Am I not a merciful GM? No, I'm not; I planned that target change before I saw Zeran's hp dro
Old Hermit; H3
Zeran stumbled back, favouring his bad shin. He braced for a second strike, but the mad hermit wasn’t even looking at him anymore. The old man drew his whip with his other hand and lashed out at Giles before the soldier could come to Zeran’s aid (or at least to kill the hermit).
The whip wrapped around Giles’ leg. He barely registered the sensation amid all the bites and stings before his leg went out from under him and he was laying on his back, groaning.
Miguel twisted side to side, trying to throw the panther off his back. He tried not to panic but he wasn’t doing a particularly good job. He drew his sword while he struggled. Maybe he could convince it to eat somebody else.
Giles grumbled irritably, jumping to his feet. He did his best to put the biting insects filling his clothing out of his mind. He drew his sword as he approached Zeran and the hermit. “This is why I don’t trust anybody,” he muttered.
The cat leapt off Miguel’s back, landing between Zeran and Kyrie, then with and ear-splitting roar leapt at Giles. He turned only just in time to avoid her mounting his back—instead she clamped her teeth around his forearm (-5dmg Giles Grappled), clawing at him (-6dmg, -6dmg Giles 25/42). The divine energy strengthening his body took some of the edge off the cougar’s claws, but she was determined.
Zeran clutched at his stomach with one hand, hoping to keep the bleeding down. The other found its way to the handle of his gun. “Sorry,” he coughed at the hermit. The hermit turned to him, as if noticing he was still there only just now. “My hands are full. Catch.” He rammed the butt of his pistol into the hermit’s chest (-4dmg Hermit). The crazy old man stumbled back, but didn’t lose his footing.
Kyrie blinked. Everyone was already hurt. She prioritized. With a single thought she marked hermit for smiting. Next she reached out with one mailed hand and grabbed Cat by the scruff of the neck. “Bad kitty.” She couldn’t pry the cougar off of Giles, but she could give him a chance to pull himself free.
(I think the cat alone has done more damage than either of the trolls, with half the CR. Who says combat manoeuvres are useless? Well, they’re not going to save them. Seriously, once you actually start attacking, his hp is negligible)
Posted on 2015-12-22 at 16:08:53.
Edited on 2015-12-22 at 16:09:20 by Sibelius Eos Owm
Old Hermit; H3
The hermit turned and thrust his sword at Zeran’s face, “Ha-hah! I’m practicing my stabbin’!” The pirate stepped back to keep his distance, calling the feint when the man instead stabbed for his chest. Zeran had to hop aside, but wasn’t caught completely off-guard (-3dmg Zeran).
Miguel came up on Zeran’s right—Bokken’s long lost brother or no, no one can just stab his friends. Wielding his sword two-handed, he swung across the man’s upper torso. The hermit’s eyes popped, losing his grin for a moment, and he ducked (-10dmg Hermit).
While the hermit was distracted, Giles drew deep inside himself, pushing the swarm of biting insects in his robe and the large biting cat clinging to his body out of his mind—all without dropping his guard and letting the hermit get a free shot at him. No big deal, or anything.
He grasped with his mind for the energy, drawing it out with utmost focus as his lips began to shape his thoughts into the desired effect. With his other hand he clutched the small wooden disk shaped into an archery target. To his great satisfaction, Giles felt the spell energy click, releasing into the prepared matrix.
Cat, with her forepaws wrapped around Giles’ neck and teeth around his sword arm, climbed up his body with her hind claws catching on his mail shirt (-5dmg, -4dmg Giles 16/42). She shift in weight threw off his balance as she worked her way up his back, forcing him to his knees (Pinned).
Kyrie, trying to keep her grip on Cat through the process grunted. “This only works if you pull on the other end, you know.”
Seeing one of his targets forced to the ground, virtually helpless, the Hermit’s attention snapped over to Giles. “Good work, Cat! This lot’ll make the voices go away for a month at least!”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time,” said Zeran. “I said catch.” He smote the hermit between the shoulder blades (-4dmg Injured)
“Eep!” The hermit dropped to the ground, forced down by Zeran’s attack (Prone).
No sooner had the hermit dropped than he popped up, crab-walking on all fours. “Hah! Ye’ll not catch me that easily, sheriff!” The man scooted with surprising nimbleness for his age, retreating two (crab-)steps around the base of his tree home.
He turned over and stood up as soon as he was away from Miguel’s sword. His eyes fixed again on Giles, kneeling at his feet, as soon as he remembered what he’d been doing.
“Hold still, now.” He leaned down and thrust his sword into Giles’ chest (-7dmg *sneak* Giles 8/42).
“Eh?” The hermit pulled the sword free.
The wound in Giles’ breast stung, but it was far from fatal.
The hermit looked at his sword in disgust. “Damn thing’s busted.”
(In which Giles succeeds on three concentration checks to cast a spell he can’t use. Actually that’s not true, True Strike should technically apply to CMB, too. Note that Giles is only ‘kneeling’, not Prone. This is for dramatic and descriptive effect b/c I didn’t figure a mountain lion was going to pin an opponent with a full nelson the same way a human wrestler might.)
(Also, for clarity—it’s not normally possible to move around that quickly while prone. This is a special ability that Hermit has from his class levels.)
Posted on 2015-12-23 at 16:10:15.
Edited on 2015-12-23 at 16:29:25 by Sibelius Eos Owm
GM's Notes: 'Mountain of lion' is a pun, not an error.
Old Hermit; H3
The hermit looked up from his sword just in time to see Miguel step in with another two-handed slash. He threw himself flat against the trunk of his house just as the blade whizzed through the air where he was standing (-11dmg Hermit). The old man was beginning to pant from exertion, his breath hitting the cold air in heavy clouds (Wearied).
Giles, stuck under a mountain of lion, had no way to strike at his intended target, despite the prescience granted to him by his spell. The magic was fading fast, so he abandoned his original plan due to unforeseen circumstances and turned his divine insight upon the cougar.
While his sword arm was still pinned beneath him, he had only but to turn his attention toward escape and the spell furnished him with instant foresight. The soldier shifted his weight suddenly to his sword arm, freeing his other hand briefly. Cat was forced to shift her weight to keep her hold on his bicep. Giles took advantage of her shift, twisting his upper body to throw her off balance.
At the same time, he reached out with his free hand and caught her under the throat. His grip on her neck was just enough to loosen her bite while she slid off his back. Finally, he pushed off on her with as much force as he could still muster, letting Kyrie get a stronger grip, and stepped back away from both master and beast while he conjured foul names for them through grit teeth.
Cat roared, twisting in Kyrie’s arms. The farmgirl ducked a snap aimed for her head, while the cougar’s claws hammered on her chest (-9dmg, -6dmg Kyrie 40/55).
Kyrie wrapped one steel-shod arm around the cat’s neck and bore down with her weight, pinning her paw under her body and taking hold of the other (Cat Pinned).
Zeran spun his gun in his hand, slipping it back into its holster. Hermit slashed at him, clumsily. He sidestepped it easily. The old man was a slippery fellow, and normally it was Kyrie’s job to pin down opponents that tried to get away easy, but she was a little busy right now.
He didn’t bother to give it a second thought. He had a one-step running start and threw himself into the hermit, crashing into him. He wrapped both arms around his midsection and held on. “Get him! Just don’t stab me!” (Hermit Grappled) (+1 Grit).
The old man twisted in Zeran’s grasp like a live eel—instead of fighting back, he tried to slip through his fingers. Zeran only just managed to hold on. As soon as the hermit realized he wasn’t getting out so easily, he cried out. “Halp! I’ve been caught! Cat!”
The cougar snarled and twisted her head to look toward her master, still wearing Kyrie like a collar.
(Zeran, risking life and limb (or at least an AoO at 17hp) tackled and grappled the hermit despite the odds, potentially saving Giles from a reprisal and preventing the man from retreating any further. For this he earns his first free ‘daring act’ bonus grit point.)
Old Hermit; H3
Miguel was faster than Cat. He thrust his sword at the Bokken look-alike. The old man was in no position to evade—the sword struck him in the abdomen through his leather (-24 *crit* Hermit). The old hermit grimaced, and fell to his knees, then fell back. Zeran let him drop. Blood welled up out of the wound readily (Hermit Dying).
“This!” barked Giles, coughing. His eyes had a wild look as he stepped over the hermit’s body. In his rage he instinctively invoked the bane of humanity. How many times had those who recognised his nature tried to take advantage of him? How many assumed that his celestial blood equated to naievete and blind trust? Fools. He may have been born to angels, but he grew up with devils.
“This is why I trust no one.” He reversed his grip on his sword. All these snakes disguised as men. He would slay them all. Giles drove his sword down, planting it in the hermit’s chest (-26dmg *coup de grace* Hermit DEAD). He left the sword in the corpse for a second, panting, then drew it back out, suddenly regaining composure.
The cougar struggled in Kyrie’s grasp. The beast was very strong; she couldn’t keep her grip. Cat got her paws free, rising on her hind legs, suddenly overpowering the paladin. Kyrie got off with only a bloody scratch above her eye (-9dmg Kyrie) before the cougar suddenly pushed off, turning toward her master and the squishier, less scrappy prey.
Zeran had only just finished dropping the man’s body when he turned to see the cougar ready to pounce on either him or Giles. No time to make a decision he braced himself to jump on the panther.
Kyrie was not to be denied so easily. She took hold of Cat again—the cougar twisted around and bit down on Kyrie’s steel-plated arm to no effect. Zeran immediately jumped in with her, following her lead and giving her aid (Cat Grappled).
(Did anyone remember to bring a deer haunch for Sasha the Christmas Tiger? Might be a good plan to tame her. Btw I suppose now’s a good time to point out that despite the fact that Cat’s presence helps seal the druid façade, Hermit was in fact a rogue, and Cat is an animal he trained; presumably with the Handle Animal skill XD)
Just a quick bonus post since I already knew most of your follow up actions
Old Hermit; H3
Miguel pulled out his rope, strafing the dog pile (cat pile?) to go to Kyrie’s aid. The panther lashed out and struck Zeran in the chest with a claw that winded him, but didn’t cause him to lose his grip (-8dmg Zeran 9/42).
Kyrie steadily applied more pressure until she had the cat pinned again. Miguel gave her the rope, then turned his attention to heal Zeran (+10hp Zeran 19/42). Cat squirmed in Kyrie’s grip, threatening to throw her off with brute strength, but she couldn’t get the right leverage.
With a concerted effort between her and Zeran, Kyrie wrapped Miguel’s rope around all four legs and muzzle of the cougar.
As soon as she and Zeran stepped back, they realized the ropes would not last forever. They would have to find a way to calm the panther down before she escaped or they’d have to do it all over again.
Meanwhile, Giles stepped away from the wrestlers at once. All he needed now was a solidly aimed claw to connect and take him down. His distance was justified immediately when the cougar slapped Zeran.
The next thing to do—without any other more pressing distractions, the biting and stinging under his clothes was becoming insufferable. He stripped off his new magic robe to get at the vermin that some how infested his body.
At once the biting and stinging abruptly halted. He threw the robe on the ground and saw—only for a split second—the swarm of insects crawling over the inside of the garment. In an instant the swarm faded, not dispersing naturally, but vanishing as if they had never existed.
Finally free of the swarm’s maddening influence, Giles chose to deal with the robe later, leaving it in the snow. He healed himself with his magic (+12hp Giles 20/42), then while the others were tying up Cat, cast a quick orison for detecting magical auras.
“If you’ve got that, I’ll see goodies our late friend might have hid away in his little tree house.”
This is kinda cooler than what I had in the first place, inspired by a random line I re-read.
Mad Hermit; H3
Zeran scrambled to get the jerky from Kyrie’s rations as she instructed. He offered it to Cat while Kyrie attempted to get the cougar to settle down with little success on either of their parts. Cat ignored the offered stick of dried meat and rolled on the frozen ground struggling to force herself free of the ropes. It was looking alarmingly like she might succeed, too.
They were beginning to worry that the panther might manage to free herself and get herself a piece of meat to chew on when a sudden high-pitched voice from overhead interrupted them. “No, no, you’re doing it all wrong, that’s not how you play the game at all.”
A flutter of large, insectoid wings overhead and Tyg-Titter-Tut the grig landed on one of the lower branches of a nearby tree. “C’mon, Perlie, show ‘em how to do it proper like.”
The blue-scaled, orange-winged faerie dragon swooped in low, coming straight for the panther. “Behold, foul beast!” he crowed, “for by the power of my magic I shall vanquish thee!” Perlivash drew up right, flapping in place just in front of the panther and raising one claw. The three Greenbelt leaders were momentarily dumbfounded as the faerie dragon incanted a spell.
The three tried to protest, but couldn’t get the words out in time to stop Perlivash. He finished his spell, throwing a faint pulse at Cat. The magic washed over her and suddenly her struggling slowed. As much as she tried to fight it, within moments her eyes closed and she was fast asleep.
Tyg dropped from the trees as Perlivash gently landed on Cat’s back, striking a pose. “What do you think pretty cool, eh?” Then adding, quieter, “This is usually the part where we run away before it wakes up and gets angry at us.”
(Going to assume Kyrie, Zeran, and Miguel work together to buff Kyrie’s grapple mod so that she can tie up Cat tightly enough that she can’t get out.)
Meanwhile Giles ducked into the hermit’s tree-hole grotto-house, chasing after a faint magical aura he could feel emanating from the area. There was not much to see inside. A few pieces of crude wooden furniture, a bowl and spoon, and a pile of dried leaves for a bed. Giles scanned the tiny house with his magical senses. The aura was coming from beneath the pile of leaves.
It took only a moment to dig out the small, flat chest sitting in a hole hidden by the hermit’s bed. Inside there were two potions—the source of the faint magical aura he sensed—a faded piece of cloth containing a tarnished silver locket, and a few pounds of mostly silver coins, mixed with a few gold. Upon further inspection, the locket held a faded portrait of a young woman, and the cloth itself he recognised as a partially drawn, highly faded map of the Greenbelt.
Stepping back outside he found the two pranksters had arrived, and a sleeping cougar now securely trussed up.
Tyg looked down at the mad hermit’s body. “Lady Tiressia was right, you guys did need our help after all.”
“Uh, Tyg, I don’t remember Lady T. saying anything about crazy old guys,” Perlivash said, tapping one claw to his snout.
“Huh? Oh! You’re right! She said that we had to tell you guys to be careful because It’s coming. She said people like you and Perlie couldn’t feel it like she an’ I could, so we had to tell you.”
(I was originally going to just have Kyrie and Zeran’s attempts to use Handle Animal work out after a couple rounds because I have grown fond of the idea of the kingdom having a new pet mascot and Zeran’s got a pretty good modifier even if I don’t think this usage is strictly legal, but then I came up with a cooler idea. Now without worrying about the cat busting out, we can transport her home safely, feeding her daily, then get her a leash when we get home so she can be trained properly)
Posted on 2016-01-02 at 04:31:59.
Edited on 2016-01-02 at 04:32:19 by Sibelius Eos Owm
Exposition Fairy is helpful! Even though all of this is foreshadowing for a very distant future
Mad Hermit; H3
Giles listened to the two prattle on. “‘It’s coming’,” he grumbled. “‘Its’ are always coming. And if it isn’t an ‘It’, it’s a ‘What’. Why doesn’t anybody appreciate the simplicity of a straight answer anymore? ‘It’ always amounts to the same thing, anyway; ‘You’re all going to die’.”
Tyg harrumphed. “Some people have no sense of flair,” she explained to Miguel. “I think it’s ‘cause they’re stunted.”
Perlivash filled in helpfully where the grig left off. “A few nights ago Lady Tiressia and Tyg experienced a surge of energy that filled their dreams. It apparently woke Lady T. from her hibernation. She said some confusing things about the link growing stronger. She looked pretty tired, still, so I thought maybe she was talking in her sleep like Tyg usually does—” “DO NOT” “—but then she asked us if we could go find you and bring you this message.”
“Yeah, I felt it, too!” Tyg jumped in, excitedly. “Like a whoosh and suddenly I got really full of energy—”
“And knocked me out of the tree.”
“—and then everything was normal again. Lady Tiressia thinks it might have something to do with Home because only fey like me an’ her can feel it, but she doesn’t know what it means, so she thought maybe you should know, too, just in case you see anything weird or something.”
Kyrie frowned, trying to wrap her head around the quick-tongued little prankster duo. "Something to do with Home? And it's something only you can feel? Kind of like an intuition type thing? I'm sorry, I don't quite understand, what kind of a house is it?"
“No! You’ve got it all wrong. It’s just… Home… y’know? The Old Country? Way Back? The Fair Lands?”
The more Tyg went on, the more it became clear that she didn’t know much about what ‘Home’ actually was, either.
“Okay, so I've never been there myself,” she admitted. “But I do know what it feels like, and this whole forest feels like it. That's why so many fairies like to live around here. Now that feeling is a teensy-weensy-eensy bit stronger.”
An perfectly inconspicuous hut in the middle of the marsh next to the Tuskwater
Exploration & Mapping
Hexes: H4 +25XP
The party loaded the unhappy Cat onto their wagon along with the hermit’s small treasure of coins and potions. Miguel inspected the potions and found that one was a standard healing potion, but the other was in fact a potion to turn the drinker invisible for a few minutes. As for the cloth with the map, a few moments deciphering its contents pointed toward a powerful weapon hidden in a tomb in the hills between the rivers Shrike and Gudrin.
Thanks to their encounter with the Narthropple Expedition long ago, the party already had an accurate map of a burial cairn out in the hills, and a quick comparison revealed that the two locations were one in the same. The faded cloth treasure map also added vague warnings of traps and restless dead haunting the tomb and protecting the weapon (New Quest).
Following this, they continued their travels east toward the shore of the Tuskwater, creeping past the mid point of the month. They were out of the forest and back into open hills on the fifteenth, and at times from the crests of the snowy hills they caught a glimpse of the lake in the distance.
Along the southeastern bank of the Tuskwater they found a small, flat marshland. More interestingly, as the sun started to go down they spotted a squat mud-brick hut atop a small rocky hummock raised above the marshy ground. A thin tendril of bluish smoke trickled out a hole in the roof, indicating a high probability of inhabitants, while a wooden fence festooned with all sorts of odd fetishes crafted from sticks, feathers, and animal bones ran the perimeter of the mound.
A single, crooked gate hung askew in front of the hut, with a fist-sized rusted iron bell, tied to a small wooden hammer. Between the gate and the front door to the hut stood a frozen, pumpkin-headed scarecrow, lightly dusted with snow. On the scarecrow’s shoulder, a large crow cawed noisily at the party.
Kyrie seemed to have a look of recognition as Tyg went through alternative names of the place.
"Fair Lands? That sounds familiar. I could have sworn that one of my mothers used that name before to talk about a place. But if it's somewhere else, why would here feel like it? I mean, I'm pretty sure if this was the same place, a lot of people would know that," Kyrie mused.
After a moment, Kyrie took the opportunity to ask, "Did Lady Tiressia say anything about what it means? Unless suddenly this place becomes the same place as the Fair Lands somehow, and maybe even then, I don't know what that means for those that live here."
* * *
"Be good, okay kitty? No biting, no reason to bite, you can sleep now, it's nighttime" Kyrie gently petted the large feline while on the wagon, before they reached their destination. Sure she wasn't as trained to work with creatures as Zeran, but she still helped out.
But there was adventure to do and she couldn't stay to look after the kitty right now. As they reached the gate, Kyrie's head kept looking to the black bird.
"Shush," Kyrie admonished the crow, "I know I'm shiny, but you can't take my armour."
She looked back at the others, "Shall I ring the doorbell then?"
20 Cha means not having to give a flying chicken turd.
The Old Beldame’s Hut; H4
The old iron bell let out a sharp chime that had seen better days. No sooner had Kyrie struck it than a voice came from inside the mudbrick shack.
Giles grumbled to himself, the word ‘witches’ barely audible in the sentence. The party began to remember fragments of rumours about an old swamp witch living on the shore of the Tuskwater. They called her the Old Beldame.
Zeran decided to extend his best courtesy. “Hello, there!”
“Yes, yes, 'hello' is what the bell is for. What do you want? You’re not going to try to sell me something I don’t need are you?”
Not to be put off so easily, Zeran introduced the party from their somewhat awkward distance. “We’re in charge of that little town just north of here, and…” Zeran paused. “…I’m not actually entirely certain what we’re doing just now,” he admitted with a sheepish grin.
Kyrie came to his rescue. “Mostly just homeward-headed, but we haven't been here before exactly, so it's usually a good idea to say ‘hi’ to our new neighbours."
“Whassat? Neighbours, you say? Do you know who yer talkin’ to? The cackling-mad Old Beldame dances naked with demons, eats babies, and does not do social calls! Bah! Neighbours! Nothing good ever came of havin’ neighbours!” The green-skinned crone shifted as if to move away from the window, but paused, glancing out of the corner of her eye at Kyrie and the others.
“…Then again… it has been quite some time since we got any decent company ‘round these parts.” She chewed her tongue, reconsidering. “Nyyeh, I like you, girlie. You remind me of when I was young and stupid. You and your friends are welcome to come in.”
The old woman flicked her hand dismissively at the crooked wooden gate. The old gate swung open with a hideous creak, beckoning the party to enter.
“An’ if you’re worried I’ll eat ya, you can stay out in the cold.”
(Note that normally attempting to influence someone's attitude with Diplomacy takes at least 1 minute of interaction, but exceptions can be made, at least when you don't realize you've been making the roll)
Posted on 2016-01-10 at 05:08:19.
Edited on 2016-01-19 at 14:06:14 by Sibelius Eos Owm
The Beldame appears to be somewhere in her 60's at least, if not older.
The Old Beldame’s Hut; H4
The party looked at one another, then Kyrie strode boldly through the self-opened gate. The moment she crossed the threshold, the pumpkin head of the scarecrow turned smoothly to look directly at her. With another screeching ‘caw’ the crow took flight, leaving the animate guardian and whisking off to a nearby cypress tree.
Kyrie’s stride did not falter, and the scarecrow did not move from its perch. Miguel and Zeran followed close behind her, and, with slight hesitation, Giles took up the rear. The scarecrow silently tracked their movement in the span between gate and front door until all four entered the witch’s mud brick hut.
On the inside, the entire hut comprised of one room, about 20’ in diameter, with a plain dirt floor. The Old Beldame herself stood in the centre of the room, stooped over a bubbling cauldron hanging over the firepit there. She peered into the murky liquid, stirring its contents. The strange green tint of her skin was no less strange by the light of the fire.
“You can get your own chairs over there,” she said without looking up. She pointed to a stack where unused furniture lay. “I hope ye brought your own food. We’ve lived alone for a very long time, and I don’t make big meals.”
The crone paused her stirring to look up into the rafters, where dozens of dried and drying herbs and swamp weeds hung suspended. When she spotted what she was looking for she simply held her hand up and the bundle untied itself and floated gently toward her. She plucked one of the herbs out of the air and inspected it, before gesturing the rest of the bundle into the pot.
She stirred the pot another few rounds, virtually oblivious to the party, before drawing out a feeble looking carrot. The old woman plucked the carrot from the ladle, sampled it, then dropped both back into the bubbling stew.
“Elga Verniex,” she said, at last. She crossed the room to her own chair and dragged it into position with the others. “That’s my name—one of them at least. Back before this whole ‘marsh witch’ business and people started calling me the Old Beldame.”
“So tell me,” the Beldame said, easing into her chair. “What’s been going on in the world outside my swamp that brings people to seek their fate in this fey-ridden land again? Not that I miss those bandits that ran the show before the lot of ye came 'round.”
(I'm happy to let a re-counting of our story thus far to slip by as a single-line comment, but I leave the floor open for interactions. Also I got distracted reading about Baba Yaga's lethal feet, so it's 3am and I need to end this post somewhere.)
Posted on 2016-01-19 at 04:14:22.
Edited on 2016-01-19 at 14:05:53 by Sibelius Eos Owm
Beware the foreshadowing, my players! With jaws that bite and claws that catch!
The Old Beldame’s Hut; H4
Kyrie started on a short version of the party’s last two years of adventuring, joined in by Miguel and Zeran. Giles spoke little, keeping a weather eye out, inspecting the shadows cast by the cook fire, dancing at the edges of the small hut, while the others did the talking. The sky outside darkened to twilight, then to dusk.
“Pah!” the Beldame exclaimed, interrupting Kyrie in the middle of explaining their charter. “Those sabre-rattling fools up north are still getting other people to do their dirty work while they play politics, eh? Some things never change.”
The old woman got up to check her stew as Kyrie continued. When the adventurers got to the part about taking down the Stag Lord, she cut in again, muttering, “Good riddance to him and his lot. That deluded brute never came down this far, but his little circus made it a pain in the arse to get around.”
She paused the tale for a moment to go to the window. The crone sucked in a breath and shouted out, “Supper!” She scowled at the sky, then called again. “Vrana, get in here you daft animal!”
While her back was turned, a crow—very likely the same one from earlier—alighted in the opposite window on the other side of the hut. It flew in and landed near the bubbling cauldron. The woman prepared to call a third time when she noticed the crow.
“You’re lucky I don’t turn you into a toad. You’d be less trouble if I did,” she told the bird, scowling.
The crow cocked its head to one side, then answered with a rough, croaking voice. “Who’d keep all the other crows out of your garden, then? Not that pumpkin-brain standing out there, that’s for sure!”
The Beldame snorted. “Hah! I should like to see the other crows do half as much damage as you! Now take your stew and shaddap.” She filled him a wooden bowl and sent it floating over to the table, then motioned to let the party’s story continue. Not much later in the evening. Giles would notice ‘Vrana’ the crow settle on a perch near him, much to his displeasure.
At the mention of Tiressia, the dryad to the east, the Beldame cut in again. “Ah, yes, I know the one. A good kid. Comes from good stock—she takes after her mother.” Even the crow seemed to pay attention as Kyrie described helping Tiressia (skirting around the exact cause of the forest fire, as far as that was from here) with the scythe tree, and then doing battle with the Dancing Lady.
“It’s funny they call ‘em the Stolen Lands when right here even the fairies are getting in on the game of kings and thrones. As if they didn’t have enough with the bandits and giants trying to stake their claims on just this one patch of land between the swamp and the mountains,” the crone observed. “I don’t think the region’s been so exciting since I was a lily weed, and that a long time ago I assure you.”
After the end of the story, the Beldame leaned back in her chair, biting her cheek. “Well, I been here long enough to see a lot of stupid ideas come and go. Why just the other week I was interrogated by a bunch o’ gnomes looking for directions to some fancy dwarven fortress. I told ‘em I didn’t have any use for no fortress and I ain’t seen none neither.
“But no, I’ve seen a lot of claims on this land come and go in my life—most nothing but wind blowing over the lake, but a few real attempts. As far as those go, your little operation there is as good as I’ve seen. Of course, that’s how it usually goes around here, before everything goes pair-shaped and collapses in on itself. Even back before, if you look into the history of this land, it’s always been that way for as long as anyone cared to record it.
“If you want my advice, and even if you don’t ‘cause I don’t do this often, so listen up. If you want my advice, I’d be ready for just about anything to come at me. I know you might think ‘how can it be that bad if an old woman has managed to live out here by herself her whole life?’ Well I’ll tell you, there’s a reason why no man has successfully laid claim to this land in over a thousand years If you want to know the truth, I think there’s something out there in these lands that doesn’t much like civilized company.
“It might just be I’ve finally started to lose my wits and the superstition’s getting to me, but you get a certain feel for the land after living on it for so long. Little things like me are not worth the time, but it seems like there’s something moving in the swamps and forests, making sure that no claims go unchallenged, and no settlement lasts for long.”
The green-skinned woman jabbed the embers of her fire pit with a stick. “But then, maybe I’m just a crazy old woman whose gone mad from too many years watching the will-o-wisps dancing over the lake and eating same watery stew.”
Kyrie listened attentively to Beldame as she provided her own insight on the affairs. Kyrie might not have been the brightest sunstick in the box, but she knew one thing - trees were old, and if she knew Tiressia when the latter was young, that made her older than trees. Kyrie was taught to listen well to elders.
"Hmm, if something doesn't like a city as a neighbour, we should try to meet it and be friendly. I don't think it will be that easy, but I always try to be friendly first. You can't make friends by being mean first, after all," Kyrie observed.
It was that weird sort of Kyrie-logic™ that the party had grown used to, but at the same time, it was perhaps reassuring that she had always had that warmth and friendly approach to every encounter that they had, unless things were already too far hostile for it to matter.
Kyrie also added, "Thank you for your words. I'll remember what you told us. Mah'i and Mah'r always told me to listen to those who have been around longer than I have."
Zeran was leaning against one of the walls as he listened to the old woman and Kyrie talking. He looked thoughtful for a moment before cocking his jaw and piping in. "You're right. Well I believe so at least ma'am. Been here a while myself to, and well yeah anything bigger then something like this tends to get swallowed up...and." He looked distant for a moment before turning to the rest of the group. "That fat peacock who tried to uproot us. He was working for what he said, someone, to try and bring us down." He tapped his chin a bit and hmphed. "We can only assume he was working for one of our competitors or some such. But, hell I don't know. Given the strange things I've seen with this group. Maybe he was working for some forest guardian or whatever instead. Only time can tell." He went quiet after that, going back to being polite and observant, his piece for now had been said.
Giles remained uneasy half paying attention to the conversation and the other paying attention to everything around him, it wasn't an easy task to unnerve a man who tread a life with demons and monsters but witches... bloody witches, as the conversation continued on Giles continues to slowly and carefully inch his way around the room closer back to the door from which they had come in and further from that damnable crow and always keeping on hand on his blade ready to draw it at a moments notice occasionally muttering under his breath