Seeing that there isn't going to be a misunderstanding upon first contact, Chuul follows the girls, dismounting to walk his horse through the stream, petting its head and mumbling softly to it, continuing to bond with the new beast.
Garren pats Celene on the neck. "Let's give them some entertainment. He reins her in a dozen yards from the ford and after the rest of the bastards are clear he spurs her to a run heading slightly to the right toward the narrowest part of the stream.
Estimated DC 10 (10 feet long jump with running start
Bonus +16 (+4 Str, +4 Run Feat, +8 for Speed of 50).
Kya is concerned about Oskav, who looks in no shape to cross this "supposedly" treacherous stream.
"Can you fly over?" she asks the dwarf. "If not I'll check if they have a bridge for you on the other side, or maybe a really steady horse. Don't worry though."
Oskav smiles and raises his hand, acknowledging Kya's offer. He calls out, "Yes, I imagine the halflings do have a safer place to cross."
"Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists." - H.L. Mencken
Avar, ever stoic, frees Zeelar for the time being. Silently wondering if its worth crossing the river he is quietly happy to wait with Oskav.
Garren is a competent enough rider so that he's able to jump Celene across the stream (albeit by choosing a narrower spot than where the ford crosses). He has an uncertain moment upon landing, as the steep bank on the opposite side begins to deform under his mount's hooves, but Celene manages to clamber to firmer ground, and he manages to keep his seat as she does so.
Alannah makes her way across the stream without incident, leading her horse. The two of them clamber out on the other side, cold but otherwise unharmed, and the bard sets to work using prestidigitation to dry off.
Kya isn't riding, and instead of wading the young woman leaps across the stream like a gazelle. It's only been a couple of days since the rest of you watched her flip-kick a rogue arrowhawk right out of the air, so this move surprises none of you; she lands safe and dry on the other side, and is waiting for Alannah by the time the bard has finished her crossing. But the tiny halfling child happened to be looking back at the strangers when Kya made her crossing. "Papa, Papa! One of the big people just flew across the river," she exclaims, her eyes like saucers.
"Aye, sweetling, they do that sort of thing. Don't you go trying to do the same, though, lest you fall in and learn how deep and cold the water is. Your uncle Eulan knows how to deal with the big people and their strange ways, so let's leave it to him," agrees her father, cheerfully and without looking back.
Chuul, meanwhile, is leading Sir Fluffernutter into the stream behind Alannah. But he doesn't fare nearly as well, even with the butt of his guisarme to help him stabilize himself; in fact, he barely manages to avoid taking a spill that would have left him soaked from head to toe. Behind him, Sir Fluffernutter isn't doing much better despite having four legs. Orc and horse alike come to a standstill in midstream, feet skidding on the slick stones that make up the streambed, until they regain their footing and continue onward.
"Oooh, the gray-skinned one with the big teeth almost fell! And so did his pony," squeals the child, sounding enthralled.
"It's a good job he was careful, then," comments Mr. H, quickening his step.
Seeing how close they came to falling over, Oskav congratulates himself for his resolution not to bother crossing the stream to socialize with a bunch of runty halflings. His horse's thoughts on the matter are inscrutable to us, and in any case they probably have more to do with the important business of finding an especially tasty patch of grass to try to eat.
Avar decides to wait a bit; cold doesn't usually bother the aasimar, but he's not really excited about drowning if he slips while he's wearing his armor, and like Oskav he's not interested enough in hobnobbing with the short folk to remove it, cross the creek, and then put it all back on again. He dismisses Zeelar, and settles down to wait alongside the morbid dwarf.
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
Kya looks around to see who flew across and spots Sir Fluffernutter struggling in the water.
She breaths a sigh once the horse makes it across safely.
"So whats the plan?" Kya asks. "Are you just gonna ask him for his bones? Did you bring a gift? Important people like when you bring them presents."
With Oskav and Avar chilling on the south bank of the stream, Alannah takes a few moments to use ''prestidigitation'' to dry herself, Chuul, and their horses, since the water really was very cold. Once they're no longer soaked to the skin and shivering, they follow after Mr. H.
But Kya's question is, in the end, rather a good one. What do you offer the bone collector who has everything (or maybe more pointedly, who has a specific bone that you want very badly)?
Alannah follows through the camp, carrying herself with the usual mix of haughty assurance and clueless nativity.
By the time Kya, Alannah and Chuul get to the camp, the halfling and his daughter have disappeared in amongst the tents. But you're definitely still under observation—there are armed halflings all over the camp, and they've nonchalantly drifted over to the perimeter of wagons. There's no trace of the jocular welcome you received at the Barnsley Lodge back in Winterhome; you're deep in the steppes, in halfling territory during a time of war.
Most of these people are relatively lightly armed: a leather jerkin, a scimitar or axe, maybe a javelin, bow, or even just a sling. They don't look alarmed to see you here, or even unfriendly.
But there's no chatter or laughter to be heard anywhere, and a burly, tall-for-a-halfling man is striding out to meet all of you. He's heavily bearded, with his hair drawn back and into a pair of long pigtails that have bells braided into them; his beard also is braided, with a hoop of carved bone or ivory at the end of that braid—which is a dwarven fashion, not a halfling one. Both hair and beard are glossy and black. His face shows a bit of weathering, which isn't a surprise given that these people obviously conduct most of their lives outdoors. And although he's not obviously clad in armor, he wears a very fine-looking scimitar and curved dagger at his waist. The hilts are both decorated with intricately carved ivory, and they look like a matched set. Other bits of carved bone, antler, and ivory are part of his attire, as well; offhand, you can see four or five bracelets and a brooch on his cloak.
"Lady Alannah, I think that's him." Kya whispers and gently nudges the bard.
Alannah takes a long look at the halfling approaching them and shifts her posture, dropping her mock courtier act. She strides forward to meet the halfling and calls out, "Eulan! Darragh told me you'd be hard to find, but I didn't think we'd ever catch up. We've come to meet with you and maybe kill some clemmies while we're hereabouts. But of more immediate interest -- we've ridden hard from Winterhome, could I and my comrades-in-arms beg of your hospitality and share your fire and perhaps a bit of ari?" She flashes him a hopeful but genuine smile.
The halfling points not quite in the opposite direction to that from which you have come, and observes, "Winterhome is that way." Resting his hand on the hilt of the ornate hilt of his scimitar, he adds, "Perhaps you should keep your distance for the moment, tall lady. Who might you be, you and your friends?"
Alannah blinks and huffs a bit, "Darragh lead me to believe you'd be a bit more friendly, but perhaps it was the ari talking. We did drink a lot. Anyway, my name is Alannah and this is Kya, Chuul, and Garren." She motions to each in turn. "Two more of our party are still waiting across the river ... they are afraid of the water. Or perhaps the halflings. Collectively, our group has been dubbed 'The Bastards', and I have no idea why, but it's possible you've heard of us, though I can't imagine why we'd be important enough to you to remember us or the name."
Having dismounted, Garren leaves his weapons with Celene, approaching toward the parlay without weapons. Unaware of the specific customs among the halfling tribes, Garren opts for what passes for courtesy among the humans. Showing his holy symbol of Derena, Garren adds, "Lord, you are correct that our path here has been less than direct. The lady I serve stands with those who fight for righteousness, and it is known everywhere that I have been that you and your people are fighting just such a war. Dark times draw other dark forces who seek to take advantage of the chaos and danger for their own purposes. Our hope is not to unnecessarily cause you fear for you will need all of your courage to face the dangers of the coming season. But you are not alone. While we are a small group, we have attained some level of notoriety for our work in defending the innocent. Toward that goal, we struck a mighty blow against the werewolf Berger Cole, and a wounded wolf is the most dangerous. Our main mission is to put an end to him once and for all, but in pursuit of that mission we have put our blades to use against the enemies of your people. We'd like a chance to share news, let you discern the truth of our words, and, Derena willing, pledge each other service in the battles to come."
After several long moments, Chief Barnstead mutters something under his breath. He's speaking his native tongue, which none of those listening can understand, but everyone recognizes Darragh's name. From the rhythm of what's being said, Garren think it's probably something in the nature of, "Darragh, you are such a fucker."
But his manners are better when he switches to Common and replies, "We don't see many outlanders this far east even in the best of times. And with a war on, I think you can see that we'd be a touch leery of unexpected visitors. So let's not pretend you came all this way to tell me a story about a wolf, have a cup of ''ari'' and make friends. You want something, and there's nothing wrong with being open about it."
Alannah replies, "Of course we want something. But make no mistake, it really is tied into that story about the wolf and we've got plenty of dislike for goblins and other foul things to travel much further than your camp just to end them." Alannah sighs, "But you are right. We came to see you because I am looking for a bone-carved charm and I've been told you are quite an expert and collector of such things. They were once part of a set and we were hoping you could help us find them. Darragh warned me that you were ... Ummm ... his words were, 'mad for your little bits of carved bone' and not to lead with that being our reason for coming out here. You'd never believe we'd come to find you to ask about carvings, so I hadn't planned on just being open about it until we got to talk a bit first." She shrugs, letting the halfling chief judge the truth of her words.
"Darragh said that, did he?" asks the halfling chieftain, sounding annoyed at his absent colleague. Without waiting for an answer, he goes on, resignedly, "Very well, let's hear about your bone carvings, since you've come all this way."
Alannah nods in appreciation, "Thank you. We've been looking for a number of carved bone charms. Originally, they were part of a necklace so they are about this size," she pauses to guestimate the size of the carvings by spanning her fingers. "Each one of the charms from the original set is a different animal. The necklace was magic and from what I can sense from the carvings that I've found, they still possess a lingering magical aura. Of course, there's much more about the necklace, why we're looking for its charms, and even how it ties into everything happening -- including why the goblins seem to be particularly active recently ... but the story is long. Let's sit and we'll be glad to tell you everything we know. And I'll bet you know some things that will help fill a few gaps in our knowledge as well."
"Lord, Alannah is more than capable of telling you everything you want to know," dropping his voice he mutters, "the real trick is getting her to stop," before he continues, "I am in service to Derena and am a capable healer. If there are any sick or ill, I will treat them to the best of my ability."
Eulan completely shifts his attention to Garren, and tells the cleric, "We're all healthy here, but if you're serious about wanting to help with this war, then I'll send you to a larger encampment that's mostly warriors. It's just a matter of time before there's pestilence there. You would save lives, enough to make a difference."
Alannah seizes the opportunity revealed by Garren, "A number of our party, including both Garren and myself, are capable of using magical healing and are knowledgable of mundane medicine. If we can satisfactorily conclude our business here, we could certainly aid the warriors in the other camp."