Nathan Lewis
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Indeed. Are you handy with a weapon? In cause we run in to marauders, I would prefer that you have something on hand, rather than nothing. We can pick one up for you if you don't have one.

Norrel eyes the cane to see if it has some sort of contraption that reveals a blade.
Perception 1d20 = (4) = 4
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To Monte's eye, Nester's cane looks like an ordinary cane. The man shrugs. "I know how to use most weapons, but I don't claim to be very good with them. I'm afraid I don't have any, unless you want to count this." He waggles the cane. "I suppose it might be useful for fending off something like a bird or a small dog."

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Fahl
Seeing how Nester plays with his cane makes Fahl more comfortable. He even laughs at the bird joke.

"Well, have you got your stuff packed, sir? Because we are done in a few minutes and ready to go!"
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Rees smiles. "Indeed, I am ready to go. When I do travel, I prefer to travel light. I can move faster that way, and walking is so much more pleasant when not weighted down."

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Monte
Alright, old timer. You ready to get crackin'? Along the way, fill us in on any other details, no matter how trivial, that may be useful to the party.
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Rees shrugs apologetically. "I'd be happy to oblige, but I'm afraid I know very little. As I understand it, my role is simply to assess the legitimacy and value of an artifact in the possession of the Low Azlanti. I'm counting on you to get me to wherever it is that I can examine the artifact."

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With everyone gathered and packed, the party sets out along the road leading north out of Absalom. The terrain is at first barren and rocky - part of the region known as the Cairnlands, a broken landscape of blood-salted earth and the ruins of countless failed assaults on Absalom’s walls.

Nester Rees fortunately seems able to keep up a comfortable walking pace, and after a few hours travel, the landscape changes to open fields and fertile ground. Ahead, a vast forest covers the foothills of large range of snow-capped mountains.

The well-trodden road soon curves away along a tall wall of trees, and here a little careful searching turns up the head of the smuggler's trail. The party continues its journey, but shortly after entering the woods, in a place where the trail passes through a small clearing, the party is startled by a shout. "Halt, travelers! We would have words with you!"

One by one, three centaurs armed with swords and spears emerge from the woods.


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Monte
His first reaction after being startled is get a read on the those closest and then have a look around to see if there are any others.

sense motive 1d20+7 = (14) + 7 = 21
Perception 1d20+7 = (17) + 7 = 24
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As far as Monte can tell, there are just the three centaurs. While they don't seem particularly friendly, they aren't carrying their weapons in a threatening manner either.

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Fahl
To Fahl, the centaurs look fascinating and dangerous at the same time, but the former feeling wins.
"Who are you and what do you want?"
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Rothul is unsurprised to hear the call from those protectors of the forest, especially having worked with their kind in years past.

"Hale, friends! We seek safe passage through this area and intend no harm to you or others present here. Can you escort us along our way? If not, please let us continue on our journey for we have a long walk still ahead of us."
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schizoid wrote:
"Who are you and what do you want?"
The centaur who had spoken earlier responds. "I am Urdel Thunderhoof, and I want to know what you are doing here. If you are lost, we can point you to the quickest way out of the forest."

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leemc13 wrote:
Rothul is unsurprised to hear the call from those protectors of the forest, especially having worked with their kind in years past.

"Hale, friends! We seek safe passage through this area and intend no harm to you or others present here. Can you escort us along our way? If not, please let us continue on our journey for we have a long walk still ahead of us."
At Rothul's words, the centaurs look at one another in surprise. After a moment, Thunderhoof speaks again. "We can offer no escort, as we have business of our own. Nor can we promise safe passage, as these woods are now home to a panther of unusual cunning. Hunting has become poor in this area.

"If you are intent on passing through the forest, my advice to you is to do so as swiftly as you can. And should you see the panther, kill it. You do not want to become its chosen prey."


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Monte
What color is the panther? Why do you think one panther would be so much more cunning than the rest that we should fear it over the others? It attacks folks outright?
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jarslan wrote:
What color is the panther? Why do you think one panther would be so much more cunning than the rest that we should fear it over the others? It attacks folks outright?
Thunderhoof scowls at Monte. "We have had no close sightings. It is dark, possibly black. Does its color matter?

"Why it should be more cunning than other cats, I do not know. But it does not merely stalk its prey. It has been known to herd its prey into positions favorable for ambush. Be wary. If you see it, and it escapes you, do not think that you have frightened it away."


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Monte
Herds prey, you say? Think it might be magically controlled or possibly not exactly a panther? ...if you get my meaning?
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Again the centaurs look at one another. And again Thunderhoof speaks for them. "It may not be a panther. But if it is not, we know not what else it may be. Have you some idea?"

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Monte
I don't know specifically of course. I'm thinking out loud. When you say there seems to be an extra-ordinary panther, one that sticks out among the others..know what I mean... it could be the work of a smarter kind altogether. Could be controlled by a smarter being, you follow me?

He stops to look at the centaurs to get some reaction

Hey, I don't know. I don't know the ways here. What's the power structure like? I'm curious about things.
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The centaurs look at Monte blankly. Finally one of them says, "Or...it could be a panther. A clever panther."

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Monte
He stands there for a second. He can't quite wrap his head around it
...clever. A clever panther... Right.

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We will heed your advice. Thanks to you for your generosity in even telling us about this creature.

Norrel waves his sword at the centaurs in a salute fashion, as he turns to the others.

I sense no animosity here.

Turning back to the hunting party. You wouldn't happen to have any more information about this area, would you?

Diplomacy 1d20+6 = (17) + 6 = 23
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Fahl
*whispers*
"These are centaurs, the free warriors of the wilderness. Aren't they supposed to get rid of panthers just for their morning exercise?"
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Again the centaurs look at one another. Thunderhoof says, "The forest is...the forest. The path you are on leaves the forest about a day's journey from here, and leads into the mountains. Half a day's journey from here it crosses over a river."

Thunderhoof pauses as if considering, and then slowly approaches Norrel. "We wish you good hunting with the panther." - here the centaur darts a quelling glance Monte's way - "This may help." He hands Norrel a longspear (masterwork quality) and a small lumpy cloth bundle.

"The berries will provide both sustenance and healing. They will maintain their enchantment for another four days. Swift travels to you."

With that, Thunderhoof backs away, turns, and leads his party back into the forest.

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Monte
Appreciate that. Nice of you.

After they've left, he turns to the party
phew...eh. What say you Fahl? What do you know about centaurs?

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Norrel straps the longspear to his back and he opens the bundle to inspect it's contents.

Is it just berries in there, or is there more?

After looking through the bundle, he wraps it back up and stuffs it into his backpack gently.

Let's make our way to the river. Then, we will know we are on the right track.
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