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zachol 2nd of November, 2010 23:19

Dead by Dawn IC
 
The Scar, 823 Loghlan's Reckoning

Tyrik Gerithson had labored long and hard for his church. In this cursed land, where the very earth cried out in pain, even a day's travel was unto suicide. Long ago the visionary King, who was so ridiculed to be not even worth a name, had built a wall, stretching north to south, to at least keep the pestilence contained. But that was not enough. The wall had decayed. Worst of all, those brave few who tried to tame the land were called fools, who "deserved what they got" for going past the wall, given no recognition or praise for their selfless sacrifice.
It was not enough to simply let this land lie behind the ruins of a wall, to hope its pestilence would not spread and infest. It was his duty, his responsibility, to tame it, to break this land. It was an affront to all that was decent to let it stand, to let it threaten the innocent this way. He would come, a holy fire, his church an outpost in this wasteland, a font, a wellspring of justice, to bring a cleansing.

He stopped, and stared at the cloudless sky, the sun bringing its warmth to the unholy land. Days like these were rare. Too often was there fog, haze, clouds like smoke in the sky, ever-present bleakness. Building this church had been such a chore. Every week, a death, or a runner, a broken block of stone or a ruined tool. Wolves in the woods, thieves in the guise of the faithful, and constant, constant ridicule. He had first learned architecture, then masonry, then carpentry, as month by month those he'd hired had dwindled away. Even now, he was reduced to hauling blocks of stone. Once, this had been a choice, a sign of his faith, but now it was sheer necessity. The doomed church in the woods was known as a deathtrap from the Blackirons, through Pax, all the way even to Asholme in the north.

But he would prevail. Pelor give me strength!


Tyrik's Church, 824 LR

It was winter. Tyrik's church was built, at least its shell, though it lacked any tapestries or icons beyond the single statue of the Sun Father. Copper, not gold, and only a shell, not solid.
He was in the rectory, staring at the fire, alone. Young Miss Addix had left a month ago. She had been gathering wood when a... thing, had leapt upon her, shrieking and glowing with a sickly purple light. He had gotten there in time, but it was just another in a series of these events. Too many. He had insisted she leave. Benton had left on his own accord. Olafson had died, his flayed, unrecognizable corpse left on the church's doorstep. Mahers, Trent, even the dear old Friar Longfellow, had all been lost in the woods. Hopefully killed, though sometimes there were those unearthly yet familiar howls...

He was staring at the fire. How long had he been sitting here, shut in, leaving the church empty and cold? Too long. He had no idea whether it was day or night. Perhaps tomorrow he would go out and kill something. Was that what he had come here to do? Kill things, some zombies, some goblins, some wolves, maybe even a vampire or two? Was that all he was good for, now? A man in armor, wielding a sword, hacking down a handful of things, not even a flickering candle in the dark, a single bucket thrown on a forest fire.
He stood. He was leaving. To Ox's Bridge, then to Pax. There was a church there, a great one, he had been there many times, he would talk to them. Tapestries, icons, priests, guards. There were still those with his views, surely. A road here. And this place could wait, it was still only a shell. His work would not be in vain, and his church would become a shining beacon, it would last for hundreds of years, and the festering Scar would be burnt out.
He climbed out from the rectory, into the church itself. It was cold, but he could see through the windows the cloudless sky, and the sun shining above, glorious and pure.

He would prevail. Pelor give me strength.


Tyrik's Church, 827 LR

Tyrik smiled, deeply, satisfied. It was late in the day, but he was content. He was sitting outside, leaning against the doors of his church. Work had been progressing nicely on the palisade. He had been getting visitors, pilgrims, questers, all sorts who had heard of his work here. Tyrik's Church had turned from a deathtrap to a safe haven for those caught in the Scar. Other houses were being built, had been built, and soon, perhaps, a village would gather, people besides those directly under him. His church would become a seed, and his town would herald a coming dawn.
He reflected on his flock. Young, by his standards, barely out of their teens, but after so many deaths Tyrik had ensured that everyone here could at least take care of themselves. No children, none older than he, and at least one man ready with a weapon for every priest or carpenter.

His ears pricked. Odd. A scream? Damned wolves again. He stood, bringing up his sword. At least now there were guards, so he was not the only one to... was that another scream? More, and coming this way, from the east.
"Sir Gerithson!"
"Catherine?" Miss Addix had returned a year ago, though she still carried a limp.
"Sir, there's dozens of them!"
"What, wolves?"
"No, the, the glowers!"
Tyrik froze. The "glowers," the reanimated ones. Like a simple zombie, but infused with that unholy light. Even a handful were trouble enough, but dozens?
"Catherine, get everyone inside the church. Spread the word, now!"
Already many were coming. Screams, shouts, were coming also from the west, and south.
"Everyone, inside the church!"
He was unquestioned. Although a younger him might have scoffed, this was not a land for heroes. Discretion was not cowardice, and a dead man could save none. At the worse, they could wait this out, board up the doors, and repair the buildings in the morning. Better than death.

His flock had come quickly. Tyrik had struck down a few of the glowers, but they had been somewhat restrained, thankfully. On reflection, though, it was as if they had been herding everyone to the church.
He looked out into the forest. It was glowing, glowing with that same purple light. Could that be all from those things? Or was it a sign of something else? Clearly this was organized, by something or someone, and he had obliged them from the start. But what else could he have done? Send them out into the forest, to be struck down one by one? Stand and fight, against impossible odds?
And then they stepped out of the forest. There weren't dozens, there were hundreds, more than enough to light up the forest with their hellish glow. And at the front, a man, wearing a pendant, glowing as well. He was reading from a book, a constant chant, words almost familiar, words...
Tyrik's eyes widened. It was like the litany of Pelor, spoken in the holy language, but reversed and twisted, speaking of the sun dead and buried in the earth and the coming twilight of the Undead Prince. Orcus. Priests of Orcus. He could pick them out, emerging from the crowd of zombies, following the head priest. Chanting also in the holy language, a constant repetition of the unholy creed, while the head priest's voice carried over the din, into the forest.
He backed into the church, barring the door, and turned. His flock was gathered, waiting.
"There's too many. We need to wait it out, and hope they'll collapse with the coming of the day, like before." And, indeed, in the past the glowers had been slain with the dawn, whatever force there was animating them burned out by the sun.

He helped to reinforce the door, and the windows, and waited. The sun was low over the trees. Soon there would be only twilight. Already the things were scrabbling at the windows, at the doors, and pounding, and more would come, and...
"We need to leave."
"What?"
"It's too much. The church wasn't built for this. And the priests... they could destroy the doors, the walls, even if those things aren't enough to tear them down."
"But Sir Gerith--"
"Now. The tunnel in the rectory, to the catacombs. I've kept it hidden for a reason, they're unlikely to be watching those exits."
"Tyrik..."
"Now!"
He guided them down, into the rectory, then into the tunnels. At the door, he stopped, the last ones moving through, and smiled at Miss Addix.
"It seems you'll be leaving again, Miss Catherine. A shame."
"We'll come again, won't we Sir Gerithson? Come with a band, clear them out!"
Tyrik smiled, laying a hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps, Miss Catherine."
With a single movement, he shoved her into the tunnel, to the arms of one of the guards, then moved to close the door. "Though it won't be a 'we' that does it, I'm afraid."
Ignoring her shocked look, her cries, her pounding at the door, he barred it, then climbed the stairs into the church itself. The main doors still held, but they would not stand for long. He looked to the west. The sun was just setting, its last rays going down behind the trees, and clouds were settling in, so soon even the twilight would be gone.
Why has it come to this? Answer me, Father. I have given everything for you, devoted my life, kept my faith at every turn. I live to serve you. Is this my reward, is this what I am given in return? Where are your works, where is your strength? Answer me!

He kneeled before the statue of the Sun Father, and prayed, prayed as the undead scratched at the walls, the windows, gouged the doors, and as the chanting of the priests outside grew and grew, hoping for a sign, or a voice, for anything.
There was nothing. No host of angels, no heaven-sent miracle.
He stared at the statue, eyes dry, feeling nothing but emptiness. And then, he remembered, something said long ago by a man much wiser than he.
We are Pelor's strength. When we speak of His love, we speak of the love we feel for each other. When we speak of His works, we speak of what we make for others. When we speak of His miracles, what is named is only chance, yet it is the recognition of serendipity, of the holiness of every single moment, that makes them miracles. We often say that Pelor gives strength to those that truly believe, but it is that belief itself that is the strength, that courage and will that gives us the strength. His strength is our strength; our strength is his. When we save an innocent, when we bring peace, when we heal, that is Pelor's work, nothing more, and nothing less.
He heard the great door cracking, and shattering, and he stood and turned.
His eyes did not glow. Fire did not come off his breath. His head was not crowned with a shining light. All there was in the church was a handful of flickering braziers, rough, unfinished benches, faded, tattered tapestries, and a worn down copper statue. His armor and sword were nothing more than solid steel, nicked and dinged from years of strife, barely reflecting the dim light of the church.
And yet as he stared at the priest leading the horde, his face was as stone, and his will true. His flock was not out of danger yet, and every moment he kept the cultists from realizing this was a moment more for his faithful to escape.

He would prevail. Pelor give me strength.


The Church, 833 LR

Garvus Harbane had miscalculated. A part of his mind, one still sane enough to realize this, was being strangely calm about it, though he could recognize he was screaming. How bizarre. He reflected back. Five, six years ago, he had claimed this church from that fool Gerithson. The deluded madman's defense had been ruthless, though Garvus had to admit it had been effective, and the paladin had managed to cover his "flock's" escape. Impressive in its own way.
The ritual should have worked, he still wasn't sure why it hadn't, though clearly something was wrong. Parts of the book were unclear. His followers were rather spectacularly dead already, and he wasn't sure himself at this point whether he was still actually alive. Well, either it would work out somehow, or he would end up in the Black Pits of Orcus as some grub. Or something. He still wasn't clear on that part, even given the twenty some years of being a cultist. There were also stories of souls being used as fuel for rituals, or being welded together in undead monstrosities. He liked to think he was instrumental enough to Orcus that he'd get some kind of reward, but on retrospect that was probably wishful thinking.

Not much he could do now. Except scream. Rather unpleasant, really.


The Church, 874 LR

Doran was very pleased. Fuckin' Farian. Idiot. Haw haw! Showed him. Thought he could roll with the big boys, eh?
Fuckin' idiot didn't know what hit him, managed to keep his "share," not like he was ever gonna git it in the first place.
Fuckin' creepy church though. They'd only scouted it a few times, but this was the first time they were stayin' there.
Eh, cozy little basement thing. Nice hole, then they'd be t' Pax in the mornin'.

...the fuck's that weird glow?


~ Dead by Dawn ~

Just Southeast of Ox's Bridge, 874 LR

One thing people rarely realize about the Deepmine hills is just how big they are. They hear about Chaerdon, and something about how they were quarries in the past, but the scale often doesn't quite register.
Essentially all of the stone that makes up Pax came from the Deepmines, and there is a lot of stone in Pax. And yet, you can blunder for days through the hills and never come across anything even resembling a quarry. Locations with the right kind of stone, and good access, are exceedingly rare.
Furthermore, the Deepmines actually border Pax, yet stone was often hauled all the way to Chaerdon, then back up to the city. This was done mainly for reasons of poor access to Pax itself through the Red "mountains," rocky hills with unfortunately deep chasms and steep cliffs and such. And Chaerdon really is "central" to the Deepmines -- they go just as far to the south as well.
So, when someone says "I mean Pax borders the Deepmines, you know," that doesn't mean that the distance to Pax is fairly short.
It means the Deepmines are stupidly large.

All of this was grating on the four intrepid adventurers, Anastrianna, Dan, Alek, and Shara, who had recently negotiated an understanding between some goblins and the people of Chaerdon, and were now traveling with a pair of merchants, Mike and Karrzikda.
"Wait… wait hey Mike. You're saying the distance from Ax's Bridge to Pux is twice the distance from Ched to Ax."
"Um... yes Karz. I think."
"We're not even to Ax."
"I know. Also, it's 'Ox's' bridge."
"Yeah whatever. The sign a little bit ago said a mile."
"Yes."
"So we're not even at Ax, um, Ox, whatever, and we've been traveling all day... are there villages between Ax and Pux?"
"Not really. Also it's generally considered a pretty dangerous road. Solid construction, wide and flat, but not patrolled."
"Really. As Bahamut wills, I suppose, but seriously. There has to be, a, a market for a town or something. I mean really, stupid little towns spring up all the time. I think. Dan. Dan! You live in this icy hellhole, tell me Mike's missing something!"
Dan stared at the Kobold, trying to gather his thoughts.
Yes, a kobold, though perhaps that wasn't as strange as negotiating peace with goblins. "Karz," apparently a female (how do you tell? no no don't answer that), was from the same desert as Shara and Alek, that place to the east. All three of them were rather strange. Also very critical of the temperatures, although he was curious why since it was still only late summer.
Mike was human. He said he was somewhere "far to the west, across the sea" and was tanned, but had a notable lack of an accent. He was apparently Karz's traveling companion or bodyguard or something. At the very least he was less obsessed with money.

Dan was about to answer when Karz shrieked. "Hey look, a tower!" Dan was learning, among other things, that Kobolds are very good at shrieking.
He looked. Indeed, it was a tower, and from what he remembered that meant they were just at Ox's Bridge. And no, there weren't any major towns between here and Pax, at least none farther than an hour's walk from the city walls. Certainly none close enough to get there by nightfall, although it was only maybe three in the afternoon now.
And the road to Pax went right by the Scar. Specifically, it was squeezed in between the Red Mountains and the Scar, not much leeway on either side.

Well, Ox's Bridge had several inns, he recalled. Good ones, and also cheap ones, though none both good and cheap. Perhaps Mike and Karz would spring for their rent.
The pair of merchants had hired the group for "protection" from Chaerdon to Pax, and since the group had intended to go to Pax anyway, it had seemed reasonable.
Maybe having "expenses" paid for as well would make up for the shrieking.

"Hail! Identify yourselves!"
Ah yes, the Ox's Bridge guards. Very well known. Nobody was quite sure how to respond. Karz was scrabbling for something in her packs, completely ignoring the tower and guard now, and Mike was looking at the rest of the group, slightly expectantly.

Mercutio 3rd of November, 2010 01:23

Anastrianna looked about furtively, hoping someone else would speak up first. The eladrin, who many people might have called "stately" if he stood erect and polished, tended to disguise his height by slouching slightly. This stooped look was one that was not so much an act anymore as it was a natural posture for him. Years of creeping through the dark and entering houses illicitly had actually taken their toll on him, making erect posture almost painful to assume.

Explosive Cheese 3rd of November, 2010 04:49

Thank Kord for small mercies. Karz really was beginning to wear thin on his nerves...

With a smile on his face, the fighter turned to the guards. His movements betrayed, to those who knew where to look, years of experience with fighting, but hardly any formal training.

"Hail! My name is Dan Benson, and I come with my companions from Chaerdon. We're just a band of adventurers, escorting a couple merchants to Pax. If you'd be so kind as to let us through, so we could rest in one of the inns for the night, we'd be much obliged."

dabocim 3rd of November, 2010 07:47

Shara looked at the guard and replied "Good day to you sir. My name is Shara, could you also tell us which way we should head to find the inns?"

She looked back at her companions they all seemed as inexperienced as she herself was. She knew that in all reality that she knew everything she already needed to know but after only being alive for a day how could one trust her own skill with a blade.

Again as she had tried earlier she attempted to remember what came before, and remember who she had been. Unsurprisingly she could not recall her past. She would wait and in time the answers would reveal themselves

Black Plauge 3rd of November, 2010 07:51

Praise be to you, Higher Self, Exalted Power, Lord of Radiances, Whose Words are like the Secrets of the Mind, and Who calls forth those creations that are in the sources. You are as the bodies of the Lord of Radiences.

Finishing the litany to Pelor, Alek glances over at their employers to find them busy with... something, despite the challenge from the guards. Unwrapping his traveling keffiyeh from his face, Alek pins it behind his left shoulder, allowing his face to remain exposed within town. Absently, Alek taps Rolling with his goad, preventing the camel from spitting at Shara, a bad habit that the camel was developing here in this water rich land.

A stranger to these lands, Alek allows Dan to respond to the challenge, though the informality of both the challenge and Dan's response sound rude to his ears. Politeness and hospitality were essential in a land where the very land was against you and even strangers were seen as valuable allies, at least until they proved otherwise. The reversal of this attitude in this land where water was plentiful was one of the most jarring experiences for the desert nomad.

zachol 3rd of November, 2010 08:32

"Benson? I know a Benson..."
He stared down at the group.
"Is that a kobold?"
"Yeah. So?" Karz was always particularly irritable during first meetings, when people where still in the "oh hey a kobold that's different" stage.
"'s fine. However, if you're not just passing through, it would be best to declare yourself, your group, at the town square. People can be a mite bit jumpy around here."
He continued to stare down, though now more at the rest of the group.
"Red Hart's expensive, on this side of the bridge. Boswell's is cheaper, on the other side. There's others, but they're all even more expensive. White Clover and a place people jus' call the nice place, both a bit east, and on this side of the bridge. At the least, stay within the walls. Woods ain't nice after dark."
He turned. Farther down they could see the actual walls of the town, a wooden palisade of thick trunks.
"Oi! 'nother group."
He got no response, but after a few moments someone started raising the gate.
He turned back, and grinned. "Well. 'ave a time. I'd suggest the Hart myself. Boswell waters his beer too much."
And that seemed to be the end of it.

Ox's Bridge, as is known by anyone living from Pax to Chaerdon, is a town with a big bridge. If you're particularly well informed, you know this is because they hauled very heavy stone from one place to another. Really, there is nothing to Ox's Bridge besides the bridge, inns for people coming to or from Pax, and the necessary town-y things needed to maintain the bridge and the inns.
Ox's Bridge also has a very well-trained militia. There are no buildings besides those within the town walls, and very little farming. All of this is because the woods right around Ox's Bridge are mildly infested with all manner of unfortunate and aggressive things. This is not to suggest nightly raids or constant fear, but rather that, if you are outside at night, there's a fair chance you won't come back. For children and other invalids, there's perhaps a fifty-fifty chance any given night. For an average mildly fit adult, perhaps a one in five chance of serious trouble. Militia members can generally handle themselves, and adventurers wouldn't find anything particularly more deadly than their usual activities.
The point is, if it wasn't for the walls and the militia, bad things would happen at least weekly. As it stands, bad things happen a few times a year. Which would be almost impressive if it weren't for the requirement of a wall and the restriction of opportunities caused by that.

Again, Ox's Bridge is there because of the bridge, and the bridge is there because of the Red River, which is rather wide and deep and fast, not the sort of thing you'd want to try to cross normally, certainly not with pack animals or a wagon. In the early days, the ferry was very lucrative.
The river cuts from the northeast to the southwest. The center of the town is a bit southeast of the bridge itself, while the walls encircle everything as best they can, obviously with a sort of gap at the river. The northwest side of the river is generally considered the mildly poorer side, mostly because it has always been the more dangerous side -- the Scar is, for the most part, to the northwest. Right on the main road are the inns the Red Hart, and across the river to the north Boswell's. The White Clover and "the nice place" are both to the east, in what was historically the safer area. A bit to the southeast is the seat of government. There are then several houses and businesses, including a blacksmith's, a small leather industry supporting a handful of trappers, two carpenters, and a central "House of Business," right at the town square, whose "business" seems to involve dealing with problems by throwing adventurers at them.
It is distressingly common for random adventurers to simply waltz into town, read something on the message board, have it ironed out at the "House of Business," go off and nearly get themselves killed, and then come back for a handful of gold, and think it all a very good deal. Yes, they generally get what to many is a month's salary for a day's work, but they also generally get killed sooner or later.
The general consensus is that these adventurers are foolhardy idiots who deserve what they get, although whenever there aren't any adventurers for a length of time people also seem to get rather indignant that nobody's taken care of those damn gnolls, for example.

Ox's Bridge is extremely unimpressive. Perhaps two houses, the "House of Business," and the seat of government, are all the buildings made of stone. Even the bridge, for whatever reason, is made of wood, and many buildings somehow seem to not even manage that.
It is run by a "governor," who is apparently the great-grandson of someone who was appointed to the position by someone else in Pax. Nobody really cares, and the governor doesn't actually do anything except ensure there's a militia and they get paid, and occasionally that something or other happens at the "House of Business." Otherwise most of the contracts at the "House" are paid by some private individual, usually one of the inn owners, who just jack up prices when need be.
There is a great deal of mud, for whatever reason. The main road is as wide as the main road usually is otherwise, but the rest of the "roads" are just dirt tracks fanning out into the buildings. There are perhaps a total of twenty-five to thirty buildings, all told, in the whole of the town. Eight or nine on the north side of the bridge, the rest on the southeast side.

Also, people are rather jumpy, though once it's obvious you're not a danger they settle right back down, perhaps keeping an eye out but really who wouldn't.

At the moment, all that was apparent to the party was the singular unimpressiveness of the town, the rather big bridge a little ways off, what looked like a town square with a big white stone building labeled rather directly as the "House of Business" on one side and a wooden building with a sign with what could be a deer on it, and the mud.
Lots of mud.

Black Plauge 4th of November, 2010 07:07

Wrinkling his nose at the smell emanating from the mud, Alek can't help but think that he knows where some of the moisture that makes it up comes from, especially after Rolling adds his own contribution.

"Well, Karz, this is your expedition. Shall we take lodgings at the Red Hart for the night? As much as I don't understand it, it's my understanding that adding water to drinks around here is considered a sign of poor quality and the guard did indicate that Boswell adds water to his beer."

zachol 5th of November, 2010 02:31

Karz... she didn't frown, but her face twisted a little, which the group was learning meant displeasure.
"Keh. I've been to cold places like this before. Water's cheap. They got a river even, so it's free. Beer costs money. Watering the beer means they sell more, and even if they sells it for less they still get more profit. If they're willing to do something like that, means then that they're willing to skimp on other things. Lower prices, but still more profit, 'cuz of volume."
She chirped, digging in her packs again. "And as much as I hate payin' more, I don't take with letting someone profit so easily. Gots be more clever than just bein' sloppy and cheap, I say."
This was, in fact true. Indeed, it was shocking how often Karz would pay more just to be sure the other person was someone who was profiting less.

By this point they were closer to the center of the town. The impression of mud and poverty was strengthening, though the square itself was reasonably clean.
"Hey hey! Kobold here. Don't kill me. Also I got gems! Nice prices, even got some pearls from the southwest seas! Tools, exotic grains, even a couple fine weapons!"
Karz narrowed her eyes, glancing around the town. After a few moments of nothing happening, she chirped again, then turned to consider what was apparently the Red Hart.
"Khhkkkk. Too early in the day to just sit. Also, I bet the Hart place is overpriced too. People get all complacent when you have a nice spot like that. You four scout out things, drum up business, or get drunk or whatever. Don't care. I'll set up shop here with Mike, see if I can get a few sales."
With that, she started unloading the things from their own camel, a small display stand and an eclectic range of goods that appeared quite exotic.
"Don't even understand that name. Of course hearts is red. I mean really. Hey Mike, where's the... oh, there it is."

Going and getting drunk seemed like a really nice idea at this point.

Black Plauge 5th of November, 2010 06:28

Shaking his head at his earnest, if somewhat eccentric employer, Alek looks around the essentially empty square before looking to his companions and making a suggestion, "I'm curious to see if `the nice place' is worthy of the name. Would the rest of you care to join me for something to wash the road dust from our throats and perhaps a bite to eat?"

Mercutio 5th of November, 2010 07:24

Anastrianna considered Alek's suggestion for a moment. "A nice place...hm. I suppose I do have the coin for a night in decent accommodations. A bit of liquor to wet the whistle would be welcome as well."

dabocim 5th of November, 2010 09:23

After A few days out the trail with Karz, Shara was beginning to think that drinking wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. She said, "After a day like this I think we best head for the nice place if we have the money. Besides I agree with Alek we best clear our heads of the road."

Explosive Cheese 5th of November, 2010 10:30

Dan goes and puts his arms over Anastrianna and Alek's shoulders. "This 'nice place' it is then. I know I could use a beer or two."

Or 7. Or 15.

zachol 5th of November, 2010 22:06

The party wandered off to the east, past the Red Hart and into the cluttered and muddy town.
It quickly became apparent that there was no establishment billing itself as "the nice place." The White Clover, a fancy-looking place, was obvious, but besides that there were just several houses of various sizes, a carpenter's shop, and a blacksmith's.

Feeling peeved, Dan finally decided to just ask someone, in this case a young man, who was presumably the blacksmith's son, who had been hauling a load of coal on a cart.
"The nice place? Wha? Oh, you mean Miss Whitetree's? It's back by the wall, a larger house, there'll be a white, uh, tree picture thing over the door. She jus' sometimes takes in folks, it's not like a real inn."
He smiled, then continued hauling the coal back around the blacksmith's.

Continuing east, the Whitetree House, or the "nice place," or whatever, was now easy to find, though it was not obviously an inn, or anything else besides a larger, more stately house. It gave an impression of unmaintained wealth -- clean, but with repairs of lower quality than the house itself, and without any ostentatious displays of money. Indeed, it looked like some rich family had abandoned the house, and then, later, someone sensible yet of modest means had reclaimed it.
Also the door was closed, and there was nobody around. In fact, the streets had been remarkably barren the whole day. Besides the blacksmith's son, there had been perhaps three or four people, none of whom had looked particularly keen on speaking with the group.
Dan trudged up the front steps, the rest of the party following, and knocked.
"Coming!"
A few moments later, the door opened, to show a young woman, fairly cute, with short blond hair, and wearing a long, brownish dress and an apron.
She blinked, leaned to the side to look past Dan, then smiled. "Ah, travelers! How can I help y'all?"

Explosive Cheese 6th of November, 2010 02:53

Dan put on his most charming smile (not particularly charming, but it worked on occasion) and squared his shoulders.

"Hello, Miss Whitetree? We're a band of adventurers from Chaerdon, heading over to Pax, and we need accommodations for the night. Your place has an excellent reputation, so we decided to come here."

Black Plauge 6th of November, 2010 03:26

Karz hadn't given them warrant to secure lodgings for the night yet, and so Alek had to surpress a slight grimace when Dan jumps straight to the subject. Really, he'd been interested in just getting something to drink and maybe eat while checking the place out.

Of course, if what the apprentice smith had said, and the appearance of the place were any indication, then this wasn't going to be a real good spot to find a small meal without also acquiring lodgings. Alek just hoped that Karz wouldn't object to Dan's presumption, or if she did, that Dan would be able to extract himself from this predicament without offending Miss Whitetree.

zachol 6th of November, 2010 08:24

"Of course, of course. I'd better get some more dinner going then."
She looked at Alek's camel, blinking again, then moved down the front steps to lead them around back. "I've got some stables as well. You'd best unload your things here."

She paused, then turned, frowning a little.
"To be honest, though, I wasn't prepared for travelers today. Pelor forbid I'd be a bad host, but I don't have much food ready, or any drink."
She turned back, continuing around the house to the yard.
"I don't mean to presume anything, but I'd doubt adventurers would be anything but bored sitting around eating just what I've got laying around. You'd best leave your things here and go walk around, I know the Hart's real popular. Might even see if the House has any free bounties or anything."

She turned. They'd made it to a sort of yard behind the house, with some (empty) stables and a back door.
"I'm sorry I've just been chattering away. It's just been a long time since I had to care for anyone besides pilgrims or friends of locals. I didn't even introduce myself, I'm Catherine Whitetree."

Explosive Cheese 6th of November, 2010 08:46

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Whitetree. Name's Dan Benson. I've no doubt any food you prepare will be just perfect, and I know that I've had no problem listening to your voice."

zachol 6th of November, 2010 12:27

Catherine blushed, but smoothly moved around Dan, taking the reins of Alek's camel to guide it to the pen.
"Now you're just sayin' that, Mr. Benson. Ma always said I chattered too much. Like Pa and Granna when she was younger."
She returned, wiping her hands on her apron, looking over the group.
"Now you four, I know you'd be just bored out of your minds sitting around here all day. Sure to be back around seven, alright?"

It seemed like Miss Whitetree was the only one living here. Which was odd, considering she was young, just past her teens likely, younger than Dan.
Also, Alek had noticed, and the rest of the group was noticing as well, that she had what appeared to be an actual functional holy symbol of Pelor, hanging from her neck. His experience had been that real symbols, not just minor icons, were fairly rare in this area, and generally only worn by actual priests.

Black Plauge 7th of November, 2010 05:27

Picking up on the use of the past tense in referring to her mother, Alek concludes that her mother is most likely dead or so long missing as to be presumed so. The apparent desertion of the place also suggests something along similar lines for her father and grandmother as well. Add to that the presence of a real holy symbol around the neck of one so young, and Alek rather suspected that at least one death was likely.

"Sometimes, Miss Whitetree, a little boredom is rather a relief. We had dealings with goblins last week. A bit of delicate negotiations in the Deepmines. Today, we're escorting a merchant to Pax. Nothing to exciting, but also nothing that really allows one to relax and empty the mind."

Going over to Rolling's side once his reins had been tied to a post, Alek tapped behind the camel's front knee, clicking his tongue at the same time so that the camel would kneel down. Once the camel was down, Alek started the process of removing the camel's load and barding before continuing.

"I, for one, would be content for the moment to tend to Rolling and find a place to pray. Could you direct me, Miss Whitetree, to the local temple or shrine to Pelor?"

zachol 7th of November, 2010 06:19

Catherine blinked, then grinned. "You're the ones that dealt with the goblins in Chaerdon? Well really, ain't that something..."
Still smiling, she moved closer. "The closest real church would be in Chaerdon, or in Pax. As for around here... well, to be honest, most people do their prayin' at home. Pilgrims that come round this way usually end up here though. I'd be honored to provide my shrine, such as it is."
She led them to a small, unremarkable shed, attached to the house but still separate. The inside was fairly stunning, considering the small size, with a significant amount of glass windows providing ample natural light, and what appeared to be a golden idol of the sun father dominating the room. As with most everything else in the house, things felt old, but well-maintained.
She blushed, again, "I'll just leave you be, get started on the stew," and quickly fled back to the main house.

Mercutio 7th of November, 2010 06:33

Anastrianna muttered his apologetic discontent with the shrine and hurried after Catherine. "Maybe I can help prepare stew with you, or in some other way serve in your assistance. I'm not a worshipper of Pelor, in that my allegiances are more...arcane. In any case, I have no concerns other than to break from the road and prepare for the next day's trip into Pax proper."

To any of the party, this was about as verbose as Anastrianna has ever been.

Explosive Cheese 8th of November, 2010 01:59

Dan looks after the departing Catherine and Anastrianna. "Huh. Wonder what she was so embarrassed about? Oh well, it doesn't matter."

Turning back to the shrine, he looks a bit uneasy. "Hey, Alek? I'm not much of a worshiper of Alek, so I'll go wait outside while you pray, okay? Just make sure not to miss Miss Whitetree's supper! I know you must be as starved as I am for good food, after those trail rations."

Dan goes outside the shrine and pulls out his sword. He then begins swinging it while ducking and weaving about, pretending he's fighting a Giant, or something. Something impressive, anyway.

dabocim 8th of November, 2010 04:27

Shara wondered why the two others had left. She came to the conclusion that they were not followers of Pelor. She understood that they had their own choice to make in the matter, however it still bothered her that anyone could be so rude to a god as to not say even a single prayer. She turned back to the alter and bowed her head in respect and began to pray.

zachol 9th of November, 2010 06:21

As the party began to settle in, and Catherine led Anastrianna into the house, someone called out, from the gate next to the shrine.
"Well he-llo there, the heroes of Chaerdon! Always find things in the last place you look, I suppose, but of all places, Cathy's house?"

Catherine stopped, her face turning sour, then turned back, into the backyard.
"Farian? What are you doin' round here?"
"Farian," apparently, smiled back. "Well, I heard that the heroes were in town, and I decided they'd be the best to help me with a little problem. I went a-searching, and found them here."
Catherine actually sneered a little. "If you have a job, take it up with the House."
The man strutted forward, into the backyard, a smug, irritating grin on his face, looking around like he owned it.
Dan was the first to get a good look at him, but as the conversation started interrupting prayers and such, the whole group focused on him.

He was tall, ratty, lanky, with stringy black hair and a crooked nose. Bad teeth, probably, though he had a habit of covering his mouth when he spoke and glancing around. His clothing was dirty, worn down, and looked like it had been scavenged from a dozen different ruined things and poorly sewn together. The base looked like some sort of hard leather, with some areas covered in chain mail, and others just... not. Everything was dark brown, sort of black, and dirty.
At his hip was a short sword, obvious and challenging, and slung over his shoulder was an actually nice looking crossbow. The fact that the crossbow seemed well made and actually well cared for could've meant he was a crack shot and used to maintaining it, or it could mean that he'd just picked it up (probably literally) a day or two ago.
Bizarrely, he gave a solid, unmitigated impression of being a complete asshole. Which could mean he was actually very clever and somehow spinning it as part of his game. Or it could mean he was, in fact, a complete asshole, and just bad at everything.

Abruptly he frowned, stroking his chin, as if he was actually considering her suggestion. "Well now, I suppose I should. But! My problem is a bit time sensitive. I can't really wait the week or two going through the House would take. Really, I can't wait a day, or even another hour, unless someone would be willing to spend the night in the Scar. So, I'd love to go through the proper channels, but I can't. Plus, it's a very lucrative offer. Time sensitive, lurcrative, I'm desperate, willing to make a deal... seems like they should at least hear it, no?"
Catherine glowered, but didn't respond, and Farian continued.
"It's like this. Me and this fellow Doran--"
"You been dealin' with Doran?"
"Yeah. Doran and his 'Daggers,' stupid name I think--"
"Yeh, like 'The Blackhand' ain't just as stupid."
Farian "The Blackhand" frowned. "Hey now. 'Blackhand' is a fine name. Anyway, me and Doran had a little agreement, but Doran's been remiss on his end of the deal. Plus, I think he's been an idiot, and went out into the Scar without really thinking things through, or having a proper guide. I'm betting he's met a bad end, or if he hasn't already, will. Now, I wouldn't care, really, except he still was carrying my part of the, er, spoils. A hundred gold."
He leaned forward, his grin returning. "Really, I just want what's mine. That hundred. Now, if he's alive... hmm. I suppose I'd be alright with splitting it, if you could convince him to return it. Maybe see if you can extract a little more for your troubles in tracking him down. But, if my suspicions are right... well, that hundred was a third of the take, not to mention all the other things he and his crew are carrying."
He flicked his head to the side, winking. "I'm not saying you need to kill him. Don't need to kill what's already dead. I'm saying you should go, sift around a little, recover his things, and my share, before the beasties in the Scar strip them off. Plus, it's not like we were doin' anything, well, bad. Nobody's been killed, nobody's been stolen from, except the Praetor, and he never would've gotten what we've been after anyway."

Catherine was still frowning. Maybe there was a history there, but really with this Farian guy they could've only met yesterday.

Black Plauge 11th of November, 2010 00:28

Frowning considerably at the nature of the offer, Alek can't help but feel that this "gentleman" is trying to pull something. Whether it's a smooth talker exterior or an actual scam, however, remains unclear, and so Alek is inclined to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

He will not, however, simply close his eyes.

"I'm not quite sure I see how we can help you. We aren't from around this area and so not familiar at all with the lay of the land, either in the Scar or not. Perhaps if a local with knowledge of the area were to guide us, we could provide some assistance, but venturing into the Scar by ourselves with no idea where to go and what to avoid would be only slightly less idiotic than your friend doing so."


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