guards the same appraising look. She doesn't make any movements to her weapon as of yet as she cants her head and mutters to the others who were there for the other trip. "What was the dark purpose?" she asks curiously.
Drake is a bit more practical in his response. "He was injured, and we brought him here. We are trying to think the better of him... in spite of what we saw."
"Blood sacrifice." Amari answers the Marquessa, and though it's likely a guess, she sounds confident about it. For the guards benefit, she lifts one hand to show she's not holding a weapon or she comes in peace, or something. The other stays pressed to her waist, holding the cloth to the rent in her armor from the spear that she was caught by.
Kedehern stays seated in his saddle, not reaching for his hammer to show that they do in fact mean peace. For now, however, he lets those more eloquent, along with Ahsero speak for him. The Baron at the moment studying the two guards, before his eyes drift to the trees behind them, wondering how many others they have with them, unseen.
There is a nod from Shae as Amari briefly explains who Ahesyo Tayo is, and what is going on. Reaching out a hand, to put it gently over Amari's, a warm supportive smile for her. And then she turns to regard the guards, "We do not mean you or yours any harm. Please there are people here in need of medical attention and care. Including one of your own." Shae speaks, perhaps trying to plead to their concern for their friend, as well as any empathy they might have.
Kedehern checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 2 lower.
With a slight tremble, Ahsero nods toward Amari in confirmation.
The guards look across the party as a whole, frowning, and focuses in on Shae when she speaks. Pointing out that there are others who are injured, they huff a breath and regard Amari again more carefully. Then they look on. "Will you remove all of your weapons before coming in?" they ask. "The Rite of Reprieve will be honored."
Kastelon frowns. It doesn't appear as if he'd like to give up his weapons, but from the way he looks towards Amari, he's willing to do so if she makes that decision.
Unwrapping the sheathe of her sword from her waist, Dominique starts to present her blade before glancing about. "And where would you want us to put it before we enter?" Give a little, get a little, right?
Drake shows clear hesitation at this request.
He looks down at his side.
Then he considers: well, it's not like anyone can steal it. He pulls first his older blade out, and sticks it in the dirt, and then does the same with Love's Sorrow. He sticks it into the ground, point down, and looks at the man as if on a dare. "Someone had better watch them."
"We will have a box brought out, manned," states the guard to Dominique. "Heirloom weapons may be peacebound if they are tested by us first before returned and allowed entry." This seems to be directed to Drake, assumptions made.
"Someone may unstring my bow, and leave quiver, knife and lance with my horse. The sword stays at my side until I fall dead from this saddle." Amari answers firmly, with only limited give on the topic, "But if you fear it so, peacebind it then. I'm afraid I'm in no shape to swing it anyway, as you can plainly see." She exhales slowly then, through her clenched teeth.
As others begin to begrudgingly offer to remove their weapons, "Would it be acceptable if we pea--" It seems Shae was just getting ready to ask about peacebinding and unstring the weapons. And then there is a gently touch to Amari's hand. "I can do that for you, Amari." Moving Caerwyn closer to her cousin, so she can unstring her bow, and then peacebind her sword.
Kedehern, still silent, simply gives a nod at the request, and would start to take some leather thongs from his saddle bag, to peacebind bind the sword attached to his horse's saddle, and then he frowns a bit, thinking. Finally, he hands strips to his wife to bind the hammer to where it hung from the frog on his back, because well, how the else do you peacebind a great big hunk of diamondplate?
Bringing her weapon to the guards so it can be inspected, Dominique gives a brief chastizing glance towards her cousin. "Lord Drake, if we wish to gain their trust, they should have some of ours, especially after you took care of one of their own, right?" she offers, her voice cool and calm before she steps forward. "So shall we get a move on then?"
"It is not fear, warrior of the Compact. It is a lack of trust until such is earned. We are not thieves, and if we wished you harm, we would not need to wait, as our numbers are far greater than yours. We can recognize a desire not to surrender that which is part of you. So we will peacebind your sword, and any other that you or your group wish to keep near." The more suspicious guard answers Amari. The pair of guards then move to guide the party through a particularly dense thicket, revealing a camoflaged wall. There is a quick call and response and soon enough what once looked like impenetrable brush is rolling smoothly back. The weapons are stored, or peacebonded as agreed upon, and once that is done, the party is led inside.
The village of Ezara's Retreat could be any other well-maintained Oakhaven village. The streets are broad and cobbled, the houses well built and handsomely appointed. There are well houses, squares and even a market, with stores offering all manner of goods. Those within are nearly indistinguishable from those of the Compact, their manner of dress common, even fashionable. All eyes are on the inbound group, suspicion and fear visible in some eyes, parents clutching young children closer, the outsiders given wide berth.
"Ahsero!" This heartwrenching cry is a warning as a heavyset woman charges forward, seeing the boy and weeping. "Come my son, my son, you are alive! We must get you to Lagoma's Shrine!" Tears pour down her face as she cradles the boy in her arms.
The guards nod to the woman, "Dierdre Tayo, these people found your boy and he has invoked the Rite of Reprieve. While they are here, you are responsible for them. Several of them need help. Show them to the Shrine?" The woman blanches, looking to the gathered Keatons and allies and swallows thickly. "Yes. Yes I can do this."
Drake pulls Love's Sorrow back out of the dirt, and back into its sheath. "All right. Tie it. But it's not my fault if you cut your hand trying," he says, a little stubbornly.
Once the matter of the sword is settled and it's peacfully bound, Drake is willing to go to the shrine, but he still seems a bit wary or skeptical of the whole endeavor.
Kastelon removes his weapons with a grim expression, after dismounting from his horse. The sword is bound in its sheath, and the bow unstrung, and then he readies to lead the beast by the reins after the others.
Once weapons are looked at and peacebound, including Amari's sword, Kedehern's hammer, and Shae's bow, which she unstrings, as well. She does hand over her and Amari's quivers of arrows. Once they are inside the place, she slides off Carwyn and would walk Amari and Veronica's horse for them. Carwyn and the dogs following them. Once Dierdre shows them to the shrine of course! Shae gives Dierdre a friendly, gentle smile, "I am Baroness Shae Fortier, my cousins Lady Amari and Lady Veronica Keaton are both badly injured, we appreciate any help and care that you and yours are able to provide them."
"We thank you." Amari manages, but that's about all she has the patience and grace to say to the guards. While the whole deal with her weapons is happening, she closes her eyes and just sits there save for a murmur of thanks to Shae for unstringing her bow for her. She stays mostly like that even after they've been shown into the village. Her enthusiasm is hardly infectious, but she does take some of it in and nod a confirmation when Shae speaks for the party.
So it is that the group are led forward by Dierdre, who is still apprehensive about the Compact group, but nevertheless the greeting from Shae has her relaxing somewhat. She offers her a smile in response, a vague thing, but the introductions of the Keatons has her hesitate a span longer. She looks very much toward the Keatons - and the group gathered - like the little children of Oakhaven are told stories of the Shadowood. "Fortier?" she asks, confused. Word travels slow to this part of the Shadowood evidently, no gossip of the new House. Nevertheless, onward they go to the Shrine of Lagoma.
It is there that healers descend and, much like Mercies, are paid respect. The group are offered lodgings, accommodations that might not be up to the usual standard, but nevertheless are clean, warm, and have food present for them.
In general, the village respects the Rite of Reprieve. It allows the Compact group to travel across them with varying reactions and no harm to be done to them as long as they do no harm. It is an interesting thing, this area, for there are a multitude number of plants, herbs, berries with various medicinal (and to be fair, recreational) properties. Wounds are tended to and perhaps as time passes, tongues loosen. Take, for example, the rumblings across the villagers about the dastardly Solaren tribe and how multiple number of their people have been swiped for dark rituals. In general, other than those guards, these folk seem to be a peaceful lot. Close by, also, is the wailing of a particularly distraught woman. "No, he is innocent," she says to one of her comrades. "I cannot believe that Giari stole those - I know he could not. You must stop his going to Hawke's Prison. *No* one comes out from that place."
Drake relaxes a little when the injured are tended to. It seems clear now that he wasn't going to stop being tense until Amari was at least patched up. And he looks after her a bit later, just making sure, before he seems satisfied with the care she's recieved. But he's quite attentive, considering the matter of the rituals that he hears... and the woman, who, when she speaks out about this prison, his ears perk a bit. "I may be a stranger here, but what prison are you speaking of?"
Kedehern looks over at the woman, curious. "Hawke's Prison?" he asks, echoing Drake, somehwat. Then, "Who is this Giari you speak of, and what was stolen, if it's alright that I ask?"
"My... lord," starts the woman, venturing toward Drake when he is summoning her. Her voice is pitched low, quiet, and hushed. "I am Meriel." She looks about, a little awkward to be talking to the group but nevertheless continuing on with, "Our criminals are banished from our town. We do not treat with oathbreaker or foul lot here. We take them to the south, to what we call Hawk's Prison. It is several candle marks ride from here, following along the creekside. Usually after there are those redeemed, they are let back in but none come back. My husband, he is no thief. He never stole in his life." Yes, she practically wails at this point, looking toward Kedehern with bright tears. "His cousin says that he stole her jewelry and traded it away, but I tell you, she just wanted to blacken his name."
It was a snap, almost, out of the reverie was they were led through this village. He wore a stern expression of uncertainty, but his gaze was gentle enough to those it met. At Meriel's decry and anguish, the baron looked away for a moment, but only just before addressing her himself. "Why would she want to do that, good woman?" His tone was deep, a rumbling baritone with no shortage of gentleness to it.
Amari largely keeps to herself, and doesn't speak much to the villagers save for the bare minimum to maintain a semblance of politeness and show her gratitude. That continues long after she's been shelled of her rubicund plate and her wound bandaged. She's getting some color back in her cheeks by the time the wailing begins, and even stirs then, as if she's curious about what's happening enough to rise from the chair they've set out for her so she can get some fresh air and sun. She doesn't though, she merely tilts her head to an inquisitive angle when Meriel shares her story with Drake and slowly arches a brow.
Kastelon is taking care of his horse next to the water trough while listening to this, having established that Amari and Veronica are on the path to recovery. He doesn't interject either.
"My husband has always been well liked around the village and there are rumors that he might be able to be voted in to lead on the council," sniffs the shav'avari woman. "His cousin Betra though? She fancies Yolaf and *he* also wants to have that position. That is the only thing that I can figure."
Drake nods in sympathy, and as she introduces herself, he does as well, "Drake. Wyrmguard." A pause, listening then to her story. He raises both brows after. "I do have a hard time saying no to a woman in need, but, it does seem like a private matter." He shrugs one hand. "If someone were to recover the jewelry surely they'd prove him innocent as well, eh?"
Shae would explain to the woman who House Fortier is, and all about them. In fact, she is more then happy to talk about her Barony, and the people. Mentioning how they have had some of the most lush growth of any domain this spring, the flora spectacularly verdant. It would seem that she has a great interest in the various flora that they have come across her as well. Asking about the various plants, herbs, and berries. Spending time with Amari and Veronica as they recover as well. And that was where Shae was currently, sitting on the ground playing with Brimbar some as she spoke quietly with Amari. Shae's own gaze shifting toward the others as the spoke with Meriel.
"It also seems to be a political matter within the tribe of people. I do not know if it would be advisable to get involved in this." Dominique tells Drake, hrmming for a few moments, placing a hand upon his shoulder. "That's the equivalent of an outside coming to Blancbier to try to interfere in who else would be marquis or voice."
"And so you think this Betra has falsely accused him to get Yolaf onto the council, and perhaps make herself seem more attractive to him, then?" Kedehern asks, listening. "Kedehern Laure--" He stops, coughing a touch. "Excuse me, Kedehern Fortier," he states.
"If there might be the jewels found, but I worry about him in that prison until justice is done - something is just not right," Meriel remarks. When the issue is declared by Dominique to be a private one, she ducks her head and then nods. There's a quick assessment made of the area as a whole, other villagers that she might be able to recruit. Kedehern brings her focus back to the group. "I do, Kedehern Fortier--" and she sends a quick and grateful look to Shae there, now knowing who it is whom she addresses and the history there. "Yet I have little way to prove it."
Drake seems inclined to agree with Dominique in the short term, though it does weigh on him a little. He nods thoughtfully, and then steps back to let the perhaps more-diplomatically inclined ask different questions. Meanwhile, he's curious to learn more about the... possible disappearances, which sounds a little more murderous.
"Will there be a trial or are all accused immediately banished?" Is Amari's question of Meriel, asked in a tone that's neutral and terribly lawyerly. Not as if she greatly cares in a personal fashion.
Hrmming for a few moments, she squints for a few moments as she just stares at Merial and the others. Puffing up a little Dominique purses her lips for a few moments. "Wait. You want us to get involved in this political matter of yours? We have no idea whether or not your husband would make a better leader than the other. This is something we should not get involved in..." a beat as she crosses her arms over her chest "Unless, the Gods will it this way. Would you consider bending the knee if we get involved in deciding your leadership?"
"I should hope so," Kedehern says, nodding to Amari. "If there's no proof he stole them aside from her word..." He gives a shake of his head, thinking. He looks to Dominique then. "I think it's less the politics of the matter, and more that justice be done to find out if he really is in fact a thief or not, Marquessa."
"They took him, had a swift trial -- too swift if you ask me -- and then saw him off toward the prison," answers Meriel. "Ain't no one come back from there in several cycle of the seasons."
Domique's words, they pull at her, and there is a sharp furrow of her brows. "I do not have any care about politics, simply want a good man returned. Bending the knee? I might pledge myself if you return my husband to me but I do not speak for the people here." Kedehern has her nod rapidly.
Kastelon checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 38 higher.
Meanwhile, Kastelon has tacked up his horse and climbed into the saddle. He's riding off, leaving the village at a casual pace, and seems angled to follow the woman's directions. Judging by the familiar way in which he views the forest, he'll have a straight shot there.
"Does no one else find it odd that no one has returned from the prison in several cycles of the seasons? Especially, if these people sent there are supposed to serve out a sentence and then be released." Shae interjects into the conversation. "This sounds like an issue that needs to be looked into."
"Potential troubles that a scouting party should be made aware of at least, certainly," Kedehern says in agreement with Shae, nodding.
"If actual evidence is found that will exonerate him, they'd surely have to stay the sentence." Amari quietly advances, steering well clear of the political aspect of it as well. She closes her eyes again in fact, and tucks herself deeper into the wool blanket wrapped around her shoulders. "It is concerning, all of it, but they aren't subject to the laws of the Compact or our justice."
"It is a fair point," Drake says, crossing his arms as he stands now nearer to the back of the group.
Perhaps the new baron should learn about legal decisions such as this, but as of now, he needed to observe and pay special attention to Amari and her lead in such things. "That is odd indeed, baroness." Rane looked over at Shae and nodded slowly.
Kastelon is neither very charismatic nor a leader, and has given no voice to his thoughts on this matter. The rump of his horse, tail swishing placidly, is disappearing into the shade below the trees at the edge of the village. There's still time to go with him if anyone even wanted to, but he doesn't seem the sort to wait or be disturbed by the thought of scouting alone.
"We should perhaps also make sure that Lord Kastelon doesn't get 'not returned' from Hawke's Prison as well, sinc eunless I miss my guess, he seems to have just headed off for it. I don't think Marquis Kael will thank us if we return without him."
"It's because they aren't citizens of the Compact. They would need to bend the knee to have such a thing. I think this is a political matter that we are grossly overstepping." Dominique says with another shrug of her shoulders as she sighs softly and runs her fingers through her hair.
Drake gives Kadehern a little nod, and then gestures with a slight bow. "I'll look into it. I don't need to rest, and I feel a little ansty just sitting around."
"Or, some faction here might be in league with the Abyss, and Clans Solaren, Bonesaw or White Deer." Amari theorizes, still with her eyes closed. "Perhaps those 'criminals' they send to the prison are in fact bribes in the form of blood sacrifices so the other tribes will leave them and their pleasant little village be. Might be prudent to go see, and be sure, before we interfere in any appreciable way. The Marquessa isn't wrong."
"We are nobility of the Compact, and right now you are acting like sellswords. Mercenaries. It is unbecoming of our position, and I will stay. I do not get involved in political matters such as this. If there is something more sinsiter, then send one of your messengers, an animal, something." Dominique replies as she shrugs her shoulders.
"You may stay all you like, but I plan to go make sure that nothing sinister is going on," Shae replies to Dominique, looking to Amari. "I understand if you don't want to come with," standing then and giving a kiss to Amari's cheek. Looking to her husband therem and heading to grab her war elk, as her dogs follow her. And then Shae would head out, to catch up with Kastelon.
Kedehern looks over to Dominique then with a piqued brow. "I'd rather think if there's a prison, where people are missing, for unknown reasons, part of the task set before us scouts is to look into that reason. That's not being a sellsword, Marquessa. That's setting out to do what we agreed to help the Marquis of Oakhaven with in the first place." He shrugs. "You can stay if you wish, but I plan on looking into the matter." And with that, he'd head to his horse, mount up, and head out.
Dominique's words cause Meriel's brow to furrow, "Begging your pardon, but I think you must be mistaken. I ain't asking for your folks to interfere in anything political. I want my *husband* back. I think he was set up, yes, but beyond that I'm scared that I'm never going to see him again. Something at that prison ain't right." The woman is clearly distraught, wringing her hands, "I can sort out whether or not he was framed. I just need to know if he's ever coming home. I'm not the only one afraid. BUt the guards have higher priorities than to check in on criminals."
Drake is going along with it more because he wonders if something spooky is going on, than if there is a political problem he should get involved in. The latter doesn't concern him. But maybe there's a monster or... something. At any rate, he has to get back to his horse before leaving, since it seems the scouts are going mounted.
For the group that is adventuring forth to look at what might or might not be suspicious there at Hawke's Prison, they ride on a fine trail that has been found by Kastelon. The directions are good, ride south for an hour mark on the candle, cut along the bank of the creek and press onward. The darkness grows, typical of the wood, but there are patches of light here and there and some bold color from fauna. Take that moss there that glows with a gentle green, or that fungus there that is a lovely shade of orange. There is something almost deceptively serene about it, at times. Ah, but why are there no sounds of birds here? No hints of animals if one peers close?
"You believe your husband was framed because he was a political rival of another person. It is inherently political. We shall simply agree to disagree at this point. I wish you both luck, and if there is something more, I will join, but I cannot, in good conscience, be part of something related that seems to be a private tribal affair." Dominique offers with a curtsy.
Drake checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 5 higher.
Kedehern checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 34 higher.
Kastelon checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 36 higher.
Shae checked perception + survival at difficulty 30, rolling 63 higher.
Amari covers a yawn after Shae kisses her cheek, and makes no move to leap out of her chair and go scouting herself. She has a valid excuse, being wounded and all, so waves at the brave scouts departing. To Dominique, she gives a slight shrug and Meriel much the same. "It's a sad story, and you have my sympathy and understanding as a woman. As you can tell by the Marquessa's reaction, we are rather limited in what we can do in this situation for you and your husband without breaking the laws of the Compact. If there is something amiss at the prison, we can at least discover what that may be but further involvement may be difficult to justify. I'm sorry." She'll curl into the warmth of her blanket then and wait for the scouts return with news of what they've found - if anything.
The eerie silence, the serenity of this place, with its dim illumination is beautiful; though the hairs on the nape of the neck begin to prickle, goosebumps run along the skin of their forearms. A clearing opens up ahead, the trunks of the trees adorned with splatter-growths of glowing fungi, the pale grass disturbed by large patches of muddy earth in shapes that *might* be footsteps, but are too oddly shaped to have been made by any man. Odd glowing mushrooms sprout from these patches as well, and in clusters that look like nothing so much as blood spray (an image enhanced by the dull red caps that seem to glow malevolently in the gloom) along a path through the clearing. In the silence, in the lack of insectoid buzz, the abrupt shriek of a bird feels somehow unnatural, as though something partially blocked the creature's throat, choking it and the noise it makes.
Kastelon glances over his shoulder to see Shae and Kedehern, and though he doesn't smile, his eyes crinkle a little. After a nod to Drake, he rides along quietly, keeping an eye on the strange seeming-malevolence of the surroundings.
Drake is checking a bit to see how the horse feels. They're... easily spooked, after all, and though he's no animal trainer in general he's pretty knowledgable about horses. But even without knowing much, hearing no birds, no bugs... it's wrong. There's something definitely strange. The sudden bird cry makes him swallow. "... Maybe there IS a monster," he says, slightly under his breath.
Those do NOT look like edible mushrooms, Kedehern is fairly certain. "Certainly -something- unusual, whatever it may be. I don't think I've seen those before..." Looking to Shae, the resident horticulturalist, "Do you happen to recognize those mushrooms, dear?"
There is a touch of a smile to Shae's lips, and a nod to Kastelon. Shae's amber eyes carefully looking around them as they make their way through the forest. The young woman looking relatively calm and at peace. Though as the group finds their way into the strange clearing. Shae's shoulders tighten and lift, a shiver running through follows. And then she swallows visibily. Face paling some, a look of worry and concern on her face. "Something is very wrong here," she whispers, a hand to her stomach. "The land is wrong..." She murmurs, amber eyes moving about as she looks even more focused on the clearing.
Shae checked intellect + agriculture at difficulty 35, rolling 12 higher.
It's likely that Kastelon takes such wrongness in stride when it comes to the Shadowwood, but he's become tense as well. One hand, balanced over the pommel of his saddle, holds the reins. The other hand has drifted to rest on the lower arm of his bow, which he'd restrung on the journey. Perhaps he's anticipating some sort of monster as well.
Eying the various mushrooms, "Don't touch them, any of them," Shae says firmly. "A few I recognize, the others..." She shakes her head. "Kedehern, I can feel it, something is wrong with the land." Looking visibly upset as she says that. A breath to calm herself, "The rest I have never seen before, but they share characteristics with other types that are usually toxic, fatally so, or that alter you badly."
Welp. Shae's words something being wrong are enough for Kedehern to unlimber that hammer, knowing of her perhaps unique connection with the land and the woods in general. Before, he merely 'felt' it. Now he -knows- it. An important distinction, no doubt. A grim look settling on his faces, eyes casting about the dark wood.
Drake checked dexterity at difficulty 10, rolling 9 higher.
Kastelon checked dexterity at difficulty 10, rolling 24 higher.
Shae checked dexterity at difficulty 10, rolling 51 higher. Shae rolled a critical!
Kedehern checked dexterity at difficulty 10, rolling 14 higher.
Reigna GM Roll checked dexterity(5) at difficulty 10, rolling 20 higher.
The thing about giant shambling mushroom-man-monsters is that they are not particularly subtle. There is plenty of time for people to prepare -- Shae especially seems intune with the surroundings enough that she happens to be facing the direction of the creature as it bursts through the foliage.
It was once a man. Probably. Standing near ten feet tall, his body has been fed and warped by the fungal growth that ripples along his arms, with sprouting bulbs of mushrooms like acne pustules that spread along the skin of his limbs. Scraps and rags hang from his body, though toughened bits of armor still protect vital areas, with patches of darker, almost bark-like skin glimpsed under the armor. It moves with surprising agility, eyes sprouting those glowing blood red mushrooms from the corneas, though it does not seem to impede its vision. Somehow.
Yay for somehow managing to face the right direction! Boo, for creepy mushroom-person... Shae is really... this is creepy and gross. And she was deftly pulling an arrow out to shoot it, she is pretty sure there is no coming back from that sort of corruption. Moving back away from it, as she nocks an arrow to Promise, taking aim and letting the arrow loose at the creature.
Shae checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 25, rolling 31 higher.
Kastelon sees the shambling and turns in the saddle, heavy brows drawing downward in a sharp stare. The bow comes swiftly off his back and the horse is guided around with his knees as he takes aim and shoots.
Kastelon checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 25, rolling 17 higher.
Kastelon wields an Oakhaven-style longbow.
Reigna has rolled 1 4-sided dice: 1
Reigna GM Roll checked dexterity(5) + brawl(5) at difficulty 25, rolling 39 higher.
Seeing spores burst up from the furrow his arrow made across the warped giant's shoulder, Kastelon says, "Watch out," and swirls a fold of his cloak around his face as a make-shift bandana. Should that cloud of fungi float down through the air, he doesn't plan on breathing it in, apparently.
Promise was a good bow, well made, and well loved by it's owner. The arrow that Shae looses from it flies true, striking the mushroom creature solidly. The arrow buried deeply in it, causing it to rock a bit from the force of the attack.
The creature charges Shae, leaving a trail of luminescent spores in its wake, like some sort of psychedelic contrail. In the low light, its face is monstrous, the features clearly human, but warped by gods-only-know what, dragging the skin to hang in uneven folds, revealing veins and tendons under the eyes. The mouth, elongated, lips partially grown together opens as far as it can, as it issues a thunderous roar from its thickened throat. A club like hand is drawn back, striking Shae a solid body blow, bursting out another cloud of those spores to surround her in a halo of dim light.
Kedehern doesn't often swear, but sometimes he can't help himself. "The fucking abyss is -THAT-?!" Yeah, Kael and Reigna would -definitely- want to know about this thing's presence. Holy shit.
And then it's attacking his wife. His pregnant wife. Funny thing about Kedehern. He's usually got a tight grip on his temper. Not wanting to lose control, while leading his men, and all that. Attacking his pregnant wife however, is certainly going to provoke the Furyborn's rage and ire however.
Kedehern fucking loses it, charging the beast in turn, heavy diamondplate maul in hand. Heedless of his own safety, discarding it in an effort to see this beast dead, smashed, and mangled.
65 inflicted and Shae is harmed for minor damage.
Kedehern checked strength + huge wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 19 higher.
Drake checked dexterity + ride at difficulty 30, rolling 15 higher.
Drake was... perhaps caught flat-footed. He was pre-occupied by the possiblity that they were meddling in these affairs and making the wrong choice to get involved, and obviously there is no monster, that-
Oh. There IS a monster. For a second, he fumbles, looking at the huge creature in shock. His horse pulls back warily, and Drake reaches for his sword...
Slowed down again, when he realizes there's still a cord around it. His fingers twine around the blade's hilt, and then he pulls it out, the cord ripping easily. At least there is no doubt in his mind that for such an unnatural creature, the use of the hierloom blade is justified.
He doesn't dismount. He just rides it down, giving his mount a kick and hoping the horse can push through its own fear. The ineviability of its momentum will push him through his. A shout escapes his mouth as he slashes with the blade, running to the side of the fungal beast and past it.
Fortunately, his joust skills don't fail him, and he makes a successful run-by, slashing with the red-bladed sword at his side.
Drake wields Love's Sorrow, a Thorn-twined Blade.
Kastelon checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 11 higher.
Shae checked stamina at difficulty 10, rolling 12 higher.
Kedehern checked stamina at difficulty 10, rolling 7 higher.
Fueled by anger and rage, the Laurent-turned-Fortier smashes into creature's left hip with his heavy weapon, causing it to stumble a bit. There's no real finesse, or tactics to Kedehern's madness, right now. Just sheer wrath and hate. The spores burst forth, but... Kedehern doesn't care about that. He's beyond caring about that.
Shae checked dexterity + athletics at difficulty 25, rolling 26 higher.
Shae checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 35, rolling 19 higher.
Kastelon checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 30, rolling 22 higher.
Kastelon checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 35, rolling 14 higher.
Reigna has rolled 1 4-sided dice: 1
Pointing towards the monstrous thing now, Kastelon rises to stand in the stirrups and draws two arrows from the quiver between all four fingers. He notches them and lets fly. One arrow speeds through that shroomy neck, loosing a sludge of chunky blood. The second arrow embeds with a thump into the shambling creature's midsection.
Reigna GM Roll checked dexterity(5) + brawl(5) at difficulty 35, rolling 4 higher.
There is a loud "Ooof!" As Shae is smacked hard by the creature's fist, grimcing a bit, but thankfully her armor absorbs most of the blow for her. For a moment she is very thankful for that armor, and Apollo. The spores seems suspect and likely not good, and Shae really didn't want to be right next to the creepy mushroom thing. Getting out of the way, as she lets another arrow loose from Promise. A furrow to her brow as she sensing something. "Something has twisted it," she shares as the arrow strikes the creature in the hip, right where Kedehern had hit it with his hammer. "It's some sort of twisted verison of Petrichor's own energy."
The creature swings at Shae, but the repeated blows to its left hip are weakening its stance, and the blow it levels on Shae lands, but weakly, glancing off her armor. There is another roar, but the arrows from Kastelon's bow strike true and that sludgy blood flows, clearly weakening it. It staggers down, taking a knee, shoulders heaving, panting.
Kedehern checked strength + huge wpn at difficulty 30, rolling 39 higher.
Kedehern checked strength + huge wpn at difficulty 35, rolling 32 higher.
As it moves... Kedehern follows, hot on it's tail. Perhaps continuing to strike at hips and leg, to bring it down. To keep it from going after Shae. But really, it's just unbridled rage, and an urge to Hit. It. Harder.
Drake checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 30, rolling 14 higher.
Drake checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 35, rolling 12 higher.
Drake gets the run past the creature, and then ... he leaps off, hitting the ground with a tuck, and a roll, his cloak getting a little muddy and a little damp but... at least it means the horse will keep on running. Drake is concerned a bit with preserving the animal's safety, and just hopes he doesn't trip on something as he's running past. Now that he's on foot, and behind the creature, they've got it penned in, and it's an opportunity to strike from behind. He runs this mushroom-man down on foot, and strikes, slash-slash with the red weapon.
It was probably on its last legs as it was... or what legs it has. The second strike is overkill, Drake grabbing the blade with two hands and swinging down with a shout.
The weapon... looks kind of wrong, for a moment, as it strikes in, the blood red a little too red, almost lit up and pulsing like a bleeding heart. Drake lowers the weapon only when he's sure the creature is down.
Between the enraged blows of Kedehern and the charging of Drake, the creature begins to collapse in on itself, vomiting forth billowing clouds of spores. The clearing is illuminated by these dancing fairy lights, swirling, coating those near the dying beast, layered in their hair, on their armor, on their skin and weapons. It is everywhere.
Kedehern checked willpower at difficulty 20, rolling 24 higher.
Kedehern checked stamina at difficulty 25, rolling 4 lower.
Drake checked stamina at difficulty 15, rolling 16 higher.
Shae checked stamina at difficulty 25, rolling 4 lower.
As the creature falls, Kedehern swings again, splattering mushroomy gore everywhere. His foe no more, he seeks another, and there's Drake. Stepping towards the man, a look for fury on his face, he starts to raise the hammer, but... Something stops him, and a moment later the hammer falls to his side, and he's stumbling back at first, before he regains himself and he's running to Shae, coughing through the spores. "Are you--" Another cough wracks him. "Are you alright?"
A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Kedehern before departing.
"Kedehern! Lord Drake! Get out of the cloud of spores!" As they were likely poisonious, considering all the mushrooms in the clearing. Backing away some herself, to get a bit more space between the spore clouds that was billowing forth from the creature. Though apparently Shae should have tried to got of them too, faster then she had, at least. Shaking her head some, the yelling having likely made the headache she had worse. "I'm fine," Shae says to Kedehern, putting a hand on his arm. "We should get out of the clearing." And then, "All of us should."
Drake coughs as well, and wipes some of the glowing spores off his shoulders, though he's not harmed. He waves his hand a bit to drive some of the spores away, wary of inhaling them, perhaps saved from the worst of it just due to being upwind. He nods and takes Shae's advice, backing off further, and raising some of his cloak to cover his mouth. "A- agreed."
Kastelon nods, mouth and nose still covered by the cloak-bandana. He slings the bow across his back and settles into the saddle, ready to ride with the others.
Kedehern brings up his arm then, to cover his mouth with the favor Shae had once given him, and he nods. Moving to get out the clearing, and as far from the spores as he can, really. Still a bit unsteady on his feet perhaps, the rush of adrenaline now leaving his system.
Given the giant cloud of luminous spores filling the clearing, and the injured (and pregnant!) Baroness, caution claims the top spot in the valor category and the group falls back, returning to Ezara's Retreat, for healing and to regroup, certain in the knowledge that there is Definitely Something Wrong. There be monsters in those woods.
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