Is the hymn seem to be about the Light? Or is it about another religon perhaps? Also as they get closer, are they wearing clothes local to the area, or do they seem to travel from another land? Such as TAKASHI?
You'll have to get up close to understand specific words and phrases, but it's nothing you've ever heard before during your time in learning under the Priests and Deacons of the Light.
It's hard to tell specifics, but they don't seem out of place. You'll have to get closer to get details.
You can see that there are 4 horses being ridden and a cart. As well as those simply walking.
TAKASHI: "They look relatively normal, I think. Let's approach and see what they have to say."
Just as Takashi says that, youi see Atacius stand up from the grasses (or at least you see the top of his head where you didn't see it before...) and he waves to you all. The farmers look a little surprised, the singing falters a little, but the occupant of the cart waves to Atacius.
As you get closer, you can see that they are all human, looking like rough dressed farmers or peasants. A mix of men and women. A couple of them are armed with clubs or daggers, but for the most part, they seem pretty harmless.
Four of them are on horses, and there is one cart with a driver and an old woman sitting in the back on a chair . An old woman... with piercing eyes and a soft almost baritone voice as she sings along with the rest.
"Hello travelers!" calls out the driver of the cart. "May the day bless you with all that it can!"
CALLIN calls back "Indeed, and may the day bless you with the Light as well! I am Callin Deacon of the Light, how are you this day?"
The driver of the cart pauses, looks back at the old lady, who has shifted around to see you all. She nods at your words. "And well met, Callin, Deacon of the Light. You are obviously on the way to Skalfier and my, my, so many weapons and armor among you all. Who be the rest of you?"
ATACIUS: "Mr. Lightfoot here. These are dangerous times to travel unarmed don't you think so? And you are...?"
"Mayhap" the old lady responds. "But a few of us can protect the rest and there's little here for the taking. Bandits don't bother us none, and if it be the will of the Gods for us to come to harm, then we'll face it and do what we can."
ATACIUS: "Could be, yes. But we still don't know who you are old lady.", the littleling grins.
TAKASHI: "Forgive the little one's impertinance, mam. Yes, we are armed, but we have no ill will but to those who wish to try and prey on us. You say that bandits do not bother you? That is interesting, as we were once part of a caravan set upon by bandits near this area, and were left for dead. Turned out to be an inside job, as they say, so perhaps that is why your travels have been fortunate.
Can you tell us anything of the road left to Skalfier, and any news from thereabouts or anywhere else?"
GRAIAN: Studies the old woman in the cart, there is something about her that makes him wary, he decides to watch her closely and let Takashi and Callin do the talking.
She answers TAKASHI next. "Well, thank you for that. And who be you?"
She grins at GRAIAN's skeptical look. "Oh, don't give me that look, kind elf. You've nothing to fear here, unless you bring something to fear within yourself."
She smiles back at ATACIUS. "As for you, impatient littleling, you just make me laugh! I love to meet up with your folk. Did you know there are quite a few of your folk in Skalfier, even one who manages to be respectable. Well, at least as respectable as he can be..."
"But my manners, my goodness. So since ye all seem a little suspicious, and no doubt why with a story of bandits! I am Mama Dee and I am one hunnit and ten years old. I well remember before the judgement of the Gods on Men visited us, and I am alive now after only by the will of the Gods."
"The bandits don't bother us none because of the Gods and because we simply do not interest them. Hard to rob someone when they have so little. We live in a small hamlet, why a bit of a day's travel to the east from here. We grow what we need, we barter for what we can't make or grow and if we can't do neither, then it's the will of the Gods and we do without."
"Now, would you be so kind to share your names with us?"
ATACIUS: "The guy with the battle axe is Takashi and the elf is Graian. That one over there is Oliphas, and he's Marceau.", he points at the rest of the guys.
"So, now that formalities have been met, what can you tell us about the road ahead and the lands around here? And who's this respectable littleling you mentioned?"
TAKASHI (under his breath, smiling): "Respectable AND littleling? Two words I never thought to hear mentioned together..."
ATACIUS: "Hey, I heard that! How many littlelings you know besides me? And I am respectable, right?", fists on his hips and chin held high.
TAKASHI: "I forget how sharp your hearing is, ATACIUS. To be frank, I have not known many of your kind in the past. I will leave it up to you to educate me on your people, culture, and potential for respectability, or lack thereof. Now, let's be good to these travelers and see what news they might have for us."
GRAIAN: Grins at the exchange and relaxes a little, this group seems to be what they say, but still strange things are happening in the world.
Mama Dee lets out a cackle and a laugh and continues to laugh until she's holding her sides and tears are practically coming out of her sides. The other travelers in the group smile and seem to relax a bit, but the driver continues to give CALLIN worried looks.
MAMA DEE: Oh my, that was just the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. Come sit with me a while, Master Lightfoot, share some water and bread that the Gods have seen fit to provide us with and I'll tell you all that I can about these parts.
Mama Dee motions to the rest. "We'll stop here for a bit, it was just about time for the mid day meal anyhows."
MAMA DEE: So... you want to know about these lands. Well, they're a harsh land. Wasn't always like that, days past, farms were around for days of travel, most of them sending food on to Ramathia. I even went that place when I was a child, oh, it was a sight! Anyhows, these days, it's a rough life, but we manage, thank the Gods for their grace and mercy. People mostly leave us alone and we don't bother nobody. Our little place is to the east here. I figure you already know that Skalfier is a bit south o' here, and the weather looks just right for you to see the city on the hills."
The travelers have laid out blankets while Mama Dee talks and they hand out hard rolls to everyone, including you all, and pass around crude pots of water, which smell and taste like clean, fresh water. Mama Dee breaks off some bread, drops it to the ground, pours water on it and mutters a few prayers. She then looks straight up at CALLIN.
"I reckon this probably makes you a bit quiet, doesn't it, Deacon of the Light. Mayhaps you are seeing things that you were taught were wrong or misguided. That does seem to be the Way of the Light -- that the Gods abandoned us or that they never existed in the first place? And that Man and Elf and Littleing (she grins at ATACIUS) and all the races have to find it within themselves to bring forth the miracles of life?"
ATACIUS, like a good littleling, would never say no to a free meal, no matter how meager it is, and sits next to the old lady.
Being next to her, he looks closely if she has any charms, rings, amulets, etc. Also, are the rest of her followers just believers or is there is someone who looks like a disciple or maybe bodyguard?
Mama Dee: She is wearing a simple one piece dress. She does seem to have quite a few charms on various necklaces and a few bracelets. It's nothing you're familiar with, in the way of deities. Virtually every civilized demi-human race thinks that the humans (and orcs and others) are slightly crazy for their religious beliefs.
As for the followers, the burliest seems to be the driver of the cart. He has been keeping a very wary eye on CALLIN for some reason.
You realize that Mama Dee's eyes "feel" like her soul is very deep, or she sees very far. It's probably a disconcerting effect for most people. The phrase "staring into one's soul" probably applies best.
CALLIN: "the Light shoes itself in many ways to many people. Yes it is true that I feel the gods have turned away from us. And yes it is true that we as people must do our part to be good, noble and loving. If people find themselves that way by paying to the gods, is off no matter to me. It still makes you good people on the inside, and that is what the Light strives for. "
Mama Dee looks at the driver. "Well, Cassius, bet you never thought you'd see the day. I told you there was change in the air."
"Cassius", the driver, nods wordlessly.
Mama Dee turns her piercing back to CALLIN.
"Well, Deacon of the Light, you're a surprise for sure and would that more of the folks who follow this Light thought as you. Most that we run into are too busy trying to knock down the pillars of the Gods in our hearts and turn our heads towards falsehoods. There can be good, and evil, inside us all, in fact, all of us have both. It is the Gods who've been abandoned, not men. We turned our back on the Gods. We thought we knew better. And now, we see the results of our iniquities. Our kingdoms lie in waste, our great and proud priests of falsehoods huddle in their temples of lies and try to pass off magic as miracles. But there are those of us who Remember! And we remember that the Gods give us the mercy and the grace, or the punishment, that we deserve."
TAKASHI: "Mama Dee, I hear what you are saying. However, I do believe that the gods do not control our every action, and as you mention, have provided us with the ability to choose to do good or evil. Unfortunately, there are those who chose evil, and it can affect those who have done little to warrant the atrocities that I have witnessed."
"Of course they did." Mama Dee replies. "The Gods doan have no interest in us if we're just puppets. No, we're the ones who decide, whether to live in the grace and glory of the Gods, all praise to them, or if we live in falsehood and lies, believing that the Gods are not worthy. Evil, good... those are all things the Gods play at and have given us the ability to do so as well. No, it's the idea of the Gods, or not following the Gods. That way is the way of Chaos. Of course, some of those Gods love to play at Chaos as well."
TAKASHI: "Yes, chaos does seem to describe very well the state of the kingdom, especially here on the outskirts. Thank you very much for the food, water, and hospitality, Mama Dee. We appreciate it."
"Of course, Takashi," Mama Dee answers. "Hospitality and welcome given reflects the grace and mercy of the Gods. And... I knew you'd be by. With him (she nods to CALLIN) and with the elf, but I'm more than happy to have known that this funny little one was coming! I had no idea how much fun this would be!"
ATACIUS: "Yes, yes, what Takashi said.", says the littleling with his mouth full. "Now, old lady, what can you tell me about this respectable kin of mine in Skalfier?", he continues after helping down th food with some water.
Mama Dee laughs in good natured amusement at ATACIUS. "I do like you, Mr. Lightfoot, you are untouched by the prejudice of Man and his ways. I know your kind think we're a bit... touched, right? But that doesn't mean that the Gods don't extend their grace to you. You remember that."
"As for your kin, there are quite a few of yours in Skalfier. The one I'm thinking of, oh, he loves to come and listen to stories and ask me all sorts of questions. He likes to collect ideas and facts like someone collecting butterflies. Hmmm... Not-a-bay-na I remember his name being. I like him too! He's got such a young, go-get-em energy about him!"
ATACIUS: "Well, I'd be happy to let him know we've met, old lady, and send him your regards.", he says cheerfully.
"As for the Gods, I don't know much about that. We just respect the environment we live in. If you're good to it, it is good to you. Simple, right?", he adds a bit more serious.
Mama Dee gets a thoughtful look. "Nothing is simple when it comes to the Gods, child. (as a note, you have heard her referring to others as "child" so this is not unusual. Plus, she's old) They have their will and it is up to us to follow it as we can, or choose."
ATACIUS: "Let's hope they respect those, who on their own free will, choose not to.", suddenly feeling his cheerfulnes being drained by all this deep and spiritual conversation.
"Anyway, where we can find you if we like to hear more fascinating stories of the days before? At that temple you mentioned? Where's that?"
Mama Dee pats ATACIUS's arm. "In a moment, little one... let's see what Callin and Cassius have to say first. Then I'll tell you, if it be the will of the Gods."
ATACIUS pouts like a child denied a sweet, but says nothing and look at his companions.
TAKASHI: "You knew we'd be by? Very interesting, Mama Dee. Did you see our meeting in a vision or dream?"
Mama Dee: "Oh, I guess you could call it a vision, but the Gods told me, of course."
GRAIAN: "Thank you Mama Dee for your hospitality. This is indeed interesting, when did the Gods tell youi of our arrival?"
Mama Dee: "You are most welcome. I always talk to the Gods, but today, we were at the temple.."
Cassius interrupts "Mama, NO! Don't tell them about the temple! They'll bring the Lightbringers!"
"Hush, dear." Mama chides Cassius. "T'will be alright."
"Mama, how can you say that?" Cassius responds, standing in what looks like a great deal of anger and fear. "You know what they do!"
The rest of the travelers start murmuring and some seem to be in agreement with Cassius. A few dark looks are shot towards CALLIN.
TAKASHI: "I have know CALLIN for the last several days, and I can say that he is not an intollerant soul. Perhaps your interactions with other priest of the Light has bee unfortunate. Please tell us of your concerns, and CALLIN can listen and then speak to his beliefs and actions in their regard."
Cassius turns towads Takashi. "Unfortunate when they've beaten one of ours for simply begging for coin and witnessing to the folks around Skalfier about the gods? Unfortunate when we've heard that they've been tearing down any altar or shrine at farms and then confiscating goods and treasure as "fines"? Unfortunate when we've heard of some people disappearing? Unfortunate when two of those bastards nearly ran over my sweet Cassie?!" his voice rises to almost a gutteral shout but he calms down when Mama Dee puts out her hand.
"The Gods work in mysterious ways, Cassius, and your Cassie will recover, be it the will and grace of them." she says. She looks back to Takashi and Callin. "But Cassius does speak the truth. You call it the Light, but it has become a Darkness to those who wish to keep to the old pacts and convenants."
Cassius nods and glowers, clearly upset. Several other of the travelers, including a woman in bandages and what looks like a crude cast on her arm, comes over to comfort him.
The meeting with the farmers/pilgrims ends well:
1. You are told about a group of men/women from Skalfier called "The Lightbringers" who seem to be dispensing a very active and heavyhanded method of conversion to the Light. Mama Dee says that a priest by the name of "Deneb" who recently arrived in Skalfier after being rescued from bandits is their leader. Their hamlet had a run-in recently with the Lightbringers.
2. Mama Dee says that you are welcome in their hamlet anytime. It is about an hour east of the main track from the Keep to Skalfier, and it's about a quarter day's walk from Skalfier to the hamlet.
3. Mama Dee, after some discussion and argument from Cassius, reveals that there is a temple to the old gods not far from Skalfier, almost three quarters's of a day's walk from Skalfier to the NW. She provides you with enough directions and a map that you can find it. She mentions that a bandit's camp that had been set up the previous spring seems to be abandoned now. It is said in Skalfier that a band of adventurers had cleared out bandits who had kidnapped some merchants - could be the same kidnapping of "Deneb" as well.
With that, the farmers depart, leaving you to finish your journey and see the sight of the city on the hills -- Skalfier -- spread in front of you. And with that, we'll pick up next week!