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Unread 2nd of July, 2003, 02:41
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Chapter 5 - The Search for Cadogan

Smoke still rises from a rectangular pile of wood about half a mile outside the west gate of Krakas, though it has begun to thin and no longer carries the heavy stench it did earlier. The scent still lingers though, the faint wisp of burning flesh and hair.

Beside the pile of burning logs stands a solitary figure, head covered and bent down. Periodically the figure trembles almost as if with cold. Those who get close enough though can hear the sounds of sobbing making it obvious that cold is not the reason the figure trembles.


As the fire begins to die, Blarth raises his head and pushes back his hood. Looking about him, he tries to decide what to do next.
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Unread 2nd of July, 2003, 03:57
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A lone figure slides through the scrub on the wooded hillside, so unobtrusive and silent that even the squirrels do not flee her approach. Reaching a suitable vantage point, she stops and one leather wrapped arm reaches up to move a slim branch out of her line of sight. Somewhat far below the cloaked figure raises it's arms and a face appears as the half-orc lowers his hood and looks around.

Wrinkles appear at the edges of her grey eyes, though the lower half of her face is concealed by a midnight blue veil. She could smell charred flesh and she wondered who he was cremating. Not that it mattered.

Cadrius and Nicos were on the other side of the ridge waiting for her to scout out the source of the smoke; well, that was where she'd left them anyway. They may not have stayed there, knowing them. Either way, she had found out all she needed to know and now they could get on with this business of finding Cadogan. She turns to head back and after two steps she stops short as her vision blurs and her head suddenly aches. She presses her palms against her temples to dull the pain and squeezes her eyes shut - when she opens them again it is there. Like the afterimage of sun spots, a blood red hooded figure stands before her for a split second and then is gone.

Paladin.

She had pushed him and that damnable vision from her mind, but that poor sot standing so forlorn down there brought it all back. She looks down at Blarth and then her eyes tighten and she turns away, back toward Cadrius and Nicos.

Damn them both.

Once again, she only takes two steps before halting and looking down at the half-orc. Perhaps there was a way to rid herself of both of them. This fool was enamored with his friend Paladin, why not let him rescue the arrogant warrior? Pulling her veil down, she threads her way towards Blarth, forsaking all efforts at concealment. He looks up as she nears him, apparently having heard her approach. She smiles and raises one arm in greeting.

"Hello . . . Blarth, isn't it?"

He nods and she walks over, ignoring the painfully obvious funeral in progress. She made it a point not to delve too deeply into other people's business.

"Listen, I have some information on your friend Paladin you might be interested in. I think he needs your help - he sent me some sort of magical message, saying to investigate the Blood Magi on the west coast and break some sort of curse."

Blarth only looks more forlorn, clearly having no idea what she is talking about or how to go about finding his friend. He looks back to the pyre as she turns to leave once more. Well, she'd tried. A gust of wind brings smoke and the scent of charred flesh to her, along with the ghost of a dead aristocrat. Guilt swirls inside her like ashes on a hot wind and her feet drag as though weighted with lead.

I'm going to regret this.

A dozen paces away, she stops and turns toward him. He is still staring into the flames, lost in thought. She clears her throat.

"Look, I'm headed west anyway to find the wizard Cadogan. If you want to come along, maybe he knows something about these Blood Magi."
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Unread 4th of July, 2003, 05:13
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Unsure of what else to do, Blarth grabs the bag of armor at his side and follows Shade away from the remants of the funeral pyre.

I don't know what else to do. I need to fulfill my brother's wishes, but I don't know where to find the men. Also if Sir Paladin is in trouble I should help him, he help me find my brother. May Gruumsh guide my steps so that in time all will be fulfilled.
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Unread 5th of July, 2003, 05:57
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Cadrius shifts from his left foot to his right causing his newly acquired armor to grate slightly. It feels good to be wearing steel again. He can hardly believe how easily they had escaped. The rats Nicos spoke of had failed to materialize, but he had seen more than one very large looking nest. He's unwilling to question his luck and is simply glad to be armed.

His sword, once broken, has been restored to its previous caliber. The blacksmith had truly done a remarkable job with both the blade and the suit of armor. The first thing he did when they left town was to test the weight and balance of his hand-and-a-half sword. It fit his grip and after a few practice swings the fallen paladin could not tell the difference between the old blade and the new.

The armor was also well made, perhaps not like the blade, but well enough. The metal plates shine slightly in the afternoon light. His stomach rumbles, reminding him that they had not yet eaten. Pulling a wedge of cheese and a piece of semi-stale bread from his backpack, Cadrius slices a thin piece and offers it to Nicos.

"Eat, if you feel you can," he says, "I do not think we will get much rest until we put a fair distance between us and the town."

Turning back to the ridge before them, Cadrius clenches his jaw. Shade had forced them to stay behind, claiming they'd create enough racket to wake the dead. After glancing at the bard, Cadrius realized he would be making the majority of the commotion.

If there is trouble he knows Shade can handle herself, in this terrain she could likely do it better than he. Still, the rising smoke sets him ill at ease. There's too much for it to be from a camp, but perhaps it's a bondfire. As to why they would be building it escapes him.

What else could it be? he wonders, Did a hut catch fire? Perhaps. What else? A funeral pyre? Maybe, but who would be burning a body in the woods? No, it is likely a bondfire. It must be close to the late autumn festival, if they have such things here.
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Unread 8th of July, 2003, 22:33
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By the time the crest the ridge, Shade is beginning to have second thoughts about her decision. For one thing, the half-orc made an ungodly amount of noise lugging around that sack full of what could only be armor.

Why doesn't he just wear it?

Nicos and Cadrius hear them coming and both have weapons drawn when Shade steps into the clearing, irritibly waving their weapons down.

"It's just me. The fire was because of Blarth here -"

She jerks her head at the half-orc who is just now breaking free of the forest.

"- and I asked him to come along with us. I'll explain it some other time. Let's get the hell away from this place."
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Unread 21st of July, 2003, 23:11
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"What's that noise," Cadrius says more than asks Nicos. There is a slight scraping as he draws his hand-and-a-half sword from its sheath while unslinging his shield with the other.

Is she in danger? He asks himself, wondering for the first time if the fire had been some sort of trap designed to snare those foolish enough to investigate it. A slight chill runs through him as he remembers the ambush set by the gnolls. A woman screams and I rush in as blind as the mage.

Slipping his forearm through the leather loops, he firmly sets himself between the bard and the noise, keeping his shield in front of him and his sword raised to one side.

Yet his preparation turns to be unnecessary as Shade emerges from the forest, seeming to simply melt from the brush and into the clearing. She seems impatient, perhaps it is simply the eagerness to be away from Karkas.

He tilts his head slightly at the appearance of Blarth, but nods once, accepting him. He sheaths the bastard sword and sweeps one mailed arm outward, gesturing for Shade to lead the way.
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Unread 21st of July, 2003, 23:15
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The armor on Blarth's back makes quite a bit of noise as he trudges after the woman, only half paying attention to what he is doing. His mind wanders back to the funeral pyre and then further back to the life he and Trak had shared. For as long as he could remeber Trak had been both bully and protector. A guardian from the outside world who extracted a price for his services. No matter what though, Blarth had loved his brother and his loss weighed heavily on his mind.

Blarth is so absorbed in his melancholy thoughts that he barely notices that the woman has stopped in front of him until he practically steps on her.

Her name is Shade. Blarth reminds himself as he mentally scolds himself for not paying more attention, Trak would have never tolerated this kind of distractedness.

His head hung low he only half hears what Shade tells the others and doesn't even spare an iquisitive glance up to see who they are.
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Unread 21st of July, 2003, 23:34
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Looking steadily at the half-orc, Nicos keeps his swords out, not defisivly, but ready to bring it that way in a moments notice.

"What were you burning?"

I know that smell all too well ...
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Unread 21st of July, 2003, 23:42
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She is already a few steps away, but her back stiffens at Nicos' question and she half turns in his direction. Her eyes flash above the dark veil and her voice snaps out like a whip.

"Later. I'll explain it later."

Blarth probably wasn't in any mood to answer questions and she doesn't want anything to disturb her poorly conceived half-plan. On top of that, she wanted to be as far from this town as time and sweat would allow. She stops short of saying anything else, hoping that nobody else questions the situation. The sinking feeling in her stomach, though, tells her that hope is probably futile.
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Unread 21st of July, 2003, 23:51
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Nicos continues to talk in an almost conversational tone, still looking at Blarth.

"A few years ago, I spent some time in ... some tunnels. During my stay there, a fire broke out, and spread quickly. More then a few people were burned to death in that blaze. It was that fire that caused me to loose -"
Cutting himself off, Nicos grits his teeth.

"The smell of burning flesh isn't one you can forget easily. I took me a while to work out what that smoke smelt of, but it finally came to me."

Flicking his eyes to the other, Nicos repeats his question.

"What were you burning?"
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Unread 22nd of July, 2003, 00:00
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When Nicos repeats his question, Blarth looks up at him with an empty stare.

Akward minutes pass as Blarth stares at Nicos, saying nothing.
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Unread 23rd of July, 2003, 02:08
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"Yes, it is a distinctive smell. Your question doesn't really require an answer, then, does it?"

Doesn't look like you're going to get one in any case.

She holds the bard's gaze, waiting to see what he will do.
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Unread 27th of July, 2003, 12:00
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Moving behind the woman and standing well above her shoulder Cadrius interrupts the two, saying, "We can discuss this later. The more distance we put between us and the town the better I will feel."

As if emphasizing his point the fallen paladin shifts his gray-blue eyes back in the direction of Karkas before returning them to the group.
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Unread 27th of July, 2003, 12:42
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Gritting his teeth Nicos looks at the other arrayed in frount of him.

Calm down you fool. They havent done anything wrong, he was only ... AREYG

Angrily shoving his sword back into its scabbard, Nicos pushes ahead of the others leading the way away from the border town.

Just don't think about it. Just don't think about it. Just don't think ...
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 01:20
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Shade's eyes narrow as she watches Nicos storm off, wondering what could be irritating the normally calm bard. She glances once at Cadrius and shrugs before following him into the wood.

Behind her, predictably, she can hear the clanks and cracks as Blarth and Cadrius make their way through the undergrowth. Other than the noise, there wasn't much in the way of chatter, everyone seeming occupied with their own thoughts.

Shade's were concerned mostly with the immediate past and the immediate future. Laronar, the elf, would be around here somewhere. He had a decent start on them, and was travelling alone. She wonders if they would be able to catch up to him even if they found his trail.

Not like this.

The road would be their best bet, although they needed to get away from the town before they attempted it. Doubtless they would be sending out patrols.
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 05:45
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It doesn't take long for shade to catch up to the slightly calmer bard. Walking along together, it takes Nicos a few moments to break the silence.

"I assume we are going after the wizard Cadogan. I was slightly out of it when he was taken. Do you know where he is?"
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 07:54
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She pauses to adjust the straps of her pack, her mind going back to the strange abduction of Cadogan. When she replies, her face is thoughtful.

"His captors said they'd be at a place called the Citadel, two days northwest of here, in the wastelands. It should be easy enough to find. If it's there."

She gives the bard a meaningful look; up until now she had assumed he knew something of these wizards and this place they had spoken of. Her pace, which had slowed, stops completely. Her eyes scan the northwest, even though it is impossible to see anything through the dense wood they were in.

"Either they mean him no harm or they are deliberately misleading us. I'm not the trusting type; have you ever heard of this place?"
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 08:04
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Turning to face Shade, Nicos makes a vague gesture in the direction.

"Tales, nothing more. In fact tales I never attributed any truth to. There is supposed to be a safe house in the wastelands. A place where practitioners of magic can hide, and be safe - as well teach each other and share knowledge."

Shaking his heads and looking behind the woman to where Blarth and Cadirus were approaching.

"I had always though tit just a legend. Wishful thinking on the part of those who practice the arcane arts."
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 11:25
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Cadrius' eyes narrow, watching the bard stomps off, twigs cracking and snapping in the cool, autumn air. There are quite a few evergreens present, but brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red can be seen where they do not hold sway. The leaves rustle slightly as a light breeze picks up.

He looks at Shade, shrugging at Nicos' actions before returning his eyes to the foliage.

"It is really quite beautiful," he says quietly but she's already gone, her form fast disappearing into the woods. Blarth, the half-orc, seems oblivious of both his surroundings and his company.

"Look lively, sir," he says, placing one mailed hand on Blarth's shoulder, before turning and following after Shade.

Perhaps I should have been a bard, he daydreams. Singing, telling epic tales of heroism and loss, making people laugh, making ladies swoon.

Another life, perhaps, he thinks, Things would be very different now. Better, perhaps. No, not for the better. I would look damn foolish in tights, he smiles wryly.

His alertness snaps back into him as he comes across the two, standing in the middle of the woods. He tenses before his eyes tell him that the two are not about to come to blows and the matter, whatever it was, has been resolved. Relaxing somewhat he approaches to two, catching only the last bit of their conversation.

"Wishful thinking? Are you speaking of this...place where Cadogan is being held prisoner? How many days travel do we have?"
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 17:13
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"Two..."

Before you, behind the thick trunk of an ancient tree you hear the familair voice of Laronar, although it is not in the most welcoming of tones.

"I thought I could smell you...it is very distinctive, you both reek of it, quite revolting. But I am forgetting Nicos aren't I...don't worry, you smell aswell."

You hear snickering from behind the tree, although, he has not revealed himself yet.

"Don't tell me...you now find it convinient to help me find Cadogan. How gracious of you all...how very gracious!!"

The tone in the elf's voice has turned from sarcastic to outright disdain. The form of the elf slowly edges out from the behind the tree, leaning upon it heavilly, moving rather slugishly. As a wind picks up, Laronars long silver hair flows over his shoulders, patches of blood are dotted about the areas of hair which can now be seen.
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 22:24
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"Two . . ."

The word still hangs in the air as Shade spins toward it's source, her hands reflexively dropping to the hilts of her weapons. Before the sound dies she recognizes Laronar's voice, and she listens to his mocking tones in silence until her reveals himself.

"My own plans have never been any different but I move in my own time, not yours. Gracious indeed; you lack the grace and wit to discern anything beyond yourself."

She purposely shifts her eyes to his bloodstained scalp for a moment before meeting his gaze once again.

"You seem to be having difficulty on your own. If you can swallow some of that pride, you might want to accompany us. If you can stand the smell, that is."
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 23:07
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"You're still armed with that forked tongue I see, a formidable weapon...none could withstand, but my mind has always been on Cadogan, do not mistake that."

Laronar winces as he relies more on the tree to remain standing.

"Your time!! YOUR TIME!! It may be to late by the time you deem it fit to pursue a course of action. If I had not been waylaid...your time..."

Laronar drops to his knees, spitting at Shades feet in disgust. A small line of blood runs down his chin from the corner of his mouth. As Laronar turns onto his side to better support himself you can see the true extent of his injuries. They look serious, from the large blood stain upon his upper back, although the wound, which has two arrows jutting out is covered by his earthen green cloak.

"Swallow my pride you say....you mean like him, follow you like a puppy wanting to please its master?"

Laronar's gaze turning upon Nicos.
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Unread 30th of July, 2003, 23:28
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"Pride: it will not feed or clothe you, nor will it keep you safe."

Her eyes do not soften as the man drops to his knees, nor do they harden as he spits at her feet. He was gravely wounded; how typically arrogant for him to lash out at the very people that might help him. She had seen Nicos heal, and she wonders if Laronar's tirade will affect the bard's decision - to rescue Cadogan or to help Laronar.

"I have my own reasons for my actions, and I ask nobody to follow me."

She pauses, grey eyes unscrutable.

"If you are truly concerned about Cadogan, you should consider my offer."
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Unread 31st of July, 2003, 00:26
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"Errgh."

Before Laronar can respond to Shade's statements he collapses into unconsciousness. Sliding off the trunk of the tree, onto the ground. Blood continues to seep through the back of the cloak, however Laronar is still breathing.
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Unread 31st of July, 2003, 00:42
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Although the conversation going on around him passes Blarth by, leaving him in his mournful thoughts, the sight of Laronar slummping over unconcious does not.

"NO! Two deaths in one day is too much," Blarth shouts in anguish as he moves to Laronar's side, dropping the sack of armor as he does so. Throwing back the blood stained cloak, Blarth recklessly grabs and pulls the two arrows out of Laronar's back, doing more damage as he does so.

What Blarth does next though suprises everyone.

Pulling up his shirt sleeve, Blarth exposes one of the tattoos on his arm. Placing it next to Laronar's wounded back, the tattoo seems to move. At first it appears to be just a trick of the light, but then its movement becomes completely apparent as the tattoo transfers itself from Blarth's arm to Laronar's back. Once the transfer is complete, Blarth touches the tattoo with his and and closes his eyes in concentration. Before everyone's eyes the tattoo begins to fade and as it does so the wound on Laronar's back begins to heal. When the tattoo is gone the ugly ripped flesh has been replaced by new tender skin.
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