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  #166  
Old 10-28-2017, 12:41 AM
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“You are all much too kind,” the singer shakes her head with a broad smile. “That was but a trifle.” Even though she deflects her companions’ praise with a small, unassuming shrug, it is clear that she is extremely pleased by their reaction.

While the others examine the nest and the graves, and the items they find therein, Mara remains off to the side, staying out of the investigators’ way—and avoiding any chance of being recruited for menial labor. She passes the time by Take 10 on Perform for 25singing softly, warming up with some simpler pieces before rehearsing her more difficult repertoire. Only when Pike finishes his detective work does she stop and casually peruse the group’s findings, wrinkling her nose as Fido talks about the surgical tools. She doesn't seem terribly impressed.

“Are we finished here then? Shall we tell Goff what we have found, then be on our way?”
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  #167  
Old 10-29-2017, 07:46 AM
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Pike shifts through the items as he finishes his work by the nest, pocketing the broken compass, flask and the letter. All other items he brings down with him for Fido to go over "I'm done." he says in a tone that bears surprising grim finality in it. Washing his hands and face with water from his waterskin he then proceeds to unstop the flask of brandy he found and takes a sip before offering it to the Hrani and Signy, the two who have worked the hardest on uncovering the graves.

With a quick glance over what they've found he seems somehow satisfied as he nods to himself while lighting one of his cigars "Someone with delicate hands and surgical expertise, not to mention the means to have access to fine tools of the trade has been digging up bodies to.... work on? Wonder what we'll find in Sanctuary's graveyard?" he blows a cloud of smoke through his nostrils before taking another sip of the flask and motions towards the town "Aye Miss Mara, let us proceed."

As they walk he fishes out the scroll case with the letter, hoping to be able to gleam some quick information from it - perhaps that dwarf had been known in town.
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  #168  
Old 11-02-2017, 02:38 AM
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Digging up the graves is hard work, and while unlike many other spellcasters Hrani doesn't have any particular aversion against manual labor, he still appreciates the soothing sound of Mara's voice that eases the tension out of the muscles even as they work. Were it not for the grizzly nature of the deed he and Signy were performing this could almost be nice.

Unfortunately, from a perspective of finding any other clues, but fortunately from a hygienic perspective, the graves all turn out to be empty, which explains the lower earth level. So someone deliberately dug them up, to cut off the faces? Sad to think not even your body was safe after death. Perhaps cremation was the way to go, and burry the ashes somewhere deep in the icy caves of his homelands? Even there, if someone really wanted to, they could get to them, couldn't they? Perhaps it would be simpler to just ensure his soul stayed safe and forego any hope for his body...

"There are ways..." Orenmir whispers. "Ways that allow soul and body to transcend death..." Hrani doesn't acknowledge the words, but the thought is there in his subconscious.

While the others discuss the merits of the evidence they have found in favor of Sully's case, the magus takes some time to investigate the discovered items more closely, examining their magical auras and passing on anything of relevance he learns to the others. With the group heading back to town now, the two main questions would appear to be: Have they learned everything there is to learn here? And should they show someone in town the face they found...? It seems like the smart thing to do, to get certainty. But the humans with their needlessly complicated social interaction rules might disagree with this and take offense to the notion. Perhaps it is best to let one of the others make the call.

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  #169  
Old 11-02-2017, 01:17 PM
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Field WorkEager to abandon the surgical tools and severed face for something else, he fishes through the pile that Pike brought to him. Picking up each item in turn, he twists them upwards and sideways to examine each aspect. His satisfaction or dissatisfaction is evident in the twist of his lip and the furrow of his brow, each set into a pile appropriate to his ability to discern its properties. His eyes linger back to the face often during the process, the possible reasons for its existence unsettling him with each glance.

"None of this seems to point to your beast. Good news, I suppose." With the items separated and left to Hrani's further examinations, he rises and wipes his hands on his pants. Tucking into his vest, he draws out one of the sweetleaf rolls and slips it between his lips. Rather than lighting it, he rolls it from one corner of his mouth to the other. Back and forth as he ponders the meaning. "This feels very deliberate, not an act of rage. I can't quite pin down the why of it, though. Perhaps the bodies were fresh enough to be worth something to a practicing chirurgeon but there would surely be easier places to acquire corpses." The others gather together, seemingly intent on moving back to the town.

"This is where I voice my concern over the manticore, yes?" He rolls that cigarette to the center of his lips and ignites it with a snap of his fingers. "Not to make light of the lady Mara's amazing conversational abilities but the beast is still murderous and will soon produce a second of its kind." A glance to Signy as he pauses, inhaling the sweet smoke and exhaling it through his nose. "Are we truly leaving this for someone else to deal with?" It was not his inclination to leave danger behind and let others suffer for it, but his words are also rather non-committal. Being a temporary edition to the lot, it occurs to him that this may well be how they operate. It was something of a time-sensitive investigation, after all.
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  #170  
Old 11-02-2017, 06:06 PM
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"We will deal with it." Pike says through lips clenched to hold his cigar while he unfurls the letter within the tube "Just not right now. Right now we have to take care of Sully's case, we don't have any spare time to loose." he glances sideways at the gnome "Its hunting now, which hopefully means it will eat it's bellyful and rest for the next few days, we can come back to deal with it when the trials are over."
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  #171  
Old 11-03-2017, 01:19 AM
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Mara nods indifferently at Fido while still giving him and Pike—and their smoky emissions—a wide berth.

“And you may well be overestimating the danger. The manticore has posed no threat to the village for all this time—if it had, surely Goff would have said something. It may not be quite the monster you make it out to be. After all, we were able to reason with it.” Having only recently met the gnome, the singer does not have the same faith in his words as she might had they been spoken by Hrani or Jamir. Perhaps it also doesn't help that they are, ostensibly, on opposite sides of Sulliviani's case. The gnome is mistaken about the Beast; maybe the same is true of the manticore.
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  #172  
Old 11-03-2017, 04:00 AM
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"Not to belittle your words, Mara, but I feel at least one soul disagrees with you on that" Runahildr hefted her glaive and used the weapon to point at the nest and the bloated dwarven traveler that lay within.

"I do not think that is someone dug out of a grave considering the items still in his possession, which means that the manticore either killed him and brought his body here to feast on, or it found him and intends for him to be carrion for its offspring. Neither is tolerable actions that can take place near a community with civilians and innocent children."

She shook her head slightly.
"That said, I do agree that we have other priorities right now and we are not equipped to confront that thing as it is. We should inform locals and talk to the Constabulary back in Lepidstadt and make sure they send someone capable of either slaying or driving the thing away - its that or return once we are done with the trial to finish matters ourselves."

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  #173  
Old 11-03-2017, 08:38 AM
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Mantibore"Hmm." Fido weighs the thoughts as they are presented. "It is true that my understanding of manticores is purely academic, I'll not dispute that. However, many have studied such creatures and provided that knowledge precisely so that their danger can be avoided by others. The creature is a magical beast but it is a beast just the same and the territorial nature of birthing beasts is very well established. Anyone travelling this swamp will face that danger and it is likely only isolated folk that will see it first, not those living in the town. She will kill again, I'd stake everything on that." Another inhale, the smoke curling around his face slightly purple in haze. He lifts his empty hand and holds it open at his side.

"It is an interesting logical progression. On the one hand, we are currently here where we know she will be in less than half an hour's time. And in full force, no less. I'd wager we are better equipped to remove the threat than any city watch and we could do so before more people are killed. It would seemingly take little time at all to end this threat." The sweetleaf roll flicks between his fingers and casts ash toward his feet. Those feet shuffle slightly, one step back then another forward. He is uncomfortable with something and he makes no effort to hide it. He inhales deep, burning the cigarette down to a nub and then crushes it beneath those shuffling feet. His other hand, now empty, lifts to open opposite the first.

"On the other hand...well, I don't really have an argument there." He looks around once more to ensure they've collected all of the materials found at this scene and wipes his palms together in a definitive motion. "Your collective decision, and all. We should at least stop at the town and see if anyone can put a name to any of these objects. Or to the face. A name to the face..." A chuckle at that, despite the grim nature of the sentiment. Hooking his thumbs into the pockets of his vest, he lets his shoulders rise in a brief 'what is done is done' shrug. Despite his belief in the former option, he seems to lack a real emotional investment in the debate. "We can advise the townsfolk to spread the word that it would be best for them to remain indoors until help arrives." And those feet cease their fidgeting, instead carrying him onward toward their ride off this island of bones.
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  #174  
Old 11-04-2017, 07:23 AM
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Despite the soothing music, the work of digging up the graves is not quite as peaceful as it might have been. True, the manticore had agreed to stay away, but in Signy’s mind it would have been foolhardy to just take it’s word for it without keeping an eye out for the beast changing its mind. At least they do not find any grisly remains in the graves - though, if one was being honest, that was only a relief in sofar as the sight and smell would likely have been off putting. That the bodies weren’t there anymore was basic problem, really. Not that there was anything to be done about it now.

Soon enough, they are done. Nothing really new could be made of the empty graves, but the check of the other finds brought a little more information if not clarity. Having listened to the arguments for and against taking on the manticore here and now after all Signy added her own opinion to the mix: "As far as the village is concerned, I agree that the danger seems not too big. It does not seem as if the beast has moved in just yesterday and yet they are unaware of the threat. Travelers are, obviously a different matter." She looked from one to the other. "I do not think it would take a terribly long time to deal with this issue - but it cannot be done with just the two of us." She indicated Fido and herself. "As such, I, too, will abide by the group’s decision." It had to be said that she did not sound too happy with it, though.
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  #175  
Old 11-04-2017, 12:52 PM
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“Fair enough.” Mara acquiesces to Runa's point about the dead dwarf, though it is clear that she does not particularly like being proven wrong, even in part. With a slight scowl on her face, she listens to Fido's words, moved more by the smoky haze surrounding the gnome than by the logic of his words.

“Yes ... the manticore is a 'beast' like Sulliviani, I suppose. A shame the authorities did not kill him at once, hmm?” Though still smooth and melodious, the singer's voice has acquired a crisp edge; if words were weapons, hers would be vorpal blades. “It certainly would have spared you all this trouble.”

Of course the wizard does not know why the songstress takes his words so very personally. To her, he seems like a callous executioner, readily condemning to death any sentient creature unfortunate enough to be viewed as a monster. Like Sulliviani. Like the manticore. Like herself.

A month ago, before Harrowstone, she might have been nervous, fearing what would happen if the gnome uncovered her secret. Today she is simply indignant, and her displeasure obscures all facts and evidence of the threat posed by the winged creature.

She relents when Signy speaks her piece, nodding as the dwarf at least in her mindcompletely agrees with her. “Excellent. We shall see what the villagers make of our findings, then we shall be on our way. After all, we have no time to waste.” Despite her authoritative words, she continues towards the village at her usual slow, stately pace. Almost as an afterthought, the soprano adds to Runa, “And of course, the villagers should be notified of the manticore's presence, just in case.”
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  #176  
Old 11-04-2017, 03:16 PM
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Well Actually"If you want to be expertly pedantic, Mara, your beast...Sullivani, is it? Sullivani, then. Sullivani is more of a constructed creature, not a beast in the strictest sense. An odd and fascinating one, if what I hear is accurate and he is cognizant of his own existence. It would be a shame if he is found guilty and destroyed, I'd imagine he has much to impart in his own way." He'd considered the value of this strange creature many times since he'd learned of its existence. And while he was far from convinced that the beast was innocent of the crimes, a small part of him certainly hopes it is. A creature designed not by the gods, but by man, with the spark of life like any birthed being. It would go a long way towards his optimism should the beast prove to be good-natured. Doubts, though, run as thick as the swamp water around them.

"And yes, it would certainly have saved me a great deal of time but then I'd not have met such an intriguing, and might I say level-headed, crop of folk." A grunt as he shifts his pack to the opposite shoulder and adjusts the scroll cases on his hip. "I find it most presumptuous that you immediately jump to killing the manticore. I don't believe that was ever mentioned as our singular option." A shrug accompanies a motion toward the dwarf corpse they're leaving behind. "If you're interested in holding a trial for the manticore you should collect that vital piece of evidence." Retrieving a loose page from within his vest, he holds it up to the sun and studies the series of inked characters on it. For no real purpose but to look busy.

"Regardless, there is no sense in debating the fate of this manticore. The authorities in Lepidstadt will make the final call and I believe we can all safely guess how that will end." Turning the paper 90 degrees, then 180, he traces a finger across the middle line and then rolls the whole thing up again, shoving it back into the pocket he claimed it from. His hand comes out with a small tin of mint candies, the pieces rattling around with the motion. Popping one into his mouth, he offers the tin out to Signy and then the others in a sweeping motion. "Sweet mint? I found this amazing confectionary in Karcau and I've developed quite the fondness for them."
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  #177  
Old 11-08-2017, 11:45 AM
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There's much to be learned before they go, and much to be gained by investigation of what they've found.

Hrani's and Fido's investigation of the magical properties of the loot they've found turns up a few interesting points. The almost-gone carroty potion is a faint transmutation that affects one's sight to be better in the dark. The wand, covered in ghostly motifs, is a weak illusory spell of some kind. The powder is what is known as bodybalm, is boiled and drank by a healer, giving them a more capable mind when it comes to healing. The oil is of similar potent property, known as an oil of keen edge: any pointed or sharp weapon covered in it will be made more critical for a brief time. But looking into the scroll casing written in Dwarven, the Elf and newcomer find no magic to speak of. The scroll within is utterly mundane, and delving into it, Pike finds this to be true.

True, in the sense that no one else would care.
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The letter is quite mundane, indeed. A letter from a wife to a husband. What else is there to note of that? Anyone peaking would find it written in Dwarven runes in the Dwarven language, not Orcish or anything of the kind. It is a largely insignificant letter. Around him, a hot debate picks up about the Manticore, and about the Beast of Lepidstadt—the real one—called Sullivani. What makes a beast a beast? Its appearance? The label of such? Or their actions? And if that latter is the true definition, is Sully a beast? Is the Manticore, which as of yet has only seemingly killed that Dwarf, a beast if it only follows instinct, only wishes to reproduce?

The debate carries them over the bridge and back to the village, where the people seem to care less about their comings and goings, though of note it is a simple look they get before many look past them. They also note that the village has many coracles just like the one they've found in the Boneyard. No house is missing one.

Following directions, they find their way to Goff's hut, a full ten feet off the ground, the stairs leading up to it in need of repair with a door that is more off the hinges than on. The smell coming from within is thick and brothy, a meat and potatoes meal to be sure. But there is a thin herbal smell, too, something like thyme, that hangs in the air. The inside is dingy, dusty though without the telltale smells, and above the mantle is a portraiture of Goff and his wife, both clearly younger but still almost exactly the same. Perhaps people here simply do not age like they do elsewhere.

"Oh, Miss Mara, and your many friends! You're all back. Glad to see it, glad to see it.... I wonder if I can interest you in a meal? It's a sampling and my wife will enjoy it, if she comes back. She was to present today... or was it yesterday? Ah well, I've made plenty for all of you. She'll understand, either way, we don't want for tubers 'bout these parts. Used a bit of the salted steak, so it should be meaty. I had it already going, for Lazne too when they all got back, but.... they won't mind. Well, reckon Lazne might. But hospitality is what it is." He starts for bowls. "So, what've you lot found in our poor ol' Boneyard? Heard a wolf's howl, though it obviously didn't come from the Boneyard." He eyes Signy, perhaps noticing where a wound might have once been, but he makes no comment there.

The smell is quite nice. The sounds outside continue; life goes on. Their findings have not stirred the world.
 
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  #178  
Old 11-11-2017, 04:59 PM
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Pike drops the letter from the tube and grabs it with steady fingers, listening with ease as his companions argue about the monster and ethics. He chooses to stay silent, after all he has done it would be for the best.

He unfolds the letter and the world goes quiet.

That handwriting, he'd seen it before.

"You all go and meet Goff, I'll get the wagon ready and try and get a short shut-eye before we head back to the city." he says, waving off any protest as he paces off to the wagon without another word, jumps inside and shuts the door. For a moment he sits there in silence, his eyes on the letter, butterflies in his stomach.

With nervous hands he starts reading, not aware that he's inside the carriage and still smoking. Mara will surely have something to say about it but that doesn't matter at this moment, nothing matters except the words written in the letter. He reads it over again and then again a third time, this time he has the flask in his hands, already half empty he drains it down "sh*t!" he exhales "sh*t,sh*t,sh*t!"

Kicking open the door he jumps outside and climbs up top, empty flask thrown to the ground along with the soggy cigar and for a fleeting moment he thinks about taking the reins and ride off, surely he'd be able to figure out where to look from the contents of the letter....

Pushing that thought away he steels himself and takes a deep breath, he'd never be able to leave his companions and friends who depend on him to find the truth about the Beast, but when they're done here he might have gained more information from the words written on that piece of paper.

Pike let´s out a shaky sigh and lies down on his back among the packs and personal belongings on top of the carriage, reaching for another cigar while he gazes into the blurry sky through teary eyes, whispering into the air "I'll find you, I promise."

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  #179  
Old 11-12-2017, 11:43 AM
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Though she pays scant heed to the gnome's continued ramblings—the matter was quite settled, was it not?—Mara quirks a questioning eyebrow at the detective's hasty departure. True, she is very glad to see his cigar recede into the distance, but something seems slightly odd about the dwarf's behavior, even if she can't pinpoint what it is. She quickly dismisses the thought from her mind. No matter—at least the smoke is gone.

Inside Goff's simple hut, the soprano arranges a friendly smile upon her face. “Oh Goff, you shouldn't have. You are much too kind. Why don't you serve my companions first?” With a slight bow of her head and an elaborate gesture from her hand, Mara deflects the generous offer of food towards the others.

“As for the boneyard ... well, we found the empty graves, as you might expect. Such a horrible desecration.” The singer's voice vibrates with a rich, sympathetic tone. “But there were some other discoveries as well. There was a body up high in a nest—a dwarf, so I don't suppose it was one of your villagers? No? The nest's owner—a manticore, I am told” she glances at Fido “is rather protective of its nest, and possibly dangerous, so you may wish to exercise some caution.”

“Hmm ... what else? Some surgical tools, as if ... well, one can only speculate what they would be used for, but with the missing bodies and the golem ...” She sighs, as if in apology for broaching such a distasteful subject. “But the Beast you described would surely not have the delicacy to use such instruments ... which means that another person must have been involved in the emptying of your graves. A troubling find, I must admit. It appears that some one was ... experimenting upon the bodies, though I cannot imagine why. Can you think of any reason for somebody to travel out all this way, just for such a sinister purpose?” The songstress pauses, gazing at the picture of Goff and his wife. A memory of a conversation or of a rumor stirs in her mind. Where did she hear it? “I have heard that some are interested in the longevity and health of your people, though to what extent ...” She smiles apologetically. “What I mean, is that I don't suppose anyone has come to your village to ... to study your purported secrets to aging well?”

Mara sighs. “Do forgive me. I suppose you might think us prone to speculation. Unfortunately, there is something else. We found a coracle with ... with a face in it.” Clearly uncomfortable, she hesitates, looking to the others to explain this particular discovery.
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  #180  
Old 11-12-2017, 02:35 PM
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Hrani had been ready to kill the Manticore when it first attacked them, and he agreed that leaving it to roam was potentially putting other people in danger. On the other hand, he is also all too aware of the pressing nature of their business, and should they lose time, or gods forbid should the manticore slay all of them before they can deliver their evidence to Lepidstadt, their beast would certainly suffer for it. It matters little what the magus thinks anyway, however, because it became clear to him very early in the conversation that this is a discussion he would do well to just sit out. Getting involved will just annoy one side or the other.

Like Mara, Hrani is quick to notice Pike's unexpected departure. He too lets him go, though not without spending considerable thoughts on what sort of trap or ambush the dwarf might be setting for him, back at the wagon. He will have to be exceptionally careful when he and the others return. Probably best for him to be behind everyone else. That way he wouldn't be outflanked, and he'd have the others to shield him from any nasty surprises.

With those thoughts on the back burner for a moment, the group finds Goff's hut, and the owner once again offers them some food. Mara is quick to be polite but at the same time pass on things. "Well, I agree, you really shouldn't have gone to the trouble. But it does look very tasty, so perhaps just a little bite..." In reality, the elf couldn't care less about whether or not he ate something here. But given his greater appreciation for simpler foods, he figures he will be able to tolerate the stew more easily than some others in the group. And if they all turn Goff's food down, he will probably be upset. Given that Hrani knows better than to do any actual talking to the man in hopes of getting information, he might as well help out by doing some eating. That is, if any of the others join in. The idea of poison is still in the back of his mind, and if everyone else in the group passes, he changes his mind and sits out as well...
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