Upuaut stands vigilant as the other three continue to look at the bodies.
"Scavengers, perhaps," he suggests as he continues to examine the griffon corpse. It's like he can't look away.
It doesn't take much observation to tell that his throat has been slashed out. His body seems otherwise undisturbed.>>704062
"Not any animal I've ever seen," Hugo says. "Anythin' on this mountain would've eaten all of 'em. Or at least torn the bodies apart more." He gets up and walks over to the skeletons. "Like these three…" He crouches down and squints through the darkness. You can hear his breath catch in his throat, and he stands back up and stumbles back a couple of steps. "Those clothes. These are the three that went after them.">>704063
A long, low howl like the one you heard earlier bellows from outside. This time you can tell where it's coming from. This time it's close.
His mane bristles and he perks up at the howling, plucking a very specific sequence of notes - B, E, D, E, G - in an effort to summon a spectral ally.
[1d10] Conjure MinionRoll #1 8 = 8
"But what kind of scavengers would live on a mountain like this?">>704065
"Now we know where they were, but not what happened to them."
Rough puts a hoof on Hugo's shoulder to help him through this rough moment.
"You said they were with Abraam, so we didn't see him yet. He might be higher up, possibly waiting out the blizzard safely."
"We cannot linger much longer, I fear the cause of these deaths may soon approach."
A spectral jian with a pale blue aura materializes in front of you, hanging in the air.>>704067
He nods and takes a deep breath through his nose, flaring his nostrils. "Yeah," he says. "If he ain't here he could still be alright." He sighs. "Part'a me thinks it'd be better fer him if he ain't, though. Not sure how ta tell him 'bout what happened." His eyes shoot to the mouth of the cave and he draws his knife when he hears the howl.>>704068
A ghostly chill blows across the back of everyone's neck, like an icy spider crawled up their spine. Hugo shivers and tightens his grip on his knife. Through the furious snow you can just barely make out the silhouette of something vaguely pony shaped moving toward the cave. Something seems off about it. The shadow seems too tall. Too thin.
Two words echo in everyone's mind. A plea. 'Kill me.'
A low, ravenous sounding growl pours into the cave.
Rough tenses up at the chill, standing at alert and suppressing a gasp at the sensation. She sets the fire jar down next to the campfire, looking to the cave as a figure comes into view and growls.
She looks on, frozen in place as the words flow in her head.
He is frozen for a moment as the… thing… shambles into the cave. He almost has to will his fingers to move as he begins to pluck his magical instrument again, using his nails as picks to strum up what he hopes is an inspring melody:
G C C D E D E C G C C D E C B / G C C D E F E D C B G A B C C
The jian stands poised to strike, blade hovering near the entrance to the cave, ready to swing at the figure.Roll #1 1 = 1
Taking note of the bear attack before, Upuaut digs into the ground to hide himself away.
Your sword hovers near the entrance as you strum your strings. Your trembling hand plucks only sour notes, playing a gut wrenching metallic cacophony instead of a song. (-1 to next action.)>>704072
You easily dig away the dirt in the cave and burrow beneath the ground.>>704070
"Abraam," Hugo croaks.
The lumbering shadow steps closer to the mouth. Slowly, the snow parts and you can see the thing standing in front of you. Jagged, broken antlers protrude from its head and shaggy gray fur stained with red lines its whole body. Its face is twisted into a pained grimace, half of which looks like a pale blue earth pony, while the other half looks like that of a feral deer or elk. Jagged teeth line its blood caked mouth. The eye on pony half of its face is a deep black, but the eye on the feral side of its face looks almost normal. It stops to look down at the griffin, before looking back up at the party. A low, hungry growl rumbles from deep inside it as it takes two slow steps towards you. Wisps of icy vapor pass its lips with each breath, and the whole cave suddenly feels colder.
Unaware of the beast that lies above him, Upuaut digs underneath the ground, digging a pitfall to whatever vengeful creature approaches. The sour notes of the magical instrument above unsteadies his paws.
>Trap: recharge 1; Starting next turn, first enemy to attack is helpless for 2 turns.
[1d10-1]Roll #1 4 - 1 = 3
He is frozen in place at the sight of the terrible beast. Hands shaking, he looks around at his companions, unsure of what to do. Seeing them take the offensive, he unsteadily rakes his claws along the guqin in an effort to send a sonic blade at it.
The jian springs to life, swinging at the creature in an uppercut slice.
[1d10] +1 from Conjure Minion, -1 from Inspire critfailRoll #1 3 - 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 9 = 9
Rough takes a step back as the horrid creature enters the cave. She's nearly frozen in terror, and also from the chill of the wind and the eerie aura this beast emanates.
The sub-cave earth is even harder than the dirt you'd tried to dig through outside. You scrape away a tiny bit in front of you, but not nearly enough to have any effect.>>704075
The creature steps out of the way of your sonic blade, almost floating on the frigid cave floor. It had been so focused on everyone else that it hadn't noticed the jian as it slices a huge gash into its shoulder, sending it staggering. Before it falls over, it catches itself on one of its misshapen legs and freezes, standing unnaturally still as ice crackles over the wound. Slowly its head lifts back toward the party. >>704076
Its eyes frantically dart around like a madman's, as if it's unsure of who or what to focus on. Its nostrils flare as it takes in a deep breath and lets out the same hollow, unearthly howl you head before.
Roll perceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
He covers his sensitive ears and cowers as it howls, feeling a sense of dread wash over him as it simply regenerates the injury. He starts backing away from it, seeing it pointless to attack for now, eyes darting to and fro as he tries to formulate an escape plan.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Rough's ears lower as the creature howls again, the terror met with confusion as the beast hasn't attacked or done anything yet aside from corner them now. She tries to follow it's eyes to see what it's trying to focus on, hopefully to see and find a way to distract it so they can flee.>Perception [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Clenching his teeth, Upuaut lies on his back in the hole he's dug and holds his right hand out as if holding a bow, taking one of his massive arrows and drawing it back from the imaginary string. He closes his eyes, letting go of the imaginary string with his left paw. The arrow flies from his paw and flings foward into the æther, disappearing from his hole. >>704079
A foreign glyph appears midair in front of Rough Patch, one of Upuaut's arrows emerging from it and flying out at the horror seemingly from nowhere.
>Eye of the Beast: recharge 1, weapon, ranged; Forgo your own vision look through the eyes of your minions or allies. Any foe that they can target, you can fire a bolt through the magic between realms to hit them, regardless of your own location.
[1d10+2] DC-1Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
Before the beast stands again, you see something sticking from its back, right between its shoulder blades. You can't quite make out what.>>704079
The howl sends your heart into overdrive, making it difficult to focus on anything but the creature's eyes. As if you'd flipped a switch, they lock on you. Baring its fangs, the creature runs at you, preparing to pounce.
The bolt strikes it in the face as it charges Rough, and it lets out a quiet whine.
Hugo shakes himself free from his stunned stupor, locks his jaw, and draws his knife. Digging one hoof into the ground, he whispers a quiet, "I'm sorry." and barrels at the creature.
[1d10]slamRoll #1 5 = 5
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
His eyes narrow as he catches glimpse of the thing in its back. He sends out another sonic wave at it, while commanding the jian to strike at the spot he noticed.
[1d10+1] Minion attack>>704079>>704080
"On its back!" he calls. "There's… something there…"Roll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11
[1d10] PerceptorinoRoll #1 2 = 2
Hearing the arrow strike true as the horror whines, Upuaut hones in on it's position.> Bloodhound: Passive; After making a successful, physical attack against a target you pick up its scent. This target does not benefit from stealth when being attacked by you or attacking you for a number of turns equal to the amount of damage you do. Darkness also does not affect your ability to target.
He attempts again to set a trap, now that he holds a better understanding of the creature's position.>Trap [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Rough nearly jumps back as the rune appears before her, nearly yelping as if it as an attack from the beast until it shoots at it.
"Oh my Celestia…">>704081
Rough's over-driven heart nearly sinks as the creature leaps at her. Some feeling flows back into her frozen and nearly numb legs to act, quickly pulling out a small spare concoction to toss at the creature's face before it leaps.>Alchemist's Fire [Revolving Drum Instant from >>704012] [1d10]
Then she quickly turns on her forehooves, spinning back to deliver a devastating buck to try and knock it back as it does leap.>Slam [Crits 9+] [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
The wave slams into its shoulder as it scrapes its claw toward Rough, knocking it off balance just before it does any actual damage. Before it can catch its footing, the jian slices into it again, digging an even deeper gash into its stomach and sending it to the floor. In moments icy shards slowly crackle around the wound, sealing it again. It tries to stand back up, but can't seem to right away. Its breathing picks up as it continues to slowly crawl toward Rough.>>704084
You dig under where the creature was
, but Yenlong's strike sends it staggering away. The earth above you gives way, collapsing in on you. Helpless two turns.>>704085
A shrill screech comes from the creature as it's bathed in flames. The stench of burning fur and acrid smoke fills the cave. It doesn't stop it from biting into your leg as your buck misses it by inches. -1 hit.
Hugo's slam barely misses as the creature is pushed out of his way. He moves to stab the creature, but freezes when he sees the thing in its back. Now that it's on the ground at your feet, you can see that a silver dagger etched with strange runes is just barely sticking into its spine. The area around the dagger is blackened and charred, and a constant swirl of icy vapor encircles it as if it's trying to push it out.
He hones in on the dagger, snaking through the air and flying above the creature before swopping in to try and pull it out. He commands his jian to keep attacking, causing what is essentially a flanking attack.
[1d10] Remove dagger
[1d10+1] Jian attackRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 5 + 1 = 6
Rough quickly regains her hoofing and gets back from the creature after her failed buck, stumbling as the pain from the bite rockets through her limb once it touches the cave floor.
"Th-That dagger, is that why he's like this?"
She shouts over to Hugo as she pulls out a small vial, drinking it to try and relieve the pain.>Fortify Flesh [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
You fly at the creature, nearly missing the dagger. As your hand nearly misses the handle, it almost seems to stand up enough to help you get a hold of it, sliding it free from its back. The wound quickly closes up and the creature pulls itself up. Its pupils dilate, and the frantic, maddened look in its eyes seems to dissipate as its face shifts into a hyper-focused, predatory glare. All traces of humanity that were once there seem to be gone now. The jian slices into its shoulder, but instead of taking a bit the wound freezes over as soon as it opens up.>>704088
The earth shifts around you as you manage to unbury yourself a little.>>704089
Your shaking hoof loses grip of the vial, dropping it to the ground. Hugo swallows and shakes his head. "I think it's more the opposite," he manages to get out, before the creature turns on him and gallops at him without a second thought.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
He curses as removing the dagger only makes things worse. With his newfound weapon, he coils around and tries to shank it right in the throat.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Rough looks down at her broken vial, gulping at Hugo's answer. As it turns at him, she reaches into her saddle. Her potions may not be the best in a cave, but the flames are their best bet with this creature. She mixes up a larger jar, making it a more volatile concoction as she tosses it at ht creature's back.>Alchemist's Fire [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
The rest of the earth falls away, freeing you.>>704092
The creature slams into Hugo and bites deep into his shoulder. Hugo tries to grab onto him, but his fingers can't seem to get a good grip on the creature's frozen skin. While it's distracted, you slam the dagger into the back of its neck and it shrieks again, letting go of Hugo and staggering to the side. The dagger only sticks in just over halfway, but its movements slow. Its eyes find Hugo again, and tears well up in them, freezing on its cheeks as they touch the air around it. Its blood caked mouth curls into a frown as its head creaks back toward Hugo. Like a reluctant puppet on strings controlled by somebody else it shambles toward Hugo, ready to dig its fangs in again. He reaches out to try and grapple it to hold it still for the party.
The flames fall just short, exploding on the ground behind it. As it feels the fire licking at its back legs, it tries to scramble forward a little more.Roll #1 10 = 10
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
Coughing, Upuaut finally clears enough room to breath. He weakly holds out his arms to fire another arrow.>>704092
A foreign glyph appears midair in front of Rough Yeunlong, one of Upuaut's arrows emerging from it and flying out at the horror seemingly from nowhere.
Eye of the Beast [1d10+2] DC-1Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
Unsure of how to bring down the monster, he keeps his distance from it, plucking out a rousing melody to inspire courage in his allies.
[1d10] InspireRoll #1 8 = 8
Rough stomps her good hoof as she misses her jar toss, but at least it shows fire does fend the creature away.
As it seems to become more docile as Yuenlong embeds the dagger back in, she runs forward at the creature. She lunges out with her hoof, aiming for the dagger to try and slam it in deeper in the beast.>Slam [Crits 9+] [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
The creature's fangs dig deep into Hugo's arm, forcing him to the ground. He manages to get his hands around it just long enough for Rough to slam the dagger all the way into its neck and through the front of its throat. >>704095
The bolt slams into it, knocking it off of Hugo. Hugo's hand shoots to his arm, covering it and applying pressure as best he can. He's still bleeding out from his shoulder, and weakly tries to stand.
You play an inspiring song, invigorating all of your party members. +1 to all rolls next turn
Slowly, the creature stands up just enough to turn toward the party. Its eyes study all of you, and after a moment it holds its claw out. Tears fall freely from its eyes, and its mouth moves as if it's trying to speak. An icy wind blows through the cave, swirling around its closed claw. The wind carries a single word.
Abraam collapses on the ground with his closed claw outstretched as if to hand you something. He's still breathing, but only barely.Roll #1 7 = 7
The jian hangs over Abraam, poised to strike at Yuenlong's command. The dragon surveys him with suspicion, silently looking to his companions to see what they do.
Hearing the loud thump echo above him, Upuaut burrows up, covered in dirt and clenching an arrow defensively. He gazes upon the beast for the first time and takes a step back,
"This clearly is the work of some evil."
Rough breathes deeply after slamming the dagger deeper into Abram, not moving as she hopes that did the trick. As he turns to the party crying, Rough feels guilt at her action, even despite the monstrous actions.
Looking down at his curled claw, Rough cautiously steps over to open it.
Hugo limps up beside you, holding his shoulder. "Reckon you ain't wrong," he says. "Evil worked on a desperate man." He bows his head and closes his eyes. "We should prob'ly end this 'fore we take the bodies back down the mountain. Y'all heard him.">>704101
The claw easily opens. There, at the center of his palm, is a single blue flower on an icy stalk.
Rough looks down at the icy flower, eyes tearing up.
"He went through all of this… I can't believe it.
She takes off her saddle, searching through it and fetching a container big enough to hold the flower so they can safely carry it down the mountain.
While she does so, she takes out a smaller vial and hands it to Hugo after putting the saddle back on.
"Here, this should help your shoulder.">Fortify Flesh [1d10]
"…Who was Constance?"Roll #1 10 = 10
Upuaut nods solemnly, taking his arrow and walking towards the corrupted creature,
"May your soul travel safely to what's beyond, and may your heart prove weightless."
Upuaut holds one arm up to the twisted monster, notches back an arrow, and fires it into it's jugular.
He nods, looking grim as he takes in the scope of the situation. He looks at the creature that was Abraam with pity. "A terrible curse for one so noble," he reflects. "You will be remembered for your great deeds, Abraam." Seeing Upuaut intending on landing the killing blow, he bows his head and plucks the first few notes of a funeral dirge.
Hugo takes the vial and knocks it back, giving Rough a nod of thanks. His pain seems to ease completely, and he closes his eyes again and takes a deep breath. A watery gleam sparkles at the edges of his eyes as he sees the flower. "The bastard actually managed it." He swallows. "His daughter," he croaks. "Constance was his daughter.">>704104
Your arrow fires straight into his throat. His body twitches once and falls lifeless.>>704105
Hugo bows his head and shudders as he tries to hold back a sob. "Damn right you'll be remembered. I'll make sure of it, Abraam. I'll make sure of it."
Rough wipes her eyes, the tears freezing on her eyelashes.
"He never forgot, even with what happened to him… I'm so sorry it had to be this way."
She says, mostly to Abraam's body.
"Let us hope his soul finds respite in the afterlife. Are we to carry the corpses of the fallen back to the village? I can bear one over my shoulder, or I could bury them here. They are of your fellowship, so it is your choice to make."
Hugo wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. "Just a shame it was too late," he says. He turns to Upuaut. "We can load them onto the sled. That's why we brought it. I'm damn well making sure he gets a proper funeral." He turns to look at the corpses around the fire. "Making sure they all do. We should just have to tie them down. The trip down the mountain should be a little easier than the way up."
Rough fetches the jar to help give them light as they retrieve the fallen villagers.
"He more than deserves it. They all do."
Upuaut nods again, going to Abraam and pulling the arrow from his throat, helping Hugo bring the bodies to the sled in pensive silence.
It takes a little bit, but the four manage to get the bodies loaded onto the sled, including the three skeletons. Now that you get a closer look, you see that the shape the Griffin's hand is in, and his position in the cave makes it look like he was probably the one who stabbed Abraam in the first place. With most of the ponies having bits of them missing, the sled is surprisingly light for having seven on it. Hugo pulls a canvas tarp and some rope out of one of the bags around the campfire and secures the small pile of bodies after covering them up.
As you descend back down the cave and exit, you see the snow has passed and the skies are now clear. As Hugo said, it only takes you an hour to make it back to town, even with the load. As you step within eyeshot of the longhouse window, you see the stallion from earlier staring out, as if waiting for you. At first he looks excited, but then he sees the sled behind Hugo and his face falls. Standing up, he shambles out of the building to meet you.
He stops in front of Hugo, who just gives him a small nod. His eyes well up, and his gaze turns to the sled again. "I was afraid this was the case," he said. "Mortar warned both them and us, but…" His words trail off and he shakes his head. "A fools errand, anyway, going up the mountain in winter. Seven good men, dead from a fool's errand." He sighs and turns back towards the large building. “Anyway,” he says. “I suppose you’ll be wanting payment, as promised. I already have it prepared inside. Hugo. Would you go speak with Cedar about preparing funeral arrangements?”
Hugo nods. Turning to the party, he gives a short, "Thank you." and walks away.