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  #106  
Old 01-31-2017, 01:37 AM
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Mara is unusually silent as she enters the apartment, wobbling uncertainly under the weight of the chest. How in Golarion did she get stuck carrying all the books?! She glares icy daggers at Pike and Adivion—especially Adivion, in spite of his promised help with the Whispering Way. After all, dwarven etiquette is well known to be suspect—not that that is any excuse—but a gentleman from Caliphas should certainly know better. Even Kendra, ostensibly protected by her role as the host and her status as a lady, is not spared an occasional withering glower.

The singer sets the chest down upon the floor with a melodramatic sigh and an ostentatiously heavy thump, making it clear that the task of porter is eminently unsuitable, and insulting, for one such as herself. Still offended, she ignores the food and seats herself in a plush, overstuffed armchair, content to let the others do the talking while she recuperates from her ordeal. Only when Carlo tells of the Varisians’ encounter with a Whispering Way cultist does she truly relent; when Jamir mentions the Dark Tapestry statue, the offense is completely forgotten, replaced by an otherworldly chill down her spine. Dagon. She
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knows that name, does she not?

“The books are yours,” she rejoins the conversation by responding to Hrani with a grateful smile and a broad, magnanimous sweep of her arm towards the chest, as if banishing the heavy tomes from rest of her life. “Though I don’t believe I will join you at the university, due to our obligation to see Barrister Kaple tomorrow. But you should definitely find out all you can about the robbery there. Just … be careful.” The songstress seems somewhat anxious. “If that cultist is as powerful as you say,” she nods at Carlo, “we should be on guard. At any rate, it appears that the Whispering Way has some agenda beyond Harrowstone, and our best chance at stopping them—and finding the Professor’s murderer—is to resolve this business with the Beast. Judge Daramid …” she pauses, eyes temporarily cast down—she is still embarrassed for not realizing, until too late, that Cromac’s tale was a highly personal one. “The judge has promised her help tracking down the cult after we help her with the trial, but given what you’ve all told me, we should keep our eyes open for links to the cult while investigating—it seems as if the Way is directly linked to the Beast, somehow.”
  #107  
Old 01-31-2017, 05:24 AM
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Runahildr Valkadottir

Runahildr's frown deepened as she listened to the every one in turn, and she moved about uncomfortably, the polearm still resting on her shoulder and her saddlebags still gripped in her other hand.

Finally, when it became apparent that this discussion would take more than just a few minutes, she dumped the bags back on the ground and carefully placed the weapon against the nearby wall. Then she sat herself down on a stool, adjusting her scabbard so the sword wouldn't get in the way.

"My knowledge of golems is faulty at best, but it is my understanding that they are usually little more than automatons - bound to the will of their creator. Even if this Beast is somehow in possession of sentience, can we be certain he is also in possession of absolute free will? We already know the Whispering Way know how to manipulate spirits and the undead, somehow turning them to their own purpose and use - it wouldn't be too far a jump to assume they know how to do the same with a construct, would it? Especially if it is one born out of dead flesh."

Runa tapped the heel of her boot softly against the floor.
"That leads to another question. Assuming the Beast did not just crawl out of the ground on its own accord - who is behind it?"

The paladin looked from one to the other, her gaze finally settling on Kendra. With a smile Runa tilted her head in thanks.
"I am pleased to learn that we might help fight injustice here, thank you for that. I was troubled by how I should bring the topic up before all of you, and now I find you have solved the issue for me. Should we wish it, I believe we can find aid for that cause with my brethren at the Temple of Iomedae nearby - the Prioress seemed as galled as I by the unethicalness and corruption that seem to permeate this trial."

She pursed her lips as she pondered the situation a bit.
"Would it be possible for us to talk with the Beast? I had an interesting altercation with an Inquisitor of Pharasma about the nature of this creature and the labels we stick it with. And I am somewhat eager to prove on of us right and the other wrong."
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  #108  
Old 01-31-2017, 05:30 AM
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Pike eyes Mara with wry amusement, quickly noticing her sour mood over having to carry the books. In all honesty he had forgotten that not all were meant for Judge Daramid to keep, perhaps too many other things were swirling in the maelstrom of thoughts going on in his head.
He listens to each tale told, separating eat puzzle individually, testing it against one another, trying to see if two pieces could possibly fit and if so how they tie in with the other pieces. At a glance it all seems like one big coincidence but Pike is quick to dismiss it as just that, too many signs point down the same street. Or perhaps, originate from the same neighborhood? At the least it's all contained within the same city.... Aye, we got all the reason in the world to suspect foul play but no clue as to who's done it, why they done it and what they did in the first place.

"Why would the Cult announce their presence to us here and now? What possibly could they gain from it? I mean if we are to believe they are the ones involved with this Beast business wouldn't they be done with it now and out of town? Leaving the Beast as a scapegoat while they head off to whatever nefarious deeds they have planned next? Unless they haven't concluded their business here, in which case it seems even more absurd to unmask themselves." Pike blows a think line of smoke out the corner of his mouth, letting it trail out the open window "All we have are wild speculations and half-assed theories. A lot of something that adds up to nothing, really." he offers them a toothy smile "So we build on what we got and try to get a clear picture, right? Tomorrow we have a meeting with Barrister Kaple, we need to talk him into acquiring our help with the case. That way we can possibly gain more information on the Beast and where to look for clues about it's nature and history, hopefully it will lead us to the truth. We also have appointment with Dr. Crowl to gain access to further research, that certainly is useful and maybe the books can help us not only understanding the Whispering Way but also the history of the Beast."

Pike swirls the dark liquid in his glass while he gathers his thoughts "Bringing this matter to the attention of the church certainly is a possibility, but -and don't take this the wrong way- we need to tread carefully, there are those who see heresy in uncomfortable stories, facts or no..." he allows for the words to linger for a moment, his gaze sweeping from Runa to the two Varisians.

"So, who's going where and what do we seek? Masters Jamir and Hrani have made good progress in gaining access to the manifest, makes sense they continue their good work there. Sister Runa will take care of church business, should the brothers choose to accompany her, right? As much as I'd love to be at all these places at the same time, me and Miss Mara have an appointment to make with the Barrister. Bu after that I'd be interested in two things in particular; to see the scene where they found the Beast and to actually meet it. Perhaps Barrister Kaple can assist with that." he looks the group over, eyebrows raised in a question "Am I forgetting something? Now would be a good time to pitch in with ideas and questions to seek out at each location, hey? Let's solve this puzzle."
  #109  
Old 01-31-2017, 10:20 AM
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Runahildr Valkadottir

"You are forgetting the people," Runa replied. "Judges, churches and barrister - all stand above the mob, yet seem to cower at the thought of dealing with it. If not, the judges would judge according to the law, the churches would strive to uphold their doctrines, the barristers would look for evidence, but all seem wary of doing just that. And while we have contacts in all the high places, we have not the faintest idea what the common man thinks in all this."

Runa sucked her lower lip into her mouth and chewed on it a bit as she continued thinking. Finally she continued.
"You are right. wild speculations are all we have at the moment. That said, I might wish to add one of myself. In fact, it was travelling with The Crooked Kin on our way here that brought it to my mind."

The paladin stood up and started pacing back and forth in front of her stool.
"It is clear that there is something brewing here. We have all felt it somehow. There's an odd feeling in the air, like the city is primed somehow. Like it would take very little for it to explode somehow. For better or worse. Is it not usual for a circus, or any performance has a large audience, to insert agents into the midst of the audience to shout out at the right time, rile people and drive the mood, play the crowd? If the Whispering Way are linked to the Beast and have made it their scapegoat, and if they know we are on their trail and wish to throw a stick in our wheel, would it not make sense for them to have agents here to play this crowd? Drive the mob into a frenzy, put the authorities on the defensive to a point where they are pressured to condemn the Beast despite a lack of solid evidence? That way they clear up a loose end, and remove potential damning evidence from our grasp."

The paladin stopped her constant pacing and turned to look at Pike again.
"We need an ear to the ground, because there are questions I am keen to find out: Is there a powderkeg to spark? Is the Cult sparking it? What are the possible ramifications if this trial ends up with a verdict other than what everyone seems to believe? How will the mob act? If we aim to fight against those that champion injustice we should make ourselves aware who we are facing and how many they can potentially become."
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Last edited by Thorsten; 01-31-2017 at 10:24 AM.
  #110  
Old 01-31-2017, 11:26 PM
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Mara smiles gently at Runa. “I thought as you do—that the Beast would be little more than a zombie, either mindless, or with its actions dictated by others.” She shakes her head. “But the story told by the judge’s husband—they have personally met the Beast, and I do not doubt their account. They …” she hesitates, feeling uncomfortable at making the private details of the story public, but she knows that they are necessary to convey the strength of her conviction, “… they would not so dishonor the memory of their son.”

She looks down for a moment, finally understanding why this matter is so important to Daramid. When she raises her eyes, they sparkle with a certainty and determination that cannot be denied.

“The Beast rescued him. He was kind, and eloquent. There may be other, possibly horrible, facets to his being, but … the capacity for kindness is there.” The singer gracefully flips a lock of hair over her shoulder. “You should join us at tomorrow’s meeting with Barrister Kaple—I am sure he will be impressed that a paladin wishes to aid the defense. And I would presume that, as volunteer defenders, we would be granted access to interview the Beast … for I also would like to speak with him, as soon as possible.” A doubtful note remains.

“And after that, I should like to speak with the Crooked Kin. For you are correct that it is the court of public opinion that matters most. If we find that the Beast is truly innocent, we should persuade the ringmaster to sing a different tune. If there is to be a circus, let it sway the crowd in our favor.” She looks at the Varisian duo, knowing that of them all, they are the most likely to be in touch with the common man.
  #111  
Old 01-31-2017, 11:32 PM
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Andrzej Zaituc
Andrzej grunted.

"This city is, indeed, a powder keg. Meeting with the Crooked Kin to change that is a fair start."

No wine touched his lips, no cigarette smoked in his hand. He sat with both of his silver trimmed boots planted on the floor. His fingers, covered in the odd rings he wore plucked at the fabric of the arm rests.

"The Whispering Way believes that we will 'finish our work' here and then break apart. Why they would believe that troubles me as much as the fact that they know of Carlo and Olga's relationship and how my mother died. For them to reveal themselves and their plan like this seems more of a red herring than anything else, at least to me.

The Beast? Is it a distraction, an obstacle, or something else? The cult had their hand in its fate as it had a hand in Harrowstone, but again we arrive after the greatest damage has been done. They have grander desires and deeper schemes ahead and they see to leave us behind.

I think this trial needs to be handled because it is the right thing to do and it works against the Whispering Way, but I don't think it should take up all of our attention. The cult is out there, obviously watching us, and we need to make headway on finding them.

With that in mind, Carlo and I will come with you, Runa. We could both use a little light of the gods to banish our demons, right frati?"


The last was said with a mischievous smile, the first any had seen on Andrzej since shortly after the Professor's funeral. Then the smile faded and he turned back to everyone.

"I also owe you all an apology.

I... have been wrestling... no, not wrestling. I have been wallowing in my past. Our experiences in Harrowstone exacerbated my mood. I chose to surround myself with drink and haunted thoughts instead of the companions that the Professor thrust upon me.

There are things in my past that shame me. Others that haunt me. I need to work through all of those things, and I have a mind to, but for now, I have chosen to put my trust in you. In those who gathered at the Professor's call and, through fire, ice, and ghosts, formed a bond with me.

I will do better from now on."


The Varisian then cleared his throat and leaned back in the chair, avoiding anyone but Carlo's gaze.


 
  #112  
Old 02-04-2017, 03:36 AM
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Hrani listens quietly as plans for the next day are discussed. "Some excellent ideas and plans. We should indeed not neglect the possibility that this whole Beast incident is just a ploy to distract us. The Whispering Way sets up an innocent creature to take the blame for a crime they are responsible for, then tells us not to get involved in the matter. Perhaps they knew nothing would be more likely to get us involved. I do not suggest we don't go about the steps of looking into this matter, but Andrzej's point is valid nonetheless. We should keep our eyes and ear open for any other unusual things that might be going on in Lepidstadt. Anything that we might miss because we are entirely focused on the Beast issue. Anything the cult could be trying to hide from us...""

His thoughts spoken, the elf turns his mind to his concrete plans for the next day. "I agree Jamir and I should return to Dr. Crowl and see about the manifest. The question is, should we all go see Barrister Kaple together before we go about our individual tasks? Will a stronger presence aid us in convincing him that our help is worthwhile, or will it deter him? If we can all get appointed as his assistants in an official capacity it would indeed help open doors for us. Unless we think he would be hesitant to do that with all of us, in which case it would be better to send only a handful of people. Runa, Pike and Mara are the natural choices. Independently of when we head back to the university, I also want to have another talk with a gnome I met there. He has a curious nature and probably gets around a lot in town. He might pick up on something we might otherwise miss. And if we really want to get closer to the pulse of what is going on...well, Jamir and I have a standing offer to be taken on a drinking tour of Lepidstadt's pubs and taverns. We weren't going to accept, but perhaps it would help us feel out the town a little bit more. I think it might be helpful to have someone with us who is more in their element in that sort of setting, however..." Hrani glances towards Carlo and Andrzej, making it clear who he thinks would be suited to the job. Of course, the two of them might also get out of control, but it is a calculated risk. The two of them would be there to loosen other peoples' tongues, Hrani would be there to remember what is actually said. And to interrupt the two Varisians whenever their own loosened tongues might be about to spill something better not known to the public...

That, and a nod at the man, is also all the magus has to say about Andrzej's confession. If he does his job in the future, Hrani cares little about his moods of the past few weeks. He himself is not the most extroverted when it comes to interacting with his companions, so he is hardly going to hold it against someone else. The fleeing into alcohol...well the elf had come to expect little else from the weaker-minded races that loved to poison their bodies so. But if the man wants to exercise some self-control on their nightly pub crawl, all the better for their mission.

The notion of using the Crooked Kin to sway the crowd's opinion is intriguing, but Hrani has doubts they will be able to get the traveling folks to cooperate unless they have some proof of the Beasts innocence. Of course, he does not have the honeyed tongue some of his companions, such as Mara, seem to be be blessed with. He looks at her and makes a suggestion. The elf would never be able to convince them of even this simple thing, but maybe the singer can: "Perhaps it would be a good starting point to have the Crooked Kin start performing more of the stories of the Beast's kindness and good nature. It sounds like there are plenty of them, but no one is talking about them these days. Changing that might be a small start in the right direction..."
  #113  
Old 02-05-2017, 12:02 AM
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It has been weeks since Mara saw this side of Andrzej. In all honesty, she had nearly given up on him. Her eyes flutter wide as he apologizes, exchanging a glance first with Kendra, and then with Runa. From their very first meeting, the paladin seemed to rub the Varisian the wrong way, so his current jest, both mild and surprising, has all the overtures of a momentous peace offering. How would the one-eyed warrior respond?

For a long moment the singer is silent, smoothing out her dress as she calculates her own response. Finally she turns to Andrzej. “I know that you will,” she smiles encouragingly, even if deep down she still has some reservations—not about his intent, but rather about his ability to manage his dark passenger. “Apology accepted,” she inclines her head as she extends her arm in a magnanimous gesture. “You carry a heavy burden, one that would make anybody stumble or fall. We shall share your load Andrzej. You are not alone.” She looks at the troubled man with a tender, sympathetic expression.

At Hrani’s suggestion she nods and smiles warmly. “Yes, of course. That is exactly what I had in mind. Naturally, we must uncover more of the good stories—I can’t imagine that the Crooked Kin would be terribly enthusiastic about performing with but a single tale in their repertoire …” The singer pauses, placing a thoughtful finger upon her lips, before adding, “… though it has been done before, and with some surprising success.”

“And you are quite right about not neglecting the Whispering Way, though in truth, I am not certain how we would find them. They are certainly our top priority, but it may be that our best chance might be simply to discover the truth of the matter of the Beast, so that they would come find us.” The singer twists her hair nervously, clearly not excited by her own suggestion. Everything they have learned thus far about the mysterious cult is troubling.

“As for Barrister Kaple, you are all welcome to join Pike and myself at the meeting. Indeed, Judge Daramid seemed to imply that we should all become registered defenders. I don’t know if there would be any advantage in working in an unofficial capacity—some doors may open while others close—but be that as it may, my offer stands: you are welcome to join us, or not, as you please. I doubt that our numbers will matter.”
  #114  
Old 02-05-2017, 05:04 AM
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Runa turned her upper body - all she could manage with the armor as rigid as it was - and gave Andrzej a solemn nod.
"Thank you. I don't know what it'll do, but there more recountings we can bring about the cult's appearances in the city, the more we can open the eyes of the temples to the possible dangers that might lurk right beneath their noses."


The paladin ran her hand through her long blonde hair, snagging on a few tangled strands and combing them out with her fingers.
"I think it is best we all go to the Barrister, and then divide our forces from there. Being registered seems the right way to go, and I would not wish for any evidence we might find to be discounted due to a lacking understanding of legal procedures and missing legal credentials."

"As for the Beast - Mara you suggest it is not the creature it is made out to be. That just lends more support to the theory that it is somehow used as a scapegoat. Perhaps that bears looking into then? Apparently, this create has been haunting Lepidstadt and its surroundings for some time, yet at the same time I cannot but wonder if it was really the Beast or if 'the Beast' has just been the label slapped on anything that couldn't be immediately explained to soothe the minds of the common man? At least there we have a solid starting point - if recent disappearances along the road to Lepidstadt has been somehow credited to the Beast, we know differently from our own hard-earned experience" Runa made a wry face at the thought of the phase spider. "If there was such a rumour - presented as a fact or evidence - that we can so easily dismiss, how many other stories would then hold water when examined more closely?"

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  #115  
Old 02-08-2017, 10:44 AM
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Dagon. When the name comes up, Mara feels an instinctive shiver. Something deep in her soul, a something she has been raised to know. All cultures have their demons, their boogeymen whom they teach their children to fear. For Humans, it is often Lamashtu, or Asmodeus, a number of devils. For Halflings, it is the deities of Hell and Goblins. For Mara's people, below in the briny depths, Dagon is their personal boogeyman. If you go out at night, where there is no light from above, from the depths may rise a denizen of Dagon. You will know them by their dead eyes, their rubbery skin, their sluggish movements, lest they follow you and reveal motivation is entirely dependent. To most, that description would describe most fish. The same, then, could be said of Mara and furry friends: it's hard for her to tell from context the difference between a cat and a bear without further details. Experience makes the difference. And Dagon? Dagon is terrifying. She knows what he is, the kind of ancient Demon Lord he is, older than most. She knows only the mad worships him. And she knows, against hope, she has a closer relationship to him than most benevolent merfolk should.

Perhaps.

The telling of the tales makes all the difference and everyone knows the other's tales, as best they can tell and are as willing to do so. Jamir nods, understanding. "Barrister, though?" he notes, curious. "I may have to be in two places at once; I should very much like to know the details of the case. When we go, we'll gather as much detail as possible, write it down, and bring it to you and this Kaple tomorrow." He smiles up at Hrani, speaking for the Elf who listens intently to the plans, scrutinizing every detail. Oddly, Adivion Adrissant does the same: he is rather quiet, for once. At least, until Mara mentions the Judge's offer to help get information on the Whispering Way. "I suspect, as I know you all do, she knew more than she was willing to tell, but knowing they were involved in Lorrimor's death makes me wonder why she doesn't just tell us now." Kendra looks at him, somewhat bemused. "That should be obvious. Tit-for-tat." He thinks, then nods. Something else is off to him, and if so, he doesn't speak it.

Jamir nods to the mention of golems as automatons, and Kendra as well. "Father always talked about the theoreticality of imbuing an intelligence upon a golem, but never anything concrete. Most of the time a soul bought at that price came high, for what could equal the value of a Mortal soul?" Jamir looked perplexed. "Who said anything about a soul?" Kendra looks at him equally perplexed. "You heard that weeping. A soulless being does not weep." He rolls his eyes. "Nothing about a physical reaction need be soulful." Carlo, for once, speaks up as the voice of reason. "Irregardless, I don't think that's Runa's point." And indeed, she has another question as a diversion. "Who indeed? That should be something our archivists can delve into, surely the tales tell something of its origin." Jamir looks up at Carlo and shrugs. Mara makes note of the personal experience of the Judge and her husband with the Beast, and of the speculative nature of the story told: that the young boy the Beast rescued in the Dripplemere was not merely a lost boy, but a lost Daramid. Adivion seems to have realized it, but Kendra did not read between the lines. Her energy is sucked from her.

Runa goes back to the point of Mara's that Judge Daramid is offering help. Runa's compliments go to Kendra, who only smiles politely, as it was not her doing but all of theirs. Still, the smile is warm and inviting, reviving her from the depths of her gloom. Samovar notices out of the corner of his eyes that Adrissant rolls his eyes, as if labored in some way. Her last question begs a more pressing point. Kendra responds. "Well, as we will be special barristers for the defense ourselves, I see no reason to suspect that we will not be able to meet our client." But not tonight: no earlier than the morn.

Torsten Pike, ever clear, is thinking too hard on other matters. He goes back to the point of the Whispering Way and why they would announce themselves. This point too seems to trouble Adivion who nods along with Pike's every point. And in the end, he finds that the math is simply not there: it adds up to nothing. Adivion has no choice but to agree, while Kendra is not so ready to conceded defeat from the defiant look on her face, which goes from Mara to Runa for agreement. They all listen instead. Indeed, as he lays out the clear facts of it all, it seems he has a fantastic handle on what is true and what they want to be true. And what they should do, going forward, more importantly. Kendra looks to Runa for confirmation or denial about the church, and indeed, Runa knows he means Churches, as Iomedae and Pharasma are both involved. Then, he lays out a plan.

To the point with Jamir and Hrani, Jamir nods.

To every other point, there is only a set of arched eyebrows, primarily from Carlo. "Now what makes you think two self-respecting Varisians are going to work for the same lawmen and gallow-hunters that put our people constantly on the run and in the noose?" His face is incredulous. But Runa has other concerns: the multiple factors that play into the town, the drama, and the legal system. Carlo and Jamir look to each other with her last point, and the two of them smile. "We do, in fact, have a way to speak to the common man. Or did you forget our new friends, the Crooked Kin, so soon?" Jamir's grin is light, and Carlo's own matches his companion's opinion. Runa then speaks to the tension of it all, and Runa suspects that there is something more to it: the Whispering Way is intentionally attempting to delay them, here, and appear to be aware that they are being followed. No, hunted. And as such, the crowd, this trial: it is all a distraction. The look on everyone, from Kendra to Adivion to even Samovar, falls at the thought. Perhaps it is the nature of crusaders to seek devilish conspiracy at all turns, but this is darker still: it is feasible.

Better to face the darkness on its own terms than assume it will fight in the light of day, she says. A crusader would. Somewhere, Kaljen Star-struck is grinning goofily.
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Samovar moves on from chicken leg to fine Kellid cuisine, chuckling as he does so. Mara joins Carlo and Jamir's sentiment about the Crooked Kin, but more forcefully: if nothing else, the Kin are freaks themselves, just like the Beast of Lepidstadt. Better to save a freak than burn them, in their opinions.

Andrzej finally speaks up, then. He joins the sentiments: the distraction, the nature of it all. They are an organization: while a few may stay behind, others may be taking this occult statue onward, to who-knows-where, while the tracks are covered, the t's crossed, and the i's dotted. Indeed, he even suggests that the Varisians, instead of going to the courts, go to the churches instead: there is much to be done. Of course, this is equally as incredulous as the look Carlo had before, and he shares in the insidious smiling; the natures of these two smiles are widely different. Andrzej's mood is lifted. It seems purpose has repurposed him. And why not?

Hrani, too, finally speaks. He assesses the plan, the potentiality of it all, and ultimately lands on the concrete: should they go to the University first, or second? Carlo does not speak, but indeed, Jamir does. "I should think first: we have a full day in court, and the information we already have may be enough, but a more detailed report from Crowl will assist us. If we go early enough, we should be able to get to court with a full report." Kendra seems put off by the idea of an early rise, as she had so been hoping to sleep in once they arrived in Lepidstadt, but here they were, caught in another trap. He also speaks of Myphar, a Gnome of the people. The suggestion of going out with him is... Samovar chuckles. "My kinda fun." This seems to be saving grace, an offer to join them in this out-on-the-town kind of business. With the suggestion of pushing the Kin to kindness, Adivion's silence breaks. "That is a brilliant idea, Master Elf. The Professor did always speak highly of you, Master Hrani." Perhaps he did not hear the similar overtures from others? Or perhaps Adivion is ally-building?

Mara continues on that front, and telling more tales than one is often a good thing for performers to keep the crowds coming back, unless it's just a simple fact of show business that a one-off is all the people want. The suggestion of the Whispering Way being hard to find, so hard that it would be easier for the Way to come to them instead, seems to ring true in most minds. And finally, Mara lays out another point: it might be advantageous for some of them to simply not be barristers. "Indeed," Jamir notes with a nod. "Though I would like to register. I always knew I'd see my day in court." Carlo scoffs. "You won't catch me dead in there." Kendra looks at him sharply. "Not even as an expert witness?" Adivion nods. "You may be right to be distrustful of the system, Carlo, but I suspect that every one of us will have a part to play in court. And when this is all over, you can all join me in Caliphas, unless a trail manifests. After all, a statue of a Dark Tapestry deity, of a sea demon? What good will that be without the sea? We could try to head them off, or even break into groups and hunt them properly." That's assuming they've left, but Adivion's offer seems to ring excellently with Kendra, who brightens at the prospect. Samovar instantly looks to Runahildr, with a face that implies that there will be murder in this room.

Runahildr, for her part, agrees with Mara's final suggestion with her own. Breaking into groups earlier, much before Adivion's more selfish suggestion implied, would be good for getting work done. Truth and falsehood are harder to tell in times like these. Fiction is strange, but truth is ever stranger. And stranger things have been seen, by one and all. Even Adivion, whimsically distant that he is. Kendra, finally, speaks to a finality.

"Well, we have a long day. I'll set the kettle on, and we'll get sleeping arrangements underway. Adivion, are you staying with us, or...?" He looks up from a thought, suddenly, and shakes his head. "Oh, no, no thank you. You may recall I have prior plans I doubt any of you except Mistress Runa are interested in, and I know she's not invited. My hosts are fickle with their attention, and they like their eyes about them." His playful jab is anything but, and Kendra seems put off by it. "Indeed, Master Adrissant. Well, we will see you in the morn, bright and early." He scoffs. "Unfortunately. Early for me is normally midway through the afternoon, but who knows, I may tucker myself out yet." He goes to the door and finds a top hat, stylish, that hangs from the door, one that seems to not have been there a moment ago. Putting it on, in proper fashion, he bows. "Wonderful to have met you all. I suspect we'll become excellent friends, one and all, and that our working relationships will be more than a little fruitful. Good evening." He shuts the door behind him, leaving them all alone.

Samovar speaks. "What an ass."

Kendra stares at the door, and for her part, Runa isn't sure if it's longing or disdain there. Mara isn't sure it isn't both.

Finally looking around the room but settling on Pike, Kendra smiles. "What shall I put in our cups? Chamomile? Lavender? Honey? Father appears to have been well-stocked, for someone who hasn't been here nearly at all in my lifetime."

The fireplace burns, slow embers keeping them warm.
 
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  #116  
Old 02-10-2017, 10:40 PM
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“Nothing for me, thank you.” Mara gently waves off Kendra’s offer of tea. “It has been a long day, and I for one am ready to retire for the evening. I shall see you all in the morning.” After carefully smoothing out her dress, she slowly stands and bids the others goodnight.

With first choice of rooms, the singer quickly selects the largest bedroom—complete with a private bath and a locking door—for herself. Though proper etiquette would surely demand that she defer the choicest room to the Professor’s daughter, at this point Mara does not care. She has been travelling for three long, horrible days, and she deserves a long, undisturbed soak in the tub.

Her element, however, is not as relaxing as it normally is. The songstress cannot stop thinking about the missing statue, and her restless thoughts pursue her out of the tub and into the bed. Dagon. With her curse came the unusual power to see in the dark, as if They were coaxing her to explore the midnight depths that form his demesne. And in truth, she is not as afraid as a good merfolk should be. There is something else she fears more.

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Originally Posted by Adivion
… a statue of a Dark Tapestry deity, of a sea demon? What good will that be without the sea?
Mara shudders. She can feel the invisible strings being pulled and played, tying her to The Shadow in the Sea. She had deliberately forsworn her magic to spite Them—to defiantly insist that she will not be their puppet—and for what? Lorrimor, the Beast, the Whispering Way—all of these are pretenses for why she is really here. Haunted by her waking thoughts, but fearful of her dreams, the singer eventually drifts off into an uneasy sleep.
  #117  
Old 02-16-2017, 11:45 PM
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Carlo let out a slow sigh of relief as Adivion left the building. Jamir’s bushy cocked eyebrow suggested his exhalation had not gone unnoticed. But Carlo was quite certain that the exchange when they’d first met the well dressed friend of Lorimor had eluded the curious Halfling, and everyone else for that matter. Adivion had seemed to emerge from the staircase looking directly at Carlo with a finger to his lips and a wink. It was to be a secret then, but why? It scarcely mattered to Carlo why, but he was grateful to not have all of those sordid details hashed out again in front of everyone.

Still, he was a bit flustered by Adivion’s presence. He held his tongue more than usual. Laughed more at Jamir’s jokes in part to put the curious Halfling at ease and perhaps off the scent of this latest of secrets. He felt a bit of shame as the others talked of the motivation for this supposed member of the Whispering Way revealing herself to the two of them. The motivation seemed obvious to him, it was targeting his own weakness. And when the talk turned to aligning themselves with the sort of judges that had forever made the life of his people hell, he offered up only slight resistance to the idea. His eyes jumped to Adivion as the conversation continued, trying to gauge his place in the scheme of things, he seemed in favor of the judges but not terribly in favor of them. Still, Carlo would have likely felt more open to speaking more of his mind about this if Adivion had not been present.

His thoughts darkened as the others began milling about in preparation for bedding down for the evening. He had no particular love of spending the night at a temple. But on the other hand, there were things he felt he should speak to his frati about without Jamir’s prying ears nearby. He looked to Andrzej and shrugged while shooting a quintessentially Varisian side eye implicating the Halfling for something.

 
  #118  
Old 02-19-2017, 04:15 AM
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"Very well. If no one has any objections, then Jamir and I will head to see Crowl first thing tomorrow morning. We can always see if it makes sense for us to get officially appointed later on, if that is everyone else's first order of business tomorrow morning." The discussion moves on, with everyone giving valuable input. Then Adivion goes and compliments Hrani on his idea. Which naturally instantly throws the elf back into the full blown paranoia that was more typical for him but that had slowly been easing up a little bit around his comrades. Or, to put it another way: He had been getting careless. Hopefully it wasn't too late yet to adjust his behavior before the knife in the back comes. The magus will have to keep a close eye on Adivion. He can't ignore the fact that the man's attempt was rather blatantly obvious, however. It is entirely possible that the man is not alone in his machinations, and instead of being the one who will betray Hrani, he is just the decoy. The obvious choice of traitor, to keep the elf focused on him and unaware of the others around him.

Smiling in response to the compliment as best he can - hopefully the starchiness would be interpreted as the magus simply being unaccustomed to receiving compliments - Hrani waits until Adivion's eyes are no longer on him, before peering curiously into the round of his comrades. Who then, is the one here in league with this new man who would like to pretend they are all better friends than they really are?

"Or is it all of them, after all?" The thought that this might all be an impressive long game on their parts reenters his mind at Orenmir's suggestion and takes hold firmly. Thus, when Kendra offers tea and Mara immediately declines, Hrani is quick to decline as well. "No, thank you, none for me either. Mara is right, it has been a long day. And we have a long day ahead of us. Perhaps my meditation will also help me with sorting through everything we have learned so far. Good night to all of you, may it be restorative and peaceful..." The later, of course, is a wish that is not entirely altruistic. Having come all this way, it would be exceedingly annoying to be murdered in his sleep by the rest of the group.

Normally, Hrani would have been happy to take whichever room no one was interested in, his requirements for rest being less than those of the other races. At this point, however, he paranoid elf is not willing to let himself be directed into a room of the others' choosing. Silently cursing himself for all the time he has allowed them to potentially set up a trap unobserved while they were here and he wasn't - the fact that Jamir lead him away from Lorrimor's house before they even arrived, and kept him busy for several hours isn't lost on the elf - the magus inspects all the available rooms until he has found one that satisfies him. Closing the door behind him, Hrani takes a closer look around. It is a relatively simple room, though not the simplest of them all. Not the one the others would expect him to take. It has a window facing out to the street that the elf goes and confirms is latched from the inside. Anyone trying to enter that way would have to climb up the wall in the middle of the street. Lepidstadt was big enough that Hrani expected there would be at least some traffic going on even during the night. Besides, with the window latched, it should be impossible to get in that way without making a lot of noise. That left the one door through which Hrani had entered, which he promptly takes care of as well. The large dresser that had been standing up against the wall in the corner of the room is, after a detailed check that it doesn't contain any nasty surprises, dragged over to the door and moved in front of it, barring entry to anyone on the outside. With the way the door opens inward, the dresser should prevent it from opening unless whoever is on the outside is using a battering ram. In which case Hrani should have ample warning that someone is coming for him.

Ignoring the small bed, the elf instead heads for the last piece of furniture in the room, a small wardrobe. It is a cozy fit, with hardly any room to move around once Hrani takes his cross-legged seat inside, but he cares little for comfort in this moment. Shoving all the clothes hanging down from a bar off to the side to give himself a little bit of space, another idea occurs to the magus. He pulls down an old dress from one of the hangers, briefly wondering what exactly Lorrimor was doing with this when he lived here, and tucks it into the gap between the wardrobe's floorboard and the left-hand door leaf. No more than an inch of the soft material. Just enough to prevent the wardrobe from closing entirely, leaving a small gap for Hrani to peer out through. Taking a look, the elf is unsatisfied with his field of view, however, so he exits his hiding place again. Carefully, he slides the heavy wardrobe no more than half a foot along the wall. 'Sorry about the floor, professor...' Returning once more to his cross-legged meditation position in the wardrobe, Hrani finds the door to the apartment's common area now fully in his view through the gap between the door leaves. 'Much better...' - 'Much better.' Orenmir agrees in a satisfied tone, though not solely commenting on the magus' field of view...

Last edited by Inem; 02-19-2017 at 04:38 AM.
  #119  
Old 02-21-2017, 05:40 AM
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Pike waves away the offered drink "I'm good, thank you." he offers her a slight toast with his glass of spirits, takes a sip and nods approvingly "Very good." he eyes Carlo with a grin "Hence the "should you so choose", no one is forcing you to do anything you don't like." he shrugs as he sips on his tea, Torsten Pike is certainly not going to push the subject any further so he turns to small talk, offering Mara and Hrani a good night while secretly thinking the two of them should learn to relax and enjoy life's finer things such as this fine wine, after one does rest better with a little smoothness running through his veins.

He is one of the last to go to bed, enjoying the company of two Varisians, a Kellid and couple of bottles of good wine.
  #120  
Old 02-23-2017, 08:56 PM
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Kendra smiles, nodding at Mara. Everyone can agree with that assessment: it has been a very, very long day. And yet, here they are: preparing to leap into the next great adventure. No amount of tea or fire-whiskey can keep them from that. Soon, they will be doing their mentor's work. He planned this. He had to. How he saw it, how he planned it, no one can know, and yet....

Hrani turns the tea away as well, and Carlo sinks into a darkness. Something engulfs him, a kind of memory he isn't sure he can trust. Something... something about that man. About Adivion Adrissant, it was so familiar. He knows the exact memory, too. But so feverish, is he not implanting a memory of the man? No, Carlo knows when to divide memory from reality. Dreams have an infectious power. In this case? There is no infection. But he will keep that to himself. He knows enough, for now. Andrzej seems similarly distant, but at ease. His words put him much more willing to discuss the plans, and as Kendra finally puts on a bit of tea, choosing honey and chamomile, only Jamir seems to notice Hrani inspecting every room available to him. Mara's room is ignored, the head bedroom as well, and finally, Hrani settles on his second choice, shutting the door behind him and locking it. A strange turn of events. The Halfling must look deeper into it, he determines, but not before tea. And reading. It is, after all, his last night with those delicious books from the will. Tomorrow, they will have fulfilled all but the new, additional purposes added to the will's completion. Their deed will have been done. Once the tea is distributed, Kendra goes off to her own room, and Jamir, while present, goes to the library, where he sets up a cot in one of the (for him) oversized chairs, reading up on the black crystalline book of Norgorber's. Runa regards this coldly.

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The Crusader, in her wake, elects to bring the two Varisians with her before long, knowing that everyone will need their rest. Though Pike enjoys their company alongside Samovar, he knows that he can't keep them forever, and he, too, needs his sleep. Even his gigantic brain has its limits. As she leads them onward, the Varisians follow along in their own quiet contemplation, into the loud, fiery night. Pike and Samovar smoke, contemplating the larger mystery of things. Not the Whispering Way, not the Beast of Lepidstadt: just the riddle of Pharasma. How could one such as she know so much as to what will be, and do nothing? Tell no one?

It's a final preponderance that carries them to a restful sleep. Others in their same abode are not so lucky, as a darker, murkier mystery is forming, one that threatens not to be solved anytime soon.

The walk back to the Cathedral makes Lepidstadt into a dark imitation of what they imagined it would be. It is, though, a city: its streets, reasonably illuminated, fail to prevent them from seeing that the revelry has carried itself into alleyways and into taverns, where voices carry on into the night. Fights, songs, all manner of goodness and horridness: this is the essence of civilization, all of it surrounding the appropriately ironically uncivilized trial. They are not accosted by any; there are no souls brave enough to approach the Crusader and the two Varisians. Andrzej feels at ease, for once, walking with Runa, as if a weight has been lifted. For him, it has nothing to do with her, but simply a larger darkness: telling them what was bothering him had been enough. Meeting the Whispering Way had been somehow freeing. Carlo, however, is made darker, as if their roles are reversed.

Adivion Adrissant troubles him, and deeply.

They arrive at the Cathedral, whence they are given cells: each one different, separate, and with a door that does not lock. Typical, Runa knows, but for the Varisians it is a discomforting fact. The religious are nothing if not excessively trusting; at least, this group is. None the less, Runa finds herself the hostage of plenty of neophytes who want to hear her dark tales of justice, but curiously absent is the Prioress. Though she had promised further discussion, according to Adelheid, something drew her from the Cathedral and into the night, a business north, deeper into town, involving an agreement with the council of judges. Thus, Runahildr is left, practically babysitting the idealists that inhabit this house of justice. It is not a bad life, this, but it is not the one for her. Nor, she suspects, is it the one the Prioress wanted for herself. Yet, here they both are.

And tomorrow, a new day will bring new purpose.

Marmory had her mind on other things than the conversation she was stuck in the middle of right now.

In the hours since the gallant and filthy bloody rich Adivion Adrissant had taken her Human companion and herself for a ride across the outskirts of town before retiring to what he had promised was "his" place, she had expected the rest of the evening would go well. It did not. Being a Halfling in a largely Human city was a reality they faced. They were a small race, with small affect on the world around them. And yet.... and yet she dreamed of more. She was often told that that was what Halflings did. They dreamed. But here she was, her companion gibbering on about how if she'd been born a noblewoman, oh, she'd be the best damned diva this side of Westcrown. She had a voice like a barn owl, but the Halfling said nothing.

Strangely, neither did Adivion. He was a handsome man, at the right angle, but she found his charm more important by comparison. Marmory could not often count a Human, let alone a noble, who had such class as he did, and such a willingness to be this amiable with a commoner, let alone of another race. Devynia had convinced Marmory for the money, but Marmory was here of her own accord. But her own accord was being overriden by her friend's alcoholic ramblings. And Adivion? He scarcely noticed. His mind seemed elsewhere.

His mind was on the thing that followed them.

She had suspected, of course; Halflings had sharp eyes and keen minds, inquisitive too. She was like Adivion in that way. As they moved down the street towards the loft Adivion had somehow hastily rented for the evening (it turned out that Devynia's friends were less than that), something darted between the alleys; and not just one thing, either. They took streets dependent on where the darkness was spreading to. They were being herded.

And Adivion, gods bless him, was walking into a trap. From his face, she guessed he was doing so on purpose: to force a confrontation?

"Divvy, where are we gooooing?" Devynia was losing it; how could she not feel that dread? Halflings were resolute against fear: and yet here she was, slowly losing her resolve. They took another turn, into a well-lit alley. "Fiddlesticks," she said to herself. Adivion caught her eyes; they shared a brief glance of understanding.

Then, the smoke poured around them like a whirlwind, surrounding them.
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"Adivion Adrissant."

"Our master sends greetings."

Both voices were feminine, but she saw no figures in the darkness. For a moment, Marmory thought she saw a scythe, dancing in the darkness.

"Your master, or your master's master? I get confused with you cultists."

"Where death begins..."

"There is no difference."

Adivion furrowed his brow. "How straightforward."

"He has missed you. It has been many years."

"How is your sister?"

Marmory looked suddenly to Adivion, trying to understand what was happening. He was pale, paler than he had been, and his hand trembled. Beside him, Devynia shivered, holding onto his arm. For her part, Marmory was ready to go for the blade in her boot at a moment's notice. Somehow, she doubted it would be worth it.

She realized they were almost on the river. How beautiful it was, with the moon on it like that.

"How? How is he—"

"Death is a doorway, Adivion Adrissant."

"Lorrimor knew it."

"And so your 'Master' saw fit to kill him because of what we did?" His trembling hand now reached for his spellbook, his face losing its stoic gaze. He seemed outraged. "Is that why you're making the mistake of revealing yourselves to the people Petros gathered around Kendra?"

"A calculated risk."

"We now have the final prize."

Adivion's face went cold again. The moisture on his brow slowly began to fade. He understood. Marmory, for her brightness, did not.

"You weren't here for them. You were waiting on me."

There was no reply.

"What do you want? And what if I refuse, you filthy skull-fu—"

The whirlwinds of black stopped suddenly, and two women, identical in appearance, held out scythes that caught the edge of Marmory's throat; from the cry, Devynia had a similar threat on her life. The Halfling did not move.

"We begin with these two."

"And end with the daughter of Lorrimor."

Marmory looked past the blade, to the man beyond it: to Adivion. Getting involved with him was a mistake. He was brilliant, but marked: by what, she daren't guess. Looking past him, her eyes refocused and she realized the blood that trickled from her neck, down the curve of the blade. It was worn, but shining: a sign of its use, but care for it. Hadn't she seen the women? The women who held the blades?

No, that had been a man, a scarred man whom they tried to bring along with them.

Adivion broke the silence.

"Name your price."
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