Ahead, the intrepid explorers see a wagon and draft horse. Lying nearby are two slain men. It appears that carrion birds have already descended upon the corpses, given the chunks of flesh ripped from their bodies.
Such a macabre sight definitely mars a rather beautiful spring morning.
Putrescence on Wings
If the party approaches, their advance will be halted by the sudden appearance of a huge, hideous bird that leaps from a nearby tree. Similar to a vulture, it has an elongated neck and an overall unflattering appearance. Its plumage and skin is a sickly purple. The avian's eyes burn with fury as it is keen on protecting its meal.
The bird has no interest in protracted melee, but it will lash out with its sharp beak in an attempt to deter the PCs from getting too close to the bodies. If hostilities do erupt and it is wounded, the bird will fly away and return when the pesky PCs are gone.
A character with the Animal Lore nonweapon proficiency (NWP) can diffuse the situation by shooing away the beast with a successful check. If the player asks what his character knows about the terrifying bird, call for another Animal Lore check, but this time apply a -2 penalty. If the roll is successful, the character will have heard of nightmarish vultures flying south from cursed Iuz. During the Greyhawk Wars, vultures native to Iuz grew to freakish proportions from feasting on the mountains of rotting flesh created during titanic battles. The bird flapping wildly before the group must be one of the Iuz-spawned vultures.
|Iuz Carrion Bird; Armor Class: 7, Hit Dice: 2+2, Hit Points: 14, THAC0: 19, No. of Attacks: 1, Damage: 1-4 (beak), Alignment: Neutral, Move: 3/24 flight, XP Value: 120|
Inspecting the Dead
When the party finally gains access to the bodies, they will note that the first man is wearing chainmail and that his longsword is still in its sheath. There are three arrows in his remains. If a character rolls under their Intelligence on a 1d20, he will note that the arrows are crudely made and typical of those used by orcs or goblins. The man's beltpouch is empty, but a set of keys are nearby.
The second man is wearing a filthy tunic and breeches. His feet and hands are bound with manacles. (The nearby keys fit the locks on the manacles.) He, too, appears to have been slain by arrows.
A Promising Lead
It does not require the Tracking NWP to note that multiple tracks lead off into the woods away from the wagon. A Ranger with goblin as his favored enemy will immediately realize that his hated foe has left many of the footprints.
If the party wishes to follow the trail, the Tracking NWP will have to be used. (Please see the PHB for more details. Also note that Rangers have this ability as part of their class benefits.) An additional, successful Tracking check will reveal that the group that left the tracks is comprised of 10-12 goblins and three humans.
To model the carrion bird, I suggest the Lamia Kuchrima, which is #17 in the Rise of the Runelords series from Pathfinder Battles. The slain men can be represented by the Inhabited Corpse from the Savage Encounters expansion of D&D Miniatures.
In the next installment the goblins and their captives will be detailed.