A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    At high tide, the party boards a dinghy, which takes them down the calm Scar to the Nose for Gold. By this time, night has descended upon the land. The shield of Reinarra is slowly waning as the shield of Almahara grows ever more bright. The Nose for Gold is a small craft but one that seems very fast. The winds propel the ship forward, out into the Ruby Channel. The ship scurries off into the middle of the channel, so as to avoid some of the more treacherous rocky outcroppings that plague the coastline between Blackvale and Micklewaif. The sailors keep their distance from the party, claiming it is bad luck to have an Elf aboard when sailing so close to Foulbone. The Captain tells them to sod off and get back to work but the ugly stares Silith receives are ever the reminder of her status as an outsider in a society dominated by humans.

    The Captain offers to share her private compartment with the five heroes, as a token of friendship and goodwill. The trip is quiet and serene, which stands in stark contrast to the last few days that were positively chalked full of events, happenings and adventure. Captain Dagtrise takes a great interest in the Jester, commenting that she has heard tales of him before, especially from the east, around Deepoath and the Troglands.

    After a day and a half of sailing, the party boards a dinghy and ventures up the Spit of Gnorgon, which is a large estuary fairly similar to the Scar in Blackvale. Along the coasts the party spies man hovels and huts, with many a human and dwarf tilling the fields. Gnomes dressed in opulent clothing oversee the work of the humans and dwarves, all the while being protected by no less than three Gnomes wearing chainmail and bearing halberds.

    "The Gnomes are the head of society, while Humans and Dwarves form the bottom. As in Blackvale society in Micklewaif is divided between those who have power and those who do not. Unlike Blackvale, Micklewaif is a fairly diverse realm, fully two thirds of the population are non-Gnomes. Humans and Dwarves are tied to the land as serfs. They till the fields and tend to the animals for their Gnomish betters. By law and tradition, no Human or Dwarf is allowed to have a position of power within the realm, so unlike Blackvale, serfs can never obtain freedom or advance themselves."

    As the group looks on as Humans and Dwarves farming, they can see that everyone of them, from the adults to the children, have had their foreheads branded. When asked about this, the Captain nods, "All Humans and Dwarves in Micklewaif are branded at a young age. This marks them - for life - as a serf. It is how the Gnomes are able to keep hold over their population and prevent serfs from intermixing (and leaving) with Human and Dwarven visitors, much like yourselves. That brand is what ensures you have free passage in Micklewaif and are not picked up by serf catchers and sent to work in a farm or some Gnome's estate."

    When asked if this implies that the serfs are really slaves by another name, Dagtrise shakes her head, "That is not for me to say, really. I am sure a serf who cannot leave the area around his farm - as is normal in Blackvale - feels very much like a slave in comparison to freemen like yourselves."

    As the party continues up the Tongue, a massive seventy foot tall head appears on the horizon. The head was carved directly into the side of a mountain. The large nose and thick eyebrows of the man's head easily identify him as a Gnome. The Gnome's mouth is half open, spilling out of which is a dirty light brown river. The water cascades down the mountainside, forming the headwaters of the Spit of Gnorgon.

    "The estuary is formed by the river that flows out of the Illustrious Gnorgon's Head! The name finally makes sense, doesn't it?"
    After admiring the find craftsman ship of the carving, the Captain states, "That there is Gnorgon Rubyvein. Long ago, he was a courtier in the Imperial Court. It is said, the Forgefather Emperor desired to have a crown entirely from rubies. At that time rubies were incredibly rare, only being found in distant, inhospitable locations, and almost always in small quantities. Ever the intrepid explorer, Gnorgon scoured the Western Reach for any and all rubies he could find. His ship ran aground near the Spit."

    "Legend tells that he was guided by a vision from St. Ulfreda (the patron saint of discovery) up this very mountainside and to an ancient, long abandoned pixie mine. There within, Gnorgon discovered the largest deposit of rubies and other gemstones ever discovered the the whole Imperium. Taking ten sacks-full of rubies with him, he managed to construct a raft and headed across the channel to Songwillow Isle, where the native Elves were able to help him find a ship that could take him back to the Imperial Capital. It is said the Forgefather was so pleased with his ruby crown that he gave Gnorgon complete control over the mine and promised to conquer the surrounding land to help secure the deposit in the name of the Empire. About thirty years later, Forgefather Emperor Rikard IX's fleet ran around on Bastion Isle and thus the slow conquest of the archipelago began."

    As the party nears Gnorgon's mouth she continues, "Ole' Gnorgon set up the Imperial Ruby Company to run his mine and ensure maximum profits. Everyone involved in the project - all of them kinsfolk - become immeasurably wealthy. Micklewaif stands as a living tribute to Gnorgon's foresight, devotion and business acumen. Merchants come from the world around to barter for rubies and other gems."

    A dock has been constructed some three hundred feet from the waterfall. Humans and Dwarves (all branded) help offload dinghies. A particularly lavishly attired Gnome waddles over to the dock. He checks a piece of parchment then states, "Before you may venture into the Illustrious Ear," your eyes gaze upward and see a cobblestone road that meanders up the hillside and into the head's ear, "I will need for each of you to complete a simple battery of questions. Simple and easy. Lying is prohibited under pain of finger removal (we start with the pinky).

    Question one, what is your full name.

    Question two, from which realm/city/nation do you hail?

    Question three, where you were born?

    Question four, where do you currently live? If no where, please list the last location you stayed at other than a ship.

    Question five, why you have come to the City of Rubies?

    Question six, have you come to the Shimmering City on a Head by invitation of a citizen?

    Question seven, do you swear under penalty of tongue removal to not support any peasant uprisings?

    Question eight, do you swear under penalty of foot removal to abide by the laws of Micklewaif?

    Question nine, under penalty of eye removal, do you swear to never enter any of the Rubyvein mines, be they the central shafts or their tributaries?

    Question ten, do you swear, under penalty of death, that you are not now or never have been a serf in service to the Masked Council or any of its operatives?

    Question eleven, do you swear under penalty of toenail removal that you are not now and never shall be a Kobold, be you in service to the great enemy of the free peoples of Cloudheart (Rueserond) or in service to another dragon (be they otherwise benevolent or malevolent)?

    Question twelve, do you swear under penalty of ear removal that you have not, are not and will not smuggle contraband into Micklewaif (including but not limited to dragon piss, stag horn shavings, so-called liberation pamphlets, crimson-colored caps, artifacts that were illegally seized from a citizen of Micklewaif, etc.).

    Question thirteen (and stay with me, this is the final question), do you swear, under penalty of one week in the stocks, to enjoy your stay in Micklewaif."
    Last edited by Felhammer; 2015-01-22 at 03:36 AM.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Halbrecht

    After the party boarded the Nose for gold and set up their rolls in the captain's cabin, Halbrecht briefly pulled Ash aside.

    "Do you still have energy enough to talk? If so, I did have one thing I needed to say before the day was out, but it's no big deal if you don't."

    Spoiler: If Ash says 'Yes'...
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    Pulling Ash into a more quiet area of the ship, Hal spoke.

    "Originally, this was going to be a lot more dramatic. I'd bluster and stuff, try to hammer the point into the ground. But after everything, I realized that'd be rather pointless. So I'm just going to say this." Hal placed a hand on Ash's shoulder.

    "Please don't put yourself in a position where I can't help you without breaking the law again. If you'd died today in that duel, I..."
    Hal looked down and shook his head, not able to make eye contact. "I don't know what I would have done."

    Spoiler: If Ash says 'No'...
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    Halbrecht paused a moment, looking a little sadly at his friend.

    "That's alright. It was nothing important, anyway."
    The Starless Knight gave Ash a pat on the shoulder. "Pleasant dreams, Ash."

    Once everything had settled down, Hal retreated to his bedroll and pulled off his armor, sitting back and relaxing in a pair of breeches and nothing else. Tilting his head back, he thought over the events of the past couple weeks.

    I've come so far. We all have, really. I've made actual friends, made up with an old one from my past, become a publicly recognized hero... And yet, the Lord of Nightmares still looms over the horizon. I wonder... if the worst happened tomorrow, and we all died. What would the history books say about us? How would we be remembered?


    A long time passed. Eventually, Halbrecht scrabbled around for some parchment and a quill, and, lighting a candle, began to write.
    Today has been an interesting day. Since I wrote that missive to you earlier this morning, a lot has happened. One of us was challenged to a duel to the death, nearly won, and then the other side saw fit to cheat - a noble from Vyolinna. He was in turn convicted, and I was given the dubious honor of executing him. It was at that point I realized how many times we've all come close to death, and how fragile life is.

    As such, I've decided something. If the worst should come to pass, and the other Heroes of the Maw and I should fall in the line of duty... Please. Have someone carry on our work. Make sure that the truth is told. Make sure everyone hears the story of the...

    Warriors of Blackvale
    Spoiler: Part 1: Origins
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    Chapter 1: A Knife in the Dark

    Our story truly began on the 13th of Toukrei, one cold Spring morning. I had just been transferred three days prior, on the 10th of Toukrei, right before the Festival of Rainbows and Radishes began. Sir Hessmarch, in his infinite wisdom, believed that I was far too ignorant of the world outside the immediate area around Highblack, and wished me to become more familiar with the land I have sworn to guard. Little did I know at that point that I would quickly grow to be very, very familiar with it indeed - and, perhaps, even with the lands around it.

    It was early in the morning, just before the sun rose. I was sound asleep in Dogpine, my skin scrubbed clean of rainbow paint and my stomach full of radish dumplings, when all of a sudden a bell tolling roused me from my sleep. Quickly pulling on my chainmail and grabbing my father's sword and shield, I joined the other knights, as well as what must have been the entire population of Blackrock, in the town square. Mere hours before, a scream had apparently rent the quiet night air, as a poor undine woman named Fenoka was brutally stabbed in the stomach and killed, along with her unborn child. The only clue lay with her two children, who had escaped the murderer's wrath: She was an undine female with blue hair, and just before stabbing her with her jagged knife, she had said: "This is for sleeping with my husband, you cow!" Commander Solvald, the local commander of the Rangers, had rounded up all the undine in town, and ascertained that four of their women were missing, but had been unable to get their husbands to speak out against any of them. He thus took a rather drastic action: All of Blackrock was divided into posses of five to eight people, and sent out into the surrounding area to search for signs of the murderer. One such posse would turn out to uncover not only the murderer, but a whole conspiracy that, if I am correct, runs across the entirety of Blackvale, and perhaps all the Isles of Rimecroft. This group consisted of the following:


    • Silith Amastine, a half-elf from Songwillow and a member of the Rangers.
    • Aisha Silverlight, a visiting falconer who, as it would later turn out, was actually half silver-dragon.
    • Ash d'Oscine, an arcane warrior with a key hand in rapier and song.
    • Lucyen Torchlord, a magician who, as I understand it, is apparently descended from some sort of noble family.
    • Melinda, a woman who I know almost nothing about, as she did very little of consequence in the end.
    • Anrika Ruinlord, a very annoying and spoiled noblewoman.
    • And, of course, myself, Halbrecht, a cavalier in the service of the Starless Knights.


    It had been about an hour, perhaps two, when Silith and I spotted wolf tracks in the dirt, as well as another one of the posses five miles off. Only a few minutes later, following those tracks, we came to the coast of the Ruby Channel - along with the footprint of a Hill Giant, and the snoring of the same coming out from a cave know to the locals as the Maw. Creeping up on the cave, we intended to take the giant by surprise, but were quickly thwarted, as Luc, tired of Anrika's advances, informed her that he was not the wealthy noble she thought him to be. She quickly threw a tantrum before stomping off back to Blackrock, alerting no less than four dire wolves to our presence in the process. Thinking quickly, Aisha sent a falcon to Blackrock to request aid from the Starless Knights, and Ash went to wait for them, while I was sent to grab the other posse we had seen off in the distance. And so it was that I gathered the help of the ranger Konthor the Bluefingered, and Sir Ulfred, also of the Starless Knights, was summoned to help. With their help, we quickly eliminated the dire wolves, and found a bloody foot print the shape of a woman's fashionable boot near the cave entrance. We had found our murderess.

    Taking a quick look inside, Silith found several wolves, the Hill giant, and a posse of orcs, along with the undine, who was dressed in a sorceress' garb. Carefully creeping inside, I led the charge, and battle was joined. At first, it went disastrously - the undine fascinated several of our company, including myself, and the giant nearly killed Aisha. However, I was able to snap out of it long enough to wound and distract the creature, at which point Aisha dealt the killing blow, nearly splitting its skull in two with a swipe of her mighty falchion. The sorceress fled via teleportation, and dealing with the stragglers proved simple enough, with only one of their number surviving to surrender. Sir Ulfred then 'interrogated' it while the other members of the posse and I scoured the cave, finding several valuable items and magical artifacts, along with swords and coins from Deepoath. In turn, Ulfred found out a few tidbits of information: The sorceress' name was Baavesi, and she had united the tribe via enchantment magic. A dwarf had brought the coins and swords, but he knew little else. While Ulfred and Konthor rode ahead to alert Commander Solvald of their findings, along with Melinda (who had watched the horses) the rest of the party and I followed behind, taking a more leisurely pace after the battle. Still seething a little after losing the sorceress, it was then that we came upon Anrika and an elderly gentleman, having tea in the middle of the plain.

    In retrospect, I should have immediately suspected something was amiss, but I did not. It was Ash who first thought that something was awry, and when she went to look for magic, the old man revealed himself to be none other than Baavesi, magically disguised. She had mind-controlled Anrika, and ordered her to kill my horse, Adamant. While the others held her down, I charged after Baavesi, and swiftly managed to knock her unconscious. Anrika, then free of her control, threatened to tell Sir Ulfred on us for being incompetent, but I was able to persuade her to simmer down somewhat. When we arrived back in Blackrock, Sir Ulfred then brought us before Duke Garl Onyxlord of Blackrock, who I related our tale to. He then rewarded us each with 3000 Crowns, a magical skunk-fur bag that could carry equipment without getting heavier, and a magical key to his summer retreat, the Onyx Lodge. He also paid for all five of us (Myself, Silith, Aisha, Ash, and Luc) to stay at the Immortal Angel Inn in Blackrock through the 1st of Heinalma, and announced that week from that day, he would hold a grand masquerade ball in our honor at his home, on the 19th of Toukrei.

    Chapter 2: A Deadly Masquerade

    It was during that week, of course, that I sent off a letter telling of what I'd achieved to Sir Hessmarch. Then, a few days later, I got not one, but two messages - one from Sir Hessmarch, and one from you. I, of course, readily accepted your invitation to dinner, which would end up not happening for a grand total of four days later, on the 23rd. In the meantime, I had Sir Hessmarch's message to deal with: Unlike most messages I'd received from him, it was written in a mixture of several languages I could not understand, and contained a phrase 'Beware of Troglodytes Bearing Gifts' which I did not understand the significance of. Looking to Ulfred for advice, he suggested I might seek out the Ronnish ambassador at the ball, since one of the languages was that of the ancient merfolk.

    Eventually, the 19th of Toukrei, and the ball, came. You were delayed, and, as it turned out, sent on what turned out to be a deadly mission by Lord Gray, Duke Onyxlord's herald. The rest of the Heroes of the Maw and I, as the people had begun to call us, showed up at the ball, Luc and I dressed in fine suits and Ash, Silith and Aisha in rather stunning dresses. We were treated to a rather elaborate show, with magic and dancing, outside the house, and then allowed in to begin dancing and mingling. I first sought out the Ronnish ambassador, and then Lord Gray - who, upon reading my coded message, claimed that it revealed Sir Hessmarch was part of a group of kingkillers called the Cabal, and that it was instructions for me to try and poison him. He then said you were part of it, as well, at which point I began running around like a headless chicken trying to find where you'd gone. Other things happened, of course, but when the evening truly picked up steam was when two people, one of them Ash's date for the night, was found murdered. The Duke led us to his personal army, during which time yet another person was found murdered. Then, once we got outside, the gargoyles on the room were animated to start walking around magically, and illusory smoke began rising from the chapel of Yasgaram. Then, out of nowhere, an invisible assassin stabbed Aisha thrice in the gut, exclaiming - "This is for sleeping with my husband, you cow!". Before it could do anything else, however, Silith cut it down in two hard strokes - at which point it was revealed to be none other than Baavesi!

    After talking amongst ourselves, we determined that Aisha was not married, and had not slept with anyone, but had been invited to the ball by the Duke, who denied ever having been married. We then descended into the dungeons to try and examine Baavesi's cell for clues - only to find that she was still there, very much alive! And, apparently, had gained the ability to talk once more, despite the fact that the Duke had had her tongue cut out. When questioned, she claimed that it was a favor from an entity known as the Lord of Nightmares, but said no more - until Ash enchanted her mind. At that point, she was more forthcoming, and revealed a few interesting facts. Each of the victims was, according to her, a former or potential lover of His Grace, killed in revenge for intruding on the Lord of Nightmares' and His Graces' marriage. His Grace, of course, denied ever being married. The duplicate had been created when a guard, attempting to rape her, was implanted with a shard of Baavesi's dark soul. Just when we were about to ask who the Lord of Nightmares was, however, the dark magic that had given her her tongue dissipated, the muscle dissolving in a flood of dark bile. Angered by her accusations, Duke Onyxlord gave us each the title of investigator, and ordered us to get to the bottom of the mystery.

    Chapter 3: Rise of Nightmares

    While the rest of my companions spent the night back at the Immortal Angel, I was left to spend the night in a cold, dark room at the Duke's Manor. My only comfort was that, as I laid down on my cot, I found your hand mirror, a message inscribed on its reflective surface. It was the thought that you were alive and free that comforted me, even as I woke shivering from the cold on the 20th of Toukrei. Discussing what to do over breakfast, I found that during the night, Luc had apparently vanished, with the others not having seen him since the ball. Talking things over, the rest of them and I decided to head to Darkpoint, as we had heard from the guards at the dungeon that there were rumors of battle and an explosion there the night before. On our way to the town, we were beset by a bandit by the name of Sanik Warrain. With a quick bit of persuasion from Aisha and some timely knowledge from Silith, we negotiated a ceasefire, as apparently Sanik is an old friend of one of the friends of Duke Onyxlord (King Derek Hopeskin, if you're curious). In passing, he revealed that he'd come across an Undine and an otherwordly being talking a while back, and with coin and persuasion, we got him to share what he knew. What he knew, if true, would strike at the core of Blackvale. He confirmed that the nightmarish being, a writhing tentacled monster, was the Lord of Nightmares, and that it appeared to be feminine. It spoke the ancient language of the merfolk, and had commanded Baavesi to carry out the killings, as well as plunder some nearby Rhasian ruins. More importantly, however, Sanik had overheard that the Red Prince and Algas Ebonlord, Duke of Newblack, had a secret alliance, and that the orcs and giant we'd seen were but a pittance of the Lord of Nightmare's forces. Very worrying indeed.

    Parting ways, we eventually arrived at Darkpoint. The town, such as it was, was half-ruined, with signs of a recent attack. According to one of the local Friars, Friar Onnelinnen, the damage was old, dating back from the war, but the dire wolf corpse being hauled out of the moat was not. According to him, a man dressed in black armor with a red demon mask had attacked the town the previous night with a pack of dire wolves. According to local gossip, it was none other than the Red Prince, attacking our lands once more. Regarldess of his true identity, he had ravaged and killed everyone inside a nearby orphanage - as well as two Starless Knights and a Dusk Raven who had dared intervene.

    I will confess to you now. When they told me that the dead Dusk Raven matched your description, I could hardly breathe, hardly think. And you may think me callous and heartless, for that poor dwarf woman still died a horrible death, but I nearly broke down in tears of joy when I found it was not you after all. I prayed to Almahara right then and there that, if you were still alive, to grant me the power to save you and avenge the deaths of the fallen. A small spark came from the top of the chapel and landed on my nose right then and there - and proved to be the key to turning the tide. Even now, every hour, I thank the goddesses that you lived, and that I was able to say sorry and rekindle our friendship. More importantly, I hope that your dead compatriot rests in peace, where-ever her soul lies now.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself. After visiting the chapel, we visited the nearby Mans belonging to one Lord Rallot, on whose grounds the orphanage was built. While Ash talked to the townsfolk and Silith investigated an eagle that had been following us around all day (thinking that it might be a druid, who could hopefully help her locate her missing sister Pi), Aisha and I investigated the ruins of the orphanage. Around the orphanage, I found tracks of what I now know to be the monsters known as Xill, as well as many footprints and dire wolf tracks. I will confess now that I should have been more careful, but I had not thought that the orphanage could possibly contain anything harmful. I was quickly proven wrong when, as I opened a trapdoor leading to the basement, a huge Dire Wolf leapt out and knocked me prone, its jaws snapping at my neck. It was only the quick work of Aisha that saved my life, as she struck down the beast just as Ash and Silith arrived. Then, however, the Dire Wolf came back to life, reanimated what I can only assume to be your life energy, for as it rose I heard your screaming coming from the basement. Quickly, we struck it down again and rushed inside before it could re-animate - and then I saw you. Hanging from the cieling, suspended over the pentagram, possessed by the Lord of Nightmares herself, and guarded by five undead disguised as children. The battle was fierce, and we nearly lost before, at last, Almahara granted me the power to heal myself and the others - and inspiration struck me to disrupt the pentagram, at which point the wolf and children were ripped apart and transformed into a hideous undead abomination. But, as they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and the four of us were able to dispatch it in no time. As it fell, the Lord of Nightmare screeched about how this was a ritual that could only take place every thousand years, and how it would have given her an avatar in this world, and how we would all rue the day we crossed her. In a blind panic, I rushed to your unconscious body, seeing you were barely alive. With only a few words more, I picked you up and left the basement, the skies above Blackvale turning to pouring rain.

    Spoiler: Part 2: Awakening
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    Chapter 4: Shadow Over Newblack

    On the 21st of Toukrei, the morning after we fought the undead monstrosity, you awoke at last with the dawn, and I fully admit that at that time I could not contain my tears - I was simply so happy that you were alive and, for the moment, as well as you could be. Once you had fallen asleep again, I went outside, and for the first time in a very long time, I looked out at the sunrise and truly felt happy - like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Quickly, I called the rest of the party to order. Having exhausted our options in Darkpoint, I reasoned that Newblack would be the best place to go next, as we needed to investigate the rumors of an alliance between the Red Prince and Duke Ebonlord, hire someone to fill the gap left by Luc, and find a way to heal you. It was also at that point in time that, rather than it being a simple appelation by the people, we ourselves finally adopted the name 'The Heroes of the Maw'.

    As much as I wish I could say it were so, our journey to Newblack was much less uneventful than I would have liked. As we made to cross the River Green, we met the Goldlittle Tribe of Ratfolk, whom we traded with - only for them to be beset by the Defenders of the Righteous, the militant arm of the church. On top of all that, a rather shady-looking Undine began dragging off one of them. I managed to convince them to spare the Ratfolks lives, but Aisha, furious at their deeds, called them out. It was then that she let something slip - 'It is you, the delusional, of which my mother seeks solace from the realm of mankind.' That is when I first suspected that she was something other than human, but I would not find out the truth until a day later. In any case, Silith downed the shady undine, who exploded into black bile and corrupted a nearby squirrel and fish. Turning, the Defenders of the Righteous agreed to cease fighting and focus on them if we would surrender ourselves afterwards. Having no other choice, we agreed. Luckily, their leader, one Matron Isela, let us go - but not before revealing a few interesting tidbits.


    • The Rangers, House Sablelord, and House Songlord are all apparently investigating the Lord of Nightmares.
    • The Matron had fought the Lord of Nightmares before, during the Valtameri crusade.
    • In our travels, the Matron prophesied we would meet an excommunicated priestess by the name of Valheita, who would share secrets that would brand us heretics and enemies of the realm.


    It was dusk when we finally reached Newblack, and we found rooms at a local inn, the Merry, Merry, Half-Empty Stein. It was also there that we met the woman who would become the next member of our group: Fare, a rather mysterious druid. Having spotted her on our way into town, Silith decided to ask her if she knew any Druids of the High Summer - as I have briefly alluded to before, Silith is searching for her sister Piwiel, who ran away to join them. Fare, in turn, asked her if she knew a tall blonde man by the name of Ulrik, who I suspect killed one of her family (however, I have no evidence for this, other than an offhanded comment she made a day later). When I came across them chatting, I mentioned that we still needed to find another spellcaster or healer for our group - at which point Fare offered her services. She has been with us ever since. Additionally, we found out from the bartender that both the Vanara Brone, who Silith seeks in hopes of finding her sister, and Ulrik, the man Fare seeks, had passed through recently, indicating the former went to Micklewaif and the latter to the Rookery, the home of the Dusk Ravens in Newblack.

    The 22nd of Toukrei, the first day Fare was a full member of the group, started off well enough. Aisha and Silith went shopping, while the rest of us went and took you to the Cathedral of Autumn Wind to get healed by the alchemist, Dullet Freemanson. I got Sonbahar's insignia drawn on my forehead, and a cure for you, bless that man. As we went to exit the gates of Newblack, however, we ran into trouble. I hate to confess this, but... In my rage, I escalated the situation more than I should have. A bunch of crooks were assaulting a pregnant undine, threatening to slice her open and kill her child. Rather than talking them down, I tried to intimidate them, failed, and we got into a fight - and on top of that, I forgot, in my anger, to specify non-lethal takedowns. Two of them were killed, one by Aisha and another by a spell, I think it was Ash's. The leader I knocked unconscious. On top of that, the fight drew the ire of a rather pacifist priest with a prominent position in the clergy, one Ilari Hermitson, who commanded that Ash (who had mouthed off to him during the fight) should go and fetch one of the thug's sisters and bring her to the Cathedral of Naked Wind Dancing. Luckily, the Starless Knights who reported to the scene, Stags and Prongs Matkason, were a bit more reasonable. In exchange for letting us off the hook, they extracted a promise from us not to incite the gangs furthers, and to help them with a problem.

    Apparently, the previous night, a local serial killer known as the Ratfolk flayer had struck, killing and skinning several ratfolk near the town of Walton. We were tasked to investigate the matter, and arrived midway through the morning to find a young man named Dalgon Farmerson digging their graves. In between him making very poor attempts to flirt with Silith and Silith making sarcastic comments about how everyone in Songwillow walks around naked, we managed to find out that three people had come into Walton the night before, presumably after the Ratfolk had been killed. Looking around the crime scene, we found two things. First, the Ratfolk were from two different tribes, the Goldlittles and another whose emblem was a silver spear head grasped in a skeletal hand. For convenience, I will refer to them as the Gravespear tribe. We also found the presumed murder weapon, a knife, buried in a nearby riverbank, with bloody footprints leading to the site and White Crows alongside. Deciding to interrogate the three latecomers, we turned back to Walton.

    First was the half-orc Mango, who we found drinking in the local inn, the Joy of Summer. After plying him with beer, we managed to find out that he had traded with the Gravespears in Castle Horn, getting into an argument when they tried to pay him in White Crowns. Later on, he noticed the Goldlittles arguing along the side of the road with some gnomes. He passed out from drink before he could tell us more. We then moved to the markets looking for the second person, a gnome called Mixelwhistle. After being separated from us, Fare managed to find him, and found out he was a member of the group of gnomes. The fight apparently started after one of the gnomes got into a spat with the ratfolk over an old lover's quarrel, and was escalated when Mango came along and started beating on them both. The fight was broken up by the third person, a she-dwarf named Manwulfa. In the meantime, the other four of us were lost in the crowd, when something ominous happened.

    As we made our way through, a girl crashed into Aisha before running off. Rather than the expected pickpocketing, however, a handkerchief was slipped into Aisha's pocket - a handkerchief with the emblem of Foulbone, and the evil red dragon Rueserond's visage. As we tried to determine why someone would do this, Aisha admitted something - it was likely because she knew 'a particular silver dragon'. We did not press the issue at that time, however, as Fare found us, and we determined to find Manwulfa. However, one more thing interrupted us, as two street urchins crashed into us while fighting. Ash, in a rather heartwarming display, broke the fight up and comforted the boy after the girl made off with his scarf - although we found out in the process that apparently the local sheriff was deporting all the orphans of the town. In any case, we found Manwulfa as she was leaving the house of the Baroness of Walton. She confirmed that she broke up the fight, and that the last person seen trading with them was a local hermit called Manbjorn, who has a bit of a reputation in those parts on account of being a wizard rather than a sorcerer. Most importantly, she noted that before the fight, two of the Ratfolk had been acting as if mind-controlled, and that one of the gnomes went missing.

    Securing the location of Manbjorn's hut, we decided to take a closer look at the crime scene, though we did do two things first. I finally asked Aisha if the dragon she knew and her mother were the same - and she replied yes, affirming that she was, indeed, a half-dragon. Secondly, we stopped to see the sheriff of Walton. We managed to find out his rationale for sending away the orphans (they were to be adopted by parents in a nearby village), as well as work out a less disruptive and more defensible way for transporting them. When we returned to the scene, we found three important things. First, the ratfolk had been stranged before being killed and skinned. Secondly, and more importantly, the scene had been tampered with, and a new set of gnome-sized footprints led into the Little Woods, where Manbjorn's hut was located. Third, Dalgon confirmed that a gnome, whose face had been concealed, had stopped by and asked about what we'd found out. Our weapons readied, we headed into the Little Woods.

    Not five minutes later, everything went to hell. Eight pigs jumped out of the underbrush, an angry farmer's voice some distance behind. We used magic to gently stop them without killing them. Then a bunch of dire wolves leapt out, but we managed to intercept them before they could eat more than one of the pigs. THEN, a bunch of Deepoath dwarves burst from the forest, exclaiming in dwarven how they intended to kill us and eat Aisha - until I killed one of them. Then they expressed the intent to eat me. Just as we had them on the ropes, they teleported out, screaming how "IF I, ROTH COLDBEAR, CAN'T EAT YOU, NO-ONE WILL", and used magic to set the forest ablaze. Ash and I rescued the remaining six pigs (a second one was killed by the dwarves' fireball). Locating the source of the farmer's voice, we found that it was none other than Manbjorn, who had been transporting the pigs to sell in Jemville. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by one of Manbjorn's friends, the gnome ranger Galathan Woodsprint. He introduced himself, and upon hearing of our task, offered to help. That was when things went downhill.

    After I described what evidence we'd gathered, Galathan seemed taken aback, and grew angry when Manbjorn appeared to recognize the name Mixelwhistle. I attempted to convince him to stand down and share what he knew, but instead, he threatened us, noting how his blade was coated with rare Red Viper poison. Then Ash pointed out how, while the dwarves had apparently been talking about going to Micklewaif, Galathan had suggested pursuing them in a number of locations very far away from them. She tried to intimidate him into co-operating. Galathan then tried to arrest us for being spies, and ordered us to lay down our weapons. I made one last attempt at Diplomacy. He charged.

    We managed to take Galathan alive, barely, but his pet panther escaped, and he wounded Ash in the process, Silith managing to delay the effects of the poison via a spell. Luckily, Manbjorn claimed that if we found some items from the surrounding countryside, he could craft a cure. Ash, Silith, and Fare went to procure a Wigglewort frog from Kabek, Manbjorn to collect robin guano, and Aisha and I to collect Knottgrass and stag shavings.

    I am uncertain as to the details of Ash, Silith, and Fare's trip, as they have remained silent on the subject, saying only that to get into Kabek they needed to disguise themselves. The frog they grabbed for the cure was also apparently the target of memory magic, with the memories of one of the mayor's right-hand men being implanted in (as we would later find out). They also found the other ingredient, the tail of a White-striped cat - or, more properly, the whole cat. Aisha and I... had a different adventure. Heading to Balville, we were accosted by the poor there, as they descended on us like a pack of vultures. Not that I blame them, mind you, for their condition was truly wretched. Scattering a few coins, I was able to make our getaway, and we got the Knottgrass without further trouble. On our way to Jemville, however, we ran into trouble. Finding a farmer lying in pain on the road, we approached him to help - only for it to turn out to be a trap. The bandit, along with four archers who revealed themselves, nearly killed Adamant before I surrendered, offering them everything except the Knottgrass in exchange for his life. The farmer-bandit then revealed himself for the cruel, foul being he was. A man with skin as blackest coal, his eyes and teeth a sickly yellow, and the most gaudy red, yellow and purple Jester's outfit you've ever seen. The Jester then made me strip to my smallclothes, taking and inspecting everything. Upon seeing my Key to the Lodge, however, he asked how I'd got it, and I told them a highly abbreviated version of my story. Seemingly infuriated by my 'chivalry' he let me keep Adamant, my backpack, the sword, shield and armor I'd borrowed from Duke Onyxlord, and the knottgrass. He then killed one of his men when he dared question him, enchanted my armor to look like his suit, and rode off laughing into the sunset.

    That traumatic experience behind us, we were able to buy the stag shavings in Jemville without further incident, and we were able to concoct the cure for Ash. However, the memories from the frog shone through, and she found out that apparently the Baron Kabek is a traitor, having stolen gold from one of the King's caravans and buried it in the woods. With everything wrapped up, we headed back to Blackrock to turn Galathan in, stopping briefly by the Rookery to inquire after Ulrik - who, as it turned out, had been sent to Waysend, urged to join the Sky Nights of Raphzail in Eastfarm. (Apparently, Laurenia Kus-Diversdaughter, the Dusk Raven who spoke with him, confused his seeming guilt with torment.) Upon reaching Newblack, however, we found out the hard way that Galathan is apparently a local hero, and were quickly surrounded. Aisha, bless her heart, managed to convince them to let us see Lord Lava, who, after hearing our story and Galathan's lies, let us both go free. Deducing from the story he spun that Galathan would try to kill Manbjorn, we quickly went to his hut and convinced him to spend the night with us in Walton, before heading back to Newblack in the morning. Though clearly grieved with having to testify against his friend, he agreed, and the morning after we met Lord Lava back in Newblack. Convinced we were telling the truth, he ordered a 50,000 Crown bounty for Galathan Woodsprint, dead or alive.

    Chapter 5: Crisis Of Faith

    On the 23rd of Toukrei, with Lord Lava finally convinced of our innocence, we made an immediate beeline for Blackrock once more - but not, of course, before stopping back at the Merry, Merry, Half-Empty Stein for a spot of some well-deserved lunch, and in our case, to finally share that meal I had promised you. Questions were answered: We found out that something will happen to Aisha on the fifth of Heinalma, that Sir Hessmarch somehow knew about her, and that Foulbone was involved with the 'Red Prince', and likely with the Lord of Nightmares. Others were raised: Why is Sir Hessmarch in the troglands resolving a dispute over treant bark? Why is Foulbone after Aisha? Why did Hessmarch use those phrases when I didn't understand them?

    In any case, we made good time back to Blackrock, where Silith delivered the message of Galathan's treachery to Commander Solvald per Lord Lava's orders. In the meantime, I found out something incredible. Apparently, the Lord of Dogpine is being transferred elsewhere, and there are three candidates for replacing him: Myself, Sir Ulfred, and the old Lord's sister. I was quite astonished to hear this, as you might imagine.

    Of greater import to the story, however, is that Ash apparently inherited a house from the man she was originally supposed to see at the Masquerade ball. Wanting to see for ourselves what was up with that, we decided to inspect the house. Immediately, we found the front door radiating magic, likely a trap. As such, instead, we went in through a hole in the roof, where Silith and Ash found an old magic book - and were subsequently compelled to kill a nearby dire rat when what was later revealed to be a trap hidden within the book went off. Investigating further, we found that there was a ghost in the house, and I sent a message to Sir Ulfred asking for backup. In the meantime, we thoroughly scoured the top floor before eventually confronting it.

    At first, things went well. We managed to find out what was troubling it - it was the ghost of the owner's mother, who was convinced that Ash was responsible for the death of her children. She had then colluded with Baavesi, who mind-controlled Lord Gray into transferring the papers to Ash, the intent being to lure her to the house and kill her as we slept. Unfortunately, Aisha then tried to directly convince the ghost - Dara - that she was wrong. She didn't take it well, and used magic to send most of us screaming in fear, while summoning bats to attack the rest. It also appeared, from observation, that she was yet another victim of possession by the Lord of Nightmares. In my panic, I leapt out the window, and then ran straight into the Starless Knights sent for backup - and Miss I'll-make-you-a-heretic herself, Valheita. Taking control of the situation, Valheita managed to end the ghost problem by a method I can not disclose. Before Dara disappeared, she yelled out something.

    "Baavesi is in league with Kasmund."

    That sentence still shakes me to my core. If Kasmund is truly not the beloved, good, king I've always thought him to be... I am having a very real crisis of faith, my friend. I want to believe he is the honest and just man I've always thought he is, but what reason does a ghost have to lie?

    In any case, we spent the night at the Immortal Angel, nursing our wounds. On the 24th of Toukrei, the day I am writing this, we awoke, and Silith then asked a favor. Since there is no guarantee that Brone will stay in Micklewaif forever, she asked us if we might travel there, briefly, so that she can continue her search for her sister. After thinking a little on it, I agreed. First, however, we decided to talk to Valheita, who, apparently, is married to Ilari, so that he would not get angry that we had forgotten to complete his task. She agreed, but in return asked me for... a favor that even now I have difficulty writing. But our friendship is nothing if I can't be honest, so...

    She invited me to a Wind Dancing Festival. In my defense, when I accepted, I thought it was just a religious themed ball that took place at midnight. I didn't know that they apparently strip naked and have orgies as well. When Ash destroyed my innocence, I ended up spraying the carrot wine I was drinking out my nose and mouth and coated half the courtyard in orange mist, and fell to the ground coughing. I... also may have ended up rambling and revealed some psychologically vulnerable facts about myself. It was not a proud moment. I still have no idea what I am going to do about attending that thing.

    In any case, we made our way to Waysend, where we found a captain willing to take us to Micklewaif. When we tried getting a second option, however, Ash approached a group of what turned out to be Vyolinnan nobles. They insulted her, called her and all Blackvalians rats, and called her a whore, at which point she retorted that in a town like that money wouldn't save them. They tossed ale at her. Then, Ash riled up the crowd, held them back, and proposed that they should apologize and maybe donate some money to improving the town. Their leader, a Duke, then challenged her to a duel to the death. Being the only Starless Knight around, I acted as the referee. Ash nearly won, but then the man cheated, calling on his friends to kill her. Luckily, we took down his friends, and the crowd grabbed and subdued the Duke, nearly lynching him before I pursuaded them to let the Starless Knights execute him properly, in accordance with the law. And so, after he was tarred, feathered, and forced to run around the town three times, I performed my first ever execution. The Duke was defiant to the last, promising to kill everyone in Waysend and then myself. At our discretion, his goods were donated to the town, who will sell them to help fund better infrastructure.

    I honestly think a little of my innocence died today. War is one thing, but killing a man just lying there? Even if he is a sexist, mysogynistic, nationalistic prick? It's not an easy task. It has also revealed to me just how much we take life for granted - and so I write this for you, that someone will remember us if the worst comes to pass.

    And that is our story in its entirety, as it has progressed so far. Keep these papers secret and safe, in someplace only you can access. If we should fall, assemble a group of trustworthy heroes to carry on our investigation, if for nothing more than the good of Blackvale and the people of the Amethyst isles.

    You are, and always will be, my friend. Be safe.

    I saw a troglodyte charging.
    ***

    The trip to Micklewaif was a calm one, and Halbrecht took ample opportunity of the time to train (and to take gratitude that someone else besides him had heard of the Jester). Silith and Aisha were approached, offers made of the opportunity to practice swordplay.

    "I'll fully admit: Before I was transferred to Blackrock, I was mostly assigned to patrols in the country. Not a lot of hands-on combat experience; I mostly concentrated on caring for Adamant. But nowadays, we find ourselves fighting on foot all the time, and I... Well, I want to learn to fight as ferociously as you guys. I've been reading up on a few tricks I think might swing the odds in our favor. Would you help me practice?"

    And so it was that, in the wake of Halbrecht's dulling survival instincts, under the tutelage of his friends (and with plenty of bruises and blows), his swordsmanship improved remarkably in only the space of a day. In no time at all he mastered the art of maintaining a sense of focus during his more powerful swings, as well as improving his reflexes in combat. This was interspersed with intense exercise of clambering up the rigging and pull-ups atop the mast, and by the end of the day, Halbrecht could not help but feel significantly stronger. Of course, this was not the only significant thing that happened on board. Loot from the duel in Waysend was divided and distributed, with Halbrecht becoming the proud owner of a shiny new magic buckler and a cloak that offered a more subtle means of magical defense. And, of course, some was set aside for sale. So it was that when the Nose for Gold finally approached Micklewaif, Halbrecht could not help but look on in awe at the Gnorgon's Head, but was visibly discomfited by the more unsavory information Captain Dagtrise shared. Thank goodness we're not staying here long. Hopefully.

    As the lavishly dressed customs official waddled up, Halbrecht could not help but raise an eyebrow at some of the questions... but went ahead and answered anyway.

    "1. My name is Halbrecht, a Knight of Valor. I have no formal appellation or last name, so most call me Iversson when the situation calls for one.

    2. I hail from the country of Blackvale.

    3. I was born in the city of Highblack, in that same country.

    4. My current permanent residence is in Blackrock.

    5. I have come to seek a particular Vanara who has useful information.

    6. No.

    7-13. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes."

    And for the record, threatening people if they don't enjoy their stay is one of the best ways to make sure they don't.
    Last edited by Lord Of Mantas; 2015-01-23 at 09:36 AM.
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    Spoiler: Aisha
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    As you stand in line, listening to Hal answer the questionaire, you hear a soft, melodic voice of a woman speaking in Draconic in your head, "Hail, sister. I am watching you from afar. Be wary of the plants in Micklewiaf. Love, your sister, Asra."
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    Fare

    From what she had seen of gnomes (which is admittedly very little), Fare had thought Micklewaif would be...well, not like this. Least of all did she expect some sort of entry questionnaire. As the party members wait in line, she can't decide whether to be amused at the official and his questions or anxious.

    When her turn finally comes she idly wonders how many questions she can answer in one word. "Fare. Due to unfortunate parental circumstances, that's about as exact as I can go."

    "Blackvale."

    "Blackvale."

    "Nowhere. Blackrock."

    "Following him."
    She nods at Halbrecht.

    "No."

    "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes."


    It's not like I would answer "no" to any of those questions even if I was aiming to do anything illegal...

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    Aisha

    She stood quietly listening to Halbrecht speak out on the survey. This land seemed... strange. The over-all society hierarchy was a bit bothersome, after all the notion of people being kept as slaves simply under another named irked her. Then again, her brother wasn't that much more content with the affairs in Blackvale. Society seemed to always situate itself in a hierarchy that made it difficult to climb. It was...

    She blinked a bit taken back glancing around instinctively. Her eyes seemed to lighten up almost with child like wonder as she glanced around. It was a voice she could barely recall the last time she had ever heard it. It was unmistakable, the language only cementing it in her mind. Aisha didn't even know she was around these lands. "Asra..." She spoke softly to herself, seemingly distracted by the silly questioning going on.
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    The Gnome overseer taps his foot on the ground, "Time is money. Chop chop. Make with the answers. I don't have all day."
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    Aisha

    She peered up shaking her head a bit. "Ah, forgive me." She spoke trying to act diplomatic. She didn't want to disrupt the group having just arrived after all. She tried to regain her composure not wanting to seem distracted at all from what she had just been relayed to her.

    "Aisha Silverlight, Blackvale, around Blackvale, Blackrock, following my companion Halbrecht, no, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes." She listed off swiftly not trying to take to long. It seemed an odd list, a bit uneasy thinking of some of the was mentioned.
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    Silith

    The half-elf spends most of her trip looking out over the sea, occasionally taking up Halbrecht on his offers to practice their swordplay. "Of course, Halbrecht. It'll be good to get some training in, actually. I must admit I haven't trained as much as I used to do back in Whitewillow. Back there, nearly every minute where we were not on duty or sleeping we were training swordplay. I feel a bit out of practice. It'll be good to sharpen my skills a little bit." She ignores the ugly stares she gets from the crew. It's something she learned quite quickly after her arrival in Blackvale.

    After the first night of their journey, she approaches Ash. "Do you have a moment, Ash?"

    Spoiler: If so...
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    She seeks a relatively secluded spot to talk to Ash somewhat in private. "You okay? You were pretty roughed up in that duel." Silith eyes the younger woman, gauging her reaction for the next few sentences to see if there is any sign of sorrow or regret visible in her eyes. "Still, that's nothing new for us. It's just... How do you feel about what happened afterward? It was rather... disconcerting."

    The half-elf looks around. "Well, either way, I'm glad you're still with us. Next time you have to duel someone, please try to finish it a little more quickly though. You had me worried for a bit." She winks at the bard before turning and walking off to go sharpen her sword.


    Spoiler: If not...
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    The half-elf nods, "Right, sorry to disturb you." before walking off to go sharpen her sword.



    It's good to relax for a few days. She keeps herself occupied with craftings new arrows, as well making plans for what to do once she has located Brone. One of the her last acts before boarding was purchasing a set of javelins for emergency situations.

    ~~

    Silith is quick to answer the questions. Truthfully, as she has no real reason to lie to the gnome.

    "The name is Silith Amastine. Ranger. I hail from Whitewillow, the city of Whitebuck, which is also the city where I was born. I have no permanent residence. The last place I stayed was Waysend, and before that Newblack. I have been travelling through Blackvale. I've come to the city of rubies in search of a Vanara named Brone. I have reason to believe he may be here. I am not here on invitation. And yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And yes, I shall enjoy my stay here."
    Last edited by BramsesII; 2015-01-23 at 02:41 PM.
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    The Gnome bows before Silith, "I am humbled that a Ranger would come to our little city. Please know that we have seven armories in the town. You are free, as per the treaty, to make use of any of them. We recently had another Ranger arrive here from Blackvale..." He looks down at his parchment, "Ah, a Ranger Galathan. I am sure the two of you would have much to discuss. Unfortunately he did not indicate where he was staying. To be honest he seemed more interested in getting into the city, most likely he is on an important mission."
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    Silith

    Silith's expression changes to one of surprise when she hears Galathan passed through here. Not long though, as everything quickly makes sense. Obviously the gnome'd come here. This is the place where he's safest, surrounded by gnomes.

    A frown forms on her features and her voice is becomes more serious. "Well then, Galathan made his way here. I feel I should inform you that he's wanted in Newfield for murder, torture, and other crimes. The rangers here should already be looking for him. I'm not sure how much of a danger he is to the general populace, but my advice would be to approach him with caution should you encounter him again." She looks at her companions, then back at the gnome. "Might I ask something, good sir?"

    Spoiler: If so...
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    Silith nods. "I was wondering if the Vanara we are searching for passed by here recently. I would assume not, since I think he may have been travelling by land. Still, he may have chosen to travel by ship."


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    Silith nods.
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    "Oh dear me. I shall inform the local constabulary as soon as possible.
    As for a Vanara, we have seen..."
    He checks his notes, "Six this week. Hmm... No, no one with that name has arrived by sea. I suggest you speak with the overseers in the Ear, they may be of more help to you if he arrived by land."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Of Mantas View Post
    After the party boarded the Nose for gold and set up their rolls in the captain's cabin, Halbrecht briefly pulled Ash aside.

    "Do you still have energy enough to talk? If so, I did have one thing I needed to say before the day was out, but it's no big deal if you don't."

    Spoiler: If Ash says 'Yes'...
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    Pulling Ash into a more quiet area of the ship, Hal spoke.

    "Originally, this was going to be a lot more dramatic. I'd bluster and stuff, try to hammer the point into the ground. But after everything, I realized that'd be rather pointless. So I'm just going to say this." Hal placed a hand on Ash's shoulder.

    "Please don't put yourself in a position where I can't help you without breaking the law again. If you'd died today in that duel, I..."
    Hal looked down and shook his head, not able to make eye contact. "I don't know what I would have done."
    Ash

    Ash was momentarily taken aback by the Halbrecht's sincerity, leading to a moment of awkward silence as she tried to figure out how to reply. She seemed about to answer, but then stopped halfway and frowned before eventually trying again. Evidently she was as confused about how to feel herself.

    "It's not like I wanted it to go that far... I just wanted to put them in their place; I thought they'd have enough sense to back down before it got too out of hand. But then it was duel the duke or watch the mob tear them apart... I mean what was I supposed to do then? I figured if I agreed to the duel at least two of them would get to walk away alive; but then they even managed to screw up that. It's just so-"

    She came to an abrupt stop, the tone in her voice betraying just how upset she was over the whole affair. However, before it can get more out of hand, the bard takes a deep breath which seems to help calm her quite a bit. There was a hint of regret, perhaps even sadness, in her voice when she spoke again.

    "Anyway... yeah I get it. Don't worry; that's not something I want to go through again either..."

    ---------------------------------------

    Quote Originally Posted by BramsesII View Post
    After the first night of their journey, she approaches Ash. "Do you have a moment, Ash?"

    Spoiler: If so...
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    She seeks a relatively secluded spot to talk to Ash somewhat in private. "You okay? You were pretty roughed up in that duel." Silith eyes the younger woman, gauging her reaction for the next few sentences to see if there is any sign of sorrow or regret visible in her eyes. "Still, that's nothing new for us. It's just... How do you feel about what happened afterward? It was rather... disconcerting."

    The half-elf looks around. "Well, either way, I'm glad you're still with us. Next time you have to duel someone, please try to finish it a little more quickly though. You had me worried for a bit." She winks at the bard before turning and walking off to go sharpen her sword.
    "Heh, first Hal, now you... Um, I'm fine, I think..."

    Her expression and the way she avoided the half-elf's gaze made it pretty clear that Ash was not fine. She scratched lightly at the side of her head and sighed.

    "I'll tell what I told him. I didn't think or want things to escalate as far as they did. I really thought they'd have enough sense to back down. But when it came down to accepting the duel or watching them get torn apart by that mob... I mean, what was I supposed to do? And then everything just got more messed up from there..."

    She sighed again, much more heavily and dispirited this time than before. She does seem to revive a bit at Silith's joke, however, and manages a small smile in response as the ranger takes her leave.


    ---------------------------------------

    At the customs interview, Ash shrugged her shoulders and prepares for the battery of questions:

    "Ash d'Oscine. Blackvale. Blackvale. Blackvale. I'm tagging along with him." She nodded her head towards Halbrecht.

    "I have not. Don't see that happening in any foreseeable future, so yes? Sounds reasonable. Not a problem. I... don't even know what the Masked Council is. Not a kobold last time I checked. Contraband sounds fun, but unfortunately no, nothing like that. Uh, sure?"

    Is that last one a serious question, or is this the gnomish idea of a joke...?


    As the group moved away, Ash muttered under her breath, just loud enough for the others to hear.

    "I'm surprised there wasn't some question about our favorite color in there, under penalty of being thrown off a bridge."
    Last edited by Mathemagics; 2015-01-23 at 07:43 PM.

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    Halbrecht

    Halbrecht nodded sagely at Ash's remark as they passed through. "I'm just thankful he didn't start quizzing us about the capital of Araland, or the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, or something else esoteric like that. Seriously, what was with those questions? Especially that last one..."


    Once Halbrecht was certain they were out of earshot, he took a deep breath. "So. Galathan's here. So's Ulrik, maybe. Brone, apparently not by sea if at all, but we're still not sure, and I just remembered - remember those dwarves who set fire to the Little Woods and wanted to eat Aisha and me? I think they said they were coming here next."

    "So, yeah. We've walked right into a fine mess."
    Halbrecht sighed. "So, what do we do about Galathan? Can we just walk right up to the rangers and say 'Hey, this guy's wanted in Blackvale, help us grab him so we can take him back and make him answer for his crimes'? Or do you think he might have poisoned them against anyone attempting to follow? Or should we focus on first things first and head over to the Ear, wherever that is?"
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    Fare

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Of Mantas View Post
    "So, what do we do about Galathan? Can we just walk right up to the rangers and say 'Hey, this guy's wanted in Blackvale, help us grab him so we can take him back and make him answer for his crimes'? Or do you think he might have poisoned them against anyone attempting to follow? Or should we focus on first things first and head over to the Ear, wherever that is?"
    Fare glances over at the gnome official. "Given that our last attempt at bringing him in didn't go over so well--even with your reputation and good standing with sufficiently powerful authorities--and here he's a gnome among, well, gnomes and we're just travellers constantly under the risk of appendage loss..."

    She sighs. "Maybe the local constabulary will in fact be notified. I say check the Ear first, since it shouldn't be too hard to find, and it's technically our priority. And with the amount of old friends converging here, I wouldn't be surprised if we just ran into somebody without even looking."

    "Of course, that might be just bring us back to the first problem."
    Last edited by Rysc; 2015-01-23 at 10:26 PM.

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    Silith

    Spoiler: On the ship...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathemagics View Post

    "Heh, first Hal, now you... Um, I'm fine, I think..."

    Her expression and the way she avoided the half-elf's gaze made it pretty clear that Ash was not fine. She scratched lightly at the side of her head and sighed.
    Good old Halbrecht. It's good to know we have a leader who cares about his friends.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mathemagics View Post
    "I'll tell what I told him. I didn't think or want things to escalate as far as they did. I really thought they'd have enough sense to back down. But when it came down to accepting the duel or watching them get torn apart by that mob... I mean, what was I supposed to do? And then everything just got more messed up from there..."

    She sighed again, much more heavily and dispirited this time than before. She does seem to revive a bit at Silith's joke, however, and manages a small smile in response as the ranger takes her leave.
    The half-elf turns around again, deciding to say a little bit more. She puts a hand on the bard's shoulder and offers her a friendly smile, looking her straight in the eyes. "Look, here's some advice from someone who has been in a similar situation before."

    She keeps her smile, but a hint of sadness appears in her eyes. "Remember that it is not your fault. He forced the situation, and there is no way this situation could've ended differently. You should not blame yourself." A short pause, allowing for a response from Ash.

    "Also, if you feel the need to talk, just tell me. I'll be here to listen. I'm sure Halbrecht told you the same thing." Silith takes a while longer to look Ash in the eye to gage her response before turning around again and returning to her duties.


    ~~

    In Micklewaif...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Of Mantas View Post
    Halbrecht

    Once Halbrecht was certain they were out of earshot, he took a deep breath. "So. Galathan's here. So's Ulrik, maybe. Brone, apparently not by sea if at all, but we're still not sure, and I just remembered - remember those dwarves who set fire to the Little Woods and wanted to eat Aisha and me? I think they said they were coming here next."

    "So, yeah. We've walked right into a fine mess."
    Halbrecht sighed. "So, what do we do about Galathan? Can we just walk right up to the rangers and say 'Hey, this guy's wanted in Blackvale, help us grab him so we can take him back and make him answer for his crimes'? Or do you think he might have poisoned them against anyone attempting to follow? Or should we focus on first things first and head over to the Ear, wherever that is?"
    Silith looks at Halbrecht, then Fare. "The rangers should've been informed about by commander Solvald. Still, different country, different rangers. I'm assuming most rangers here are gnomes who'll at least try to protect Galathan."

    "I suggest that if we do encounter him we apply lethal force. The official order calls for his execution. Nobody said it has to be done by commander Solvald himself: any of his rangers can do that." She frowns. "Which means that'd fall to me. He'll probably stay in places where there are many people, though, which would make engaging him a problem. I say we don't do anything unless he attacks us first."

    She looks at the rest of the group. "As for the dwarves, they're fair game if we encounter them. Unless they've decided to become someone's serf, of course. Ulrik, well, that's up to you, Fare. Also, with all these enemies out here, please remember Brone is not my enemy. Piwiel followed him to help out his cause. If she did, that is. We probably should be able to get the information I need just by talking to him."

    "Either way, I'm with Fare on this one. We head to the ear first, then track down our friends Ulrik and Brone if they're here, then head back to Blackvale. Everyone agreed?"
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Halbrecht

    Halbrecht nodded at Silith. "Don't worry, I figured you probably just wanted to talk to Brone. As for our course of action, I can definitely get behind going to the Ear first and keeping Brone and Ulrik as our priorities. That said, I'm loathe to leave Galathan be. Not only did he nearly kill one of my best friends, and likely a bunch of innocent ratfolk, but... 50,000 crowns, even split 5 ways, would probably buy any magical weapon or gear you could imagine. Still, first things first. Ear, Brone, then Ulrik."
    Last edited by Lord Of Mantas; 2015-01-24 at 06:35 AM.
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    Aisha

    She had kept quite nodding a bit. Her eyes darted to Hal looking at him with her arms crossed at him mentioning the reward. "I could care little for the reward. So long as we can get him for his crimes I would be satisfied. No one who commits should atrocities should be allowed to roam free." She spoke not too happily. "Either way, I'm fine going wherever is decided by everyone else. Its better to deal with things you have a chance to deal with rather then things that you may never accomplish." She spoke cringing a bit at her own words realizing she was reciting her brother again. She turned her head looking once again away wondering just where Asra might be watching over her.
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    The overseer stamps everyone's hand with some strangely complex hash-mark, then bids the party good day. The group meanders up the path that winds its way up the side of the mountain and eventually comes to the ear canal of the sculpture of Gnorgon's head. For an ear canal, the passage is fairly wide. Many people go to and fro, mostly merchants and visitors, almost exclusively non-Gnomes. Guards wearing chainmail line the entire length of the tunnel with about thirty feet between each. The tunnel slithers its way this way and that before dead-ending at an elevator that is powered by six donkeys rotating a cog around in a circle, which hoists the platform up and down. A line has formed in front of the lift, it looks like two groups will go before the party manages to board the platform.

    As the group waits, another Gnomish overseer - wearing the same stylish red and white polka-dot robe - walks up and inspects the group's hands, "Ah, a Ranger," he bows to Silith, "Good to have another in our midst. In case you are not aware we have seven armories in the town. You are free, as per the treaty, to make use of any of them. Additionally, do be aware that the local Rangers and the Woodsmen of Micklewaif recently captured a Hill Ginat who threatened the town. She is currently being held in The Illustrious Palace under lock and key." He leans in close, "I heard rumor that she is an agent of King Togg Risi. I do not know which side of the Banner and the Scarlet Wars you favored and/or fought for but, regardless of personal feelings, even you must admit that sending such a spy here is beyond the pale. The Masked Council is debating what to do with the she-beast. I am sure they would appreciate hearing the opinion of an Elven Ranger from Songwillow."

    The line moves up quite a bit, "Oh will you look at that, you are next. Are there any additional questions you have or services I may render before you enter the city proper, Master Ranger?"

    Spoiler: Aisha
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    You hear the same voice in your head once more, "I wonder why mother doesn't have her head carved into stone like Gnorgon. You should talk to her about that."
    Last edited by Felhammer; 2015-01-25 at 05:04 AM.
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    Silith

    As the group maks their way through the tunnel, Silith keeps to the back of the group so she can keep an eye on each of them. Especially Ash. The bard's non-verbal response to Silith's question on the ship has the ranger worried.

    ~~

    Quote Originally Posted by Felhammer View Post
    As the group waits, another Gnomish overseer - wearing the same stylish red and white polka-dot robe - walks up and inspects the group's hands, "Ah, a Ranger," he bows to Silith, "Good to have another in our midst. In case you are not aware we have seven armories in the town. You are free, as per the treaty, to make use of any of them. Additionally, do be aware that the local Rangers and the Woodsmen of Micklewaif recently captured a Hill Giant who threatened the town. She is currently being held in The Illustrious Palace under lock and key." He leans in close, "I heard rumor that she is an agent of King Togg Risi. I do not know which side of the Banner and the Scarlet Wars you favored and/or fought for but, regardless of personal feelings, even you must admit that sending such a spy here is beyond the pale. The Masked Council is debating what to do with the she-beast. I am sure they would appreciate hearing the opinion of an Elven Ranger from Songwillow."
    The gnome overseer addresses her, and Silith bows in return. Then, she nods as she listens to his speech. "Thank you for the information, good sir." When he leans in closer to speak of the rumors, Silith does the same, bowing down a bit more.

    A giant near in a place where it shouldn't be? We've seen that one before... She speaks in a quiet tone of voice. "Unfortunately, I do not have an official opinion on this, as the rangers of Songwillow are neutral in this conflict. Our only task is to keep the forces of Foulbone out of Songwillow." She leans a bit closer, her voice dropping to a whisper.

    "However, since I'm not here on official business, I can offer my personal opinion. My advice would be to interrogate her; try to find out if she is truly a spy. Perhaps the interrogators can drop the names "Baavesi" or "Lord of Nightmares" and see if she responds to that name in any way. I'd be very interested to hear the result of this interrogation. It may be of vital importance to the safety of both Blackvale and Micklewaif."

    Quote Originally Posted by Felhammer View Post
    The line moves up quite a bit, "Oh will you look at that, you are next. Are there any additional questions you have or services I may render before you enter the city proper, Master Ranger?"
    The ranger offers the gnome a small but friendly smile, then nods as he asks if she needs anything else. "I had a few questions, actually. Have you seen a vanara by the name of Brone pass through here? He wears a straw hat, I believe. Also, it's highly unlikely, but perhaps you've seen a half-elf by the name of Piwiel pass by here? She... would look a bit like me, actually. Same color hair, shorter crop. Also, same eye color. And finally, has a human named Ulrik passed by here? He..." She turns to Fare. "What does he look like again, Fare?"

    ~~

    As they step unto platform after the gnome has (or hasn't) answered her questions, Silith bows again. "Thank you for your assistance, good sir."
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Fare

    Quote Originally Posted by BramsesII View Post
    "What does he look like again, Fare?"
    Fare twirls the edge of her cloak around a finger. "Tall. Yellow-haired. Missing a chunk of his left ear. And I don't know how much this is useful, but he's possibly come here on the Glad Stein."

    ***

    As the group heads into the city, Fare barely remembers to mutter a thank-you after the ranger.

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    The overseer nods at Silith, I shall let the officials know of your opinion and your interrogation strategies. They will be most pleased with the advice. As for your friends..." He looks down at his parchment and smiles, "Ah, yes. Brone. We have encountered and registered this man. His official business seems to be finding an alchemist. It seems the Overseer who registered this Vanara directed him towards the Market Ward. When you exist the elevator, you will find yourselves at the edge of the Foreigner's Ward, facing towards the Miner's Ward. The Market Ward is located directly towards your south west." He then looks at his three foot long rolled up parchment again then states, "Ulrik... Yes, he too has been registered. It seems he was invited by a Citizen, specifically... Beothan the Elder!" He checks the note again, "My oh my. Beothan is one of the wealthiest citizens in the city. This Ulrik certainly has friends in high places." You can hear him mutter under his breath, "Wow, Beothan! Amazing." Regaining his composure the Overseer comments, "You may find Citizen Beothan the Elder at his residence in the First Company Ward (although you will need special permission to enter that ward, as the nobles like to keep the riffraff out (as you can well imagine))."

    The party is then allowed to board the elevator. It slowly ascends to a stone building. Many columns line the perimeter of the building, rather than walls. The height of the roof is a bit off putting, as it is just seven feet high (which gives a claustrophobic feel to the building). The group steps off the lift, and then out into the busy streets of Micklewaif. Much like the elevator building, every home and shop appears to be Gnome-sized, just barely big enough to accommodate a fully grown human. The main roads are large enough for two overladen carts to pass by one another with ease but the tributaries are much smaller. Within sight is an alleyway that is perfectly sized for a Gnome but would actually trap Hal due to its narrowness.

    The buildings of Micklewaif run the gamut between stone and wood, sturdy and shack. The air is foul around the canals that wind their way through much of the city. The odor is akin to that of urine, feces and sour grapes. The wind is channeled through the city north-west to south-east. From the looks of it, the better half of the city is upwind of the worse half. The Foreign Ward is full of a wide diversity of peoples but as you gaze across the canal towards the Market Ward and the Crafter's Ward, the population becomes more and more dominated by Gnomes.

    Spoiler: Map
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    I decided to make a quick little map of Micklewaif.

    Spoiler: Map
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    A. Palace Ward - Home to the Palace and access to the deepest gemmines
    B. Miner's Ward - Home to the miners of Micklewaif
    C. Foreigner's Ward - Home to many inns and taverns
    D. Undesirable Ward - The smelliest part of town
    E. Serf's Ward - Where serfs who do not live with their Lord reside
    F. Commoner's Ward - Home to Freemen
    G. University Ward - Home to the Gnorgon's University
    H. First Company Ward - The ritziest place to live
    I. Old Town Ward - The oldest section of town, home to many theaters and other entertainment venues
    J. Second Company Ward - The second ritziest place in town
    K. Sailor's Ward - Where the sailors live
    L. Crafter's Ward - Home to many warehouses and factories
    M. Market Ward - If you want it, a Gnome will either have it or know someone who does













    Last edited by Felhammer; 2015-01-26 at 03:01 PM.
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    Halbrecht

    What wonder Halbrecht had for the elevator that took them to the main level of the city was quickly obliterated by the sheer stench. As the delightful odors of bodily excretions and musty, rotten wine permeated his senses, it was all the stalwart warrior could do not to gag.

    "Well, it'd be a hell of a lot easier to enjoy my time here if it didn't smell like they perfumed this place with whatever they use to toss at the stocks."
    Halbrecht reached into his belt pouch and pulled out a strip of cloth, tying it around his face to make an impromptu scarf-turned-gas-mask. "On the upside, at the very least finding Brone shouldn't be much trouble at all. It'll be nice to have something be easy for a change." Their destination decided, the Starless Knight casually ambled toward the markets, following the overseer's directions.

    As the party made their way along, Halbrecht fell back a little, and sidling up to Fare, whispered.

    "On the other hand, there's the matter of Ulrik. I don't know what he did to you, and I won't pry, but based on what little you've said I doubt it was anything good. If he's actually been invited in by someone else, and someone high up in the social strata to boot, that's going to require a lot of tip-toeing around. What are your plans for him, exactly?"
    Last edited by Lord Of Mantas; 2015-01-25 at 09:15 PM.
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Fare

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Of Mantas View Post
    "On the other hand, there's the matter of Ulrik. I don't know what he did to you, and I won't pry, but based on what little you've said I doubt it was anything good. If he's actually been invited in by someone else, and someone high up in the social strata to boot, that's going to require a lot of tip-toeing around. What are your plans for him, exactly?"
    "Yes, that was something of a disappointment," Fare admits. "I'd rather not get in trouble with the powerful here...and anyway, we'd probably have to spend a month filling out forms just to be able to get into the nobles' ward. He's probably not going to stay here long, and now I know for certain he took a ship..." It's unclear whether she's trying to persuade Halbrecht or herself.

    A breeze brings in a fresh whiff of sewage, and Fare manages to smother a gag. She gives the knight a crooked attempt at a smile. "It can wait. Brone's here. I like my fingers...and feet, and tongue, and everything else where they are."

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    Aisha

    She followed along with her companions. It seemed strange seeing so many gnomes wandering about as the main citizens. It was rather awkward feeling to tower over most of the people there. She glanced over as Halbrecht moved over speaking over to Fare. She blinked a bit curiously, seemingly oblivious to the stench, granted she wasn't immune to it either. She looked over to Silith a bit curious. "So... the rangers... do they function much like the Hal's knights? You know, keeping in some communication with one another, though working otherwise independent?" She asked, having never really thought to ask much about it before.
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    Silith

    Silith seems relatively unperturbed by the stench in the city. She keeps her eyes open for anything unusual they might run into on their way to the Market Ward.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rysc View Post
    Fare

    A breeze brings in a fresh whiff of sewage, and Fare manages to smother a gag. She gives the knight a crooked attempt at a smile. "It can wait. Brone's here. I like my fingers...and feet, and tongue, and everything else where they are."
    The half-elf looks at Fare, her expression slightly saddened. "I'm sorry Fare. Let's hope he tries to move on elsewhere quickly. My friends in Songwillow should still be keeping an eye out for him, at least." She rubs the back of her neck as she speaks. "To be honest, I'm a bit nervous about finding Brone. What if he has no news of my sister at all? We'd have come all this way for nothing." She shakes her head as she admonishes herself. No, I shouldn't think like that. He'll have something useful to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by HanaRei View Post
    Aisha

    "So... the rangers... do they function much like the Hal's knights? You know, keeping in some communication with one another, though working otherwise independent?" She asked, having never really thought to ask much about it before.
    When Aisha asks Silith about the rangers, she pauses for a moment to think on how best to phrase this. "Well..." She rubs the back of her neck again. "Not exactly. It's a little dependant on which country we're in. The rangers of Songwillow are similar to the knights when it comes to working independent. We've standing garrisons in several places around Songwillow, though. Including a large defensive force at Forgestar." She looks at Halbrecht.

    "We're not nearly as friendly as the knights, though. They prefer to take their enemies in alive for judgement, operating much inside of cities. We... stay in the wilds, mostly. We hunt the enemy soldiers who managed to slip past the realm's defenders. And we only take prisoners if we feel they can give us information. If you find yourself a quarry of the rangers and you've no information to give, well..." She lets the sentence linger, not wanting to discuss it further. "Criminals and bandits are typically not our targets, though."

    As they find themselves in the Foreign Ward she stops to look towards the Market Ward, then looks over her shoulder to Ash. "You're awfully quiet today."
    Last edited by BramsesII; 2015-01-26 at 05:46 PM.
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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Halbrecht

    Quote Originally Posted by BramsesII View Post
    "To be honest, I'm a bit nervous about finding Brone. What if he has no news of my sister at all? We'd have come all this way for nothing."
    As the party made its way into the Market Ward, Halbrecht moved closer to Silith to reassure her. "Don't worry. He'll know something. If you think he was in contact with your sister, I'm sure he was. And worst comes to worst, there are other things we can attend to here in Micklewaif."
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    A little cute little Gnome girl walks up to the party. She holds basket full of colorful wild flowers in her arms, "Me mum is sick. You lot want to buy a flower or three to help pay for the potion she needs to get better? They're two Tiny Ninths for one, one Small Ninth for nine.

    Spoiler
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    1 Rupee = 9 Big Ninths
    1 Big Ninth = 9 Small Ninths
    1 Small Ninths = 9 Tiny Ninths
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    Ash

    Ash's features contorted into an expression of slight disgust as the stench of the canals washed over the group. Coughing a bit, she covered her mouth with her hand in an attempt to become acclimated to the odor as she looked around the narrow streets of the gnomish capital. As they made their way along the narrow streets, she couldn't help but feel cramped (despite being completed average in size for a human) in the closer-quarters that were obviously designed for a race roughly half her size.

    Quote Originally Posted by BramsesII View Post
    As they find themselves in the Foreign Ward she stops to look towards the Market Ward, then looks over her shoulder to Ash. "You're awfully quiet today."
    "Hmm?"

    Ash perks up slightly at the probing comment and shrugs her shoulders, an ambivalent expression on her face.

    "Can't really weigh in on finding Brone or Ulrik, and I don't really have any ideas yet about where we'd start looking for them. Or those dwarves and their ship either, on that note. So I guess I haven't really had much to say on the matter until now. I was just figuring that for now we'd have a look around town, get a feel for the place and try picking up information."

    Her train of thought comes to a stop when the flower girl approaches the party. Looking down for a moment at the child, Ash smiles before lowering herself down almost to a kneeling position to be able to talk to the gnome on a more even level. Still smiling, the bard reaches for her coin purse.

    "I think I can agree with that price. So tell me, what's your name little girl?"

    Spoiler
    Show

    Ash will go ahead and pay a small ninth for the flowers.

    And then because she's also not stupid (even if nice), she'll be keeping an eye out to make sure the girl isn't a foil for some kind of scam...
    Perception: (1d20+12)[26]
    Sense Motive: (1d20+12)[23]

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Felhammer's Avatar

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    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Thanks madame! You're too kind. They call me Flower, although I prefer Daisy. Me proper name is Starga but I hate that name. Me mum will need every tiny ninth we can scrape together. The sickness has her well good. Lots of folks over in the Serf's Ward are sick. The leaders of town don't much care. Say it is about time the serfs are culled. I say piss on that. 'Scuse my Elven. It ain't lady like to talk to a foreigner in such a way but I can't help it. Me mum's been sick for years now. Barely has time to teach me how to be prim an' proper."
    Last edited by Felhammer; 2015-01-27 at 04:35 PM.
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    ❶ AGAINST THE GIANTS: IC | OOC

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Apr 2013
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    The vegetable hell

    Default Re: IC [2] Warriors of Blackvale

    Silith

    Silith nods at Ash's comment. "I understand. I was just being curious I suppose." The half-elf looks at the little gnome girl as she approaches the group and addresses them. Content with being silent, Silith lets Ash buy some flowers, diverting her own attention to looking around for anything out of the ordinary. Like, say, a vanara wearing a straw hat.

    Spoiler: Action
    Show
    Perception time! (1d20+20)[37]


    She ignores the girl's comments about pardoning her elven. After all, it's only a figure of speech. She does glance Ash's way to see her reaction to the girl's little outburst, though.
    Last edited by BramsesII; 2015-01-27 at 05:38 PM.
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