It was an unearthly and lucid dream, if it could even be called that. The voice rang clear in each of their minds, and within the darkness of the vast dreamscape they could see the shadowy silhouettes of their own companions. Within this place, they could feel and breath, it was as some waking-dream. If what was being heard was to be thought of as true, then this voice, or whoever it belonged to was the trigger, but not the sole cause, of whatever was happening to Golarion - and perhaps even the homes of those other Offworlders who found themselves here. It was an eerie sensation, as if detached and made unliving in some foreign plane without definition. An experience far too vivid, far too unique to be easily dismissed without a thought.
This darkness, whatever it was, was without a doubt not 'real' - in the sense of presently being a physical or tangible place, but something seen across the telescope of their subconscious. Both reality and fantasy, defined only by the awareness that they came upon such a place which did exist, by some definition - somewhere; but they were not entirely sure where such a plane could reside, nor where they had been for that matter. Perhaps it could have been called a vision or a sort, a spiritual sojourn traveled within their dreams.
Yet, they could only question 'why were they asleep?' They were in the middle of a mission. Avecna, their new sponsor, had worked tirelessly to arrange this job. Their client Mastil Pebeltin, was a wealthy merchant who ran trade between Korvosa and Magnimar on behalf of the newly minted Warren Trading Co. A collaboration of various nobles and Magnimarian merchants endorsed by the former sponsors of the previous Sandpoint Mercantile League. Avecna had been on exceptionally favorable terms with the Rossfield family, one of the largest sponsors for the new trade group, and won their team the opportunity to be sourced-out as protection for Pebeltin's caravans. An extremely wealthy venture with little overall risk; the perfect money making venture.
Side-Quest: The Rat of Korvosa
Mastil Pebeltin has gone missing. Likely abducted by the Rello family, the man has a great deal of enemies in Varisia among every Sczarni faction. Still the man was paying well, despite his underhanded methods. You were fortunate to have come to terms with Lady Rello before this mess got out of hand, or you may have bitten off more than you could chew. Saving Pebeltin would bring greater profit, but sour relations with the Sczarni - while meeting with the Rello family and concluding their business would deepen their bond. Crossing a crime family like the Rellos was not a wise decision, but among the Sczarni friends and enemies often shifted from one to another. It was a matter of respect and reputation. Choices were rarely easy.
Difficulty: Low | Status: On-going | Profit: Significant | Time: 48 hours
Objective: Locate & Rescue Pebeltin - (Greater reward/Damage Reputation)
Alternate Objective: Meet with Affri Rello & claim reparations - (Less reward/Increase Reputation)
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(Roughly 6 Days Ago)
It quickly become evident that Pebeltin wasn't all that he appeared to be. The unsatisfying taste of betrayal was an experience not soon forgotten, and so like any experienced Gale they researched their client at length. Soon it was revealed that Mastil Pebeltin was not a simple man like he chose to have others believe. Formerly a member of the Qadira faction of the Society, Pebeltin suffered crushing economic loss after the faction's assets were liquidated during its recent takeover by the new Sczarni-led faction, The Exchange. Unable to maintain business relations, he sunk into Varisia's trade underworld, surviving off black market connections and orchestrating heists of well known Sczarni storehouses and dens to claim some measure of vengeance for his misfortune. He didn't discriminate, sanctioning raids on any Sczarni-endorsed operation, regardless if they supported Guaril Karela, the crimelord who had played mastermind to the faction takeover. Ignorant of the internal civil war being waged between the crime families, he made a massive mistake, becoming an enemy of both sides. While in the grand scheme of things, his efforts only made a small dent in the overall operations of the crime syndicates, the more traditional of the groups could not simply overlook his level of blatant disrespect.
As it was, this particular job would not be so simple. Pebeltin had, for once, been painfully honest with their objective; he had an acquaintance steal a massive shipment of pesh from the Rello crime family some time ago. It had been successfully hidden away in secret, but he had recently lost contact with his acquaintance which set him into a panic. Fearing his thief was caught, the hiding place was compromised. Your mission this time, was personally escorting Pebeltin & his armed entourage to the hideout located in Sandpoint (right under the Rello family's nose). Meeting your peers for this job, an internal alarm was raised - in the form of Guard Captain Lemuel. With great difficulty his true identity was revealed, thanks to Avecna's connections. Affectionately called 'Jim Hands' by those who knew him, he was a professional killer, a Sczarni executioner under the employ of the Rello family. With over half of their escort composed of men and women who wanted Pebeltin dead, Avecna sought the best method of self preservation available; setting terms with the enemy.
In only two days, they had found themselves in the same room as the Rello family's head, Afrri Rello. A true pure blooded Varisian, Afrri was a proud and cunning woman, but even among her peers she was known to be patient and personable - never unreasonable, but meticulous and always scheming for the benefits of her house. The Rello family were frequent customers for the Cotton Club, and thus Afrri was no stranger to how their business worked. Thus, putting a strain on that relationship was far from beneficial to her family.
They came to terms readily. Afrri wouldn't withdraw her men, as Pebeltin had delivered unjust grievance to her family. However, regardless of the outcome they would not resort to violence against the Gales in their efforts to apprehend Pebeltin. Simply put, if Pebeltin happened to simply slip threw the Gale's fingers, he was theirs, but if they could maintain a vigilant guard til the end, then they'd leave him be - this time. In the event of the Gale's failure, the Rello family would cover any penial debt incurred by the quest's failure and provide the mercenaries reparations for having meddled in the affair.
The moist grit of damp fertile earth could be felt upon their clothes and faces, filling their noses with the thick musk of rich land. The ground was soft, so much so that their fingers pressed down into the deep black soil just by the weight of their limbs. Slowly vision and their senses returned to banish the turbulent state of bewilderment. Few leaves lay about the ground, though the grand web of roots from vigorous gray elms lay thickly placed all about them. A forest. One which was no doubt tended to with great effort, for nothing seemed out of place, no blade of grass nor foliage standing obtrusively, as if seen to by the hand of an exceptional groundskeeper. A mental haze still clouded their thoughts as their mind slowly begun to set the gears of thought and consciousness back into motion. Though distant at first, slowly voices begun to filter in.
"Eheh...hahaha... Can I..." It was a wild, almost feral tone spoken by the voice of a child. Another rose to quickly retort, a calm and mature man perhaps, "No. They are human... I think". "Shall I take a bite and see? Kehehehe." said the eerie child's voice. The response this time was delivered by a woman, with strength and experience held within her tone, as if counseling the youthful one, "...And how will you face your father when they prove themselves to be so? I will not speak for your defense again." The words seemed to catch the child by surprise, a sense of alarm rising in his voice, "Yiiiik... Gah, no... Elaa, only you will speak for me to father!" An ancient and haunting voice slowly spoke out. It belonged to a man both venerable and wizened by years beyond number. "If born of cause. If born of reason. Action would be more than greed. Greater voices to find at your aid... I suppose." There was a brief moment of silence before the child's voice spoke out once again, this time in confusion, " ........What?" A young woman cleared her throat from a short distance away, "He means to say, if you act with reason other than your own selfish desires you will have the support of your brothers and sisters. Everstill, your brother is correct. These souls will not be acceptable to your father, nor are they yours to take. They are under my care, so I will have you behave or find your hunt elsewhere." A second moment of silence passed before it was violently ended with the deafening and cacophonous roar of a massive beast. It was impossible to tell, but perhaps the very trees shook and trembled beneath that cry, perhaps the very earth tumbled and danced upon the ground from the volume. Perhaps the beast loomed far-far above in the heavens, and had they been closer the wave of sound would have slain them instantly. They couldn't know for certain, for their minds were rendered black and their flesh made numb beneath the ungodly assault. They couldn't even tell for how long that frightful bellow raged on, their grasp of time slowly being eroded away with each passing second. It could have been minutes, or even hours, but eventually the thunderous howl slowly tapered off and died. Then the child spoke once more, with bitterness and spite filling his words, "Selfish? Greed? Don't care! None of you know fun. Fine then, I go. I will rip. Tear. Bite. Hunt. Like hunters should. Like Elil should! Maybe you remember that when I return." Though there was no physical sensation; no sound nor feeling to hint at it, they each could mentally feel something depart... an absence of something they couldn't define, a unique awareness of an ineffable type of presence which simply was not here. There were no words in any mortal tongue to define it, it simply was, whatever wasn't here.
A long silence choked the air before a gruff and strong masculine man spoke out flatly, "...Ka, isn't wrong brother. Still, you baby him so Elaa." The adult woman spoke again, "Perhaps..." "No, he is not, but that is not all we are. We have a duty to father and the hunt to honor. his law. Without honor to the wheel, we would be without purpose. Ka is slave to his desire, but that was how he was born when written, In his own way he brings us balance and reminds us what we are." The powerful masculine voice paused as if in contemplation of the words he had received before responding in kind, "Your words bring me insight, brother." The young woman who had spoken before the petrifying howl once again exchanged words, "Maa speaks with great wisdom. Let this be lesson to all of you, to hold to your duty and remain loyal to the cycle. You must not become like those who have forgotten their way in this place. Ka performs his duty in his own way, his is a wild and ferocious method, but proof of the pride all kin hold, and the heart of Elil. He cannot be dissuaded, nor can he be led astray from the natural order; that is his selfishness." A rough, strained man's voice croaked out from somewhere afar, as if quietly waiting, "Heh, Loyalty?" The young woman seemed to take note of the man, correcting herself quickly, "None can question your loyalty, Vec. Though the same cannot be said of your brothers and sisters, not all have gone to lengths as great as you to uphold the balance. Many are still far too young and may be led awry still, they need your guidance." There was the briefest of pauses, as if the man had taken note of something, "And they will have it... Mistress, the mortals are waking. I must return now, we will meet again at the hunt." The familiar sense of an unexplainable absence seemed to encroach upon them with those words, "Farewell my friend."
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Date: Unknown - Time: Unknown (Night, Assumed) / AR 4707 (Winter)
The Lost Coast Road; Unknown Location
Somewhere Outside Sandpoint
Denil's groans were the first real thing which came to their ears, amid all of the confusion of eerie chatter and the waves of nausea. The plump Halfling rolled on his back, the sound of a frying pan clattering with the other cooking utensils he kept tied to his overstuffed travel bag, was perhaps for the first time, a welcome annoyance. Denil wasn't a particularly pleasant nor kind individual, in fact quite a few souls would consider it a pleasure to be spared his company. However, he had many things other Chroniclers did not, guile, wit and a vast sum of experience. But above all else, he was loyal to Avecna, which made him a trustworthly ally - and that was something you couldn't buy. Denil Demn was a man with a somewhat caustic personality, neither friendly nor particularly welcoming, but was an experienced adventurer and renowned for his resourcefulness. Those who knew him best liked to say that beneath his hard and crusty exterior was a fine mentor who cared deeply about others, and while the man might have been regarded well as a field-instructor, none of them had seen any 'caring side' to speak of. Denil was always the first person to berate and chastise any Pathfinder or Gale in his company for their lack of preparation or carelessness - but to his credit, those he traveled with rarely died. Some might have claimed that was his own way of doing things, and how he cared for those with him - but that was something of a hard sell to anyone who had to put up with him. "Ugh, you dumb kids still alive?" the short man gruffly mused.
A looming cloud of thick mist hung all about them, obscuring vision beyond the clearing which lay about. The limbs of the great tree's stretched on through the mist and out of sight. The circle which they lay within was completely clear of all debris, in a perfect sharply maintained parameter. There were no paths which crossed through the treeline nor the 20ft wide circular field which they lay. The rich soil was black and light in weight, with the consistency of fresh topsoil mixed with manure. The Halfling made a sour face as he took a quick survey of what little they could see. "...You hear that?" the distant Korvosan accent had mostly been lost from his voice, leaving a slight twang in his words. They heard nothing. In fact, an otherworldly stillness seemed to paralyze the world and a hushed silence permeated all things, a deathly-eerie quiet. Not even the breath of the wind, nor the rustle of leaves visited to end the unsettling stillness. There was nothing, only the absolute solitude of a world made mute. The late middle-aged Halfling dug into the deep inner pockets of the folds of his clothes, producing a large brass compass-like device which held no needle nor directional markings, only a bead of unusual silvery metal. Pulling a familiar flask from his belt he filled the brass device with holy water, the ball seemed to bob and pulse to life, dancing in a series of gestures beneath the glass-face of the tool. "Awh, sheit... We need to get out of here. We're somewhere between Point 21 and 19 - The Gap"
The wilderness was a vast and dangerous place, more so because tainted lands could spring up over night. It was the job of various surveyors to comb through the land frequently and detect these changes, those who specialized in mapping the emergence, disappearance or condition of tainted lands were called Voyagers. The brave men who risked their lives recording these locations named each location numerically as a 'Point', some didn't have formal names, but Point 21 did - they could never forget about the incident at Greylight. The region between Greylight and Point 19 was known as 'The Gap' to Gales and experienced adventurers in Varisia. It was a space known for being influenced by two tainted land regions at once, filling it with untold dangers and Veilbeasts, which was slowly beginning to make travel north along the Lost Coast road more and more perilous. "We need to get outta here and find a place to bed down til morn...."
A woman's quiet laughter split the otherworldly quiet which hung thick around them. The Halfling's words were cut-off mid-way by the sudden sound. His face grew pale as he slid the strange brass compass away and skulked a step back to the cover of a tree. "Welcome, guests. I am the guardian of this forest. I have tended to you when you could not tend to yourself, but now you must leave this place. My protection lasts only til the first ray of dawn's light, then I must depart and you will fend for yourselves. If life is your desire, you must move quickly. I will guide the way you wish to travel, while my time remains." It was perhaps, the last waning hours of a winter night, that realization had just come to them now. Yet, they did not freeze nor feel the familiar chill which had slain so many who carelessly traveled these dangerous hours. It was humid and warm, as if the mist were some moist screen keeping the cold at bay. It likely wouldn't last.
Spoiler: Optional ChecksOptional:
Knowledge (Local) - Location
Knowledge (Nature) - Foliage & Weather
Knowledge (Survival)- Time
Main Quest: The Secret of Beasts
Disoriented and bewildered, the party finds themselves waking from a strange vision in a place they have never been. Waking on the ground of a forest after an unknown period of time has past, they are confronted by the Guardian of this forest. The dream-visions still linger fresh in each of their minds, haunting them with questions and no answers. If what was experienced could be through of as true, the death of the world loomed upon them, and when this tortured vessel - this Colossus, who carried the darkness fell, everything would end beneath its crushing weight. They had to do something before it was to late, they had to uncover the secret of the beasts.
Difficulty: None| Status: On-going | Profit: Unknown | Time: Unknown
Objective: Locate the Guardian and win their aid with the knowledge from your dreams.