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  #301  
Old 10-02-2018, 06:31 AM
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He stands in silence after the spirits of the children had found their peace, flicking an unlit cigar between his fingers. That they had found peace and had moved on puts his own mind at rest and for the first time he realizes just how oppressing this place has been, how wrong and how dreadful yet still they came here and sought answers, not only for the creature facing trial back in Lepidstadt but for the children that no one seemed to care about except the few people who had lived here.

He looks at his companions with a sad smile and tears showing in his eyes "We did good, no matter the outcome, we did good here." he lights the cigar and soon becomes surrounded by his usual sweet smelling smoke "What do we do with the remains, do we have time to bury them or should we inform their families, allow them put their bones to rest?"
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:54 PM
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Carlo's RequiemAs Mara’s flirtations continued, Carlo realized there was only one place he could go to resolve the tensions within himself: the Crooked Kin.

He hastily inscribed a note and passed it to Hrani before heading for the door.


Carlo arrived at the Café. The others were there as if waiting for him. S’Jeer gestured to a spot directly across from her with one hand while shuffling her harrow deck with two others and caressing Prince Zhar who lounged with his head on her lap with the fourth. Lydia stood up from her seat nearby as he entered, pulled out the chair for him and then rubbed his shoulders as he curled into the seat as if he would find comfort there.

S’Jeer dealt several cards (presumably) face up in a pile, and then showed him a final card before placing it face down. “This is gone for you because of these,” two hands gestured while she held the rest of the deck with a third, “Tell us why.”

The Forge. He saw it momentarily and then it was gone just as quickly. He glanced to the first of the face up cards, The Beating. It was how he felt now. If he was honest, it was how he had always felt. And he was sick of it. He didn’t know why, but knew the answers were in the cards that lay below. But first he had to acknowledge one thing: The Forge was no more. His charade of playing along with Lorimor’s Last Will and Testament must end. It was no more real than anything else he’d ever done with his life. And it wasn’t helping him to feel any better. But why?

The Beating. He was never enough. He was always too short, too awkward, too weak. He didn’t look people in the eyes when he shook their hands. His grip was never tight enough. He wasn’t ever really cruel when given the chance. He couldn’t finish the job. He never had the right words. He stuttered. He stumbled. The first girl who saw him naked laughed at his privates. He turned the card over to see what was next.

The Tyrant. He saw the face of his father gathered at council that one time he woke up in the middle of the night and needed something. The utter disdain that drained him of all hope. That look he had nightmares of but always forgot immediately upon waking. The expectation that he too would be this strong one day. That he could become a gangster, a made man.The type of person who could get the job done no matter how gruesome. He never was. He never would be. It was the beating he faced each day. Next card…

The Cyclone. He saw the entire Sczarni family whirling about within the chaos of rival mobs and the Varisian culture as a whole. And whirling outward it was everything he’d ever encountered: the Cheliax tyranny they thought they were railing against when they did their mobster thing. But ultimately they were no different than that which they so desperately and cruelly sought to overthrow. It was all just power and chaos. It was all about having the tenacity to pursue your desires despite how much it hurt someone else. It was all about how big you thought your penis was.

The Liar. He saw the women crying. All the bar maids he’d done those dirty things too. He had tried to forget about them, because they were never the perfect victims that the Cyclone demanded. And they cried when he wanted them to like it. And he was never enough of all that he felt he should be. And this never made him feel better. And technically they had all said yes. But then he almost always had a purse full of gold and knew how to make sure they found that out in advance. So if he was being honest about things now, how could that be about anything other than power?

The Crows. He was the thief. He had stolen more from each of those women than Olga had taken from him. It was just so much easier for him to play the victim because he always felt like he was never enough. He never met the standards of the patriarchy. But did anyone? It raised up a goal he could never achieve but promised him if he took from others long enough maybe it would make up for it. That was the cyclone. And he was a crow feeding on the wreckage it had left behind. Fear. It was all about fear. The fear ate at him and told him that all of this was normal, the way it should be. If only there were a way to be rid of that fear.

The next card was face down. The Unicorn. He immediately thought of Mara. And then Kendra. And then Runa. And then every woman who had ever told him No about anything. They had each faced the Cyclone in some way. And the Crows. They had no reason to trust him or to give him what he might think was his right. Even if it was something as simple as casting a beneficial spell without asking permission first. They were not here to fix him. They were not here to make him feel good about himself. They were not his unicorn. They were not anyone’s unicorn.

“There is one card left beneath this one. It is what you might one day become. Are you ready for it?” S’jeer asked.

Carlo realized he was crying. “I want to be. But I’ve wanted to be everything else I’ve ever done and it hasn’t really worked out for me.”

“What do you think you should do?”

“Probably apologize. But I don’t think I’ve earned that yet. I’ve said so many things that mean so little. I think I need to know who I am without these expectations before anything I say bears any weight.”

“You’ve come to the right place for that,”
Lydia says extending her hand to him, a pleasant smile filling her bearded face.

He takes it and smiles.


 
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Old 10-16-2018, 01:58 PM
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"That we most certainly did," Signy agreed, having sent a quiet prayer to her patron god after children disappeared. Exactly this was what her god asked of her - even if he cared more about dwarves than other races. That did not mean he would turn his back on them.

"We have a carriage. Let us make use of it and take the remains back to their parents. Even with the wraith gone, I am not sure if they would want to return here, but burying their children will give them closure." The paladin would follow up on her words by gathering some cloth to carefully wrap up the remains in. Tent squares, drapes from one of the houses, blankets. Anything that seemed durable enough to transport the dead with as much dignity as they might afford them.
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Old 10-16-2018, 02:09 PM
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Dreamer's DescentIt's not so much a matter of time, as it is a matter of practicality.

What would the Church of Pharasma do?

In this case, bury them where they are, and let them follow their natural course. Their souls released, the bodies can rest, rotted as they are, in small graves, properly marked. Does Hergstag have a Restland to call its own? That remains to be seen, but more to the point, the bones should go to the families, both Runahildr and Signy clarify, so that they can decide how to deal with them. Some may burn them, in proper Desnan fashion—this was a village dedicated to the Dreamer, after all.

So, they elect to bring the dead along with them. All but Elssa and Karin's bodies remain.

And in fact, that's evidence in and of itself.

Using their blankets, they bring each corpse down the hill, before searching the houses for appropriate materials. The smell is not something any of them enjoy, and something that Pike's own cigars fail to cover up. There are enough sheets within the houses, even mouth-ridden as they are, with holes and dust, that each one can be wrapped up carefully, then partially brought to hang on the side of horses, in well-tied knots that will not fall apart and will not slacken enough to cause the bones to hit the ground at a decent gallop. Four bodies in total, four children ready to be returned.

And then they ride, bones in tow, for Lepidstadt.
Chirugeon's OathHe is receptive to the winking, and smiles himself. "Perhaps I can arrange something; I know a soul or two or three that might can arrange that, and I know it would be a performance worth watching, for all involved. Something civilized in these barbaric days, with this horrid, if I can call it such, trial." Simultaneously for and against; what a strange one, this Radniche.

From there, the furthering of careers moves to a friend wanting to meet Vorkstag and Grine. Though clearly curious, the music-loving chirurgeon says nothing to that end. "Indeed; their shop is not three blocks hence, heading northwest. You can find it, the only building billowing smoke from its chimneys. A hard one to miss, if I do admit it thus. I do wonder as to your friend, but I pause therein; you seem less inclined to share that, and more inclined to simply let your friend do business. I can understand discretion, and I can understand how dancing in different circles works, sans the darker implications of that. I knew you didn't come here to share a love of opera or periodicals, but I admit I have enjoyed this none the less."

Sensing the end, he rises as she does, setting his cup aside and giving her his full attention, stepping forward. "Pry away, and understand that my discretion is my word, but that I am also honest to a fault. If there is ill-will at Vorkstag and Grines', I know it not. Sometimes chirurgeons are sensitive about their materials. If they go missing, they don't want rivals knowing it, as oftentimes the tools themselves leave traces as to their operator, and the techniques are long-kept secrets in lines of chirurgeons. We are a secretive trade, often accused of witchcraft outside of the Palapatine. So when Master Vorkstag requested another set of tools, I had to oblige him. He pays well, he means well, and he does well, work-wise and socially. I assumed it was pride, but that is, after all, an assumption." He offers her his hand. "May I walk you to the door, and may I be so bold as to plant a kiss upon such sweet delicate ones as these? Your song is haunting and your smell is that of... I think it is as the sea smells, but I have never seen the sea, just as I have never seen your like before." Just how, indeed.

And with that, they are done here.

Carlo quickly makes his escape, and heads onward. Where he goes is his own business, but there is a finality about the way he does it. As for Hrani and Mara, where they go from there, like the chirurgeons, is their own business.

And their business is dark indeed, just as the knowledge they have finally obtained after hours of hunting.
 
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  #305  
Old 10-17-2018, 01:11 AM
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With a grateful nod Mara readily accepts Radniche’s proffered hand, glad for the extra support while walking to the door. His request for a kiss, on the other hand, is met with a slight hesitation, one that is chased away by a flattered smile when she realizes the innocence behind the request. With a dainty gesture she raises her arm, offering the back of her slender hand to the shopkeeper’s lips. “The pleasure is mine,” she responds easily, pleased with the information gained and relieved that he didn’t inquire further as to her anonymous detective friend.

Outside, after putting enough distance between themselves and the shop to have a private conversation, the songstress turns to the magus. “Whatever is the matter with Carlo?” she begins in an aggrieved voice. “We are fortunate that Radniche did not take offence to his abrupt departure.” She huffs out an elaborate sigh, her mind drifting back to Andrzej’s recent behavior. “Are all Varisians so moody and dramatic?”

With a resigned shake of her head she gradually calms down. “Thank you Hrani, for providing some reason and stability tonight. I truly do not know what I would have done without you. As it is, I am somewhat uncertain as to our next course of action. I suppose we should at least visit the shop of Vorkstag and Grine, seeing as it lies but three blocks away. But beyond that? It is surely too late to knock upon their door; besides, we are likely entering a more delicate phase of the investigation, where open questioning might be less prudent, especially if they are involved with the happenings in Morast.” Mara throws up her hands in resignation.

“What should we do now? Part of me wants to wait for Pike and his experience in such affairs, but …” she bristles at the thought of Pike’s cigars “… well, I am quite certain that you can perform the role of detective just as well.”
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Old 10-20-2018, 07:56 AM
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Hrani watches, as Radniche leads Mara out the door, curious about his fellow elf. The note about Mara smelling like the sea is an interesting one, likely accurate, but likely entirely by chance, since the man states he has never seen the sea. Of course, neither has Hrani, now that he thinks about it. Somehow, this bothers him. And it certainly wouldn't have bothered him a few months ago, back in his wintry home, where there is no chance of ever seeing the sea. No chance, so he never even would have thought of it. But now that he's already left his home? Suddenly the notion sounds intriguing, and returning home without having been to see a sea...well, at this point that might just leave a void in his heart. On the other hand: Radniche. Oh Radniche, a member of the most noble of all species, like Hrani, yet clearly corrupted. By what, precisely? Is it the prolonged exposure to the humans? If that were the case, the magus could simply seek out an ocean where there are no or few humans. That must be possible, right? They can't have spread everywhere yet? What if it isn't just the exposure to humans though? What if simply being away from home, away from his people was enough? What if, what Hrani is doing now, will have everything that makes him who he is drain away over time? Surely it hasn't started yet if that is the case. Or has it?

Whether exposure to humans are the issue or not, Mara raises a good point - once she is done being showered in various forms of admiration most unbecoming to an elf by Radniche - when she speaks of the Varisians' strange behavior. "I fear I have only ever known the two in our group particularly well, though they would certainly support your hypothesis. I am not convinced this isn't a human issue in general, however, not one particular to Varisians. They all seem unbalanced as far as I can tell." He pauses to think about a few counterexamples he has met. "Well...most of them. Perhaps there is still hope for some of them." - 'And perhaps there is not...', echo Orenmir's thoughts in his head, though it is unclear what the Scimitar thinks the consequence would then be.

"In any case...I believe we might have seen the last of Carlo. He passed me this note before he left, and while the information he provides might still be of use to us, he ends with the statement that he is leaving, and we should not bother to try and find him. I hope he doesn't intend that to mean that we wouldn't find him anyway, because it feels like he has made it very clear he sees his future place with the Crooked Kin. I doubt he has actually managed to hide himself particularly well. At the same time, if it is just a wish to not go and look for him...well, I'm more than happy to oblige. I had sort of gotten used to his antiques, but I can't say I ever fully trusted him. So let's give him what he wants and not go to the effort of trying to find him."

Hrani takes a minute to reread the Varisian's note. "He did provide us with two rumors he likely overheard here the last few days while we were out investigating the out of town crime scenes. I'd treat them with some caution, since it is a little suspicious Carlo would split from the group right before we go to investigate them. There is a slight chance he is trying to set us up for a trap or an ambush. Or he is just being a moody Varisian-slash-human. As long as we're careful, I think we should be fine. The first rumor he gave us is that Vorkstag and Grine are well-respected merchants, which is backed up by what Radniche said, and pretty much the only thing I'm sure about this evening is that Carlo and him are not colluding. He also adds that Grine is a peculiar-looking fellow, though he adds gnomes are simply that way." A rare smile crosses the elf's face as he has a sudden vision of a wide-brimmed hat too large for the head, with the wings of a fairy dragon, accompanied by a perfectly trimmed gigantic mustache, and an archaic Andoren coat, bearing the markings of the Eagle Knights. With all that had been going on, it seems like ages ago that he had met Myphar Drago, the only gnome he really knows in any capacity, even if it hadn't even been a whole week. "I can confirm this last bit from personal experience. Gnomes do indeed seem to be peculiar."

The question arises how to proceed with the investigation, between the compliments as to Hrani's abilities and stability he provides Mara. These compliments make him swell with pride internally, though he naturally does not show it. But again, somewhere in the back of his head, there is a quiet voice whispering doubts as to how much of what the songstress says is honesty, and how much is her manipulating him. And it is his own voice, not Orenmir's, as once more, the blade does not chime in to reinforce this paranoia like it usually would. If Hrani weren't so busy worrying about whether he can enjoy Mara's compliments or not, he might have some mental capacities left to wonder about the motives behind the black blade's unusually silent behavior on this matter. Alas, he does not, so instead he focuses on how to proceed with their line of inquiry. "I think you are right that we should check out the place now, especially since Carlo's second rumor points out the oddity of no workers ever being seen going on shift at the chymic works, but the smoke from the chimney never stopping. We can always decide how to proceed once we know exactly what we have found after poking around there. I agree that we have to be careful, and it would be great to have Pike here...but I am afraid that is a luxury that... our client, and by extension we cannot afford." Hrani catches himself before referring to the Beast as such. He still doesn't see the big issue, but Mara was the one to champion the rechristening, and who seems to be most bothered by the moniker. No reason to unnecessarily offend her if she might be the only person in the group he should be genuinely trusting. Emphasis on 'might be'. "The trial will proceed, and we do not know how much further down this line of investigation we need to go to stumble across something that is actually useful. And if we only do so after the relevant portion of the trial has passed, no one will benefit." In fact, if they uncover evidence of the Beast's innocence after it is executed, Hrani is pretty sure Mara will be devastated. "Besides, it sound like Radniche will see Vorkstag tomorrow at the trial. I would not count on him not bringing up the fact that someone came to see him about his surgical tools. It will be hard to investigate exceptionally discretely after that, so that puts us on a timer anyway. So I think we take a look at the place and see from there, but I expect that more likely than not, we have to count on the combination of your miracle tongue and my logical reasoning to get to the bottom of this..."

Just the two of them, working together. That should be enough, right? Adding Mara's formidable abilities to his brain and power...well, that certainly should make for a very fierce combination. "Yes. Yes it should." For some reason, Hrani can almost hear a smile in his sword's voice as it says that...
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Old 11-01-2018, 07:20 PM
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SanctuaryHergstag has been enlightening, but it's time to leave. Saddled, the foursome head off, into the dark of night, back to Lepidstadt.

As they go, they decide to split up, to a point. Runahildr will bring the evidence they have back to Ledpistadt with what they can manage; everyone else will spend the night investigating Sanctuary, after a rest. They recall a small hamlet at the crossroads that forces a rider to choose between Hergstag and Morast. The hamlet is no more than a few darkly-illuminated cabins and huts across wide wet marshland, the moonlight above shining down on their lives. A few have candles lit in their interiors, but most are black as pitch and dark as night.

It is here that Signy, Pike, and Fido decide to take a rest, and Runa rides on, dark knowledge and ghostly remains in tow. More will come later, when Sanctuary has been plundered of its secrets.

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They rest, discussing what they've seen. Pike has never spent time alone with the two, and the two outsiders, not part of the Lorrimor group, are curiosities in and of themselves. But then, so is he. There's much to discuss, but a gap to cross as well. Who can say how well that will happen? Cigar smoke lights up the night sky; for reasons beyond them, and above them, a bird of prey, some great raptor, follows Runa for a spell, then turns back and circles them. There's nothing malicious about it, but it is noticeably lower than a high-flying bird might find itself. A kill must be nearby.

The night grows deeper, and the witching hour is soon at hand. Rested, they elect to follow Runa all the way to Sanctuary.

They passed it, earlier in their journey. Though the stone outcropping remains, and likely is older than anyone in their group, no matter how ancient, the wooden parts of Sanctuary are largely burnt away, and those that have not have, with weather and wear, sagged into decrepitude. They take their horses to a hill overlook it, so close to the river that runs through Lepidstadt, through County Vieland. Leaving the road from Lepidstadt, there is much to see: the graveyard, just north of the building itself. The scattering of the boards of Sanctuary, as if a million splinters strewn about. The stone skeleton that remains.

And the sign: "CONDEMNED BY ORDER OF THE MAYOR OF LEPIDSTADT".

There is much to discuss, and much to investigate.
First One HomeShe rides, quickly and precisely, because that is her nature. She is careful with the bodies, but she is careful to make haste, for the witching hour will soon be at hand, and she needs to be sharp for what is to come. Eye on the road, she rides past the condemned Sanctuary, a small tower in the moon-lit night, down the hill and across the bridge, towards the lights of Lepidstadt.

The guards do not stop her, though they do eye her as she rides by. Following the main drag, it's a quick ride to the Courthouse, and stopping, the guards approach, two young men who look worse for wear, and tired besides. It takes them a moment but they recognize her. "Oh, miss. Um, do you need something inside the Defense's room? We've closed the Courthouse for the night, so it might need to wait until morn. All your associates have left as well. The girl, what was her name, Kendra? She said for you and your friends to meet her at the apartment." If she wants to deliver the bodies now, that will be arranged for her. But they appear not to have much interest in letting her do it.

Regardless of what happens with the bodies, she heads down from the Courthouse over to the Lorrimor Apartment, where lights are still lit upstairs. A silhouette, the vignette of a woman, remains visible.

Heading up, she finds Kendra, Samovar, and Jamir, but no one else. Where are Mara, Hrani, and Carlo and Andrzej? Kendra seems equally surprised to see Runa.

"Runa? Glad you're finally back, but where is everyone else? We haven't seen hide nor hair of anyone save Adivion since you all left for Morast." Thankfully that man isn't here. The Halfling interjects. "Hrani and Mara came by, and Carlo, too, while we were in the courthouse. But they left to investigate." Jamir barely looks up from his book, but Samovar, wearing oven mits and standing over the stove, begins making Runa a plate. It is a full chicken, cooked in a savory red sauce, with sliced carrots, green beans, and potatoes, all in the same sauce. It looks utterly delicious. Kendra pours her a glass of red wine, with a series of news articles laid out before her, all dating back decades.

Rest in the Lorrimor household? Never.

"Well, regardless of who we've seen, what have you discovered? Where is everyone else?"
A Chymic NightmareCarlo now disappeared, there is but one thing left to do.

The duo, Elf and Merwoman, decide to head to Vorkstag and Grine's Chymic Works.

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The first thing they notice is the smell, and Mara more profoundly. Acrid and harsh, it is hard on her skin and nose, and threatens to dry her out if she gets any closer. And the source is, of course, her destination. Hrani, for his part, is fine, though both will survive that horrid smell. A tall, iron chimney belches yellow clouds into the sky from this small brick factory. Large leaded windows arch in a dozen places on its outer walls, but they are so begrimed as to be opaque. A large gate opens onto an inner courtyard beneath a sign proudly proclaiming “Vorkstag and Grine, Chymic Works.” The building has two floors and a tower, topped by a lightning rod.

As they approach at a distance, they see the woman from before, the red-headed woman, dressed not in finery but in simplistic gear, locking the gate behind her, before heading off into the night, north towards the main drag. They might can catch her if they want, but why bother? Why investigate as they need to, when the woman is headed off?

The question is, which is more interesting: that infernal smoke and the building it belongs to, or the woman?
 
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Old 11-03-2018, 04:38 AM
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En route to Vorkstag and Grine'sMara simply nods when Hrani suggests leaving Carlo alone. As much as the Varisian tried to fit in with the others—and he did actually try, sometimes—well, he simply he hadn't. Though she has become accustomed to the sorcerer's social peculiarities, they are still trying, and a small part of her is quite relieved by his departure, and perfectly happy to never see him again. Of course, she had had the same thoughts about a month ago, after the ill-fated concert at the Outward Inn.

“I suppose that is peculiar,” the singer converses casually as they head towards the chymic works, “that no workers have ever been seen entering the building, but I fail to see how this could be relevant to our findings in Morast.” She shrugs her shoulders lightly. “An ever smoking chimney is not a criminal offence—though I suppose it should be—and the lack of workers might simply be due to an application of magic.”

At the Chymic Works“I was mistaken—this smoke should definitely be a crime. They should build an effigy of that smokestack instead.” The soprano wrinkles her nose and screws up her eyes, clearly bothered by the pollutants being spewed into the air. “In fact, I ...” Her voice trails off; one hand tugs gently at Hrani's sleeve while the other points out the red-headed woman locking the gate. She remains silent, edging into the shadows until the woman walks away.

“Is that not the woman we saw at Northgate? The one who must have bribed the guards against us? Whatever is she doing here?” Mara whispers into the elf's ear, even though the woman must be out of earshot by now. “Vorkstag and Grine may be well-respected merchants, but her presence surely cannot be coincidence.” Her eyes flit back and forth between the small brick factory and the retreating form of the mysterious woman. “What should we do? I am tempted to follow her, but ...” With a meaningful look, she casts her gaze down upon the lower half of her body. “I suppose we could investigate the factory instead, to see what business she has here ... but the hour is too late for social calls, and the gate is locked. Besides, if we were caught trespassing ... well, I imagine that would reflect poorly upon our case.” She sighs. “Or should we simply call it a day, and prepare ourselves for the trial tomorrow?”
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Old 11-03-2018, 09:56 AM
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En route"Naturally." Hrani agrees with Mara's assessment that the lack of workers might well simply be an application of magic. "Though 'simply' is perhaps understating it. If these chymic works are as big as I think they are judging from how well known they are and how they have been spoken of...then we are talking about a rather impressive feat of magic. Either someone is constantly there, pouring in his magical energy around the clock, something that would be excessively exhausting to even a powerful mage. Or it was a one-time feat of magic, but then we are talking magic on a huge scale...my abilities do not run towards arcane creations, so I cannot say for sure, but I think even if they did, creating a huge magical factory would be as far out of my reach as destroying a huge magical factory with a single spell would currently be."

The elf ponders the thought for a moment. "I do not think I have ever met a mage who could pull such a feat off, unless of course I am significantly mistaken about the scale of things here. Perhaps our investigation into the place will show I am mistaken, and everything is much smaller than I think, or it's just an illusion of smoke to add to the mystery of the place, or some other harmless explanation. But if not..." The magus considers the consequences of what it would mean, when a thought strikes him, and it isn't one he likes. "You know, if this is as big of a magical application as I think it is, it would be one of the top three most impressive magical feats I have ever seen accomplished that I can remember off hand. And I doubt you will like hearing about the other two, because of who they would link Vorkstag and Grine to. Because you see, someone who could create a huge magical factory...might also be able to create a construct with a soul to make it sentient." Hrani lets the implication sit in the air. Suspect number one to pull off such a feat: Whoever created the Beast of Lepidstadt. "On the other hand, someone with that sort of magical power could likely also brainwash a sentient magical construct, forcing it to aid in a robbery while not remembering any of it." He lets that sink in as well. Suspect number two: The Whispering Way.

"I do hope I am wrong and you are right, and that there is a much simpler answer. But if it is indeed an impressive feat of magic, it is probably worth learning who accomplished it. That might set us upon a whole other path in this investigation..." And even if it ends up not being pertinent to their case, finding who can accomplish such a feat...well that would be worthwhile no matter what. "Yes. Yes it would...", Orenmir whispers in its carrier's ear.


At pollution central"Well, there goes any hope of this being an illusion." Hrani agrees with Mara's assessment that the smell is horrible, even if it does not seem to affect him quite as much as it affects her. "Tough I'm not sure burning a representation of this smoke would necessarily improve the air quality." Is that a joke? Did Hrani just try to make a joke? There is no time to figure it out, however, because Mara has spotted and identified the woman closing the gate. The magus probably wouldn't have realized it if the songstress hadn't pointed it out, simply because he needs to make a concentrated effort to become aware of humans' distinguishing features and not just store them as yet another member of their race, but once he looks for it, the red hair makes it easy to confirm. Even distracted as Hrani is by how close Mara has gotten in order to whisper into his ear. He can even feel her breath on the side of his face. It is a surprisingly pleasant experience, except for the thousands of alarm bells going off in the back of his head yelling at him that she has slipped in underneath his guard and is close enough that she could ram a dagger in his back before he has a chance to react. Within seconds, a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions rages inside his head. And Hrani beats them all down. There is no time for this right now. If they want to follow this woman, they need to do it now.

Mara appears unconvinced she will be able to keep up. But the woman does not appear to be in a great hurry. As long as she doesn't notice them, and doesn't take off running, they should be ok, shouldn't they? Besides, Mara brings up an excellent point about being caught trespassing. In that case they might be the ones having to make a run for it, which would far exasperate the issue of Mara's speed. "You're right, that is her. Hrani whispers back, leaning in towards Mara ever so slightly more, rather than backing away. And I think you are right, getting caught trespassing would be bad. I think we follow her, see where she goes. Maybe that tells us something. Seems like we haven't got a lot we can lose by trying. If she gets away from us, well then we'll take it as a sign to call it a night and prepare for the trial. If she spots us...well, she already seems to be on a different side than us, and openly so, judging by the fact that she made no attempt to hide her involvement at the north gate. Perhaps she'll run. Perhaps she'll fight. Perhaps we'll get a chance to talk to her. Honestly, two of those three scenarios sound like they play much more to your and my particular strengths and skillsets than secretly investigating an abandoned factory..."

And so Hrani begins following the woman. Mara has already said this is what she is tempted to do as well, so he figures any further discussion will only decrease their chances of keeping up. Doing so means breaking the closeness to Mara, however, which the elf is surprised to find bothers some part of him more than he had expected. He'll have to sort out what that means at a later point. For now, they pursue...


OoCI took some liberties in interpreting how close Mara would get when you had her whisper into Hrani's ear, hope that was ok ekidnu.

Also, I'll throw down a Perception and a Sense Motive to keep an eye on the woman we're following here, to notice anything unusual and see if Hrani thinks she's being followed. Also a Stealth check, to be used if we get close enough that we really start being sneaky.
 
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Old 11-05-2018, 03:23 AM
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Twisting and untwisting, curling and straightening, Mara unconsciously toys with a long lock of hair, her slender fingers conduits for her nervousness. Though she certainly agrees that they should learn more about the redheaded women, she remains uneasy at the thought of pursuit. Her anxiety is exacerbated by Hrani’s suggestion that the chymic works might harbor an extraordinarily powerful source of magic—this stealthy chase might prove to be unexpectedly dangerous, especially if their quarry is involved with such magic.

But the magus is right—they should at least try to figure out where the woman is headed, and maybe who she is and what she is up to. Diplomacy does not seem like a realistic option however; it would be nice to talk with her, to try to glean some sort of information, but Mara strongly doubts that the redhead would cooperate in any way, given her previous adversarial actions.

In any case, the singer has no choice, for Hrani has already set off in pursuit, so she resigns herself to the physically arduous task of keeping pace with their quarry. She lags behind almost immediately, grimacing and hobbling bravely through a pain that is amplified a hundredfold by the effort. A normally dull ache sharpens into a thousand tiny daggers stabbing up and down her pseudo-legs. It isn’t too long before the woman is As such, I’m not going to bother with Perception or Stealth checkscompletely out of sight and Mara is following Hrani instead.
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  #311  
Old 11-05-2018, 07:39 AM
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It is a short farewell as Runa splits up, heading for Lepidstad "Godspeed my friend." he says as they clasp forearms, she'd have a hard ride ahead of her and a long day. Wanting to remind her what to say and how to address it to the court he thought better of it; the truth is all that matters and who better to deliver that than a servant of the Inheritor. A part of him would, however, love to be around when the prosecution tried to twist her truth, envy them he does not.

"Is there a single place in all of Ustalav that doesn't look haunted and foreboding?" he muses as they get ready to rest for the night "There is no joy in this land, only fear. Even after all these years...." he puffs on his cigar, offering his flask of whiskey to Signy and Fido "Look, I'm not sure what we'll find in Sanctuary, if anything. The place having burned down and the passing of time means our chances of finding anything that involves the accused are slim at best. he sighs, bringing out his alchemy kit he starts mixing formulaes from a worn notebook "But, that's for tomorrow to bring, aye? What about yourselves, what brings you to this forsaken part of the world? Hardly the fun loving populace and the positive environment?" he chuckles with his cigar clenched between his teeth as he eyeballs an amount of viscous black into a small container that holds an extract, puts a stopper in it and gives a vigorous shake "That'll do."

There is a long day ahead of them, investigating Sanctuary and even though Pike is tired and ready to sleep in proper bed he can't help but feel excited about what tomorrow might bring.
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Old 11-06-2018, 06:23 AM
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They got on the way back, though for some of them, the city would remain elusive. At least for the time being. Who knew, maybe the Sanctuary could provide further clues. Or, maybe, just bad dreams. It surely wasn't a location that felt inviting or, Signy mused, that would ever have felt inviting, even when it had been in what had passed as its prime.

"I'd like to think that there's light and shadow everywhere. And just maybe preconceptions tinge your view of this land." Signy couldn't entirely dispute the fact that Ustalav's reputation was one of drear darkness. And, yes, it's marshes and forests weren't generally what one might call inviting - much like the population. Once part of it, though, things changed, mostly. The company one kept could change a lot, or so she had found.

The paladin did her best to keep a straight face while commenting on Pike's characterization of Ustalav's populace: "I, for one, was born here." It became clear pretty quickly, though, that she wasn't offended at all. "In Karcau, to be a bit more precise." She shrugged. "So far my path hasn't taken me too far abroad, too far from mysteries still to be found here. Not to mention the many restless dead who need to be helped to find their peace." While talking she had found a likely spot to rest and had started to busy herself with preparing some hot food. Not that she was terribly skilled at that, but so far she hadn't poisoned anyone. "What about you then? What brings you to these lands?"
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Old 11-08-2018, 09:04 AM
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Runahildr Valkadottir

After an entire day spent in the saddle, arguing with guards that wanted nothing to do with her was the last thing Runa needed. And as there would still be time to hand in evidence in the morning, the paladin simply turned her steed around and nudged it forward without dignifying the surly men at the courthouse with an answer. The temple would hold the evidence, and show the care to the remains of the deceased that was needed. It also had the added benefit of being close to Kendra's apartment.

After stabling Rook and seeing to the horse's needs, Runa grabbed her saddlebags and weapons and headed for the apartment. Struggling with the clasps on her armour while juggling her gear, she ascended the stairs one step at a time until she stood before the door. Then she knocked and entered

The warm air that burst out and washed over her almost drove her to her knees as fatigue set in and her body relaxed at the notion that she no longer had to be on a constant guard. She stepped in through the door, sideways to allow her bulk and armour to pass through without hindrance. Her eyes scanned the room, settling on Jamir with his books, Samovar and finally Kendra.

She sighed and hefted hear gear up to show it, before nodding at the nearby corner.
"Can I?"

Dumping her backpack and saddlebags she then carefully placed the glaive so it wouldn't fall down, and then set about stripping the heavy plate off of her body, enjoying the freedom she felt as each piece came off to join the growing pile next to her pack.

"The others are investigating Sanctuary. I am back with our findings from Hergstag." She rolled her shoulder to ease her muscles. "Wraiths. Plural. I brought evidence back for the trial."

Rubbing her weary eyes, she finally joined the others, gratefully accepting the plate offered her by Samovar and sinking down on a chair to eat.
"Thank you. It was a long journey, and it won't be long before I seek rest if I am to participate in a courthouse battle in the morning. Speaking of which, is it possible to get a message to Barrister Kaple? I would like him to be informed about our findings as soon as possible, so he has the time to prepare."
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Old 11-09-2018, 07:37 PM
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A Special Kind of InsaneThe moon reveals much of Sanctuary, but the shadows left in its casting leaves much to the imagination besides.

Fido begins the process of rolling a cigarette, listening to his two companions rattle on about this or that. "Likely, we will find nothing but loose threads, but then I've already been surprised three times over today from Hergstag alone. Perhaps you're not entirely insane, Torsten Pike." Placing the cigarette on his lip, he smiles thinly. "Or perhaps you are, but seductively so."

At the biographical inquiry, Fido lets Signy go first, listening and nodding along to her prattle about goodness this or lightful that. "I'm from Galt, and that should be enough to inform you as to the projectory of my life. I will take the shadow-haunted ruins of this land to the blood-bright streaks of that disheartening land any day, I'll have you know." He smiles, curious in his own way. Gnomes always are. "Travel is good for me, for my peace of mind. But of late I've been here, in Lepidstadt, for scholastic reasons. Curiosity now." That's all there is to it.

"I do admit some curiosity to you and your group. A Dwarf of... well, not Ustalav, clearly, Mara from where ever angels sing, Runahildr from the rough side of 'bad ass,' as they are wont to say, Hrani from the steppes of brooding, and are there others?" Plenty to ask about, certainly.

But why?
Much to DiscussSamovar nods, and Kendra watches as the corner is quickly filled with findings and other fabulous contraband that was found at their various excursions across the Lepidstadt Hinterlands.

"Ah, Sanctuary. I suspect there won't be much to find there, from the stories. Perhaps just a report of anything done to it in the meantime, but who knows? Pike has keen eyes." Kendra does not mention the other two, perhaps more out of ignorance than anything else. Watching the muscles roll as Runa rolls them, Kendra's eyes go wide at the mention of multiple Wraiths.

"Gods below, multiple Wraiths? And how... what the Devil happened? Is everyone alright?" There is much to tell.

At the mention of informing Kaple of the findings, Samovar looks to Jamir, who barely looks up from his book. Then Kendra looks to him. Shortly after, by process of elimination, Runa does too. Jamir realizes the silence is eerie, and looks up at last. "Hm? Oh, a message? Samovar is the pack-mule, why do I have to—" He looks to the scrawling of hand-written notes before him, only some of which are relevant to the case. "I see."

He finds a quill, and a blank piece of parchment, then looks to Runahildr expectantly.

What is there to tell?
Scarlet HoodsThe night is deep, the smoke thick, and the trail hot.

It's not long before they have to make a choice: follow her, or break and enter. It's also not a hard choice to make, for Hrani or for Mara. The woman moves quickly but apparently absent-minded of the fact she is being followed. Mara cannot keep up the pace, and follows as best she can. Hrani gives chase, and a chase it truly is.

They head north, along the river, though at a distance. The river is largely illuminated by the moon that passes between moons, but is ultimately helpful. On occasion they all three pass strangers in the roads, people coming home from revelries, drunkards, beggars: all sorts are out tonight. The night is full of sounds, and as they head further north, the sound of smoke fades. In the distance, Hrani, quiet and careful, sees a square, in the center of which stands a large obelisk, gray in color with a memorial plaque in its heart, standing in the center of a fountain.

The woman stops, cold, before reaching the square. With no one in sight, she turns, her red hair turning with her as she pulls the scarlet cloak on her head, the same from before, and turns.

Looking directly at Hrani, with a smile on her face.

His face? Hrani isn't sure what he's looking at exactly.

Then, as she turns to face him, she darts, into the alley: but it appears as a blur, something wicked in that step.

She knows, and she invites full chase, now.
 
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:19 PM
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"A funeral for a friend." the dwarf says in somber tones, shrugging as neither of the two seem interested in his offered drink and takes another swig before the flask goes back into his backpack "But something tells me I'm here for something much more than that. Fate is funny like that." his hand goes to the letter in his pocket Funny indeed.

He yawns and rests his head on his bedroll, eyes staring at the dark sky above "From Kerse in Druma, not much to tell there. You'd find the state boring at best." he chuckles "Galt, now there is a place I've read about. Would say I'd be considered quite well read about the place actually if it weren't for the fact that every story and tale I've read seems to contradict each other as to the root of the problem facing it's people." his smile is wistful, his fingers play with the stub of his cigar "I've known Mara an Runa for few weeks now, brilliant women both in their own way. As is the rest of the gang." he looks over to Fido "I'll introduce you to them when we get back to Lepidstadt. Heh, if you think Hrani is from the steppes of brooding wait until you meet Samovar...." he let's the word linger as another chuckle escapes his lips "Professor Lorrimor had a way of making the oddest of friends. Guess I'm the ordinary one of the crowd. Funny that."

He yawns again and scratches his head "Mind if I take the second watch? Could use a kip."
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