Markelhay strides into the room, tall but walking slow as if his joints pained him. His face is as hard and impasive as ever. After gathering a small breakfast he joins in the conversation. "I believe I have mastered the fortuitous ritual our good professor left me. I shall cast it and spend at least the morning going over the book. If there is other time I will look around the room, see if I cannot turn up anything new."
Leoben, having apparently decided that the table was a much better place to sleep than the couch, has fallen into a semi sleeping state, waving his arm in the air when he feels it's his turn and mumbling something about helping Markelhay when he feels awake and visiting the tavern later on.
Before you head out, Kendra also gives you a grocery list you should get at the general store if you want to keep eating at her place.
Januarius sets off to see the children and soon finds several of them with Old River (the dog) at the town square. Three boys are playing catch with the dog while a group of five little Varisian girls dressed in shawls and dresses are playing a skipping rope game. Each of the girls takes turns jumping in the rope, then skips out of the rope to let the next girl take up the next two lines. the way in which the girls switch from skipping to passing the ends of the rope to each other to keep the whole thing going is strikingly well timed and well choreographed - and the verse itself is rather disturbing as they sing:
"Put her body on the bed. Take a knife and lop her head.
Watch the blood come out the pipe. Feeds the stirge, so nice and ripe.
Drops of red so sparkly bright. Splatters spell her name just right.
With a hammer killed his wife. Now he wants to claim your life.
Tricksy father tells a lie Listen close or you will die."
As Januarius approaches, they stop playing and stand quietly and nervously, not really sure of what to expect of him.
Add a social skill check to get them to talk to you.
(If somebody else wants to join a scene feel free to join. If you want to go somewhere else, please tell me too. We can also already start scenes that should happen later in the day (e.g. the farmers as they come from the fields to eat at midday).)
Professor Markelhay meanwhile settles down with the book ... and groans as the ritual finally enables him to understand the words but doesn't yet reveal the secret of the book because what he's reading is gibberish. It's been clearly written in code!
I'd say a straight intelligence check to decipher?If you've got another idea of what skill could apply and how, tell me.
Jack, and whoever decides to go with him, look into the tavern (C), which is situated in a side street off the town square and has another of the posting poles (B) standing in front of it.
Reading the menu displayed at the entry is, to say the least, bizarre. There's vampire steaks on offer, as well as wolfballs and corpse chowder if you've got a little hunger. And liquid ghosts are advertised as special today in the drinks section.
Pushing the door, you find yourself in a comfortable tavern, which a decoration matching the weird menu. There are skulls and bones hanging from the rafters (papier-maché on closer inspection) as well as large jack-o-lanterns providing illumination.
Behind the bar, occupied with cleaning glasses (engraved with stylized ghosts) stands a jovial man who exclaims, "Now, you're early risers! Come in, tell papa Zokar what he can serve you!"
It takes the Professor several hours of labour to first figure out the code, then to translate enough of the book to understand what it is about.
The book’s contents seem strangely out of place compared to the other texts Lorrimor has especially commanded to your care. While it contains detailed descriptions of a number of ancient ceremonies, both magical and mundane, they are more concerned with purely arcane or mathematical topics and have very little sinister about them at all. It seems to be some sort of instruction manual for members of the Order of the Palatine Eye - a secretive groups with members taking a keen interest in the arcane and politics. After all, several of Ustalav's nations are in fact Palatinates. He gets the strong suspicion that either the Professor or the judge you are to deliver the book to, or both, are members.
(Think freemasons and similar groups for a real-world reference and inspiration.)
Having realized he'd be no use to Markelhay in his current state, Leoben decides to go to the tavern in the hopes of finding something to pick him up a bit. Sitting down in front of the bar he nods to the tavern keeper.
"Too early if you ask me, but we've got some things we have to do today... Got anything that'll wake me up a bit?"
Lorrimor has forgone marking the manual of the order in any way. As he's liberally marked his own books, you get the impression that this one isn't really his own and only on loan from the judge.
Ancient Osirion was a land to the far south, reputed for his semi-divine rulership, great pyramids and unforgiving desert sands which still exists today as the much smaller nation of Osirion. There's not really a link between the Palatine Eye and Osirion - but Ancient Osirion is a good language to code something you don't want to be read in as, even without the code, there are few people today who can actually read it without the employ of rituals.
The Professor also hasn't noted anything down on the Order of the Palatine Eye, which, in your mind, confirms your suspicion that he was actually a member because otherwise his natural curiosity would certainly have led him to investigate it further and take liberal notes on the subject. You do find a few obscure references in the large library he's maintained, but other than vague conspiration theories. The most popular are that Ustalav is in fact ruled by the Order of the Palatine Eye; that the Order worships, depending on whom you believe, Mathematics, Devils, Archangels or the Dark Tapestry; that there are lodges scattered throughout Ustalav; that the founder of the Order is the Whispering Tyrant, or Aroden, or Norgorber, or the First Vampire Lord and finally that the Order seeks enlightment through studies of the profane and rejects gods ... or maybe that they worship the God of Magic and seek to prove that event he profane is divine.
"Sure, what do you want? Piss of Vampire Maidens or Essence of the Waking-Death?" replies Zelkar with a twinkle in his eyes. He waits a few moment, savouring your reaction to that answer, then adds with a wink, "But maybe you know it better as tea or coffee?"
Once you've made your choice, he asks, "So, what brings you here? I heard you were at the funeral of the old man? Shame really."
"Coffee, if you please. Yeah, I was at the funeral. Late but at least I made it before he was buried. He was a good man, and a good teacher. I'm gonna miss the guy... I heard there was a bit of trouble with someone by the name of Gibs before that though, do you know anything about that?"
Zelkar rolls his eyes at that, "Yeah, the old fool was here yesterday the evening before the funeral. He and some farmers lads drank quite a few rounds of liquid ghost - beer to you - and got it into their head that the Professor's dead was somehow responsible for Fred getting bitten by stirges." He shakes his head. "You know, put enough beer into them and they'll just get stupid ideas. I'm just surprised they actually put it into action for once ... but then Fred was in pretty bad shape, well actually still is, and they were looking for somebody to blame. Maybe I should have kept serving them ghosts instead of turning them out early - they'd still have been sleeping them off this yesterday morning instead of making trouble."
Sipping at his coffee and shivering at the warmth of the cup, Leoben gets lost in his thoughts for a moment but manages to listen to Zelkars story. Leoben's ears perk up at the sound of them making trouble.
"Wait wait, what do you mean trouble last morning? Did something happen?"