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  #126  
Unread 16th of August, 2008, 04:25
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"Shh," the squire hissed, throwing a nervous glance over his shoulder, almost catching sight of Rina and Yavan following along. "Don't talk about him like that, not this close to the sacrifice! Don't underestimate him, there is more to him then it seems at first.

"Maybe we should turn back," he ventured throwing another look around the dark forest. "It's getting late and will only get colder."
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  #127  
Unread 3rd of September, 2008, 10:34
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Callise and her squire turn and head back to the town, the unexpected turn sending Rina and Yavan to frantically hide themselves in the snow covered landscape before the village aristocrat saw them. Once back in the eerily warm village, the pair of would-be lovers part ways, all amorous intentions having apparently fled.

A scant hour later, with the people of Eastbrook sound asleep, the band of bards found themselves lurking in the shadows outside the dark temple of the sun. Thoughts of a daring break-and-enter however, are brought up short when Rina realised that the front door and windows are all unlocked.
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  #128  
Unread 24th of September, 2008, 05:31
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Rina flashes a smile to her two companions and - without waiting for an acknowledgement - starts out as stealthily as she may for the temple. Choosing the most unobtrusive side window, she quickly works her way up the rough facade of the building and slips inside. Dropping carefully to the ground, she lays flat while her eyes adjust and her heart steadies, alert for any sound or sign that her presence has been detected.

<OOC: Move Silent +7, Hide + 5, Climb +10, Tumble +10, Jump +13, Spot +2, Listen +4>
  #129  
Unread 26th of September, 2008, 22:28
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Silently slithering through the window, Rina finds herself in a small room. With only starlight streaming through the small window, the darkness within is nearly impenetrable. After several minutes of holding still and patient waiting the shapes around her reveal themselves to some type of clarity.

The room was small, 10feet by 5 feet lined by small chests and various clothes hanging from the wall, denied colour and detail in the dim light. Most important of all, directly in front of her hangs a length of cloth that - if her memory served her correctly - should lead to the main room of the temple.
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  #130  
Unread 2nd of October, 2008, 21:32
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Moving with the economy of motion developed through years of practice, the acrobat glides past the cloth with nary a ripple of fabric and slips into the main room, keeping herself flat against the wall. Not entirely sure exactly what it is she is looking for, Rina nevertheless feels confident of success. Hopefully, the priests will have left the ballots near the altar in order to bless them.
  #131  
Unread 5th of October, 2008, 23:43
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The main room of the temple presents its own unique challenges. The windows in the walls let in more of the dim night light, but the colour stained glass throw a chaotic edge to all in the room. Blue, red, yellow, green, all colours scatted about the room just bright enough almost be seen, causing the eye to jump from shadow to shadow, conflicting shapes and hues belying any attempt at the mind to make sense of it's surroundings.

With instincts born from experience, Rina froze in place and let the sensation wash over her. Slowly, calmly she catalogued each shape and shadow around her until they all had their own place. To her right was the main doorway, in the centre a row of seats, and at the far end of the left the alter.

In the time she had spent frozen, the air about her had remained still, no currents making their way about the place of worship. For all that the building was unlocked, it appeared to be abandoned.

Cautiously making her way to the alter, the acrobat discovered what may be her prize far easier then she had imagined. Sitting atop the alter lay a box, ornate with engravings and inlaid with what she took to be gold. It was neither latched nor locked.
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  #132  
Unread 11th of October, 2008, 00:49
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Rina reaches a hand out toward her prize, a small smile on her lips. All too easy . . .

Her hand stops abruptly as the thought enters her mind. Would the villagers be worried one of their own would try and change the luck of the draw? She withdraws her hand carefully and then, with all of the caution and professionalism she can muster, the acrobat inspects the area for any sign of a trap.

<OOC: Take 20 on Search +2>
  #133  
Unread 11th of October, 2008, 14:57
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The minutes tick past slowly for Rina, as she meticulously examines the box, the table, the surrounding floor and walls for any sign of a trap. After a long an exhaustive search, hindered as she was by the dim multicoloured light, as far as Rina could tell it was simple an ornate box sitting on a table.

Outside the time passed even slower for Calliste, unable to tell what was happening inside the quiet and dark temple. As the moments flowed from one into the other, the young performer began to feel a shiver build. The valley was sheltered it was true, but it was still the middle of the night in the middle of winter and the cold air started to take its toll.

The time passed and the tension slowly built for Calliste, and just as the certainty that something had gone wrong was about to reach its crescendo, a small voice interrupted her.

"Hi, what are you doing?"

Turning around the bard finds a small girl, rugged up against the cold air standing besides a nearby building and looking at her.
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  #134  
Unread 13th of October, 2008, 23:14
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Satisfied that she has done all she can to aid her success, Rina allows herself to feel the breath of the excitement she has held in check. Reaching out with a smile on her face, she slowly lifts the lid of the chest.
  #135  
Unread 17th of October, 2008, 04:19
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Calliste can't hide her surprise at seeing the little girl standing beside her. What is this child doing outside in the cold in the middle of the night? Is she some kind of little spy? I really am getting to be a bit too paranoid, the bard thinks, ashamed to be suspicious of a child. But she remains wary and alert nonetheless.

"What am I doing?" she says after a moment in reply to the little girl. She is careful to keep her tone light and jovial. "What am I doing? What are you doing? It's freezing out here! Where I come from, children go to bed at a decent hour and stay put all night - they don't wander the streets! Won't your parents be worried about you?" She looks around to see if there is anyone else out and about.
  #136  
Unread 22nd of October, 2008, 14:02
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Yavan flashes a smile at the precocious girl. She possesses all the boldness and temerity that bloom in youth. This is her village, after all. Playing with the other children, she knows every nook and cranny, every hiding spot and vantage point. It is a small realm, but it is hers. Yavan and Calliste are the strangers that trespass within it. A wrong word and she could damn them with a scream. Just as they seek to damn her and the others by breaking the spell.

The light is faint, but he can make out every detail of her face. It does not yet bear the creases and strains of hardships that life brings. She has not known suffering. Her eyes are clear of suspicion, brimming instead with curiosity. He envies her for her ignorance; he pities her for what is yet to come.

Guilt flickers through him. He wonders what will become of her and her family when the icy north reclaims this long denied stretch of land.

“We meet again,” he says, stooping to shake her hand. His voice is soft, but still caries through the still air. “But my friend Calliste is right. This night is too cold and too dark for a child to be out by herself.”
  #137  
Unread 26th of October, 2008, 11:52
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Calliste's rapid fire questioning seems to take the girl aback.

"I - well they," she stumbles at first, before regaining her vocal equilibrium. "You're right, it is cold and dark out here. Kinda scary now I think about it. You two will have to walk me back to my home now won't you?"

As the young girl speaks, Calliste gets the distinct impression that she is eager to get them away from the temple.
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  #138  
Unread 29th of October, 2008, 04:32
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Yavan doesn't seem to find the situation suspicious, but after the little girl's somewhat evasive reply, Calliste becomes even more distrustful of her and her motives.

She wants us away from here, but why? Calliste wonders.

"I don't think that is a good idea," she says out loud. The child looks back at her, probably expecting an excuse or explanation for the statement. But Calliste can't think of any that sound reasonable, so she doesn't offer one.

"Hurry home now." She puts on a smile. "And straight to bed! Don't forget to say your prayers."
  #139  
Unread 10th of November, 2008, 13:13
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Once more the girl hesitated, caught off guard by Calliste's line of questioning, clearly considering what to say or do next. "You're not my parents," she decided eventually. "You can't tell me what to do. And you never said why you are out here at night."

Inside the temple, Rina lifts the lid of the golden box, it arising on well oiled hinges. Even for all the dim light, the acrobat was easily able to identify the contents. A pile of folded papers. She had found the target of her search, the instrument with which the Village decide the victim of their bloody sacrifice.
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  #140  
Unread 14th of November, 2008, 05:30
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On the one hand, it irks Calliste to have this child question her so insistently, especially after being told to run along home. Impertinence is what her father would've called such behavior. On the other hand, the bard is beginning to suspect that the child is not what she appears to be. Could she be some sort of spirit that is trying to protect the lottery and the sacrifice?

There I am being paranoid again... she thinks.

"My, you are stubborn," Calliste says. "If you must know, we're out here because ... " She pauses to come up with something half-way credible. " ... because Yavan is an elf, and elves get their inspiration by ... standing outside at night and ... looking up at the stars. Yes. You see, Yavan has been trying to compose a song about ... a beautiful woman with moonlight shining in her hair. It's for the holiday tomorrow. Now that you've interrupted him, he may never get it just right.

"Now will you please be a good girl and go home to bed?"
  #141  
Unread 15th of November, 2008, 14:39
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The girl hesitated for a third time at the reason Calliste gave for being outside at night, clearly starting to glance towards the temple before catching herself.

"Well I guess," she said in as bad a performance as Calliste had ever seen, turning to leave in an as abrupt manner as she had arrive. "I'll go back home now, it is late."

Inside the temple Rina pilfers her treasure with as much speed as she could muster under the circumstances, pulling out pieces of paper, unfolding them and putting them aside when she discovers they are blank, searching for one that is marked.
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  #142  
Unread 15th of November, 2008, 23:23
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It is with a sense of relief that Calliste watches the little girl turn and begin to walk away. And yet... The bard doesn't believe for a moment that the child means to go home to bed. What will the little girl do now? Who is she really?

As often happens when she finds herself full of doubt, Calliste begins to pray.

Iakchos, I believe you've led me here to Eastbrook for a purpose. There is something dark at work here; there is some evil being feasting on the souls of the sacrificial victims, and it is gaining power each year.

And this child... she is not what she seems to be. Why does she guard this false temple of the Sun god? Show me her heart. Has she something to do with the evil which resides here?


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  #143  
Unread 16th of November, 2008, 00:52
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The power of her god flowed into Calliste, a warm sensation akin to imbuing strong drink. Within her mind a gate unlocked, opening to a flood of sensation beyond normal human perception. Turning her gaze upon the departing back of the strange young girl, Calliste tuned the new sense towards her, focusing the divine acumen in an attempt to detect the nature of the girl's soul.

The answer came moments before the young girl disappeared around the corner, a stench of pure evil, stronger then anything the actor turned cleric had ever experienced, stronger then any human consciousness was prepared for. The malevolence slammed into Calliste before she could withdraw, overrunning the defences she could muster around her mind, a rising tide of villainy flooding her skull.

The experience ended just before it could overwhelm the sanity of Calliste, who found herself kneeling on the ground, trembling and drenched in sweet. The girl had moved from sight, breaking the spell before it could run to completion.

Rina froze, muscles locked and breath stilled. Just moments before she had closed the lid of the golden box, the marked ticket and one of its innocuous brethren tucked safely in her pocket. The inside of the temple remained silent, nothing different could be seen through the maze of impenetrable shadows. Yet years of dangerous living and training warned her. A breath of air moved. How they entered, and where they were remained a mystery, but one thing Rina knew. She was no longer alone.
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  #144  
Unread 19th of November, 2008, 07:24
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Adrenaline thrilled through her limbs at the touch of that unseen presence. Rina's nerves tingled but experience kept her steady and she moved with the disciplined economy of a hunting cat.

She stayed kept to the shadows, using the furniture and architecture to hide her form wherever possible, moving steadily toward her original point of entry. All the while, her eyes scanned her surroundings and her ears strained for some further confirmation of her feelings.
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Unread 20th of November, 2008, 08:39
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Calliste hadn't really expected an answer to her prayer, other than maybe a vague intuition about the little girl which would be difficult to pin down one way or the other. She certainly hadn't been expecting anything like what actually occurred.

She cowers on her knees, eyes shut tight, cold sweat trickling down the back of her neck. All she can think of is to hide herself, hide from the horrific evil, grovel in the dirt, become less than she is, nothing, nothing at all. I am not here... Don't see me... Please, no!

It takes every ounce of will to shake off the dread horror and to open her eyes.

"Yavan!" she gasps, struggling to her feet. "It is her, the child! She is the stranger, the demon that the old hermit told us about." She clutches at the elf's sleeve with a shaking hand. "And may the gods help us, she is purely Evil!"
  #146  
Unread 24th of November, 2008, 15:51
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Rina didn't walk through the shadows, she slid over, under and around them. A silent motion that flowed with, rather then against the concealing gloom. Reaching the verge of a patch of light in her path, the dancer paused, searching the room ahead for hint or scent of the intruder she had discerned.

Stretching her senses to their limit, Rina recoiled as she caught a glimpse of it moving through a patch of grey-rose light. The creature was humanoid, clothed but small and slender. Patchwork light gleamed from pale skin, but of the face the acrobat could see nothing, for it was hidden behind long strands of hair that in that dimness seemed an impenetrable black.

More disturbing of all was the way it moved. No walk, creep or skulk, the creature crawled across the ground. It propelled itself forward in a way that seemed to ill fit the limbs natural movement, as if an utterly alien creature were inside it and forcing the body to manoeuvre how it was accustomed.

And most alarming of all, it was between her and her chosen exit – and moving ever closer to the alter she stood beside.
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  #147  
Unread 1st of December, 2008, 15:29
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Calliste falls to the ground, her hale body wracked by malady. Alarmed, Yavan sinks to one knee next to her, taking her arm in his hand. His eyes are wide as they take in the madness that strikes her. Calliste’s breast rises and falls, her breath coming in heavy gusts. Sweat trickles on her skin. If they were anywhere else in this cold north it would turn into a rime of bone frost upon her brow.

He would have laughed at her words if it not for the font of panic welling within her eyes. Calliste clutches his arm, her fingers steeled from fear. Yavan gives her a slow nod and looks to where the girl disappeared. The claim was wild, but served as an explanation for her queer behavior. Without thinking, his hand reached inside his cloak and found the hilt of the blade hanging from his belt. His mouth twisted a wry smile. Steel would not serve him here.

“If you are right then she will not be going home,” he says. “But we lack the strength of arms to confront her. Better to mask our intent and draw her eye away from our aim.”

The possibilities of fate tumbled within his mind. He forced himself to think of her not as a little girl, but as a shell that housed something sinister. His encounter with her, it, in the streets of the village the day the morning they arrived was not a coincidence. She had not been curious; she had tested him. It was an assessment of whether or not an elf would pose a threat to the equilibrium the creature had established here.

It was cunning of it to take the guise of a little girl. One more taken with vanity might have chosen a mighty warrior, a wealthy merchant, a nobleman, or a beautiful woman. Or maybe it had already had its fill of those forms and had selected this new incarnation for its own amusement. The thought gave him a chill and he wondered what sort of puppetry it had at its disposal.

“We will need a ruse.”
  #148  
Unread 2nd of December, 2008, 14:38
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He speaks in an urgent tone, his voice soft. In a flash his mind adapts to the new reality that an eldritch horror lurks within the heart of an innocent girl. It is no less strange than surviving the feast of Karthas or the trials of Biate. Yavan has become inured to the bizarre turns his life has taken. However, he does wonder if the little girl is locked away somewhere in the recesses of her soul, or if all trace was cleansed in the transition.

“This thing has existed here, with its grim bargain, for a long time,” he says. “It has grown accustomed to its life as it were. It will not want anything to change that. Indeed, it may even have become fond of this village, its people, and the role that this being plays as their protector. Else it may have glutted itself long ago.”

It is possible that this creature views itself as a beneficent ruler. Through its own arcane might are the lives of these people made safe from the bitter winds of the north. All it asks is so precious little in return. One life from many sustains it. It does not judge, it does not play favorites. All have an equal chance to give their greatest gift to perpetuate the well-being of the town.

On the other hand, it could nothing more than icy pragmatism. It has discovered and manipulated a never-ending supply of life. All it needs to do is exercise restraint and it will want for nothing. Yavan’s brow furrows as he weighs the likelihood of the former, the latter, or an altogether unconsidered explanation.

“We need to make it believe that we suspect nothing,” he says, keeping his voice hushed. “A distraction should serve to draw it away from here and Rina. Let us see what kind of performers we truly are.”

Yavan stares into the dark, his eyes taking in each detail. He imagines it lurking just beyond the corner, spying upon them. He stands and helps Calliste to her feet and nods his head toward the corner of the building before setting off in that direction.

“I cannot believe you let her go into the night like that,” he said, raising his voice. “She’s just a girl. We should make certain she makes her way home.”
  #149  
Unread 3rd of December, 2008, 01:32
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Controlling her fear and revulsion, Rina cautiously slid back in the same direction she had come from. It seemed folly to move toward the creature, whatever it was. Instead, she resolves to move in a wide loop around it and hopefully sneak by.
  #150  
Unread 17th of December, 2008, 11:47
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Following the girl around the corner, the bards pull up short. She had disappeared. The ground outside the window Rina had entered was disturbed, though whether it disguised the demongirl's entrance or the reason for her disappearance was more mystical remained unclear.

Moving silently through the temple, Rina kept at much to the shadows as possible, unable to avoid the occasional stream of light and hoping that the additional illumination wouldn't reveal her location. She had lost track of the creature in the inky darkness alongside the long wall and her exist lay directly ahead - on the other side of particularly large patch of moonlight.
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