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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> Rules-based RPGs --> Dungeons and Dragons --> Ghostwood Groves
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    Messages in Ghostwood Groves
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Lady Dark
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285 Posts


Intro Post, Part 1

Watertown, 1:23am

Robed and hooded, a lone figure sits outside a bakery, a steaming mug before her on the table, beside a paper box tied with twine. In these early pre-dawn hours, there is a special kind of peace to be found here, before the pubs and taverns force drunkards, tourists, and ne'er-do-wells out into the streets to make their way back to their rooms and homes. The very air smells delicious here, and easily overpwers the stench of low tide that wafts inland from the docks. One can hear the deep booming baritone of Halfred within, singing opera as he moves about his ovens, joined by the voices of Girta'a and Uula'a, his half-orc daughters. The figure chuckles as the song devolves into shrieking and laughter, and Girta'a bursts from the door to join the person at the table, face and apron, and mostly everything, covered in flour. 

Youthful and bright, with a figure already growing into her heritage, Girta'a sits, and props her feet up on another chair, a wide tusked smile creasing the flour on her face. "I know this looks bad, but you should see my sister," she chuckles. 

Her companion lowers the hood, revealing a woman, face shielded by a delicate and ornately painted porcelain mask. With a quick glance, you might think it an actual face, how masterful the art. She reaches out, places a pale hand on Girta'as. "Oh, I can believe it, my dear. I am glad to hear you all getting on so well together now."

"I can't thank you enough, Lys. Papa and Uula'a and I, we just... After mother died, I didn't think we would ever come together again as a family. I didn't think there was any way to fix things again. but... we're okay now. I think we made it through the worst of it. Thank you."

Lys laughs lightly, shakes her head. "i did nothing but offer good people a chance to find their way out of a dark place, You and your family did all the hard work. Look, I brought you something for Uula'a." She pulls back her hands to slide the tied box across the table. "Please, don't open it here. My appologies that it took so long to acquire."

Gairta'as eyes widen and she sits up attentively. "You risk too much," she chides her friend, but her hands move to the box all the same. Quicckly, the half-orc rises, taking up the box. And from the corner of her eye, she notices a figure approaching. "Forgive me, Sister," she adds, louder now. "I will return with your correct order. I must have had flour in my eyes, or something. One moment." Behind the mask,  Lys smiles as her young friend disappears back into the bakery. 

There is a tense moment as Lys takes the steaming mug to her lips and imitates sipping at the beverage. When she sets the mug down again, another has joined her at the table. The stranger says nothing, but takes the mug in a gloved hand and drinks it fully, before setting the empty vessel back down. 

"Well met," offers the stranger. "It appears the fine weather will hold."

"It would appear so. Though a living storm might clear away ill winds."

Silence passes as the two visibly relax a bit. Girta'a returns, placing a fresh box on the table. She offers a polite nod to Lys. "May you find joy today in all you do," she whispers with a wink, and is gone again. 

The stranger sighs and reaches for the box. with deft fingers, the twine is undone, and lifting the lid reveals fresh baked pastries, still warm. A frosted donut is selected and shoved into an eager mouth. "ohmahgah," he mumbles around the mouthful. "Halfred's is the absolute best. I simply must get Emrick here one day."

Lys' smirk is unseen. "your husband has a bit of a sweet tooth, and a bit of a weak will. I'd wager you'd lose half your fortune to a single trip," she teases, before sitting up straighter and leaning in. "Bring you word from Ghostwood?"

It takes a few minutes, but the stranger does respond. From within his cloak, he withdraws a single rolled parchment, which he slides across the table towards her. "I do, but none of them good. Our mutual friend is in grave danger, and there are no signs of the other. I fear the worst, and so should you. I trust you to see this through."

Lys nods, slipping the parchment into the folds of her lavender and periwinkle robes, rises from the table. She hoods herself once more and gives a bow. "Give me three days," she whispers, and sets off towards the docks to take Bermund's ferry back to the Temple. 

 

Deeper Wilds, 5:32am

As Lys stepped out from heart of the mighty oak, she raised a hand to shield her eyes and looked around. From Lya's notes, she'd become lost in the Deeper Wilds and broken had been found by the wise old druid, Haradaya. Though she herself had never met him, Lys hoped he would aid Lya once more, even if that help came six years after Lya's untimely death. 

You mean her murder, hisses the voice of Lyr, her older sister. instinctively, Lys lowers her head for a moment, and focuses on closing off her thoughts. She can feel Lyr and Lyn object, but there is no need for them to be involved in this. Moving lightly, she followed the ghost of a memory that wasn't hers, to find a place she remembered without ever having been there. 

It didn't take long to find the pool in the meadow where Lya would sit with Haradaya. He was there, even now, Lya's shared memory stood in his place, and as she approached, Lys removed the hood, revealing her mask. 

"Please, do not be alarmed," she offered gently. "I am the sister of Lya, whom you cared for before her... before she left us."

Haradaya nodded, and watched as Lys removed her mask. Haradaya stared into her true face, and knew Lys to be the sister he had heard much of years ago. "I must admit, I never did think you'd come. But I'm glad of it. It's a little bit like having her here."

Lys chuckles joylessly. "i wish our sisters felt the same. We speak to each other little, see each other less, but for what we share. Lya's absence is still deeply felt. Though it warms my heart to meet someone whom she held in such high esteem and cared so deeply for. And I am afraid I must ask you, may I call upon that friendship now, in a time of great need?"

"Of course. But first, would you.. How... how was her end?"

They sat beside the water, two old friends only just met, and she told him of her passing, how the final moments had splashed across her vision, and because he had asked, she spoke honestly. As she told of the things they saw, the sensations felt,  conversation turned naturally to the task at hand, when she shared the reasons Lya had left for Ghostwood. 



Posted on 2018-03-12 at 12:24:38.
Edited on 2018-04-02 at 15:38:32 by Lady Dark

Lady Dark
Resident
Karma: 39/2
285 Posts


Intro Part 2

"Ghostwood waslittle more than a glorified logging camp but a few years ago," Lys explained as a gentle breeze danced across the meadow. "When we recieved a request for representation, we were skeptical. Still, the opportunity to help others and to enrich the lives of those with whom we share this world gave us reason enough to send out a delegation to investigate."

Here, she pases, and dips a hand into the clear cool waters of the pond. "They fell upon hard times and it is widely believed they did not arrive. To be fair, the emissaries we sent were still green, and it seemed...such a harmless task. We sent another team to investigate their disappearance, for we were not even able to recover their bodies. We found only the remains of a necromancer's hovel nearby, at the Runis of Ilis. Not even our strongest Diviners were able to ascertain... well, you get the picture, surely."

"I suppose you went as far as asking the Arcaren?"

Lys lowers her head, and her eyes cloud and sting with held-back tears. "I went, and I spoke with the Whisper of the Hand of Order herself," she managed, her voice small and quiet. "and in doing so I may have set my sister upon the way that led to her death. After I spoke with the Arcaren, I asked Lya if she might, after tending to another matter, stop at Ghostwood herself. I thought, given her affinity for nature, she might have more luck. I thought perhaps her ability to tap into the memory of the land could aid us."

"Her talents were impressive, I admit," the druid chuckles softly, gently, but the unfolding tale of his friend's demise worries him for several reasons that he keeps to himself, for now. 

"Indeed, nature possessed her soul, i believe," Lys replies wistfully, and there is a moment of silence that passes between them. "The official investigation was over, and there was no rush. I only felt the families of those lost would want closure that we could not provide. Lya agreed to look into the matter once she had freed the children from the Arcaren threat, and I returned to my duties with a lighter heart."

"But she never made it to the Gaeleris temple."

"No, and we lost those children, and we lost Lya."

"Years have passed, my friend. Why now? Whhy must you reopen these wounds again after time has done what it could to close them?"

Lys stares at her hands, the folds of her robes. For a moment, she closes her eyes and pictures Lya in her mind, and with her, the echoes of the cries and sounds that still haunt her dreams. "Because of a thing I heard as she died. It may be little. it may be of no consequence whatsover, but I swear upon my faith that I heard someone mention "the other ones," and another spoke  of Ghostwood. And I can no longer sit on these theories and wish them away."

Haradayan ods and passes her a bit of bread and cheese. "If it were truly the Arcaren, are you not worried for your own safety? Or that of your sisters?"

Lys nods. "I do worry. Which is why I will not be going myself, but rather, I would like to... i would like to send a very select few to look into this matter further. I have several people in mind, but none of them have the connection to the natural world that you do, and so I must ask..." and now Lys looks up, tears streaming down her facce, "will you help me in this endeavor?"

Time passes, and the silence that carries it weighs upon her heart. "I fear I am too old now for such adventures," he replies gently. "But I know someone who might be just what you need. Allow me to send word to him at once."

Lys rises and looks up at the sky, a frown marring her features briefly. The day has gotten away from me, she muses. "As you wish, my new old friend. Should he agree, this one in whom you place such trust, have him meet us in Watertown, at Halfred's Bake Shoppe. He must ask for Girta'a. I  must go, there are others to contact."

Haradaya rises as well, and extends his arms. tHough she towers over him, his embrace is all-encompassing, and soothes the raw parts of her exposed by sharing her story. without another word, she returns to the tree and steps into it, through it, to emerge back in her suite at the temple in Watertown, to begin crafting her letters. 



Posted on 2018-04-03 at 23:14:17.
Edited on 2018-04-06 at 11:26:46 by Lady Dark

Eol Fefalas
Turning Capashanese
RDI Staff
Karma: 447/28
7282 Posts


A Blade of the Living Storm - Prelude

The Temple of Astryliene; Watertown – 6:30 p.m.

He sat there on the beach, just at the edge of the surf, his blade resting across his knees, his face turned toward the rays of the setting sun and, also, shadowed by the storm clouds that had begun to gather on that same horizon. As Silva’s dainty steps took her across the sand, she wondered if his eyes were even open; wondered if those eyes were reflecting the blue of the sea or, rather, if the sea were reflecting the blue of his eyes… and she smiled softly when, as she came to a spot where she could truly glimpse his features, she realized that Castien’s eyes were, in fact, closed, blissfully, against both the light and shadow that fell across his face. His breaths were deep and measured. His posture rigid and, at the same time, relaxed. In this moment, in this light, Castien Mithretaryl was a literal picture of serene balance. She stood there, watching him for a long moment, before she let her smile break into a contented, yet, still somewhat sad sigh, and sank into the sand by his side, her eyes turning to where the sun had begun to touch the farthest reaches of the ocean that her eyes could perceive.

 

She didn’t know how many of his breaths had passed but it had been enough that she had allowed herself to succumb to the steady rhythm and, as such, found herself in almost the same state of peace that she imagined he found in his meditations. When his breathing broke enough for him to speak, she found that she had been lulled enough by his tranquility that she was very nearly asleep…

 

“You sound worried, melui,” his voice caressed across her heart as much as her ear and, despite the softness of his tone, and the mellow timbre, she very nearly flinched.

“Concerned,” she returned over a faintly shuddering breath of her own, “not so much worried.” Her eyes fluttered open and she blinked at the spot where the sun hissed into the sea before letting her gaze drift sideways. Her heart fluttered and calmed all at once when his deliberate inhalation of the salt air seemed to beckon the storm closer. “The High Father has made a Blade of you,” she sighed, “and I have missed you.” Her hand reached, not quite tentatively, for his, then, and, as her fingers entwined with his where they rest on his thigh just above the blade of his scimitar. “I had thought we would always be together,” she confessed in a whisper, “You and I. Forever.”

Castien’s fingers flexed subtly, curling around hers as his eyes, at last, came open and his face turned to hers. “We will be,” he said, an almost tender smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “We are.

We both walk the path that Astryliene has laid before us, Silva. Just because a fork has appeared in that path, with you taking the left and I the right, does not mean that we are no longer together,” he reassured her, lifting her had from his leg and placing it against his chest, over his heart, “I carry you here, always, and I have faith that She will rejoin our roads when the time is right.”

At these words, the melancholy that had tinged the half-elven girl’s smile began to drain away. Beneath her palm, where his hand held it gently to his chest, she felt the soft thudding of his heartbeat, steady and certain, and still more of the sadness seeped from her mood. Even after all the years she had known him and all the years that she, herself, had been a devoted disciple of Astryliene, Castien’s faultless faith in The Living Storm never failed to amaze her…

Which is why they made him a Blade to begin with, a soft voice whispered in the ear of her mind. If it helps, that voice continued, his love for Her is matched only by his love for you.

…Silva was almost happy that, as her silver eyes lifted to his, that her hair had come loose from it’s pins and fallen in lavender waves across her face to mask the blush that had come to her cheeks. Shush, she mentally whispered in reply, Run along and leave us alone, won’t you?

I’m your familiar, dearest, the voice whispered back, that’s not usually what we do; as this may turn out to be a particularly, shall we say, ‘poignant’ moment, however…

A bit further up the beach, near where the foundations of the Temple met the sand, a smallish, black and white mouse scampered into a chink in the mortar between stones and Silva felt Daynty’s presence leave her. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“For?” Castien asked confusedly.

Silva blinked several times, then, in spite of herself, giggled and pushed her hair back behind one, subtly pointed ear. “Nothing,” she tittered, at first, not wanting to admit that Daynty had been listening in. Then, as her snickering subsided and her mind found itself back along it’s original track, she lifted her free hand to his cheek and said; “And for everything.” Her smile softened a little and she searched his quizzical face for a long moment. “Faith seems to come so easily to you, Cas,” she murmured, “and, if it wasn’t for that, and for being paired with you, I don’t know that I’d have managed my first years here, let alone become what I have…”

It was Castien’s turn to blink, then, and, as he did, his mouth fell open as if he were about to speak. Silva hindered whatever words might have begun to form on his lips, though, when her fingers slid from his cheek to press against them.

“…Let me say this,” she implored, “for, I fear, if I don’t say it, now, I’ll not be able to say it, ever…”

His nod was so subtle that she only perceived it as a negligible change of pressure where her fingers met his mouth, but his eyes blinked once more and, then, fixed attentively on hers. She knew he was listening, then, and that he’d say nothing until he was certain she was finished… it had always been his way. She felt her heart melting and, despite the fact that she was smiling, felt tears welling in her eyes. “Do you remember when first we met,” she asked, her fingers yet to fall from his lips.

Castien nodded, again, in that soft, almost imperceptible way of his, and the corners of Silva’s mouth almost fluttered at the inborne innocence of it.

“…I thought I was nothing, then,” she sighed, her voice wavering as she struggles to control the emotions evoked by the memories, “Just the unfortunate product of the lust of a nameless, round-ear father and the point-eared, elven ‘whore’ who didn’t care enough to keep me. For eight years, I lived my life believing that no one cared and that no one had any right to be cared for. Then, when my mother died and the Sisters took me in, I had no reason to believe that it would be any different…” Her efforts to contain the tears failed, then, and a single, salty droplet rolled slowly from the corner of her eye and along the curve of her cheek…

“You cried yourself to sleep every night,” Castien whispered, remembering, as he caught the teardrop on the tip of a finger before it reached her jaw.

…Silva swallowed and nodded almost as imperceptibly as Castien had. “Until that fourth night,” she recalled, “when you climbed into my bunk and held me close. You just whispered, ‘Shhh. You’ll be alright. You’re safe.’ over and over again; stroking my hair and letting me cry into your shoulder until I fell asleep. I think it was that night that I first felt cared for, let alone wanted or even loved.” Her fingertips fell away from his lips, then, tapped at the point of his chin and slid, tenderly back up the line of his jaw. “It might have been a sister that physically brought me to Astryliene, Castien,” she whispered, “but it was youyour heart… that brought mine to Her.

Before your trials begin,” she continued, almost absently toying with a finely plaited braid that fell from behind his ear, “I wanted to be certain that you knew that I love you.” Her own smile wavered as his broadened and, for some reason, she snickered again. “I love you for bringing me to Her. I love you for being the first person to ever show me, for certain, that I could be loved. Most importantly, though, I want you to know that I love you…” She could veritably feel the flush on her face, now, and, for some reason, she imagined herself as a clown with red painted cheeks in one of the travelling caravans that sometimes came through town. Her eyes couldn’t help but dip from his, then, and, as she stared vacantly at the razor honed blade laying over his knees, another little giggle chuffed past her lips.

 “Your trials are close, Cas,” she said, slowly finding the courage to lift her face to his again, “and, before they began, I wanted to be sure that you knew…” Her dainty fingertips lifted to his lips, once more, lingered there for a blissful instant and, then, drifted back down to his chin and along his jawline until they found themselves working into the spill of raven tresses behind his ear and at the base of his skull… “I wanted to show you that I love you. And I want you to promise me that you’ll come back…”

At first, Castien’s eyes went wide when she pulled him close and pressed her lips to his. The longer she held him there, though, the heavier his lids seemed to grow and it took him only an instant to not only submit but, also, commit to the kiss. His meditations forgotten, he turned as his arms moved to wrap around the half-elven girl with whom he’d spent much of the last ten years and his mother’s blade rolled from his knees and onto the sand as the long withheld passion between them, at last, kindled to a flame. After a long moment, their lips, at least, separated and both of them, with expressions on their features that struck an even balance between awkwardness and bliss, smiled sheepishly into the other’s eyes.

“Amin yithel mela lle,” Castien said, still somewhat breathless from the kiss, “And, yes, melamin, I promise you I shall return.”

In that instant, it was difficult for him to tell if she was going to laugh or cry and, before he could even gauge the likelihood of one or the other, she pulled him even closer and her face disappeared from his sight. “Stay with me tonight,” her voice purred in his ear. It was both a question and a demand, all at once, “My chambers or yours, it matters not to me... Just stay…”

“I… I’m supposed to report to the training grounds after dinner,” he stammered in response, sincerely caught off guard but certainly not disappointed as to the way the long withheld feelings between he and Silva were being requited , “but…but, yes, melui… My chambers, tonight. If my trials are as near as you suspect, you may as well bring your things, as well, hmmm?”

Still nestled in his neck, she wrested her hand from beneath where his had it held to his chest and swatted playfully at him. “Are you asking me to move in, Cas?”

“Would you rather continue sharing quarters with Sugoi, Nyna, and Wirkass?”

“No,” she cooed, unburying her face from the sleekly muscled nook where his neck met his shoulder and, unabashedly, now, laying her head against his chest, “not if it means I get you to myself… even for a few hours.”

 

The Temple of Astryliene, Watertown – Castien’s chambers; 6:00 a.m.

 

The nearly inaudible hiss of the parchment sliding under his door woke him before the raucous squawking of the gulls scavenging their breakfast on the beach. At the first whispered scrape, the elf had rolled out of his bed and snatched his scimitar from it’s scabbard before he’d so much as thought of clothing or armor. Blade at the ready and postured for impending battle, Castien’s eyes skim the dim of his room for signs of an intruder. When they register only the folded piece of paper coming to light on the planks of his floor, he risks a glance over his shoulder and it’s only then, when he sees Silva, still curled beneath his blankets, sleeping soundly, that he relaxes to any degree. The spring-like tension in his sword-arm uncoils a bit, and his combat-ready crouch loosens as his gaze embarks on another sweep of the faintly dawn-lit chambers. After another instant, the spellworks running through his mind dissipated and he let go of the deep breath that he’d trapped in his lungs. His sword arm relaxed and the tip of the blade pointed at the floor, now, as Castien’s eyes reclaimed sight of the parchment laying just inside his door. His head canted to one side, regarding the thing curiously as he took his first steps across the floor toward it. As he got closer, he thought, he recognized the blend of paper and wax and, as he crouched to scoop the thing up, noticing the details of the seal, he was sure of it… A letter from Lys…

A smile played on his lips, then, and all sense of battle-readiness drained from him. He padded back across the floor, casually thrust his blade back into it’s sheathe, and situated himself on the edge of his bed to read the missive his dear friend had seen fit to slip under his door. Elbows resting on his knees and the letter pinched between thumb and forefinger of each hand, Castien used a singled thumb to crack the signet-pressed wax enough to unfold the letter and, after orienting it so that it was right side up, began to read:

My dear friend,

Watching you grow into the fine man you have become has been truly a pleasure, and our many conversations have served as a point of light in dark times. When you were but a lad, I could see in you such promise. How quickly you took to Her teachings. How devotedly you swore yourself to Her service. Astryliene herself would be proud to see how you have excelled in your training, for her hand has touched your liife deeply, and your path, while yet unclear, leads to greatness. Had I a brother, I imagine he would be like you. 

I understand Umanu has selected you to trial for Astryliene's Blade. Castien, I could not support this decision more, for it seems a natural extension of not only your personality, but your heart, as well. I can see no other place in the Temple where you would be happier. To become part of the Blade will provide you with the challenges and opportunities to keep not only your skills shrp, but our mind as well, and show you the love Astrryliene has for all peoples across this continent, and indeed the world. Oh, I do so envy you a bit - to travel so far! This world is so vast, and so strange, and it is my hope you see it all. 

But now, to the heart of my letter.

For years, I have alternately puzzled over and tried to push from my mind the events that led to Lya's death, and what part the town of Ghostwood plays in it. When I think on it, my thoughts lead also to the emissaries we once sent that way who disappeared and were never seen again. And while they retain two Sisters currently, there are strange rumors of things...  My heart is uneasy more and more, and without the comfort of my sisters, I am unable to put it to ease. I hope you can help me, and by extension, help Lya, whom I fear can not rest until the events of her violent death are settled one way or another. 

To this end, Umanu has granted me permission to set forth your Trials, and if you agree, I set this before you. Seek out the town of Ghostwood, and uncover its connection to my sister. If you also glean insight into the disappearance of the intial emissaries we sent, that would please Umanu and Ulale. And if you were to verify the rumors or discount them, concerning the savage animal attacks nearby, well, that would be rather nice also. These are your Trials, as mostly approved by Grand High Father Umanu as part of your admittance to Astryliene's Blade. 

If you will take up this quest, I ask you to speak with Girta'a at Halfred's Bake Shoppe in the Market District. She is a lovely young woman of half-orc descent in whom I have entrusted the gathering of our band of heroes. 

Yours fondly, 

Lys

At first, Castien smiled – he was more than honored by Lys’ request and confidence in him to have even sent him this letter – then, as that smile widened, it grew so large that it could help but result in a soft chuckle as his eyes turned to where Silva’s lavender hair spilled across his pillows. “How is it that you always know these things, melui,” he scarcely whispered into the early morning air that spilled through his window, “how is it that you’ve always known?”

Silva stirs only when Castien reaches out to stroke her hair and she smiles contentedly when her eyes flutter open to realize that she is still in his bed. She sighs happily once before realizing that Cas is already awake and leaning over her, smiling softly as he lovingly toys with the strands of her hair. “Is it morning,” she asks, realizing that she truly doesn’t care about the answer as her eyes flutter closed, again.

“It is,” Cas whispers in reply, “Early, yet, but morning, nonetheless.”

“Will you come back to bed?”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” the elven warrior’s tone become mildly apologetic and Silva’s ears pick up on the faint crackle of parchment rustling between fingers, “Your prophecies are eerily accurate, as always.”

As much as she tries to mask it, there is a sprinkling of dejectedness in the sigh that whispers past Silva’s lips, then. Her eyes come hatefully open, but soften as she rolls over on the mattress to face him, clutching the covers to her bare chest against the cool morning breeze blowing through the window. “Your trials,” she queried almost as if she already knew, her eyes flitting from the letter in his hand to his face in the time it took to prop herself up on an elbow.

Castien nodded somberly as he turned to face her more fully and offered over the parchment from which he’d just read. She rubbed her eyes, first, but, then, stretched out a graceful hand to accept the paper from his and, having done so, read it in silence. When she was finished, she folded the letter and offered it back. “It’s from Lys,” she smiled softly, sadly, “you can’t say no… you won’t say no.”

“I can’t,” Castien smiled in return, somewhat apologetically despite the fact that it was unnecessary, “I won’t.

Lys is my mother as much as Ulale,” he whispered, setting the letter aside on the mattress and reaching out a hand to stroke her cheek, “perhaps even closer…”

“I know,” Silva smiled, lifting her hand to his face in reciprocation, “I’ve always known… which is why we are here, melamin. You will come back?”

“I’ve already promised you this, yes?”

“Promise me, again, Cas,” she requested, lifting from the mattress to bring her lips to his.

“I will come back, Silva Talelkiir,” he smiled against her lips as the kiss was ruefully broken, “Help me with my armor? I’d like to see Lys and the Grand High Father before I take to the city.”

"Of course."



Posted on 2018-04-06 at 17:10:00.

Nomad D2
RDI Fixture
Karma: 47/5
2302 Posts


Borborybodboddynock gets a mission

“My dear young friend, you are a hard gnome to track down! I trust this letter finds you well and happily enjoying the journey you have set out upon. It is my hope that you've found bot fun and knowledge, and maybe made a few friends along the way. It's easy to lose yourself to the beauty of nature, and friendship is good for the soul.

Speaking of friends, I recently learned of the passing of an old friend, and her sister asked my help in learning more about the sad strange details of her end. Of course, i wanted to but, you know age. Well, you will, at any rate. While I had to decline for myself, not giving this young lady a hand sits badly with me, and I feel of anyone, you might be best able to give her the help she's asked for.

Consider it a favor, my young friend, because it would settle my heart to know what happened to my old friend and how she met such a terrible end. But more to the point, you could finally learn what's at the heart of the terrors happening to the creatures out by Ghostwood. the animals speak of such awful horrors i can hardly believe them myself. Maybe you can puzzle out what;s really going on there? Head to Watertown, to Halfred's Bake Shoppe and speak to Girta'a. She'll set you on the right way.”

 

Bory looked up from the letter in his hands and then down at the squirrel in front of him.  He smiled.  “Well, little one, I had not heard, but thankfully you have brought me the news.  Haradaya will be most appreciative of your efforts, as am I.  And if you will but wait a moment, I shall provide you with a message to bring back to our old friend.”  He sat on a small rock on the side of the path in the sun and pulled out a small piece of paper, a pen and his inkwell.  He quickly scribbled out his response. 

 

My dear old mentor, I am so hard to track down that only a squirrel could do so successfully!  My journey so far has been worthwhile – filled with sights not previously seen and people not previously met.  I have met many people, for a funny little gnome can make many a friend over a mug of mead.  This world is filled with many interesting people.

So far my travels have been without specific directions, simply travelling where my feet might take me.  But now, it seems, I have a destination, for I would consider it an honor to represent you in this matter.  Ghostwood.  I have heard only a few rumors of that strange place.  But I shall seek to find the answers you desire.  As soon as I hand off this note I shall turn my steps towards Watertown to start along this new path.

 

He rolled up his small note and tied it to the squirrel’s neck where the previous note had been.  “There you go my friend.  I would consider it a great favor if you would return this to Haradaya.”  The little squirrel jumped up and down in excitement so much that the gnome was barely able to tie on the message.  As soon as it was on the creature he jumped up, yelped “I’m off!” and sped off into the underbrush.  Bory smiled at the wonderful creatures, big and small, that filled the world. 

And then it was time to set off towards Watertown.  The path he was on did not go in the right direction.  He had previously had no specific destination, but wherever he had been headed, Watertown had not been it.  He left the path, setting off at a right angle from the path into the underbrush.  He knew the general direction of the city and should be able to pick up animal paths soon.  He was excited.  He had a mission.  He’d never really had a mission before.  He could, perhaps, begin to pay back his mentor for all that had been given to him.  He bounded along the path enjoying the sun and whistling a little tune.

Watertown was both a shock to the system and exactly as expected.  He had never been in a city of this size, yet it was exactly as he had been led to believe such a place would be.  Too many buildings and not enough trees, but the town still had more than enough to keep the young gnome entranced.  At first, he just wandered around looking at everything.  The city, the temples, the taverns, the market stalls, the wagons, the children.  There were people of all types everywhere – it was almost like watching a circus, but a circus of everyday life.  He enjoyed every minute of it and talked to everyone that seemed willing to chat and a few that didn’t. 

Although he wanted to just wander and look around, he had a mission.  When he bought an apple from a stall he asked the young girl who sold it to him if she knew where a good bakery was.  She recommended the best bakery in town – Halfred’s.  He followed her directions and arrived in the late afternoon.  Even though the days baking had probably been completed hours before he could still smell the wonderful aroma even over the other pungent odors of the city.  This was a destination worth arriving at! 

He entered the bakery and was surprised to see a young half-orc working behind the counter.  A half-orc baker?  Why not?  Would there be an orc in the backroom baking cookies?  Sure, why not?  Appearances in nature are often deceiving he reminded himself, although, when he looked, the young lady simply seemed happy and pleasant.  He approached and ordered a couple of wonderful looking pastries, his mouth watering.  The young half-orc looked over the counter at him and grinned a tusked grin.  “A gnome!  Don’t see a lot of gnomes around here eating pastries!  But everybody is welcome at Halfred’s and nobody can resist Papa’s baking!”  She grinned and since he clearly had the look of a traveler added, “Have you been traveling?  You look as if you just arrived in the city and your first stop was Halfred’s!”

Bory grinned at the youngster.  She was happy and spunky and her attitude was catchy, although the gnome had never needed any help being either happy or spunky.  “The legend of Halfred’s pastries is known far and wide!  I came here straight from the road, not just by chance but seeking refreshment worthy of my travels!”  He held up his pastries as he spoke.  “But in addition to these amazing smelling foods, I must admit I also came seeking a Girta’a.”   This last line was spoken a bit quieter than the rest as he really didn’t know if any of this was secret, but since the bakery was empty at the moment he need not have worried.  He waited to see what response his words would have. 



Posted on 2018-04-07 at 16:58:06.

Eol Fefalas
Turning Capashanese
RDI Staff
Karma: 447/28
7282 Posts




Watertown; The Temple of Astryliene – Castien’s chambers – 6:30 a.m.

“There,” Silva sighed, happily and sadly, all at once, as she secured the black and grey cloak that constituted Castien’s vestments to the pauldrons of his blue-grey leathers with a silver brooch, “That should do.” Despite her assurances, she spent another moment adjusting the folds and spill of the cape with delicate fingers. Then, when she could fidget no more without just cause, she lifted her hands and her lips to his face. “Remember your promise, Castien Mithretaryl,” she prompted, her lips still close enough to brush delicately over his with every word, “and come home to me.”

“Of course, melamin,” Castien smiled softly against her mouth as one hand lifted to entangle itself in the violet spill of hair that fell at her neck, “Cormamin niuve en lle coia orn n’omenta gurtha.”

“As will mine, my love,” the tiny sorceress sighed as her arms wrapped around his leather clad form and pulled him close, “It always does.”

As her head pressed to his chest, his dipped to lay against hers and his own arms tightened around her lithe frame. “Study well whilst I’m away,” he murmured, a faint smile playing on his lips, “and, perhaps, I’ll make a Blade of you when I return.”

The apples of the girl’s cheeks ripened against the embossed lightning bolts on which they rested against his leathers. “I will,” she promised softly, her smile widening all the more at his use of the word ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if,’ “and, I’ll hold you to those words, “arna’amin.”

“Do so,” he answered, ruefully peeling her from his chest and holding her at arm’s length so that he might gaze on her face once more before he chose to depart, “I shall make them good. Amin mela lle, Silva.”

“Amin mela lle, Cas,” she cooed, lifting herself on her toes to taste his lips, again, “Na’varna.”

“Always,” he purred, the black leather clad tips of his fingers stroking along the tear dampened curve of her cheek.

With that, she stepped away from him and allowed him to take up his shield. “Give Sister Lys my best,” she said as Castien reached for the door handle, “and have her give you mine.”

“I have that already,” Cas smiled, his fingers brushing a ribbon he’d taken from her hair and tied about the hilt of his blade, as he backed from the room, “Tenna’ ento lye omento, melui.”

“Tenna’ ento lye omento,” she whispered in reply as the door closed behind him. When the latch clicked, Silva allowed the tears that she’d dammed behind her lids to spill freely over her cheeks and, before the sobs racked her chest, pounced herself back into his abandoned bed, pulling the covers close around her to absorb his scent.

Watertown; The Temple of Astryliene – Lys’ suite – 6:40 a.m.

He rapped softly against the door of Lys’ rooms, the warmth in his heart swelling all the more as he waited his dear friend’s answer. And more still when he perceived her soft footsteps approaching. As the first staccato notes of her turning of the handle whispered to his ears, Castien took a knee on his side of the threshold, and, as the hinges creaked softly as Lys opened the door, he smiled as he greeted her, though his eyes, then, only saw the floorboards beneath him; “Quel amrun, seler’amin.”

He felt her hand rest on the crown of his head, then, and the warmth of her touch radiate through him even before her voice reached his ears. “Quel amrun, toror’ai,” her voice caressed over the air, “You know, of course, that, between you and I, such formalities are not needed.”

“It is respect, Lys,” Castien smiled, his gaze lifting only then to regard the porcelain masked visage that hovered over him, “not formality, which I offer.”

The woman chuckled softly, her hand coming away from his head then. “As always, my dear boy,” she returned, “I expected I might be seeing you. Please, come in.”

Castien rose, then, and smiled at the finely crafted mask that regarded him as he came to his full height. “I received your letter,” he told her as she admitted him across the threshold, “Had it been any other than you, I might have been offended that a personal visit hadn’t arrived in it’s stead.”

“Silva had other plans that I was loathe to interrupt,” Lys tittered softly as the young, elven fighter stepped into her chambers and she pushed the door shut, once more. The giggle became a full-blown yet still soft laugh as Castien’s cheeks flushed and his eyes flicked her way…

You knew?”

“Anyone with eyes and a heart knew, boy,” she replied, waving him toward the divan that occupied the center of her living quarters, “Silva and yourself have had a destiny since she was here scarcely a month. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s sweet.”

A nervous chuckle shushed over Castien’s lips as he purposefully tried to avoid the eyes peering at him from behind that mask and he meandered toward the sunset strewn sofa to which he’d been directed. “I’ve moved her into my rooms,” he admitted, more easily than he might have even to the Grand High Father and Mother, “She’ll be staying there until I return, at least.”

“And, hopefully, long after,” Lys returned softly, following the young elf towards the couch. “We’ve all known, for some time, that you and she were meant to be.

Have you had breakfast?”

“No,” Castien admitted, depositing his mother’s shield beside the sofa and laying his scimitar beside it before he sat, “but I do not visit for food, Sister, only to thank you for the task you’ve set before me.”

“A task better undertaken on a stomach that is not empty, Castien,” Lys replied, her elegant steps positioning her before him for an instant, “and, your thanks are unnecessary. This task I’ve laid before you is unlike any I have lain before a blade in all of my years. Were it not for your zeal and the honor I know to burn in your heart, I’d have not offered it to another.

Tea? Toast?”

“Please,” Castien nodded humbly, “both. I am hungry.”

Lys’ laughter went from trilling to deep as she nodded and wandered away toward another room; “I imagine you are. Eggs, as well, I’d guess?”

“If you have them to spare, Mother.”

“For you, my boy,” she purred, disappearing through an arched doorway, “I do.

Would you mind if I removed my mask?”

“Have I ever?” The elven lad called behind her.

“You have not,” Lys answered, “which is a good part of the reason I’ve chosen you for this particular trial, to begin with.

I confess,” she continued, her voice echoing softly through the narrow confines of her suite. “I had expected you to visit me before you left, Castien, but not at such an early hour.”

The young elf grinned. “Something Silva said to me, last night,” he said, “made me think of you and, after I received your letter, speaking to you couldn’t go avoided in good conscience.”

The laughter that filtered through the chambers, then, was warm and smoky; comforting and warm in it’s timbre. “And what might these sage words have been, I wonder,” Lys inquired as she appeared in the archway that separated the rooms of her suite, bearing a tray laden with a tea service and a couple of plates decked with what she intended to be their breakfast.

“Thank you, Lys,” Castien smiled, gazing upon the woman’s true face and feeling privileged to be one of the few, ever to have done so, “For everything you have done for me. For bringing my heart, if not my body, to the service of Astryliene.”

Lys may very well have paused in genuine surprise at the young Blade’s words and, in all it’s bare authenticity, her face contorted in a manner that might have belied her astonishment in some small way. “Whatever do you…”

“I love you, Lys,” Castien interrupted her, rising from the couch where she had seated him as he did, “You have been a mentor, a mother, and more to me for as long as I can recall. I don’t know that I’ve ever thanked you for that and, given this,” he pulled her folded letter from where it had been tucked away in the pouch on his belt, “I wanted to be sure you knew my gratitude.”

“I have never not known it, Castien,” the woman replied softly, setting the tray on the low table between them and gathering the folds of her robes about her as she seated herself, “regardless of whether you spoke the words or not.” She waved him back to his seat, then, as she set about pouring tea for the both of them. It was only when the cups were filled and she lifted one to offer over to the elf that her eyes met his again and a gentle smile played on her features; “I love you, too, my dear boy… and you are more than welcome.”

She waited as he accepted the cup she’d offered and seated himself, once more. When he had done so and the cup was lifted to his lips, she took up her own and, following a sip of the tea, continued; “Of the countless faces I have seen pass through these halls in my many, many years, it has been yours in which I have seen the truest representation of everything She asks of us. Your heart is calm as the peace in the eye of the Storm and your commitment to Her teachings as fierce as the maelstrom at it’s most furious. Since Astryliene, herself, walked this world, there have been few who embodied her ways to the extent you do.” The vestiges of a smile still twinkled in her eyes but, save for that, her features had gone somber. “This path that you set upon, now, will test all of that,” the warning tone of the words was impossible to miss, “more than any other trial you have ever faced, my friend, and it is only my faith in your conviction that keeps me from worrying overmuch at setting you upon it.”

For a moment, Castien wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he said nothing. Instead, he set aside his tea cup and helped himself to a piece of toast and one of the small, boiled plover eggs that constituted the breakfast she’d prepared them. He chewed in thoughtful silence as the wise woman eyed him calmly from behind her cup and, when the egg was gone, his eyes found hers, again. “I know the weight of this task you that have laid before me and, more, the importance it holds for you,” he sighed, “Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I fear I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small ones for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love. For you, Lys, I promise to find a way of bettering what has been lost in Lya’s passing if nothing else.”

Lys smiled brightly; “The great changes which you don’t believe you can make will be born of those small changes that you can, Castien.” She took up a plate, herself, then, and motioned his attentions back to the one before him. “Let’s talk of this no further, now,” she suggested, “The ferry will be leaving for Watertown soon enough and you have yet to see The Grand High Father. Finish your breakfast.”

Halfred’s Bake Shoppe; Watertown – 8:30 a.m.

The calm in his heart, steeled by words of wisdom and blessing bestowed upon him by Lys, Umanu, and Ulale, bore Astryliene’s Blade peacefully from the Temple and through the streets of the city, all the way to the door of Halfred’s. Despite the tranquility that surrounded him, though, Castien also felt an electric tingle of excitement coursing through him. He’d been out in the world, before, of course, but never in quite the manner in which The Living Storm bade him to venture forth, now. This time, he was alone, with none of his brothers or sisters from the Temple at his side. He knew, of course, that he wouldn’t be facing these challenges completely alone – Lys had assured him that she had summoned certain others to travel to Ghostwood with him – but, he still felt a curious mix of eagerness and foreboding at the prospect of it all and, despite outward appearances, he inwardly struggled to balance the ebb and flow of those conflicting feelings. Standing before the door of the little pastry shop, now, he drew in a deep, soothing breath, squared his shoulders and, then, exhaled just as slowly before pushing through the door and setting his feet upon the proverbial first cobble on this new path.

More than one pair of eyes turned his way as he crossed the threshold. Each gaze, having quietly assessed or opined the Blade’s presence, turned away in due course… all except for that of a half-orc girl whose eyes seemed to be propped up by a broad, toothy smile. “You’re from the Temple,” the girl beamed, wiping her hands on her apron as she crossed the floor to welcome him.

“I am,” Castien smiled in return, offering a bow in greeting, “Sister Lys has sent me here in search of Girta’a. Might you be her?”



Posted on 2018-04-08 at 14:00:03.

Chessicfayth
Cheshire Cad
Karma: 100/3
1143 Posts


The Mistake-Out

Soren sat in front of Halfred's bakery, intensely focused on the building just over the way. He had been doing so since the early hours of the morning. Those who were meant to take notice did so, and wondered (somewhat fearfully) what could be drawing the young man's attention there. Who he was, what he was, meant that anything drawing such interest from him was going to have trouble. Trouble that most didn't want to get mixed up in.

Which is exactly what everyone was meant to think.

Before the day was half over the rumor mill had decided that the Arcaren was after someone in there, and reputations were already taking a blow as gossip did its dirty work, filling in details and inventing facts. Those who wished to avoid trouble made themselves scarce. Those who wanted to see the specatacle unfold replaced them. And everyon focused on the building across the way.

Thus giving Soren ample time to observe Halfred's bakery itself. Business appeared good today, as it was every day. The food was, as he could attest to himself, some of the best in the city. A good thing for his stake out, as he'd needed to order more than once today. He finished off his snack, and thought back to the letter that had prompted this whole day.

 

Soren,

Your work for the Authority has been impeccable. No doubt you make Lord and Lady Veska quite proud. I forsee great things ahead for you, and it is time to entrust you with a bit more challenging work, to match the potential you have shown. It has come to our attention that a member of Astryliene's cult may be leaving the sactuary of Watertown. As you know, we have an agreement in place that we are not able to apprehennd temple staff within the city. However, if they leave the confines of the city, they become fair game.

But the Order believes she may lead us to an even greater prize, and to that end, you are to investigate, determine the best time to make the extraction, and should this lead to a larger group, salvage as many as possible if they are not willing to register. We will control the rampant misuse and abuse of the arcane arts throught Khadask. The Temple of Astryliene will no longer be the safe haven for these despots and degenerates who feel they are above the Authority. We will have order. We will have obedience. And you will be the one to help us see a new world order. One where the Authority is respected and obeyed.

I leave the particulars of how to complete this task to you. You are a valued and trusted member of the Authority, and I know we can count on your participation in making Khadask a safer and more regulated place for all to live. We will bring peace. And they will thank us. They will thank you.

By the Hand of Order,

Salvager Remarsi Obduresc

 


Enclosed had been a fairly unhelpful descpription of what was, he assumed, one of the local Sisters, and a note from one of the local Whispers that she had been spotted at Halfred's. Soren almost smirked. Her and half the city.

He was unsurprised that he hadn't seen anyone matching said description. People the Arcaren hunted for tended to be too intelligent to stick around or stay put. Those who did so were salvaged quickly enough that Soren wouldn't be needed. The real question was, did this woman know the Arcaren sought her? Soren absently ran a hand over the mark on his forehead, then through his hair. He'd have to try and find out when he met up with her. That meant asking Halfred's family.

There was no doubt in Soren's mind they would know something. Not long after Soren had taken up his post, an elf from the same temple had visited, speaking for a time with one of Halfred's daughters. He'd listend to what he could without giving himself away, but hadn't gleaned much, and wasn't willing to risk revelation or confrontation with the well-trained elf. Nor was that the last of the seemingly strange visitors. What settled the matter for good in Soren's mind, however, was the gnome he saw enter and speak with the family as well. That gnome was a mage of some sort, he could tell.

Soren waited awhile, then stood and entered the bakery. There was no sense putting it off now. No need to beat around the bush either. If the Arcaren wanted subtle, they wouldn't have sent a salvager. Nor would they have sent Soren. The especially wouldn't have sent Soren in his own city. No, subtlety of any kind would be a waste of time. Courtesy would do, however.

A young half-orc woman, her auburn hair pinned atop her head, face and apron lightly dusted with flour, moved easily and lightly behind the counter. An easy and natural smile never left her face as she took orders and packaged fresh breads and cakes for waiting customers. But at sight of Soren, that smile faltered, if only for a moment, It would have only be noticed by someone used to such slips. A flash of fear in her eyes betrayed the cheerful disposition as she wiped her hands and nodded.

"Be with you in just a moment!" she sang out, and quickly sorted the remaining few people. Once the shop was emptied, she sighed, still smiling. "There we go! My, what a busy day we've had! What can I get for you today? Would you like to try one of our sweet apple loaves?"

Soren was polite, but direct. "Hello. My name is Soren. I would like to speak with Girta'a."



Posted on 2018-04-09 at 15:48:34.

Impulse
Resident
Karma: 12/1
494 Posts




Karos wanders along the streets of Watertown, easily making it's way through the familiar pathways.  He spends a lot of time walking lately, relishing in the opportunity to think, to settle the chaotic feelings that swirl inside him, his memories of Helana, his anger at her death and at the framing.  Glancing at the bag of gold at his pouch, he clenches his fists angrily before relaxing suddenly.  
 
Going towards and abandoned alleyway, he takes out the page of arcane knowledge carefully hidden on his person and examines it.  He touches the writing on it tenderly as if it somehow will bring back his lost friend before stowing it away again.  
 
Taking some time to scale up the side of a small building, he sits down there and sighs reaching into his pack for a letter.  Although he had read it before, he reads it over one more time. 
 
Dear Karos, 
First, let me say Castien speaks highly of you, and of your talents. Though we do not know each other well, what I have learned of you has led me to the same conclusion, that you are in nature and in heart a good and decent man, in whom I can place my trust. While our interactions together have been spare, I have only ever felt you to be a good person, and it is to this part of you that I beseech your aid in a matter most dear to my heart. One which weighs heavy on my heart and mind. 
 
Grief and loss come to us all, in time. It is loss that usually brings people here, to Astryliene, i have found. Loss of family, of friends, of hope, of wealth, of direction. Loss of purpose. And those of us who make Her temple our home are not immune to more of it, I am afraid. for i have lost, among others, a sister. For six years, I have mourned her, but tried to put her final moments out of my mind. Yet, I find, as time passes, i can no longer ignore it. 
 
While most of this world wanders and stubles around, flailing blindly against our own selves, you seem to know your way. You have in you, I believe, an innate sense of purpose and direction. And I suppose partly owing to your past, you know what you want and how to get it. i have need of those talents. I am putting together a small group of individuals whose talents compliment your own, for an undertaking I am unable to take on myself. But were you to agree to this, you would be in tremendous company. I have asked our mutual friend Castien to investigate the connections between Lya's death and  the town to Ghostwood, far to the east of the Deeper Wilds. It is a town at the center of several strange and terrible events both current and past, and I feel you might be able to assist him. You will be able to gain access to people and places unavailable to him. People who might not feel comfortablespeaking to a member of Astryliene's faithful. Places of a more questionable nature than he is used to frequenting. 
i fear that, without you, he may not gain the knoweledge I seek, and so I ask you plainly, will you help? The temple will always be open to you should you say no, but I would ask you to look inside yourself for the losses you yourself may have suffered in life, and perhaps those might give you cause to agree. In addition to Castien, I have asked a your warrior in whom I have complete trust and respect to assist in your safekeeping, and another from farther into the Deeper Wilds, who may be able to assist with the more nature-based issues that might present themselves during your quest. 
 
Should you agree to help, please visit Halfred's Bake Shoppe in the MArket district, and ask for Girta'a. She has been entrusted with the rest of the information you need, and will help to send you on your way once the others arrrive. 
Yours with a grateful heart, 
 
Lys, of Astryliene's Faithful
 
Castien... He owes that man a debt.  Lys is an interesting fellow, someone who dares to stand up to the nobles which is something to be respected.  Although he had very little dealings with her, if Lys is asking for his aid, he wouldn't be unwilling to help her.  Even more so with Castien mentioned.  
 
He skims over the words about loss, the absence of his crew, his family; the pain still fresh in his chest.  The thought of travelling to ghostwood...  Although he would like to spend time searching for the traitor responsible for Helena's capture and what he can only presume death, perhaps some time spent away would be good.  Healthy even. 
 
As he reads this, he sees a group of children, dressed in shabby clothing and fairly thin, playing together and laughing.  He thinks about better times looking towards the sky wistfully.  After a moment, he thinks Helena is gone, out of my reach, even if she is alive, there is no way for me to rescue her.  I could do some good in the meantime.  I won't be able to help her now.  Won't be able to find the mole yet.  I need a crew to help, need another family.  
 
He comes to the sudden realization that he has already started moving, his mind still trying to choose when his body has long since decided.  
 
Chuckling softly to himself, he realizes that he has been lonelier than he'd care to admit.  Castien is a good man, one that has taken care of him and if he were to leave on this quest, Karos would be alone again.  
 
Opening the door to  Halfred's Bake Shoppe, he smiles politely at the half orc, quickly saying "Although your treats smell delicious, I'm afraid I'm here on business.  I believe someone named  Girta'a should be expecting me?  I'd like to speak to her.".  


Posted on 2018-04-13 at 18:56:42.

Ayrn
RDI Fixture
Karma: 122/12
1984 Posts




“I present to you the victor,” The announcer stated, competing to be heard over the din of the crowd. “The Lucky Lioness.”

 

Aymani gave her signature “roar-and-kiss” move, roaring loudly and then grabbing the face of her opponent – tonight, a hulk of a woman from Port Sac knocked senseless, her cheeks puffy red and already beginning to turn the colour of bruised, her nose bloodied and broken, her jaw slack -- and kissing them on the lips, to which the gathered crowd cheered all the more wildly.

 

Not all battles in the pits ended this way, but Aymani had a string of five victories at the moment, all knock-outs, and was riding high tonight. Adrenaline coursed through her blood, the gift of her orc heritage, so she barely felt her own battered frame as she left the pit.

 

The Lioness knew she had taken a beating though. This night’s bout had been brutal. The woman from Port Sac was a beast, having at least thirty pounds on Aymani, and the Lioness felt all that extra weight behind each of the blows the woman landed… Aymani’s ribs were beginning to testify to the truth.

 

Time to see Lys!

 

Lys was Aymani’s frequent healer and regular confidante. The gentle woman from the Temple with the porcelain mask often came and watched the Lioness fight and nearly as often dressed her wounds afterwards.

 

Tonight was not to be one of those night, it seemed however, as only Ceslav and Seda met her outside the pit in Ceslav’s tent.

 

“Nice fight, ‘Mani,” Ceslav said, his voice like rough gravel. His massive hand patted Aymani’s bruised side and the half-orc sucked in breath. He looked up at her, all business. “Don’t feel like you have to let them hit you though.”

 

Ceslav, a dwarven male in the later years of his life, was Aymani’s sponsor and benefactor at the Pits. In another life, he had made his wealth leading the Titans, a mercenary group that once provided protection for caravans travelling overland through Ghostwood Groves and onwards to Ahl-Jhian and back again. Ceslav was also Aymani’s father’s last employer. When Aymani’s father was killed in action, Ceslav took on the role to look out for the young half-orc. Make no mistake: the dwarf didn’t give the girl a free meal. Ceslav wasn’t that kind of generous. What he did do was continue her father’s training, in a fashion, by sponsoring and promoting her in the Pits, and dropping her name amongst colleagues who needed some extra muscle for short term contracts. It was kindness, the dwarven way. “You’re gonna hav’ta make yer own way in this world, ‘Mani,” was the phrase Ceslav spoke most often to her.

 

Seda was one of Lys’ lads, a dark-skinned human male acolyte from the Temple who Lys often sent when she couldn’t come herself. “Let Seda take a look at you,“ the dwarf continued, taking out a leather pouch. Removing some coins from the pouch, he tossed the little leather bag to Aymani – her winnings for the evening -- and handed two coins to Seda. “Especially those ribs.”

 

Returning his gaze to Aymani, Ceslav said, “Look, you did good… but I’m taking you out of the Pits for a bit.” The half-orc began to protest, but Ceslav cut her off, “Three weeks for sure, maybe more. So make sure you stretch out those winning.”

 

Aymani knew better than to argue with the dwarf. His head was so hard, Aymani often dreamed of how it might make a great shield. Instead, she rolled her eyes and grunted a “thanks!” to Ceslav.

 

As he took his leave, Ceslav reminded Seda, “The ribs. And don’t let her push you around.”

 

Aymani scowled at the dwarf’s back before resigning herself to removing her top and laying out on the roughly-hewn wooden table so Seda could do his work. The dark-skinned human healer’s hands were cool to the touch, which felt nice against Aymani’s hot skin. Seda worked the salves and oils in with firm but patient hands, while Aymani lay in silence, reviewing the fight, remembering each blow as the acolyte touched the spot.

 

After nearly thirty minutes of careful work, Seda stepped away from Aymani. The half-orc had nearly fallen asleep under his care. Opening her eyes, she looked to the acolyte who was looking her body over, ensuring he had completed his work, before smiling gently at Aymani. “You’re good,” the half-orc smirked playfully at Seda.

 

“Thank you,” the dark-skinned man said, his face remaining professional. “I am finished. Though, my Lady Lys bid me to give you this salve for your continued use, should the pain persist, and this letter.”

 

Aymani sat up, her curiosity causing her to moan a little as she moved a little too quickly to retrieve the cream and letter from the acolyte. “Thank you, Seda. For these and,” she touched grabbed his hand as she slid off the table, “these. MmmMmm… so good!” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, before playfully speaking in his ear, “You know that if you want to lay your beautiful hands on me, you don’t need to wait ‘til I’ve taken a beating, right?!.” Seda remained stoic in his demeanor, professional as always. Aymani winked at him, slid her top on and headed for home. “Bye, Seda!”

 

Not until her back was to him did Seda let a silly grin creep on his handsome face, as he whispered, “Bye, Aymani…”

 

 

…………………………………..

 

Aymani waited until she had returned home, the upper attic space of Bojan and Larisa’s establishment, the Salty Tusk.

 

Bojan was a good man, human, still in his prime. He’d been a friend of Aymani’s father, a mercenary too, but had left the fighting life to settle down, marry Larisa, a sweet half-elven woman with a smile that could melt winter. Together, with their two year old daughter, Martina, pulling on their apron strings, Bojan and Larisa ran The Salty Tusk, a tavern near the piers which catered to the mercenaries that commonly travelled through Watertown. The head of giant boar hung prominently over the fire mantle, a serendipitous trophy that near had claimed Bojan’s life had Kostya (Aymani’s father) not come to Bojan’s aid.

 

The proprietor owed Kostya a debt of gratitude, which he sought to repay by housing Kostya’s daughter. Not for free, mind you… the couple could not afford that kind of generosity. Aymani paid a gold coin a week to keep her room and was expected to help Bojan when she wasn’t on the road or in the Pits.

 

Aymani didn’t complain. Bojan, Larisa and Martina were the closest thing the half-orc had to family.

 

As Aymani entered into the tavern, many of the patron’s eyes turned towards her and quieted down.

 

Bojan announced her, “See, here now, standing at five victories in as many fights… the Lucky Lioness!”

 

Aymani pumped her fists in the air and gave a little victory dance. Many in the room burst out in applause.

 

Bojan said, turning back to his guests, “I believe some of you lads are buying a round for rest, eh? Never bet against the Lioness!”

 

To which many in the room replied in a loud voice, “It’s just bad luck!”

 

Aymani gave them her signature roar to more hooting and hollering. As she made her way to the stairs, she greeted many of the patrons, knowing most by name. Sometimes she loved the attention, lots of times she just wanted to drop into her bed. Every time, though, she took the time to chat up the patrons whether she felt like it or not. It was just good for business and Aymani wanted help where she could.

 

Finally making it to her room, Aymani lit the candle beside her bed and opened Lys’s letter. She had been eager to read it since Seda had handed it to her. The Lady of the Temple regularly wrote her notes of encouragement when she couldn’t be present at her fights and Aymani had come to cherish the masked woman’s words of wisdom. Not at all like Aymani’s mother, Lady Lys reminded the young half-orc of her father.

 

Aymani smiled as she read,

 

My fiercest friend…

…………………………………………………

 

It was nearly mid afternoon by the time Aymani found herself in the Market District on the doorstep of Halfred’s Bake Shop. The half-orc gladiator, left cheek now a pretty purple-yellow-brown bruise, stepped into the shop and asked for Girta’a.

 

 

 



Posted on 2018-04-14 at 19:07:48.

Lady Dark
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First of Many - Castien

 

It had been a hard morning. An unseasonable chill in the night had crept into Uula'as bones and set her joints aflame, leaving her feeling wretched and raw in the small hours of the pre-dawn, when Halfred and his girls woke to start the fires in the ovens and set the shop in order  for the work ahead. No potion or salve worked, and Uula'a could only grit her teeth and struggle through, forcing herself to move through the pain that lingered in her twisted leg and hip that had never set right after that accident. As fresh baked goods were pulled from the ovens and set to cool, Uula'a struggled to bring the ready goods to the front, and had to rest frequently. Halfred did his best to keep her spirits up by singing everything he could think of, and it helped a bit. But Girta'a knew that by lunch, Uula'a would be done in and have to retire for the day. 

At the counter, Girta'a pushed all thoughts of her sister's difficulties from her mind and focused on simply getting them through the day. While business suffered a bit with the presence of the Arcaren agent outside, there was still more than enough work to keep her busy. Throwing herself into her routine, she was granted a brief and welcome respite when an armored elf, quite pleasing to the eye, entered the shop.

More than one pair of eyes turned his way as he crossed the threshold. Each gaze, having quietly assessed or opined the Blade’s presence, turned away in due course… all except for that of a half-orc girl whose eyes seemed to be propped up by a broad, toothy smile. “You’re from the Temple,” the girl beamed, wiping her hands on her apron as she crossed the floor to welcome him.

“I am,” Castien smiled in return, offering a bow in greeting, “Sister Lys has sent me here in search of Girta’a. Might you be her?”

"Indeed I am," she replied quickly, and her voice dropped low, though the smile never left her eyes. "And I've been expecting you. Please, have a seat and I'll be with you soon." And she was gone again, back behind the counter to clear away the customers.

The elf nodded faintly and, as Girta’a hurried back to her tending of the shop, Castien moved to a small table. He propped his shield against one leg of the thing and, after adjusting the fall of his cloak and the hang of the scimitar at his hip, settled into a chair. As Girta’a worked at filling her customers’ orders, Castien waited patiently, his alert gaze sweeping the shop and, on occasion, the street beyond the shop’s door.

Once the shop was quieter, she returned to him with a tied paper box, cloth napkin of pale green draped over it. In the kitchen, Papa broke into song, and after a verse or two, her sister's voice joined his.

At the sound of singing, the elf’s eyes skipped briefly from Girta’a toward the source of the crooning and a smile blossomed on his lips. There was an almost tangible sense of love and joy in the music the two voices created and his heart couldn’t help but be warmed by it. If the smile faded at all when his eyes came back to hers, it was scarcely noticeable.

As she stared pointedly into his eyes, her fingers brushed the cloth napkin ever so slightly, revealing a slip of paper tucked between the folds. "If you're not doing anything tonight, perhaps you might stop by again to see me after midnight. I'd love to give you a tour of our wine cellar. I'm sure you'll find it quite informative."

“It would be my pleasure,” Castien smiled, reaching for the box. He took up the napkin and, as he did, his fingers deftly picked the slip of paper from its folds and secreted it away under his belt as he lay the napkin across his lap. “I’ve heard tales of the wine cellar, here,” he said, reaching for the string-tied box, again, “and have long wanted to see it for myself.” Drawing the box across the table, the elf inclined his head a bit and sniffed lightly, his smile brightening at the aromas that escaped the container and teased his sense of smell.

The box lingered at the table’s edge as the elf rose gracefully to his feet, taking up his shield, again, as he did so. His sword-hand lifted, then, and two fingers touched his chest where a stylized storm cloud and heart were embossed in the leather of his armor. Those same fingers crossed the space between him and Girta’a, then, and came to rest lightly, briefly on the half-orc girl’s forehead. “May you find peaceful shelter in Her eye as the storm rages, melaer,” he smiled before his fingers fell away and his hand, at last, scooped the box from the table. “Thank you for this,” he added, tucking the box under his arm and sketching another bow, “I shall see you again, after midnight.”

Castien turned for the door, then, and, before he reached it, took a second to slide Girta’a’s note from his belt. His nimble fingers unfolded the slip of paper and his gaze dipped to the words written on it…

Arcaren outside. Watch yourself. Target unknown.

…The note disappeared from his hand as he reached the door and, as Castien turned the handle to let himself out, his bright blue eyes chanced a glance back at the half-orc girl who watched his retreat. He offered a scant nod, acknowledging her warning and, then, with nothing more passing between them but a smile, the elf strode back onto the streets of Watertown.

Castien had, of course, taken note of the Arcaren when he had first arrived; it wasn’t as if the man were trying to be discreet, after all.  The raven-haired man’s demeanor and the registry tattoo emblazoned prominently on forehead made him easy enough to spot. The elf had given the Arcaren Salvager – for, certainly, that’s what he was – only a passing glance when he initially found himself before the door of Halfred’s but, now, as he left the bakery behind him, Castien made a point of meeting the man’s blue-green eyes and offered a curt, if not altogether friendly, nod of acknowledgement. ONly Salvagers dared walk among the good people of this town. Whom might it be that you hunt, morier, he wondered as their gazes locked for that fraction of an instant, each of them defiant yet respectful of the other, and what is it that brings you here in search of your prey? The smile had melted from Castien’s face even before his gaze let go of the Authority’s agent, the joviality of his expression replaced by a look of grim contemplation as he left the bake shoppe and the ominous Arcaren behind him and disappeared into the maze of the city’s streets to wile away the rest of the day.

 



Posted on 2018-04-14 at 22:14:37.

Lady Dark
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Gnome Place Like Halfred's - Bory

They closed the shop but briefly, so Girta'a could carry Uula'a upstairs and set her comfortably int he window seat she so loved. By her, within easy reach, sat a pile of books, a bottle of fruited wine, some large blank books and a quill and inkpot for sketching. Girta'a made sure there were extra pillows and blankets, and that her sister had all she would need for the rest of the day, though she knew their father would sneak up at least a dozen times to check on her. 

Folks in town were keen to respect this daily break, and usually let them be for a while before the afternoon rush. When she retrned to the shop, the flipped the sign on the door to OPEN and moved behind the counter, just in time to see a gnome, of all people, enter with a clear and yearning hunger leading him by the nose, no doubt.

The new arrival approached and ordered a couple of wonderful looking pastries, his mouth watering.  The young half-orc looked over the counter at him and grinned a tusked grin.  “A gnome!  Don’t see a lot of gnomes around here eating pastries!  But everybody is welcome at Halfred’s and nobody can resist Papa’s baking!”  She grinned and since he clearly had the look of a traveler added, “Have you been traveling?  You look as if you just arrived in the city and your first stop was Halfred’s!”

Bory grinned at the youngster.  She was happy and spunky and her attitude was catchy, although the gnome had never needed any help being either happy or spunky.  “The legend of Halfred’s pastries is known far and wide!  I came here straight from the road, not just by chance but seeking refreshment worthy of my travels!”  He held up his pastries as he spoke.  “But in addition to these amazing smelling foods, I must admit I also came seeking a Girta’a.”   This last line was spoken a bit quieter than the rest as he really didn’t know if any of this was secret, but since the bakery was empty at the moment he need not have worried.

The half-orc grinned broadly, and moved about behind the counter, box in hand, filling it with a sampling of sweet and savory selections, and a few small jars of varied spreads. "Well then, you're in luck. You've found her. Well, me. I'm Girta'a, Daughter of Halfred. And i welcome you to our fsir city. Watertown is a wonderful place, for those seeking adventure, or just simply looking to take in new sights. Do you have a place to stay yet?" She reached up to tuck a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear.

"My lucky day!  Watertown does indeed seem a wonderful place to this country gnome!  And the pastries are  . .  . mumble . . .mumble"  he tried ot speak through a grinning mouthful, " . . .are excellent!"  He paused to swallow so he could speak more clearly.  "Having just arrived in your city of cullinary excellence, I must admit I am without accomodations at this point."  He had found his contact it seemed.  And he could hardly have asked for a more savory location.

The half-orc laughed lightly and brushed some flour off her cheek with the back of her hand. "My family and I live just above. It's just me, my sister, Papa. We have an extra room, if you'd like a place to rest a bit. although, i can't promise you quiet. Papa has a big voice, and he loves to sing. A lot. If you don't mind humans and half-orcs, you're welcome to stay with us."

Papa began a new song from the kitchen, a joyous tune about a boy who steals a string of sausages, with each verse adding a creature or person who chases after the boy. Girta'a rolled her eyes, but her grin widened. "See what I mean?"

Bory continued to smile at the young lady.  " I don't mind anybody with a smile and a good heart."  He grinned and held up the last of his pastry.  "And good pastries don't hurt either!  As for the singing, if they keep it up they may find that I learn the words and join in, although my gnomes voice isn't quite as deep as your Papa's.  I will happily take you up on your offer of accomodations.  Thank you much, Girta'a.  My name is Borborybodboddynock."  Seeing the surrpise on her face at the length of his name he laughed.  "But you can call me Bory.  I won't make you learn my entire name."

She hoped her first few botched attempts didn't offend him. To be fair, it really was a very long name, and her half-orc mouth wasn't used to quite so many sounds all at once needing to be made in a row. She settled on Bory, and offered him what she hoped passed for a curtsety.

"Well then, my new friend Bory, we are well met indeed." She paused here and reaached into a pocket of her apron, and withdrew a rusted metal key. "This is for the door to our place up there," she explained, and handed it over. "Take your rest while you can, because we'll be all gathering around midnight, down in the wine cellar here." Another pause. "It's good to see some good about to be done in the world," she added quietly, and led him round the corner, where the stairs up her hidden. 

her heart swelled a bit, and she wondered just how many lives Lys had touched to warrant such kindness from these strange people. And really, she knew, it was quite likely a great many. Lys was... she made you love her without even trying. 



Posted on 2018-04-14 at 22:34:38.

Lady Dark
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A Sight for Soren Eyes

An easy and natural smile never left her face as she took orders and packaged fresh breads and cakes for waiting customers. But at sight of Soren, that smile faltered, if only for a moment, It would have only be noticed by someone used to such slips. A flash of fear in her eyes betrayed the cheerful disposition as she wiped her hands and nodded.

"Be with you in just a moment!" she sang out, and quickly sorted the remaining few people. Once the shop was emptied, she sighed, still smiling. "There we go! My, what a busy day we've had! What can I get for you today? Would you like to try one of our sweet apple loaves?"

Soren was polite, but direct. "Hello. My name is Soren. I would like to speak with Girta'a."

She didn't whaw what she had expected. For tentacles to slither out of his mouth, most likely. While her family lived in constant fear of the Authority, they'd only seen them in passing and, on occaision, served them food when they came in for something tasty. The problem with being one of the premier bakeries in Watertown was that even the folks you tried to avoid wanted a piece. 

"I am Girta'a. it's a pleasure to meet you, Soren. Are you here for our delicious wares, or for something else entirely?"

A small smile appeared on Soren's face before he could stop it. "I've been at your wares all day. Delicious indeed." He shook his head, features becoming serious once more. "I am looking for someone from the temple, who is, herself, looking for someone, to see if I might aid her at all."

It took all she had not to glance back towards the kitchen, towards Papa, who may have left his old life behind, but was still in danger with this man standing here. And what of Uula'a? Could he detect the amulet, or the tracecs of magic on Uula'a blood and body? Grateful that her sister was upstairs, his presence still set her skin crawling with fear and anxiety. She had to get him out, and quickly. She couldn't just lie and say no. If they were asking for her, they already knew who she was. Was he here on behalf of Sister Lys, as the others? She couldn't imagine Lys working with the Authority in any way, but stranger things had happened. And didn't she herself know that Astryliene will manifested in strange and unlikely ways? Still, though, she had to be sure... She took a breath and, still smiling, spoke quietly.

For a brief shameful moment, Girta'a felt only relief that he was not after Uula'a. But he was here to help, to help Lys, and while it seemed unlikely, who was she to doubt Lys, or the will of the Divine? Perhaps, as she had heeard in the stands of the fights, a change was coming. Maybe improved relations between the factions inthe cityt was that change. Girta'a nodded. 

"Then return near midnight, to meet with the others. For now, you should rest and prepare for a long journey. I wish you and the the others luck."

And with that, he took his leave, and Girta'a released a long heavy sigh. As she set about bringing fresh goods from the cooling racks in the kitchen to fill the baskets and display case out front, she hoped she hadn't made a terrible mistake. 



Posted on 2018-04-15 at 12:28:44.

Lady Dark
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Karos Comes Calling

Already it had been a long day. Papa had baked up a storm in his concern over Uula'a's worsening condition, and the guilt kept him on his toes between the mixing, the ovens, and frequent trips upstairs to check on her. He'd started a stew in the kitchen, and already it smelled wonderful. All of the savory aromas of the fresh meat and veg tickled her nose and teased her belly. Since the Arcaren's visit, nearly everyone wanted to know what was going on. There were wild theories thrown about, and more than a few hit close to home, but she merely laughed and shook her head, denying everything. He'd come in to compliment the pastries and savory treats, was all, she explained. After all, she pointed out, even they had to eat, and why not have the best?

But the day had slowed down now, and they were entering the remains of the afternoon, when the last bit of customers would be stopping in for a fresh loaf or two to have with dinner, and then a sparse spattering of the occasional pie and cake orders. She hadn't heard from Lys, whom she assumed would be making an appearance to tell her more about those she summoned, or at the very least how many to expect, but so far there had een no sign or her, nor word. 

It was as she contemplated closing up early, that the sudden swing of the door caught her attention, as in walked a talll and dark haired human, his brown eyes bearing the weight of one who had seen both kindness and hardship, and probably more than enough of the latter. He reminded her of Papa, in that way.

"Welcome to Halfred's Bake Shoppe, can I interest you i one of our savory breads or rolls?"

The stranger smiled politely at the half orc, quickly saying "Although your treats smell delicious, I'm afraid I'm here on business.  I believe someone named  Girta'a should be expecting me?  I'd like to speak to her."

Girta'a chuckled and untied her apron. "Then it seems we are well met," she chuckled lightly, and removed the apron, hanging it upon a peg on the wall. She crossed the distance between them and extended a hand. "I am Girta'a, pleased to meet you. We have some time before the others gather, i'm afraid. you're welcome to  join my family upstairs, or continue what business you may have in the city. We'll be meeting here about midnight or so."

from upstairs, Papa called down to bring up a large pot of the stew, and that he'd be down soon. Girta'a rolled her eyes and told him she would in a moment, then turned back to Karos. "I'm sorry, would you mind? I can't leave the shop in case others come. It'd be a big help, and big fill of your belly," she added with a laugh, and without waiting for him to agree or not, disappeared intot he kitchen. When she returned, she cradled a large steaming stock pot in one arm, and basket laden with loaves and cakes in another. 

"It's just up there," she explained, and gestured with a toss of her head. "thanks agin, I really appreciate this." She quickly filled his arms and snt him on his way. 

what an interesting assortment of strangers, she mused. Lys had surely touched their lives in some significant way to inspire such devotion and help. It lifted her spirits, and she set about preparing for the next day's baking. 



Posted on 2018-04-15 at 14:40:11.

Lady Dark
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And Aymani makes Five!

It was nearly mid afternoon by the time Aymani found herself in the Market District on the doorstep of Halfred’s Bake Shop. The half-orc gladiator, left cheek now a pretty purple-yellow-brown bruise, stepped into the shop and asked for Girta’a.

Mid afternoon for a baker and his family is fairly like the end of day for most people, and a very tired Girta'a, though still retaining her smile, stopped in her tracks, eyes wide and mouth agape. She'd never before been this close to an actual celebrity. sometimes, if they'd had a really good day at the shop, Papa would let her sneak out to the fights for the night fights, and she always felt such a deep and primal thrill at watching the Lucky Lioness thrash her opponents. she supposed that Papa, as much as any human could, understood this and that was why he allowed it. But she couldn't help longing, sometimes, for a broader social circle that would include more of her kind. 

But she never expected to meet her. It had never crossed Girtaa'a's mind that she might one day be in the same  room, et alone so close, to someone like Aymani. 

Try not to sound like a simpleton, she warned herself internally, before doing almost just that. A hand thrust itself awkwardly forward, a dazed smile breaking over her face as she approached Aymani quickly. 

"welcome  to Girta'a, I'm Haldred's Bake Shoppe," she spluttered and instantly, even as the words escaped her, knew she was fangirling badly. She blinked, blushed, and suddenly laughed at her own foolishness. "I mean to say Welcome to Halfred's Bake Shoppe, and i am not only a huge fan of yours, I'm also Girta'a."

And so it was that, like a dream, Girta'a found herself inviting Aymani to the midnight meeting wit the others, and could think of nothing at all beyond that she was in the same room as a woman who was both one of her own kind, and someone whom she admired greatly. Nothing else really mattered for the rest of the day, or evening. Indeed, she hardly ate supper because she could only think about how the discoloration of the bruises on Aymani's cheek looked lovely in the soft light of the bakery, and how when Aymani moved, you could see the muscles ripple, and how wonderful she smelled, like blood and fury and sweat and leather and lotion. 

And for a while, Girta'a forgot her dread and worry and responsibilities. 



Posted on 2018-04-15 at 15:26:53.

Lady Dark
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the Midnight Meetup

Girta'a finished wiping down the tables for a seventh time. Already the counter and display case gleamed in the low light, and likely she would clean again before the various individuals Lys had recruited for this task would arrive. While Lys had been vague about the dangers, the need for such secrecy, Girta'a respected the Temple guardian enough to respect her wishes by moving them all under the cover of darkness. The Arcaren agent puzzled her greatly, and she'd begged both Papa and Uula'a to stay upstairs, to keep clear of the Market District altogether. Papa had been understandably upset, but understood and agreed with Girta'a where Uula'a was concerned. He had no care himself to remain hidden, lest the agent of the Authority come for him because of all this.  

"I've already lost a wife, I won't lose one of my girls, too," he declared, enveloping them both in a warm, if not tense, embrace. "Shar's a lazy shiftless bastard, he'll come help me tomorrow."'

With luck, she could keep them all in the wine cellar till it was time for them to depart. And as she waited, she cleaned, and lost herself in the routine, till a knock at the door broke her from her private world. A knot developed suddenly in the pit of her stomach and she stared for long moments before making a move to answer it. 

"Once I open this door," she reminded herself internally, "I become part of something larger than myself. I weave myself into the fabric of a larger tapestry. For Lys." and with that emboldening thought, Girta'a opens the door to reveal the armored Temple warrior from before. 

“Hello again, Girta’a,” Castien smiled softly as the door opened, “I hope I’ve not arrived too early or too late.” He noted the rigidness in her shoulders and the apprehensive yet determined set of her features that had dampened the bright smile he’d been greeted with this morning. Briefly, she looked past him to see the Arcaren agent approach, which stayed her tongue a bit. 

"A long day, it all," she lied, knowing she was a poor teller of tall tales. "Please, come in, come in. It's good to see you again. Both of you," she added as the Arcaren moved into the room a few paces behind Castien. She spared another glance, searching for Aymani in the darkness, and saw her figure moving closer. 

Diola lle,” he said, following the girl’s welcome that had come on the back of a breath she’d held slightly too long. He stepped through the door, then, and as she closed it behind them, he turned to face her. “Is all well,” he asked, “I cannot help but sense some small bit of trepidation.”

"A long day," she lied, knowing she was a poor teller of tall tales. "Please, wait here while I get the others. I will only be a moment."

Her stomach in knots, and an unfamiliar sense of panic stirring within, she took the stairs two at a time, and nodded to Bory and Karos, an indication it was time. As she led them down to the shop, the strong clear knock at the door announced Aymani's arrival, and to spare herself another embarrasing moment, she said nothing. she simply opened the door and moved aside to allow her passage into the main room. 

there was quiet as she made her way, with a backward look and a nod to have them folllow, into the kitchen and, from there, down a set of rickety but stable stairs into the wine cellar. 

 

it hadn't been used as a wine cellar in ages, to be honest. Once Girta'a lit a torch, she moved easily about the room lighting more, before setting the primary one in its holder in the wwall. 

 

they stood in a large room now, twenty by twenty with a high ceiling of ten feet, lined with shelves on two sides, and a stack of crates, casks, and old chests against a third. Bakeware, tin cups and ceramic plates, wooden plates and utensils, jars of preserves from various fruits and vegetables sat beneath a thin layer of dust, with disturbances everywhere that told a tale of an oft=used  store room that maybe could be cleaned more often. In the center of the room, a long table, with the length and width to support the need for the ten present chairs, sat covered in maps of trade routes, invoices, lists of ingredients and orders, and other such things. 

"Please," she sighed, "take a seat, and I will answer any questions you may have. Get to know each other. I will return momentarily with some dinks and some food, and with luck we can have you on your way by morning."



Posted on 2018-04-15 at 17:11:47.

Eol Fefalas
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Introductions and Reunions

Halfred’s Bake Shoppe; shortly after midnight

The span of time between when he’d left Halfred’s, this morning, and the hour at which he’d been asked to return might have been an extensive and restless gap but, once he had talked himself out of returning to the temple to steal a bit more time with Silva, Castien had managed to fill the hours well enough that he’d scarcely noticed. He had spent the morning wandering the streets, rather aimlessly, at first, while he pondered on the presence of the Arcaren who had been surveilling the bake shoppe; however, direction (and distraction from his musings over the Salvager) had found him soon enough when people began to recognize him as being a disciple of Astryliene. When that happened, the elf found his hours quickly filled with requests for aid in matters great and small – a plea for a blessing and a handful of coppers spilled into a beggar’s cup, here, assistance in fixing a broken cart wheel and the rounding up of a spooked team of horses, there – and, when the sun had climbed to its zenith, the afternoon found him quite hungry.

The elf made his way to a small park, just off one of the city’s squares, and made a lunch of the one remaining sweet apple loaf from the box Girta’a had given him earlier (the others had been given away to a pair of urchins who looked to be in desperate need of food). Following that repast, more time was spent in meditation and sword forms before Castien coaxed himself away from the park and back onto Watertown’s thoroughfares. The remainder of the afternoon and a good portion of the evening, too, had lapsed in much the same manner as the morning and, by the time the city found itself shrouded in the darkest hours of night, the Blade’s steps led him, again, to the little bakery in the Market District.

Standing before the shop, now, the elf’s eyes lifted to the heavens, gauging the time by where the stars hung in the sky. Then, he reached out a hand, rapped lightly on the door, and waited.

 “Hello again, Girta’a,” Castien smiled softly as the door opened, “I hope I’ve not arrived too early or too late.” He noted the rigidness in her shoulders and the apprehensive yet determined set of her features that had dampened the bright smile he’d been greeted with this morning.

“Please, come in, come in. It’s good to see you again,” the half-orc girl said, waving him in as her eyes skipped past him to scour the darkness outside, “Both of you.”

Both? Castien glanced back over his shoulder and was, honestly, more than a little surprised to see the Arcaren from this morning emerging from the dark. His smile flattened a bit and, he was sure, that puzzlement was replacing it on his features.

“Diola lle,” he said, turning his now suspicious gaze away from the Salvager and stepping through the door. “Is all well? I cannot help but sense some small bit of trepidation.” His eyes lingered on the girl for a moment and, with the Arcaren present, he realized it must have sounded like a stupid question.

“A long day, is all,” Girta’a lied rather unconvincingly, already backing herself toward the stairway, “Please, wait here while I get the others. I will only be a moment.”

“Of course,” Castien nodded.

He watched as the girl whirled away and bounded up the stairs. When she was gone from sight, he turned to regard the man who had followed him in. His expression wasn’t precisely friendly but neither was it disrespectful and he even managed a fractional bow. “Well met, Arcaren,” the elf said dryly, unaware that his hand had come to rest on the hilt of the scimitar hanging at his hip.

Soren briefly glances at the hand now resting on the scimitar's hilt, then meets Castien's gaze. His expression neutral, he replies, "Well met indeed, Storm-chaser." He waits just a moment. "Be at ease. There is no need to fight here."

The elf's brow knitted in confusion for an instant. Then, his gaze tracking where the human's had just gone, realizing where his hand sits, the confused expression morphs into one more closely resembling embarrassment (and perhaps disappointment in himself). "Apologies," he murmured as his fingers loosen and his hand falls from the hilt of his blade, "I meant no offense or assumption. I... I just wasn't expecting an agent of the Authority to have been summoned." He offered a more proper bow of acknowledgement at that and, his eyes meeting the Salvager's, again, said; "I am Castien Mithretaryl, Blade of Astryliene."

Soren nods. "I am Soren, Salvager of the Arcaren. Your apology is accepted, and your surprise understandable. I did not expect to be here myself." He looks around, before meeting Castien's eye again. "If your concern is for the inhabitants of this delightful bakery, then let me assure you; the Arcaren has no interest in bread-makers."

“I should hope not,” Castien replied with a faint grin, letting the else there would be need to fight here bit go unspoken, “If I might ask, Soren, what interest might the Arcaren have here, at all? It’s an exceedingly rare thing that your ilk involves itself in the affairs of my Temple.”

Soren pauses a moment, clearly considering, then nods slightly to himself. "I know little myself. I was directed here via a letter from my superiors, who had gotten word that another of your number was here on some sort of mission. I am directed to find her, and offer what aid I may."

Aid? Castien found himself only barely able to choke back the chuckle of disbelief that forced it’s way from his lungs but got dammed behind his teeth. He found it hard to believe that the Arcaren Authority would so much as consider aiding the Sisters of Astryliene let alone actually offer any up. He chewed Soren’s words carefully and, in doing so, couldn’t help but be suspicious that, regardless of what this man said, that there weren’t ulterior motives at play. If not from Soren, himself, than from his superiors. Is this part of my trials? He didn’t think overlong on the matter, though. Instead, he swallowed the sticky lump that his thoughts had become and offered a nod of his own in return. “In that case, Soren, Salvager of the Arcaren,” he said, “I welcome whatever assistance you can offer.”

Soren offered nothing more than a simple, silent nod in response, then, and, had either of the pair had anything else to say, it was forestalled by the sound of footsteps descending the stairs. Girta’a had returned and, following her, were a small, orange-haired gnome whom Castien didn’t recognize and another human whose appearance was all too familiar to the elf…

“Karos!” Castien’s smile returned, full and friendly, at the sight of the young rogue and he stepped forward to greet his friend as they reached the bottom of the steps. “Nae saian lumme’, mellonamin, (It has been too long, my friend)” he grinned, clasping Karos’ forearm in greeting, “You look well.”

The reunion between Cas and his longtime friend, much like whatever words were set to fall from Girta’a’s lips, was interrupted by a strong, clear knock at the door then. As the half-orc girl skirted the assembled company, all eyes followed her as she wordlessly opened the door to admit another of her kind… There was something more imposing about this one, though... fierce and strong and… Castien’s eyebrows raised as recognition dawned on him; this was one of Sister Lys’ favorite fighters from the arena, Aymani Aset!

The elf grinned at the sight of her and he offered a respectful nod of acknowledgement and greeting as the Lucky Lioness’ eyes met his. There was little time for further talk at that moment, though, as Girta’a beckoned them all to follow her through the kitchen and, then, down a flight of roughly constructed steps which led to Halfred’s “wine cellar.” This is quite the company you’ve called together, dear Sister, Castien mused, following along with the others as they were led into the large, cluttered storeroom, My trials will certainly be interesting if nothing else.



Posted on 2018-04-17 at 08:23:15.

   
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