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  #76  
Unread 29th of August, 2003, 04:39
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Cadrius still remains silent as the others ask questions, content to finish donning his armor. He sighs as he fixes his vambraces and buckles his sword.

"It would appear Paladin is in some trouble," he says at last, an obvious statement but it was an answer to Shade's question.

He keeps his scalded hand tightly closed. Shouldering his backpack, he strides to the remains of their small campfire, the broken claymore still planted in the ground. Cadrius considers the sword for a moment, wondering if he'll receive the same burn as with the pendant. He reaches forward, this time with the unburned hand and grasps the hilt. Nothing happens. Cadrius exhales, not willing to admit he had been holding his breath, and pulls the blade free of the soil. It looks precisely as it had been when he last saw it, the blade broken under the impact of his own.

Cadrius holds it upright, the jagged edge of the sword pointing skyward and examines it. Perhaps it could be salvaged, or perhaps it would be useful in the days to come.

"Yet we have another obligation," he says hefting the sword with one hand.

"Now, let us continue before we bring a horde of orcs down upon us. No offense is intended Blarth, but I would prefer we do not meet any distant relatives of your's, not today."
  #77  
Unread 31st of August, 2003, 02:43
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"Distant relatives? My tribe isn't..." Blarth begins before he realizes what Cadrius was refering too.

"OOOOH! No, I quite agree. Any meeting with orcs in this area is bound to be less than pleasent."

Hastily stuffing the piece of jerky he had thrown down earlier, back into his back pack, Blarth heafts it onto his back and makes his way over to the fire where the other half of the sword still sticks in the gournd.

"Do you think we should take this half too?" he asks.
  #78  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 03:43
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Blarth's comment causes Cadrius looks at the blade in his hands as if he hadn't examined it just moments before. What morning light can break through the rather dense canopy plays off the fractured sword. He holds it before him, gripping it with both hands, testing what weight it has.

"Yes, we should," Cadrius says, still looking at the blade, "but I would like you to carry it Blarth, if you are able. I am afraid that I carry enough steel, any more and I might start rusting," he says, a feeble attempt at humor, but any attempt by the fallen paladin is unusual.

With one smooth gesture, Cadrius rotates his grip with one hand, letting the jagged edge drop until it points at the earth one more. Extending his hand, he offers it to Blarth.

He turns to the others, making certain that each of them are ready before his eyes at last fall on Shade. She will be concerned about what's happened, and she should be, Cadrius is almost terrified by what has happened this morning.

"After you, Lady Shade," he says, extending his arm and using the title she had rejected when they first met.
  #79  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 03:54
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Cadrius' feeble attempt at humor earns only a blank stare from Blarth, who clearly doesn't get the joke. However, he takes the broken blade from Cadrius and, pulling the other half from the remains of the fire, places both into his backpack without a word of protest.

Pulling a small dagger out of his belt pouch, Blarth begins to toy with the blade as he follows the others' lead.
  #80  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 04:36
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She stiffens at the mention of bringing the blade along with them. It was a bad omen if ever there was one - clearly Paladin was involved in something dark and evil, something she didn't want to get involved in. She grits her teeth and keeps her silence. Let the orc shoulder it's burden - that particular pain wasn't going to fall to her.

After you, Lady Shade

The words startle her and her gaze twitches over to Cadrius, not sure if he's joking or just being mean. By the look on his face, she thinks it is the former though her humour has gone the way of their campfire. His words remind her of their first meeting, the guesses she'd made then about him and the story he told her last night. Her detective work had been eerily close to the mark which was strange; in the past she had proven a poor judge of character where men were involved.

She opens her mouth to say something she'd probably regret later, then closes it. She swings her eyes back to the trail, giving Blarth a hard look along the way. Last night seemed already a world away, swept into the wind like a scattering of embers, slowly cooling. Without a word, she moves off.
  #81  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 22:43
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Clearly that was not a good idea, he thinks, mentally wincing at the inappropriate name. As with Blarth he attempted it with humor, but much like the half-orc, it was not well-received. Yet there may have been something more to it, a degree of respect owed to someone who knows his secret. Instead it seemed to further darken her mood and judging by the look she gave Blarth, it's a black one indeed.

He keeps his mouth closed as his armor and equipment make enough noise for him, at least compared to the rest of his companions. So despite his silence, and the brand on his palm, and Shade's irritation, Cadrius still remains content. Not happy, no, that's something he's unsure of ever regaining. Walking through these woods, as dangerous as they might be, gives him that feeling. The company he keeps does as well, even if it's composed of an elf who bears an enmity toward him, a bard he's not sure he can trust, and a half-orc who just this morning accused Cadrius of betraying his brother.

And so the day passes, each of them keeping to themselves, attempting to make as little noise as possible. Orcs or no orcs, they do not wish to draw anyone's attention upon them. As sunlight begins to fade, they once more set up a modest camp. Once again no fire is made, but it isn't nearly as dark as last night. The canopy has thinned enough to make out a good number of stars.

"Perhaps we are getting close to the forest's edge," Cadrius says quietly, helping create a shetler once more.
  #82  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 23:19
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Shade spends the day working out her irritation by setting a difficult pace. If anyone minds, they don't complain about it which leads her to wonder exactly who it was she'd fallen in with. Cadrius, of course, wouldn't complain if he walked his feet off - he was far too stubborn for that. Blarth seemed resolved to do what everyone else did; she wasn't completely fooled by that, though. He had shown a good bit of initiative in dealing with Laronar and confronting Cadrius.

She'd pegged Laronar as a whiner early on, but he surprises her with the grim efficiency of his trek. Perhaps she had been wrong about him. Nicos wasn't quiet, but he didn't push her buttons either. That puzzled her a bit, but she wasn't about to question it.

When they finally stop for the evening, she is feeling considerably better. Paladin and his damned blade are still grating her nerves, but she has put them in the background. She eyes Cadrius' work as he attempts to build a shelter, smiling to herself at his inexpert construction, then follows his gaze as he looks to the stars.

"Perhaps you'll make a woodsman yet. I'd say you're right. We've risen quite a bit, too - did you notice how much rock was jutting from the ground today? We're nearly above the treeline, probably almost at the badlands those wizards spoke of. This Citadel isn't far off."

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  #83  
Unread 5th of September, 2003, 23:40
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"The ground is drying out as well," Blarth adds in a nearly offhand manner as he begins to help with the shelters. Proving himself remarkebly adept at this sort of thing (though not as good as Shade), the shelters go up much faster tonight with his help.

Suprisingly, Blarth is still not hungry despite not having eaten all day and contents himself scouting out the surrounding area while the others eat.

Returning as they are finishing up, Blarth makes his way over to Shade.

"I'm no tracker, but a group of somethings been through here lately. There are clear tracks about 200 paces east of us. I can't tell anything else, but you might want to check it out."
  #84  
Unread 6th of September, 2003, 02:12
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Rather than making something light, but protective, Cadrius tries to make a fortification. Indeed, the amount of sticks and branches he uses look like they could serve as a barricade in a pinch, although he does abstain from sharpening any sticks to use as spears. Shade seems to humor him for a bit before correcting him, removing over half of his material. Blarth makes quick use of the extra and creates a shelter.

He's surprised to find himself nodding at her words. He had noticed the rocks, although he wasn't certain what they meant. Truth be told, he recognized their ascent more by the change in air than by anything else. Thinking back once more to his times as a squire, he recalls spending time on Mount Castor. They had trained up there, learning survival and combat in the wilderness. It was a chore to move at a quick pace, let alone suit up and spar, or go through any of the other exercises. He recognized the air now; it was beginning to thin out.

I should have paid closer attention, he thinks wistfully.

He raises an eyebrow at the sign of clear tracks nearby. With any luck, it was nothing serious, but he doesn't feel entirely comfortable having something wandering so close to their campsite.

"Do you need assistance?" he asks, before scowling at Nicos. The bard looks on the verge of making another comment about a tryst so he continues on, not allowing him time to speak.

"How many tracks did you see, Blarth? And were they footprints, or something else?"
  #85  
Unread 6th of September, 2003, 02:49
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"I don't know enough about tracks to tell where one began and another ended," replies Blarth, "They were some footprints, but they were mixed in with a bunch of other marks I don't recognize. I was hoping Shade here could read the tracks better than I since she seems to know her way around the woods."

"Do you want me to show them to you?"
  #86  
Unread 6th of September, 2003, 03:05
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"Maybe I could; hard to say without seeing them, though."

She frowns, not at all happy about this. Any creature or group that would leave a large enough mess for Blarth to find was bound to be big enough not to care if anyone found it. Whatever it was, it would be bound to lead to speculation within the group and that would likely lead to differences of opinion over what they ought to do.

For the moment, they all had Cadogan as their first order of business and she'd like to keep it that way. Of course, if she didn't do anything the others were likely to take it upon themselves. She glances at Cadrius when he offers to accompany her, and she can see the wariness in his eyes - they seem to say it might be dangerous. She decides he's right, it needed to be checked out.

"No," she says to Cadrius, "stay here with the others."

She turns back to the half-orc, loosening her blades in their scabbards. A brief episode in town reminded her that Blarth could move pretty quickly when he wanted to, and speed might be more important than strength.

"Alright, let's see what you found."
  #87  
Unread 6th of September, 2003, 03:36
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Without his backpack full of armor Blarth seems at least competant in the woods as he leads the way, making relatively little noise. Checking his pace every so often so that Shade can keep up, it takes the pair a couple of minutes to reach the spot Blarth had found earlier.

"There's an undergournd spring over there by those rocks," Blarth says pointing to a large pile just ahead. "The ground around it is softer as a result and holds a good impression. That's where I found the tracks."
  #88  
Unread 6th of September, 2003, 03:55
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Shade gives the Blarth a critical look. Despite his attitude and generally simplistic nature, he wasn't a fool. Nor was he any stranger to the wild, not that she was too surprised about that - half-orcs tended to hail from less civilized locales.

"Wait here while I check it out. And watch my back."

Not bothering to draw a blade, she steals forward, eyes cast down. Rounding the rocks carefully she makes sure to step only on undisturbed, unreadable ground. She inhales sharply as the tracks come into view, and her frown deepens as she studies the area. She slowly moves forward then out from the spring and back into the woods, circling the area for clues on all sides.

When she returns to Blarth her face is grim and slightly puzzled. Wordlessly, she shakes her head at him and passes by, obviously headed back to camp. When he starts to follow, she increases her pace to a trot.

Never a dull moment.
  #89  
Unread 11th of September, 2003, 23:19
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Her face is paler than normal when she makes it back to camp, her breathing perhaps slightly elevated. Above the line of her veil, her eyes give no sign of her inner consternation.

"It looks like orcs ambushed a small wagon and then headed north, deeper into the wood. They've taken the wagon . . . "

She pauses, cursing inwardly, before continuing.

". . . and captured those that were in it."

Shade folds her arms, not wanting to make the decision about what they should do. She had a feeling she already knew what that decision would be. Her grey eyes fasten on Cadrius' blue ones and she holds his gaze meaningfully.

There is more.
  #90  
Unread 12th of September, 2003, 03:07
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As the two return from scouting Cadrius rises to his feet, the makeshift fortifications temporarily forgotten. Shade's face is unreadable, as usual, but doubt nags at him. If it was nothing, why is she still wearing her veil?

"It looks like orcs ambushed a small wagon and then headed north, deeper into the wood. They've taken the wagon . . . "

Orcs, not surprising given what they've heard about their numbers in the woods. Although those could be exaggerated. If there were as many as some suggested, then they should've overrun Karkas long ago. Yet Shade is not done, there's something else.

". . . and captured those that were in it."

Cadrius locks eyes with Shade while his mind wars with the remnants of his conscience. He draws in a breath and exhales loudly, considering their options. The air is crisp as the day begins to wane.

They had a duty to perform, Cadogan needed their help and wasting time investigating the orcs would not help matters. Indeed, any survivors were likely dead by now, killed for sport or meat, depending on how sparse food was.

Yet if they lived, they would have no other hope. The chances were slim that any survived, but if there were any, they would need help. If they had information all the better.

"These tracks were made recently?" He asks, flexing his hand, feeling the brand despite the gauntlet shielding it from his eyes.

"We...I must see if any survive. If not, I will rejoin you shortly. If they do...well, I will do my best to catch up."

That will make some happy, he thinks, his eyes flicking to Laronar and Nicos before moving to Shade, and some not.
  #91  
Unread 12th of September, 2003, 03:32
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"There were no bodies," Blarth remarks, "so they were taken easily. Such survivors have a chance to be rescued. If these orcs are anything like some of the other tribes I've met, they will try to savage the prisoners first to make the killing more fun."

Thinking of the suffering prisoners could endure at the hands of his father's kind, Blarth shivers once before stating resolutely, "If there are prisoners to be rescued, I will join in the attempt."
  #92  
Unread 16th of September, 2003, 02:27
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Her lips compress into a thin line as she looks between Blarth and Cadrius; of completely different appearance yet resigned to the same purpose - truly, a mismatched pair of bookends. As is her habit when agitated she loosens her blades in their scabbards once again. Her gaze flicks over the rest of the group, now silent, before returning to those two who are already preparing to leave.

"Well you won't find them easily without me."

Shade purposely doesn't say whether she's going with them or staying here, hoping that they dislike their odds. She sits a moment longer on her other bad news before she decides they might as well know what they were up against. Maybe it would dissuade them from their course of action.

"I found something else. Back in the woods were the bodies of four guards and the horses that they must have used to pull the wagon. Judging by the tracks and the condition of the bodies our orcs have a hill giant with them."

She looks at the others now.

"If you ask me, it's foolish to split up. And I think it's a fool's hope that anyone is left alive even though -by all appearances- they took some prisoners. What course do you wish to follow?"
  #93  
Unread 16th of September, 2003, 08:13
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He raises an eyebrow at Blarth's courage but makes no move to dissuade him. Perhaps having one who understood their culture would prove useful. At the very least the burly half-orc looks capable of handling himself in a fight.

Are there any weak orcs? the thought brushes his consciousness. Likely not. A culture that brutal would probably kill those too weak to survive.

Cadrius allows himself an inward smile, as mysterious as Shade could be, sometimes her reactions were all too predictable. Of course the fact that his own behavior could be seen coming a mile away temporarily escapes the fallen paladin. Still, she doesn't offer to come with them and it troubles Cadrius. Clearly Shade isn't afraid of a few orcs; he wonders what could bother her so much. He doesn't have to wait long for an answer.

"I found something else. Back in the woods were the bodies of four guards and the horses that they must have used to pull the wagon. Judging by the tracks and the condition of the bodies our orcs have a hill giant with them."

The mention of the giant gives him pause. The orcs, depending on their number and training, could be manageable. The orcs plus a giant could prove difficult, perhaps even beyond their ability. Open combat, at least without some sort of plan, is now out of the question.

He is silent for a time before looking over at Blarth. If things go bad and they have to retreat the half-orc might be able to escape, but Cadrius in his plate mail will not. His best option would be to fight while the others get away. A noble, albeit foolish, sacrifice but a sacrifice nonetheless.

I shall deal with that foe when it comes, he thinks, unperturbed by the prospect. It wasn't death he had fought to escape back in Karkas, it was the manner in which he met it. The revelation gives him a strange sense of tranquility and he seizes it, holds it, grateful for the peace.

"If there are orcs, well trained ones at that, in these woods with one of the giant folk, then we would be well-advised to gather what information we can about them. They came within several hundred paces of our camp for tonight, they could easily come back. A giant and a party of orcs would be a tough fight even if we were well-rested and prepared, if they came across us in the middle of the night..." he trails off, not needing to finish the sentence.

"We do not need to fight them, merely to see what potential threat they are. If they look to be traveling back in this direction better to know now than when they are upon us."
  #94  
Unread 16th of September, 2003, 15:18
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A bear walks into the clearing.

It's not overly large for a bear, maybe five or six feet tall. The bear doesn't give the adventurers a second glance, except perhaps to sniff in their direction. Its attention is elsewhere. It proves this by standing up and placing its paws on a tree and leaning into it. The tree bends a little under the weight. The bear lets the tree loose, and it springs upright again, leaves shaking and falling. An angry hum can be heard from atop the tree.

Just as the bear stands up again, a rock gnome comes rushing up to it, yelling, "Talon! Down! Down! I told you to leave those bees alone!" Almost as if it understood him, the bear drops back to all fours and gives the gnome a plaintive look.

"Yes, I know -- here." The gnome digs through a pocket, unearthing a sticky, gooey honeycomb, which he holds out. The bear grabs it greedily, and flops onto its back, munching happily on its prize. Shaking his head and grinning, the gnome reaches up and scratches the bear's belly.

Abruptly, he looks behind him and realizes they're not alone. One hand drops to the hilt of a small scimitar as he asks, "Who the hell are you guys?"
  #95  
Unread 16th of September, 2003, 22:23
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I found something else. Back in the woods were the bodies of four guards and the horses that they must have used to pull the wagon. Judging by the tracks and the condition of the bodies our orcs have a hill giant with them.
Chidding himself for not finding the bodies, Blarth nevertheless looks undetered from his stated course of action. The appearence of the bear and the gnome with it in the clearing, however, gives him pause, and Blarth watches them in open curiosity.
  #96  
Unread 18th of September, 2003, 00:26
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Any response is cut short by the bear noisily entering the clearing. Cadrius' muscles tense and he slowly maneuvers his way around the others, placing himself between his companions and the bear. Carefully and as quietly as he can manage, he frees his bastard sword and sets his shield before him. He makes no threatening move, instead steeling himself for the possible encounter. A fight with a bear, no matter how quick, would arouse the interests of any nearby orcs, or giants.

Yet the bear seems either unconcerned with their presence, or oblivious. Likewise Cadrius doesn't care why the bear isn't confronting them.

"Let us leave," he whispers, craning his neck to see the others.

Just then a short figure enters the small clearing. For a brief instant Cadrius mistakes it for a child, and the urge to rush forward and pull it away from the bear is strong. Yet as the diminutive man fully emerges from the brush, Cadrius finds that he's mistaken. It's a gnome, a reasonably well-armed one at that.

He would have to be, traveling this woods alone, he chides himself.

Somehow though, he isn't surprised when the bear reacts calmly to the gnome presence. Clearly neither the bear nor the gnome are normal.

Perhaps he was raised by bears? he thinks, not quite convinced of the thought.

Any chance of the gnome being raised by the bear is dispelled, however, when he sees the group and is surprised.

"Who the hell are you guys?"

Cadrius remains, the steel shield set before him, and the bastard sword held out to the side.

"We might ask you same question, [i]sir[/]," he emphasizes the title, uncertain of what to call a forest-dwelling, bear-loving gnome, "given that you are in our camp site."
  #97  
Unread 18th of September, 2003, 03:11
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There is a considerable amount of tension in the small clearing as the group sizes each other up. Strangely, most of that tension emanates from those that haven't volunteered for a fool's mission. Cadrius and Blarth seem unperturbed by her news of just how dangerous an opponent they might face. Silence from Nicos and Laronar prompts the former paladin to explain his reasoning to Shade.

He made sense; they should at least find out what intention the goblinoids had. She frowns behind her veil, mulling over her decision. Before she has a chance to respond, a large bear wanders in and she freezes, hoping the creature goes on it's way without taking an interest in them. She is ready to put on a bold show to the intruder, should the need arise, in hopes of convincing it that this would be a difficult fight.

"Let us leave"

At the harsh whisper from Cadrius she stares intently at the beast for another moment, then nods once. If they left quietly things might not escalate. Before they have a chance to leave, though, a gnome enters the clearing - a gnome apparently on good terms with the bear. Surprised by his statement, she lets her hands fall relaxed to her sides -within easy reach of her blades- as Cadrius answers him.

"Aye, we might ask you the same. Nonetheless, we are travellers out of Karkas, merely moving through this area and wishing nobody any harm."
  #98  
Unread 18th of September, 2003, 10:28
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Once the initial shock is over, a closer look at the newcomer is easy -- once you can get your gaze away from the shock of bright-yellow hair on his head, which doesn't seem to have been combed in a decade. Below that, his sea-green eyes carry a look of perpetual amusement, and he can't seem to keep a smirk away from his face. His facial features seem somewhat muted, but that may be because of his nose, which is easily twice as large as a human's, and bright red, as if he's been drinking too much.

He's decked out in an outfit of pliable leather, loose-fitting even though it has straps and buckles all over the place. A knapsack is carried over one shoulder, though it hangs a little loosely.

The gnome looks at everyone tensing up and offering statements of courage. As his gaze wanders over the whole group, a smile fit to take his ears in crosses his face, and he starts laughing out loud.

Tossing his scimitar to the ground, he exclaims, "Well, you're all just fit to be tied, ain'tcha? You'd think you just ran afoul of an orc raiding party!" Abruptly, his laughter stops, as he sees the looks on everyone's faces. "Wait."

He lays a finger across his bulbous nose. "You did, didn'tcha?"
  #99  
Unread 19th of September, 2003, 03:38
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He is a gnome, an odd one, but does not seem to bear any ill-will, Cadrius thinks, attempting to will his distrust away.

Tossing his scimitar to the ground, he exclaims, "Well, you're all just fit to be tied, ain'tcha? You'd think you just ran afoul of an orc raiding party!"

Seeing the weapon tossed to the ground in such a haphazard manner offends the warrior within Cadrius. "Your arms and armor is all that keeps you from meeting a nasty end on an orcish blade," his Quartermaster used to say, punctuating his joke with a hearty guffaw; in retrospect Cadrius' feeble humor likely stems from him. Living in the dangerous wilds, even if it is no more than a day or two from Karkas, Cadrius assumes the gnome would be more cautious.

Abruptly, his laughter stops, as he sees the looks on everyone's faces. "Wait."

He lays a finger across his bulbous nose. "You did, didn'tcha?"

Cadrius relaxes a bit, as bizarre as he might be, the newcomer seems friendly at least. He relaxes his muscles, standing straight and letting his sword and shield drop to his sides. Looking once more at the gnome he frowns. Insane or drunk; either way something wasn't quite right. Cadrius hopes it's the latter, a drunk gnome would recover from his stupor, a crazy one would not.

"No--" he casts a glance over at Laronar "--we are trying to avoid meeting any. As a far as we can tell, one passed by recently, with a giant we believe," he pauses, gauging the gnome reaction before saying, "before you and...before you happened upon us, we were speaking of scouting them."

How could a gnome, even with a bear, survive out here? he wonders, but does not feel comfortable questioning that yet.

"Do you know these woods?"
  #100  
Unread 19th of September, 2003, 04:23
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Gralhruk
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Behind the veil, Shade could be thinking anything or nothing. Her eyes tighten slightly at the gnome's observation about orcs but she gives no other sign, wondering at his purpose and waiting for his response.
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