Valthrun continues to read from his book, letting you talk and/or eat at your leisure. He's obviously looking for something....
... which he soon finds. "'In the tenth year of the reign of the Empress Basheba, in the western frontiers there arose a great and powerful cult, dedicated to bringing Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undeath, unto this world. A Shadow Gate was torn asunder, and in the growing rift Abominations arose. The lands and people were greatly ravaged, until a coalition formed to seal the Rift. The Third Legion suffered severe losses, but managed to create the needed opportunity. Members of the Bleak Academy managed to seal the rift with a ritual, as a temple from Letherna sacrificed themselves that day, lead by Sariel, exarch of the Raven Queen.'"
He pauses, then peers over the edge of the book, "Basheba ruled Nerath, and died a little over two centuries ago. Tenth year of her reign places it about two hundred and twenty-five years ago."
Closing that book, and immediately grabbing up another, he opens to a bookmarked spot, and again reads aloud. "'A half dozen soldiers from the Keep arrived this morning, bloodied and badly injured. Lord Padraig led the whole garrison to see for ourselves the truth of the matter, for we could not believe their babblings. When we arrived, the Keep had collapsed upon itself. There was no sign of Lord Keegan, his family, nor any of the dozens once garrisoned there. When we returned, we tried to get the story from the survivors, but it was confused. One insisted that Lord Keegan had killed them all, and was drinking their blood, and that the gods had brought the building down upon him to seal the abomination he had become. Another said that Keegan's family were the ones possessed, and that Keegan had sacrificed himself to save the others. We could get nothing coherent from the others.'"
He closes that book. "That was from the diary of Marko Albright, Captain of the Winterhaven Guard under Lord Baer Padraig; he was killed less than a year later, when the Bloodspears came through, as we'd discussed before." He pauses and thinks for a moment. "Padraig's wife, Adonna, was Lord Keegan's sister; and Lady Elaine Keegan was Padraig's sister. They say that Keegan was one of the finest commanders at the time."
He waves a hand slightly, and pushes the books aside, to focus on his food. "There's a whole lot of history I could get into, but that would probably be a whole lot more boring and expository than I already have been." He takes a sip of wine, to wet his throat, then glances at Wil. "So you were saying about an undead dragon?"
Armalia looks at the disappointment on Antsy's face. She feels a twinge of guilt, especially for what he's already been through since coming into town. She reaches down and digs around in her pack. She takes out a bit of cloth, and in it is wrapped three delicious cookies that she'd gotten at the previous visit to the market and had been saving to enjoy later on. She nudges his elbow and passes him the cookies. "Since I got the tasty greens, you can have these."
She listens intently to the wizard as he reads from the books. The more he goes on about the rift, the more uneasy she becomes. When he talks about Keegan, a shiver goes up her spine. Gods I hope that's not what we're about to become tangled up in. I'm gonna regret this.
"Excuse me sir. Where is this keep they keep goin' on about? Is there a map to it?"
Valthrun blinks, as he swallows the food in his mouth. "The Keep? You've already been there." He frowns slightly, then ahs. "Well, near there, at any rate. The locals call it the Watchtower - the only part of the building left standing, after Keegan's Cataclysm." He waves his hand dismissively. "Superstitious lot." He takes another sip of wine, and shrugs slightly. "Anyway, I believe you saw it yesterday evening, when you rescued the merchants and Mrs. Stahl, since that was the landmark described to you, was it not?"
Armalia looks stunned. She shoots a look at the others. "Ain't that where Antsy's girlfriend picks all her flowers?" She turns and gives him the stink eye. "Have you been datin' the enemy boyo?"
Antsy stares suspiciously at the cookie. She's probably trying to fatten me up. Hoping I'll think my beautiful shield is too heavy to carry. Not likely, Missy! Antsy bites into a cookie defiantly. He chokes a bit on some loose crumbs at the mention of the flower girl. "What? Shutupshe'snotmygirlfriend." His cheeks flame and he turns to face Armalia, putting the back of his hand to his face where he can feel the heat. "What were in these? I think I have internal hemorrhaging."
As Antsy starts to calm down, something else said earlier sinks in. "Sariel?" Antsy is agitated and gets more so as he continues. "What does Lady Death have to do with all this? Is she involved? Did she send you!?! Why Won't She Just LEAVE ME ALONE!!?" He sprays cookie as he screams at the wizard across the room.
"Be quiet!" Armalia grabs Antsy's elbow and yanks until he's looking her in the eye. "First off, you loon, I didn' put anythin' in the cookies. I was tryin' to be nice to you. Idiot. Second, I don' reckon that the Raven Queen would really be able to put up with the likes of you, so for sure she ain't lookin' to git ya. I can barely put up with you! Be still! No one here is gonna hurt you or let anyone else hurt you. You understand me?!" Once she has his full attention, she asks, "What did yer girl...er...the elf girl, tell you about the tower? Think hard now."
"Nothing. She never said anything about it. The tower never come up-" Antsy cuts his reply short as he spies Nefertiti arching a single eyebrow with a smirk on her face. "You know what I mean! I don't know anything. Daggubit, just ask the girl for yourself." Antsy keeps his eyes down and concentrates on pushing his food around on his plate.
Valthrun blinks at the outburst. But, being the diplomatic British sort of gentleman that he is (if there was, in fact, a Britain for him to have been from), he simply ignores the not-so-nice part the warlord's sputterings and answers (what he thinks is) the question posed.
"Well, of course the Raven Queen would be in involved. First off, She's the one most opposed to Orcus - well, perhaps Vecna, but that's another matter entirely, and entirely conjecture at this point. At any rate, the undead he commands, he steals from Her. In fact, I believe he is trying to supplant her entirely. Not to mentions its being a Shadow Gate; the Shadowfell is Her Realm." He takes another sip of wine, and dabbles at his food with a fork. "Furthermore, She's really the only one who can do so; the peace of the Dawn War being what it was."
He sees a couple of blank stares, and explains. "The Dawn War, as some of you may remember, was the Prehistoric Battle between the Gods - all the Gods; even the ones we view as being Evil and Chaos were, at the time, on the same side as the Gods of Laws and Goodness - against the Primordial Entities - essentially gods themselves, to some degree, of elemental and primal prowess." He sighs, "It's all rather complicated. But in the end, the Gods were victorious - but barely. The Dawn Pact was agreed upon by those remaining Primordials and the Gods, that the Primordials could remain in the Elemental Chaos, and the Gods would have full command and control of the Astral Sea; but the mortal coil - this World, and the Feywild, and the Shadowfell - those lands would remain untouched by divine or primordial hands."
Another sip of wine, and he continues his tale. "Shortly thereafter, the faction of the Gods no longer was willing to work together - Bane lusted for command, Vecna had his secrets, the rivalry between Tiamat and Bahamut grew heated, and so on.... In time, the primordials became an afterthought. But the Dawn Pact remains intact, to some degree." He holds up his right hand. "Most of the Gods respect the Pact in spirit, if not in deed - they'll lend their aid to their clergy, but beyond that they try not to allow themselves to be caught interfering; even their exarchs are reluctant to cross the line. A few - Vecna, Torog, and Tiamat most notably - flaunt the Pact, and actively work to sow discord in the lands; but they are known to be evil, and thus are unlikely to be bound by any pact, at least until they are dead. The demon princes - such as Orcus and Lolth - are not bound by the Pact, as they are not true Gods... yet... and so they view the mortal planes as being their best opportunity for power. Fortunately for us mortals, this means that they - the evil ones and the demon princes - tend to work in opposition to each other, far more than toward the Gods. Heavens help us should they ever decide to join forces."
He sighs, and sips wine again, finishing his glass; the unseen servant refills it. "Finally, there is the Raven Queen. She is the exception to all of the above - she is not a God of Evil, nor a Demon Prince, nor a Primordial. In fact, as the legend says, she was one of us - a mortal, that is - long after the Dawn Pact was forged. She became consort to Nerull, the Reaper, God of Death, after her passing on to the shadow world; in time, she slew him and claimed his throne. Unlike him, and any of the others, she is not bound to the Pact." He smiles. "And that is why Sariel led the Raven Queen's own templars here, two centuries ago. That is why her angels of death, the revenants, do her personal handiwork to this day; why her people, the Shadar Kai, live their lives in the lands of the dead, where no mortal would even think of being before she rose to power." He shrugs. "Consider, no matter who the local patrons might be, no matter what temples or shrines are present, there is also at least one place that she holds court, often alone and without any other gods present or even desired."
He chuckles, and sips some more wine. "Listen to me. You'd think I was channeling Sister Linora, the way I go on...." He hrms, and glances at Armalia. "Who did you mean?"
Armalia blinks. She'd been so taken in by the tale that she'd lost her train of thought. "Oh uh, Antsy had dinner one night with some elf gal. I think her name was Delphina or some sort of flowery thing like that. She sells flowers anyhow and told us that she picks'em out by the watch tower."
She glowers at Nefertiti, who is now poking Antsy in the side and giggling. "Stop pokin' the bear, girl!", she hisses at the drow. She puts both hands over Antsy's as he starts to draw one of the many knives that she knows he has hidden on his person.
Valthrun shakes his head, looking at the dregs in the bottom of his glass before having the servant refill it again. "Ah, the flower child." His tone of voice might be called derisive, or dismissive even.
Armalia looks at Wil as she struggles to get the knife away from Antsy. "What was that girl's name that you got that smelly stuff from for Antsy's rash? Was that Sister Linora? Is she a priestess of..." she glances at Antsy who has given up on getting that particular knife out and is now going for a different one, "the Raven Queen too? Stop it! I ain't gonna let you stab her, no matter that she's makin' fun of you! If you'd actually look at a girl appreciative like sometime, it wouldnae be so funny to her!" She looks over at Riardon, who is sitting next to Nefertiti. "A little help here?"
Wil does sit and begin to eat, but as he is drawn into the stories Valthrun is telling, he doesn't end up eating very much. He nods along to the stories he knows and fully takes in those he doesn't -- particularly the unnerving story of Lord Keegan.
Wil sputters when Valthrun addresses him, having practically forgotten the "undead dragon" thing. "Well, it was a... just a thought, really, and not one I've completely thought out."
He leans back pensively. "Whatever they were doing there, I think we can assume Stahl saw something that got him killed." Wil pauses. "Alhough, what with mad cultists to Orcus involved, I suppose he could very well just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time -- was killed more out of spite than for any coherent reason." He shrugs weakly and shakes his head.
"Yes, that was Linora. She may be dedicated to one deity in particular, but if so I didn't seem to catch which it might have been. She just struck me as the shrine's caretaker." Wil slowly brushes the hair out of his eyes. "Although... well, she did know where the hidden shrine to the Raven Queen was when I asked. Hmm, I guess that's her job though..."
As Wil struggles to pin anything down, he does his best to ignore the dinner-table altercation between Antsy and Nefertiti.
Valthrun arches an eyebrow. "Oh, the treasure hunter's dead?" He sounds genuinely disappointed.
Seeing Armalia eye the dagger Antsy is slowly drawing, Nefertiti finally stops her poking. She blows Antsy a kiss and goes to sit next to Armalia where she begins to absent-mindedly pick food off of the dwarf's plate. She leans over to Armalia to whisper: "I am very lost. I have no idea what's going on. Do we kill the flower girl next...?" An idea seems to pop into her mind and she addresses Valthrun. "Do we kill the flower girl next? You don't seem to like her much."
Wil nods somberly. "Yes, Raven Queen guard his soul. We came across a group led by... -- well, I'm not sure if the gnome was the leader of it or if the ghost was the leader -- but they were digging in the place we wered directed to. Apparently before we had gotten there, they came across Douven Stahl and killed him." He shakes his head. "To do further injustice to Stahl's death, we really have no idea why that happened."
Valthrun purses his lips at Wil's comment, but decides to respond to the drow first. "Oh, I don't think you should kill her." He smiles, as a parent would smile at a small child. "Her being in league with Orcus would be like, oh, some little children being a group of flesh-eating monsters. It's completely incomprehensible. She's far too insip...." He catches himself. "Far too naive to be involved in anything of that sort."
He then addresses the swordmages concerns. "Perhaps he knew something. Perhaps they thought he knew something. Perhaps they are just evil." He shrugs, and just before taking another bite, says, "Of course, I'm sure Linora can help you with that, when you bring the body to her."
Armalia pales. "You mean we gotta go back and dig up that body and cart it all the way back here? I got stuck in that hole for nothin'?"
"That's it. From now on, I'm just collecting hair from everyone we come across," Nefertiti mumbles to herself as she dishes more food onto Armalia's plate and picks at it.
The sage seems nonchalant, as he speaks between bites. "Don't know that hair would be enough, might need the whole thing... or at least a larger part of it; maybe a hand or an arm?... but there are rituals for having such questions answered.... Now, granted, I don't know what tricks the good sister has up her sleeve... but back in my days of wandering about, there were a few good ones that could give you the willies." He sips from his glass. "Not to mention, of course... well, if you really think he was taken before his time... or at least, that the Queen might not mind letting someone go on a bit longer.... well, can't hurt to ask." He munches a bit, pondering. "Of course, it'll probably be costly, whatever you might ask her to look into. But at least then you'd have some answers."
"If he can be brought back, that Sister can have my share to do it," Armalia states resolutely. She still feels guilt for not going after Stahl first, and even though she's not looking forward to digging up the body, she feels it's the right thing to do for Carri.
She pushes her plate over to Nef so the girl can finish eating, as the dwarf has suddenly lost any appetite she had thinking about dead people living again.
"Hmm... That's right. I suppose we must have thought such things were beyond our means straight away..." Wil absent-mindedly bites into a bit of bread as he ruminates. A transcendental Q&A session seems a bit disrespectful in my book, but... bringing Stahl back... It was our fault, after all, that he now lies in the Raven Queen's hands.
Valthrun's attitude towards Delphina strikes him as odd. The girl leads a simple life, carefree in spite of these times of duress. I'd say that points to strength of character more than naïveté -- well, that or it's just suspicious. Certainly no reason to call someone stupid. Wil sets down to actually eating, helping himself to some chicken, peas and a bit of wine. Wonder what the history is between those two then...
But the man has already made the crossing. To pull his spirit back like that and then ask him to go through it again? That seems extremely selfish to me.
Antsy slams the knife back in its sheath now that Nefertiti was safely away. "I don't like it," he grouses. "Seems wrong to play with a person's soul that way."
Flint belches, full of wine and meat. He had been using his mouth for eating, not talking, and his eyes never strayed from Valthruun. Nefertiti and Antsy's little quarrel was nothing he wasn't used to already, after all.
At Antsy's exclamation, he wipes his mouth with the back of a hairy hand and adds to the converstion.
"The dead don't come back unless they want too, bub," he explains as he reaches for another chicken half - Antsy notes the complete lack of greens on his plate, "there no be needin' to worry about draggin' a sorry soul back from paradise. If Stahl no wants to come back, he won't."
He points a drumstick in the Warlord's direction.
"An' if he no want to come back, there are ways to make him talk that don't bring him back over this side, you ken?"
The tension flows from Antsy's bunched shoulders. "Alright. If we can't force him and don't cause him grief, I'm okay with trying to talk to him." Seeing that Flint got tricked out of the candied greens, Antsy passes him the last cookie. When the shifter, smiling around a mouthful of chicken, grease dribbling onto his chin, makes no move to take the treat, Antsy pops it into his mouth. The warlord is more content now that his fears have been allayed.
The Shifter hand-waves away the cookie. "When they make those out of meat, I'll think about it. thanks though."
Wil nods. Not interested in troubling the dead more than they're willing to be troubled -- not at all.
Suddenly the most obvious question occurs to Wil while he has a mouthful of peas. He forces himself to swallow and speaks up. "Kalarel. Does this name mean anything to you? We ran into two different individuals who seemed to be working for a 'Kalarel.' In fact..."
Wil wipes his mouth and stands. He approaches Valthrun and pulls out the letter of correspondence between Irontooth and Kalarel. "This was written by Kalarel to a goblin leader of kobolds who called himself Irontooth." Wil places the letter before Valthrun on the table.
Riardon nods to Armalia's words about raising Stahl. "Mine as well... mine as well" He then pauses to hear Valthrun's response to Wil.
Valthrun hrms? at Flint's question as he dons some reading glasses, then ohs and nods. "Yes, I believe so. I don't personally know such a ritual for certain, but certainly Sister Linora would, given, well, whose tenets of faith she follows." Meanwhile, he's reading the letter and pursing his lips into a slight frown.
"Well, I would hazard a guess to say that he knows you're here. What are you proposing to do about it?"
Flint seems nonplussed.
"His lackeys are in the shadowfell now, and he will be when we get a hold of him. That's where he wants to go anyways, and hopefully he'll deliver himself to us on a nice silver platter by doing something stupid like trying to get the job done hisself."
Riardon finishes the bite he was chewing then says, "Well, then, it's early still. I say we go back and retrieve Stahl's body and bring it to the temple."
Flint pushes his chair back, the legs squeaking as they scrape accross the floor. He stands and rolls his shoulders,s tretching them out.
"Yeah, and it ain't gettin any earlier. Let's get a move on."
He looks back at Valthruun accross the table.
"Like I said earlier, thanks for the grub. And the information, too. We'll keep you on the up-an-up, though I'm sure you keep yerselves that way mostly."
Wil looks over to Flint and nods, then he turns to Valthrun and bows slightly. "Very much appreciated, sir, for everything." At a loss for anything further to say, he bows once again and crosses the room to join his companions.
Antsy scrambles to shovel in a few last bites and follow his companions. As he steps away from the table he tosses a couple of coins next to his plate. Catching a glimpse of Valthrun's ...and misreading it), Antsy tosses a couple more and hurries out without looking back.
Realizling that the party is moving on to do other things, Nefertiti stops playing with the food on Armalia's plate. Standing, she skips over to Valthrun and gives him a kiss on the cheek. "You're just great. Thanks for everything," she says, smiling, before catching up to the party. She takes Wil's arm as they walk. "Tell me a story, Wil. Something nice or sweet. Do you have a girl? Tell me about her."
Riardon, stands and gives Valthruun a handshake. "Thanks for the information. I'm sure we'll be back to see you later" He then turns and follows his companions down the stairs.
Wil blinks in surprise as Nefertiti takes his arm. "A girl? Well... well, no, not so much. I -- well, there were girls, you know, at the school. But..."
Wil collects himself and thinks for a moment. "Something nice or sweet, you say..." He nods slowly to himself. "It's not really a story about me... or anything. We were all usually really busy with studies and whatnot, but... It was a few years ago -- five or so -- and we were at that stage... where boys and girls start to look at one another differently.
"There was this half-elf kid called Kard. He was a bit older than us -- which, y'know... with human children growing a bit faster and all... Anyway, amidst all the swordplay and lectures and reading, he somehow found time to fall in love -- or what seemed like true, unending love to him, you know -- with this girl, Rahne.
"But we were all just shy kids, so... bold-faced confessions of love really weren't on the table. We could barely get the guy to even talk to her; hell, the rest of us boys could barely talk to her or any of the girls because... it was that time of life."
Wil coughs and shifts his arm slightly in Nefertiti's. Though that lasts longer for some of us than for others...
"Anyway, Kard came up with hare-brained scheme after hare-brained scheme. At first they were standard fair: we left her half-wilted flowers that Kard was too embarrased to say were from him; he had one of us cryptically tell the girl that 'someone likes her' and Kard never followed up; Rahne would randomly find her homework halfway done when she hadn't touched it. Most adolescents, I think, would give up after a while of this.
"One day, though, he says he has some sure-fire way to 'win her heart,' waxing cliché about the whole thing, and won't even tell us what it is. Uh... Marceau, another of the boys, threatens that there's going to be a fight unless Kard either lets us know what he's talking about or just shuts up entirely. Kard... well, he just shut up entirely.
"The next day Kard is nowhere in sight. We head into the main room for breakfast and the masters are studying this mark on the wall.
"Except it wasn't a mark exactly. It was this... glistening, runic piece of calligraphy, right? And it wasn't actually on the wall but just hovering there. We were all mystified by it, because based on... well, what we had learned about the subject, it was in a style and of a quality that's hard enough to... get down on paper -- much less make hover in the air and formed out of nothing. The headmistress herself apparently wasn't totally sure how he did it.
"But it was Rahne's name. And Marceau was actually so moved by the thing that he told her everything to do with Kard and all that.
"Kard and Rahne were always pretty close after that -- well, at least as friends for the first few years, you know. Hmm... Right up until I left the Azure Weave, actually -- Kard had left not long before and Rahne was just about to finish up her studies. There was talk that he was looking for a place to live in the outside world before coming back for her and they were getting married, but... nothing definite, from what I remember.
"I suppose that worked out for him. Can't say whether it did for her or not; Kard was always a bit pig-headed." Wil smiles.
Heading out the stairs and out of town, Flint snorts derisively at the start of Wil's story, rolling his eyes as he explains the boy's attempts. He nuges Antsy in the ribs.
"Some just don't know how to woo the women, eh? All a lioness needs is a strong display of dominance - grip her by the hair and tell her what yer gonna do to her!"
He starts chuckling, but trails of awkwardly as Antsy just stares back.
When Wil gets to the part of the calligraphy, though, Flint lets out a low admiring whistle.
"Or that's another way. Dazzling the lass with some of the true Art, eh? I spoke too soon!"
Antsy shrugs in Flint's direction. "I thought the flowers were a nice touch. You gotta trim the thorns of course, if it has any. And make sure she's not allergic to what you give her. And make sure they don't attract bees - even if she's not allergic to bees, no one likes to get stung. And if they're perfumy, you wanna make sure it's a smell she likes. And that the flowers don't stink different as they decay.
Hmph. Now that I consider it, it seems like a lot of work to kill the right beautiful thing for her to enjoy it for a few days. Maybe the lion approach is the right way to go. You know, if she's in to that."
Armalia laughs outright at the discussion that Flint and Antsy are having. "Antsy, boyo, it ain't bout the flowers. It's bout the fact that you took the time to do all that to get it right just fer her. And Flint, yer way is like to git ya killed." She snorts and shakes her head. "Men."
Flint laughs at Armalia's snort and points to her, winking. "Well then, that's the fun, ini't? You take on a lioness you can't handle, you get mauled."
He shrugs at Antsy. "Courtship in our tribe has only resulted in a few deaths, though."
Wil smirks at Flint. "Well, I don't know much about lionesses... I figured you might like the calligraphy bit though."
He turns back to Nefertiti. "Er... Here's an id -- hmm... I've gathered a few things about your past, and I know there's a lot there that would be better not to bring up." He pauses before continuing, asking with genuine curiosity, "What I wonder, though, is how you ended up in Fallcrest -- you know, what were you doing up until the day we met there? Do you remember coming up out of the Underdark for the first time? And what happened after that?"
Nefertiti gives Wil's arm a little squeeze. "That was a very sweet story, Wil. Not about you, but it will cetainly do." She smiles as the rest of the party banters about courtship rituals before responding to Wil's statement. "I like you, Wil. Just as I like Armie and Flint and Riardon and Antsy. But..." She looks down at the ground for a moment as they walk.
"For now, I'm just pretending my life started the day we all met. Someday --maybe-- I'll tell you more but it's not a sweet story. It's not a nice story. Dwelling on my past doesn't really accomplish anything so I'm just trying to focus on the here and the now. On my time with all of you, no matter what sort of danger we find ourselves in. We're doing good, we're helping others and for the first time in my life...I have friends. So, when it comes to me, let's just focus on that for now, hey?"
Nefertiti goes quiet for a while but forces herself to smile at the conversation. Every now and then, she gives Wil's arm a little squeeze or smiles at Armalia.
Wil nods sadly in response to Nefertiti's concerns. "Fair enough. Y-you're right; I apologize." He manages a bit of a smile and says, "But I look forward to when we can learn more."
Flint sees right through the forced smile as the companions continue talking.
Her lips tuck up but her eyes tuck down...
Though he considers himself tough amongst a people who revere self-reliance, he cannot fathom what the dark recesses of the underdark held. Sure, his people knew a little of the subject, and he knew more than most people, but most of it entailed fighting creatures at the very entrance of that yawning abyss, and the general knowledge of the existence of the dark elves.
I don't be thinking this is some elaborate ruse no more...
Armalia moves closer to Nef and pats her on the arm. The girl flashes a bright smile at her, and that reassures the dwarf that she'll be okay.
When they get back to the burial site, Armalia heaves a sigh. "I'll help ya dig, but I ain't gettin' stuck in that hole again." A shiver runs up her spine and she shakes it off. I hate being around dead things. Feels like death's breathin down my neck and I ain't ready to go just yet. She grabs one of the shovels that they left behind and starts digging.
Flint eschews the tools, giving the newly turned soil a glance before crouching in the middle of it and beginning to dig rapidly with his calloused hands.
"Shovel might mess up the body even more," he offers to noone in particular.
Although no one has asked (or accused) her, Nefertiti looks to Armalia somewhat pleadingly and with a hint of panic in her voice, chirps "I don't dig!".
Antsy pulls his personal shovel from his pack, the one he uses for digging small holes in which he hides evidence that he does eat lots of fiber. Leave no trace behind. The shovel is little more than a trowel and Antsy uses the flat of the blade to scrape dirt free.
Once the first sign of Stouven's body is found, Antsy puts the shovel away and digs with hands like Flint. "Be careful not to breath in the vapors. They can lead to dysentary, acne, back spasms, and undesired leakage." He wraps a cloth around his mouth and helps lift the stiffening body out of the hole.
Wil grabs up one of the shovels that was already on the scene and -- once again, with his Bracers of Mental Might emitting a subtle glow -- helps Flint and Antsy dig Stahl out. Taking Flint's words to heart, he is extra careful about not harming the body.
Riardon tries to stay out of the way while the digging. Once the body is brought out, he turns to those who dug and says, "Thanks guys. Do you need a rest before we go back to the temple?"
Armalia makes sure she is out of the hole well before she has to ask for help this time. She hunts around the site until she finds an old cart that was apparently used to haul items away once they'd been dug up, as it still has bits of dirt and debris in it. She turns it on its side and dumps out what she can, using a leafy branch to sweep it out. Turning it back over, she rolls it over to the side of the grave. She then rummages through her pack and gets out her blanket.
"Lay him in here boyos. I'll cover him up with me own blanket. I'll git another in town," she explains hastily, seeing Antsy's reaction. "I wouldn' use it agin when it's been on somethin' dead!" She watches as they lay Stahl's body out on the cart. The cart is a bit short, so they have to fold his legs so his knees are towards one side of the cart and his feet the other. The dwarf uses a cloth wet from her waterskin to wipe as much of the dirt off his face and hands as she can. She lays the blanket over top of the body, tucking it around him. She nods approvingly when Nef puts a handful of weedy wildflowers on top of the blanket.
Flint smacks his hands together, clapping off the dirt and detrius that had accumulated in his hair and under his nails. He looks grimly at the cart.
"Shall we get him back to the lady, then?"
Wil says a silent prayer over Stahl's body before turning to Flint and nodding. "Yes, let's go."
Antsy helps with the cart, leading the group to the temple he had visited earlier. He swings poistion from pulling the cart to pushing it whenever the wind changeds direction. He stays upwind of the body at all times, the kerchief tied tightly around his face.
Upon returning to Winterhaven, there is a bit of reluctance from the town guards posted at the gate.
"Ummm... nope. Ain't goin' to happen. Nuh-uh, sorry. No bodies allowed inside the Walls; they must leave the premises immediately. Rule number 42, oldest rule in the book."
The other guard is a bit more helpful, but no less stringent. "The graveyard's not far, a mile or so south. Can't miss it, it has a sign and everything. You want the Sister? We can have her meet you there as quick as possible, or you can wait for her and accompany her there." Pause. "Can't wait here, though. Over there. Way over there."
Whichever way you decide to get with Linora on the subject at hand, the route is pretty much the same. South on the road toward Timbervale, about a mile - just as the second guard had described - a large wooden sign sits off to the right. Upon it, a raven's claw is etched, crookedly pointing the way toward the graveyard, and toward the Queen of Winter's shrine.
"You start toward the graveyard, I'll go get the Sister." Antsy trots off in the direction of the woman's shrine and exlains the situation. After some cajoling, he manages to get her to come with him out to the graveyard. Once they get to the sign, the warlord stops in his tracks and waves the woman on. "I'll, uh, stand guard here. Well, over there, anyway. Close enough to keep an eye on the entrance." As the Sister shakes her head and continues down the path, perhaps whispering, "pansy" not-so-under her breath, Antsy walks into the trees opposite the graveyard, deep enough not to be able to see the sign but still listening for the sound of the party returning.
Armalia looks around the graveyard as they wait on Antsy and the priestess. She turns at the sound of someone coming and raises her axe, just in case. We are in Her territory, after all. A woman in loose fitting leathers comes down the path. The dwarf looks behind her, but sees no sign of the loon. "You Sister Linora? Where's the boyo what came to fetch ya?"
Wil seems noticeably less spooked standing in the graveyard than a few others among his companions, being in the Winter Queen's domain actually giving him a bit of comfort. His eyes scan nearby gravestones and he silently mouths the names of the individuals interred beneath. May She guard your souls well.
When Linora approaches, Wil bows respectfully to her.
The cleric shrugs slightly, when asked about Antsy. "I think he... had some business to take care of." She is soft-spoken, but to the point. "He said you have the... body?" She doesn't seem reluctant to use the word; more likely choosing more socially acceptable terms.
Brushing some hair from her eyes, as she looks him over, she glances at you all as she speaks. "We can go about this a few ways. The simplest is that we dig a hole and bury him here, and speak no more of this." She pauses to lick her lips, then resumes. "Probably not your intentions, or I wouldn't be here, but sometimes common sense needs to be spoken."
Her point being made, she continues. "If you wish to push further into these matters, we can go one of three ways. We can see his last few moments. We can ask him a question or three. Or we can petition the Queen for his release back into this world." Her voice is cold and matter-of-fact.
"Each of these has a cost. When involving one's self in the matter of the dead, She does not take it lightly, and neither do I." She tilts her head slightly to the side, thinking, then nods. "I so dislike turning it into money - it is not about that - but in many cases it's the simplest of exchanges." She sighs. "One for the vision. Five for the questions. Ten for the petition." She purses her lips, then clarifies. "Platinum, that is. Or hundreds of gold, if you prefer."
She adds, "For the first two, only four of you can come along for the ride. There's five of you here, so one will have to sit this out, go join your friend on the road would probably be... safest."
Armalia takes a deep breath. "I think we had agreed that it would be the last option, bringin' him back. We tol' his wife we'd find him...but didn' think it'd be like this." She points to the obvious. "I think we have enough money. Wil?" As he looks through the company funds, she looks around at the others. "If'n we don' have enough, I guess we need to ask him some questions. I'm not a magic user meself. The four of you are. I kin go find the boyo and watch yer backs." She means no disrespect to the Sister, but the Raven Queen is one that the dwarf would like to have as little interaction with as possible, and she knows nothing of the priestess except that she gave Antsy some foul smelling goo for his poison ivy. Fer a price....
Wil listens intently to Linora's explanation of their options. He then runs a hand through his hair and says softly, "Appreciate the honesty."
Party Loot Show
in coin 2 pp, (-100 gp), 2400 sp, (-5 cp) = 339.95 gp
in valuables 500gp in gems (2x amber, 1x amethyst, 2x turquoise), 500gp in jewelry (1x silver necklace, 1x gold ring w/ amber), 250gp in art (dragon statuette) = 1250 gp
total (party) 1589 gp, 9 sp, 5 cp
w/ personal wealth Show
Antsy 35 gp; Armalia 45 gp; Flint 1 gp, 9 sp; Nefertiti 47 gp, 6 sp; Riardon 70 gp; Wil 65 gp, 9 sp, 8 cp
grand total 1855 gp, 4 sp, 3 cp
Items & Equipment: Javelins?
"It's cutting it close, I think, but... we have the money." Wil looks around at nothing in particular as he goes on. "We did agree to that. And honoring our word is the least we could do... I suppose..." Wil sighs to himself.
I hate to think of Her this way, but we really have one strong bargaining chip with the Lady: if Stahl knows something, he's an ally in our -- and the Raven Queen's -- fight against the Demon Prince. The fact that he died beset by fanatics of undeath seems an unnatural enough death to me.
Flint shrugs at the monetary talks.
"It always takes a bit 'o coin to do what you want, moreso with magics than anything."
He seems nonplussed by the surroundings. Though he does not see them as malevolent, he does see them as strange. In his tribe, they buried the dead and planted a tree over it so that it could return to the cycle of life - not clearing wilderness to set up a strange barren landscape for those that no longer need it.
When the party begins questioning what to do, he seems to have made up his mind readily enough.
"I says we raise 'im, if he'll have it. He'd be alive if we chose right, after all. If he no wants to be raised, then the questions. I've got no problems with spending the coin."
Wil nods as Flint finishes speaking. "That's the long-and-short of it."
Nefertiti resists the urge to take any of the pretty flowers from the gravestones, instead being content to pick some of the less-pretty-but-still-pretty wildflowers found here and there. Unlike her companions, the weight of the setting doesn't seem to reach her, let alone affect her, having seen death up close all too often in the underdark.
After Sister Linora explains and everyone voices their thoughts on the issue, Nefertiti mumbles to herself. "It's just money..."
Sister Linora nods and sighs somewhat. "Very well then. We shall see what we shall see; but sometimes one's fate is just that: one's Fate." She draws a vellum scroll from out of her pack, in addition to a sack of aromatic incenses. Quickly, she directs everyone (including Armalia, as she's still there) where to stand, generally around the cart, while setting the incense to smoulder and circling the smoke around the center of the graveyard. When ready, she faces toward a large mausoleum which dominates the western half of the graveyard and begins to recite from the scroll. The words are foreign to some of you, but to others they are an archaic form of an elvish tongue, read as a prayer to the Raven Queen, a plea to essentially reverse Fate and Death, and to allow a soul to return from the Winterlands. It's all quite poetic, though Flint can tell she's barely doing more than reciting the words, with no heart or emotion behind them. Once done, she lowers the scroll, and waits.
Long, drawn out silence.
The human woman nods slowly, then turns around to face the center where the covered body still lies atop the cart. "Looks like we have Her ans-"
Suddenly, a chill wintry wind whips around you, blowing over and through you, colder than the coldest ice, harder than the hardest brick, circling as if a tornado had suddenly come crashing down upon your heads. Just when you think you can withstand it no more, the cyclone stops, leaving behind the echoing sound of thousands of birds wings taking to the air. When the reverberation ceases, there is silence once again, punctuated immediately by the sound of a long drawn gasping inhale from beneath the blanket.
Pursing her lips, Linora says, "Apparently, you court some favor at the moment. I hope you're happy with your boon."
The cart upends itself suddenly, the figure under the blanket struggling to regain his footing, balance, and the jurisdiction of the laws of gravity. Managing to pull his head out from underneath the wrapping which has enveloped the rest of his body, a pale, gray Douven Stahl blinks into the sudden (to him) daylight, looking around the circle. "What the...?"
The priestess then abruptly holds out a hand and looks toward Wil. "Sorry to seem rude, under the circumstances, but I need to go and cleanse," she coldly says. Once the exchange is complete, she quickly makes her departure, going back the way she'd come.
Armalia's eyes are wide open. She looks dumbfounded at Stahl. Then she peers after the retreating form of the Sister. "Bit bitchy for havin' taken most of our gold, ain't she?" she whispers to Nef.
Riardon smiles at seeing Douven alive.
"Douven! My companions and I were asked by your wife to find you. She was concerned for you. Unfortunately we didn't make it to you before you... well, before you departed for a time. We brought you here to bring you back." He smiles.
"I don't mean to be rude, but we were hoping you would help us out by answering some questions for us. We can talk while on the way back to town. Your wife doesn't yet know that you're back from... where you were and I'm sure she would appreciate finding out soon."
"So, as to our questions... What can you tell us about the gnome and his friends? Do you know what were they looking for?"
Diplomacy via Archana Through Suggestion (1d20+15=17) - blech, good thing I'm good at this.
"I don't suspect flirting with and courting the Raven Queen's favor puts one in an especially chipper mood, Armie," Nef whispers back. She pauses for a moment to consider what just happened before leaning back over. "But yeah, she's still a bitch."
At this moment, Nefertiti steps in beside Riardon and smiles sweetly and reassuringly at Douven. She walks over to him and offers him her waterskin. "And perhaps you can tell us how your fate came to pass. In due time, of course. This is a lot of information coming at you very quickly and we don't wish to rush you. Just take your time, drink, and gather your thoughts. And welcome back, Douven Stahl," she adds with a gentle squeeze to his shoulder.
Mechanics: Diplomacy Show
Just to make sure our questions are answered and to back up Riardon's one not-amazing Diplomacy roll ever: 1d20+10=23
Nef may start to resent that the bookish Riardon is apparently more charming and diplomatic than her.
As soon as the ritual is complete, Wil hurries over to Stahl and helps him get his footing. He nods to Linora as she leaves. "Understood... And thank you." He finds it difficult to address Stahl, letting his companions do the talking as he helps the man keep balance.
Stahl is still uncertain. "I don't rememb... wait, no, I do." He seems a bit dazed, still looking like death warmed over. "Agrid. He killed... well, I thought he did? Not here, there."
He sips the water, quite confused. "Who are you people again?" Before giving you a chance to respond, he resumes what he can tell you. "I came down here looking for... something. I found it - but they were there first. I thought they were just loking for treasure, so was willing to help them dig it for a chance at a share. But they were...." He shakes his head. "Bad men."
A sigh, then more. "They kept me locked up, except when I was digging. They figured if I knew how to find that place, I might be of some use. But there was no treasure - at least, I didn't think so?" He frowns. "They wanted the bones. Don't know why they would want that." A shrug. "At any rate, the last of them were dug up yesterday, and carted off this morning. They kept me covered up in a cage, so I couldn't see or hear anything.... Agrid had been promising to let me live, that he liked me and wanted me to see 'the fruits of our venture,' as he called it. But this morning, they got me out after the shipment left, and he... They'd already dug a hole, and pushed me into it. Agrid, he said that he was sorry, but his boss told him do it." He shakes his head. "I thought I was dead, for sure. I could have sworn he stabbed me. But...," he feels his abdomen, "obviously not. An illusion?"
He sighs once more. "That was it." Just when you're sure he's done, he lifts a finger. "Wait. He didn't say that his boss told him to do it. Well, he did, but those weren't his words. 'According to the elf, the Boss wants you dead right now.'" He frowns. "But I never met any elves?"
Wil makes a mental note of "the elf": Could be Ninaran. Could be Delphina. Could be someone we don't know entirely.
Kross clears his throat and asks, "These bones... Dragon bones, yes?"
Flint startles as the gale and cry of a murder of ravens disturb the bleak landscape, but quickly settles into stoicism once again. He nonchalantly picks the dirt from digging up the body from under his fingernails as some of the more tactful of the group try to circle round the subject. Having returned Stahl to the Living, he feels less morose over him being dead in the first place.
He perks up as Stahl describes the dig site and the bones,
Looks like Wil might've been right all along...
and his brows furrow in consternation at the mention of the elf. He spits in disgust, missing the fact he just did so on top of a gravesite.
"No illusion, mate. The gnome had ya deader than a doorknob. Wee weren't too keen on the fact, and needed some too, so asked the Queen nicely to send ya back."
He thinks for a moment, lips pursed.
"Mayhaps you can help us find this elf, eh?"
The man seems a bit taken aback by the news.
"You mean... I was.... They... You... She...?"
The stress is a bit much, and he passes out. Still breathing (thankfully), but definitely fainted.
"Nice goin' Flint," Armalia growls, bending down and checking to be really sure Stahl is still alive. "We paid good coin to bring him back. Stop tryin' to send him off again!" She shakes the man, then pats him on the cheek. When he doesn't respond immediately, she pats his cheek again, harder. The ringing slap seems to do the trick, and the man comes around again.
"Let's take him to his wife before somethin' else goes wrong," the dwarf grouses. She helps the man stand up, and then hands him off to walk between Wil and Riardon for support. She shakes her finger at Flint, as he moves in like he's going to help too. "Uh-uh shifter. You stay away from him. Up front with ya." Ignoring the stink eye that Flint aims her way, she follows him out of the graveyard, back down the path they came in by.
Wil grimaces as Douven faints. "Well... He does have a right to know." Though it may have been easier to take with a bit more time between him and his resurrection.
Wil hurries over when Armalia beckons him and helps Stahl stay on his feet. The question here is how Carri's going to take this...
"Back to his wife it is then! I'm very curious about who the elf might be. We should ask around if any elves in town have been behaving strangely." Riardon says as he helps with Douven.
Nefertiti falls into step with Flint, a giant grin on her face. "Watching you work is one of my new favorite things, Flinty. If you weren't always covered in dirt or eathing raw meat, I dare say you'd be almost as sexy as Wil," she says with a wink. Seeing Wil blush deeply, she giggles.
Flint guffaws at Nefertiti's statement, slapping his thigh with a dirty hand.
"Oh, kid, you get my git sometimes. Just keep a steady supply of blooms in 'ol grumblebelly's tresses and we'll be doin' just fine."
He calls back to the dwarf.
"You know, lass, that he would have heard the news as soon as he saw his love? Better the word and the fainting from us than her having worried she did him in all over again!"
He smirks - then remembers the dressed drakes at Valthruun's tower. His belly rumbles audibly.
Armalia is close enough to hear Flint's remark to Nef, and then to hear his belly rumbling. "And I'm the grumblebelly?" She smirks and shakes her head.
Once Antsy has been picked up, it's a short walk back to Winterhaven, where you get a bit of a better reception from the guards. "Huh. We thought you said he was dead?" one of them asks naively.
The other one ahems. "Lord Padraig wishes for you to join him for supper in the Inn." If asked about where Carri Stahl is, they both shrug, but say that the Inn would be the first place they'd check.
Wil starts at Nefertiti's comment. "I... well... ye -- hmm..."
As they enter the gates, Wil nods at the second guard's message to them. Just the man we need to see...
Antsy stays a distance away from Douven, not quite convinced that it's safe to be around a one-time corpse. At one point, he takes a deep breath and dashes in. "Here.This is yours.Carri has the photo." Antsy squeaks out, thrusting the locket back at Douven. As the man takes the locket, Antsy dashes back out and lets out the rest of his breath in a big whoosh before inhaling fresh air again.
Stahl looks at the locket a bit in confusion, then ahs, and nods slightly. He hands it back to whomever would take it. "After everything, its the least I can do...." he offers, insisting that it is no longer his.
Armalia takes the locket from Stahl and hands it to Nefertiti. She figures that the lass would be the type to like shiny, sparkly things to wear. She herself is not that into jewelry, unless she can sell it for the shiny, jingly coins to pocket and buy ale with later.
As they enter, the dwarf sees Carri Stahl at a table in the corner. She is staring forlornly off into space, occasionally dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. Armalia then sees Lord Padraig is sitting at his usual table, eating dinner with Valthrun. She nods to him when he sees them and waves them over.
Once their out of line of sight of Stahl, Nefertiti slips the necklace on and smiles at it, admiring her new pretty shiny. "Thanks Armie," she says, giving the dwarf as gripping of a huge as she can manage. "Now I'll have to pick extra pretty flowers for your hair."
"Yer welcome, lass," Armalia tries not to squirm too much or make a face as Nef hugs her. She still isn't comfortable with up close and personal affection after so many years on her own. It reminds her too much of when she still had her family.
She waits politely until Nef lets her go, and then she pats the drow's arm. She backs up just out of reach, in case Nef decides to try to hug her again. Not watching where she's backing up, she bumps into Antsy. Turning, she gives him a quick curl of the lip and then moves out of the group to the back, so she won't bump into anyone else.
Antsy walks over to Carri and drops to one knee beside her so that she can more easily meet his eye. "Miss, we brought someone to see you. We apologize for any earlier confusion or unnecessary pain we've caused." He glances over his shoulder toward Douven and quickly reaches into a side puch and pulls out a clove of garlic. He presses it into her hands and whispers urgently. "If he starts acting funny, rub this on his face. If he refuses, seek out Sister Linora for more help."
Antsy backs away and makes his over to Lord Padraig. He pulls himself upright and offers a salute "Sir. Reporting as requested, Sir."
Carri Stahl looks up blankly at Antsy, then sees Douven. Her face reflect the whole gamut of emotions which overcome her, though she still hasn't moved. Looking down in her hand at the garlic which Antsy has placed there, she nods slightly and swallows.
"Two things," she says to the warlord before he leaves her. She leans over and places a kiss on his cheek. "That's for saving him." She then slaps him so hard that future generations will feel the sting on their cheeks. "And that's for putting me through all nine levels of the Abyss." With that, she stands and runs over to her husband, hugging him.
Lord Padraig acknowledges your arrival without looking at you, his eyes still focused on Valthrun. "Please, sit. Our local historian was catching me up on today's happenings." He finally looks away from the sage and, smiling a bit, pulls a small bag from his jacket. "I believe this is what was agreed upon?" He adds, "There's a couple coins extra in there, to cover your stay for this week."
Then leaning forward, elbows on the table, his voice drops. "I know what he told me, but I want to hear your thoughts on what you've found. Do you have any ideas on what is going on, or how to handle it?"
Bag & Loot Show
+ 50 gp (second half of payment)
+ 15 gp (reimbursement of amount paid to Wrafton's thus far)
= 65 gp.
Total: (by my reckoning)
* 655 gp worth of coins, gems, and art earned and not spent
* Combined with what you had to start: 920 gp, 4 sp, & 3 cp, all told.
Armalia watches in amazement as Carri Stahl first kisses Antsy and then slaps him roundly, leaving a bright red handprint on his face. He doesn't say a word, simply getting up and moving over to Lord Padraig's table. As the woman hugs her husband, Armalia's eyes narrow. She marches over to the couple and tugs on the woman's sleeve. "Hate to interupt yer reunion and all, but can I speak with ya a second there?" Carri reluctantly moves away from her husband a few feet, but never takes her eyes off of him.
Armalia speaks in low, clipped tones. She points at Antsy. "That loon over there may not look like much, but he's got a giant heart. He faced one o' his worst fears to bring yer hubby back to ya, and again' his better judgement, not wantin' to disturb yer fella's peace. He always thinks of others afore hisself. The next time you lay one finger on him, you'll draw back a nub. You git me woman? Grieving ain't no excuse for treatin' people like dirt, especially after a miracle's been preformed for ye." Armalia scowls at the woman for good measure, then turns and joins the others. She glares back at Carri once, gives her the stink eye, and then pays no more attention to the Stahls.
That'll teach that woman to be an ingrate and mess with one of my fami.... The dwarf's train of thought comes to a screeching halt. She shakes her head, cursing in Dwarven under her breath.
Wil has been in a bit of a daze since they entered town, barely even registering Carri's reaction to Stahl's return and behavior toward Antsy. He's actually so lost in thought that he doesn't really catch the whole of what Padraig says to them; if he had, he still wouldn't have any answer in mind to his questions. Wil clears his throat and looks at the floor, ruminating over the situation once again. The elf...
Party Loot Show
in coin (-8 pp), (-35 gp), 2400 sp, (-5 cp) = -595.05 gp
in valuables 500gp in gems (2x amber, 1x amethyst, 2x turquoise), 500gp in jewelry (1x silver necklace, 1x gold ring w/ amber), 250gp in art (dragon statuette) = 1250 gp
total (party) 654 gp, 9 sp, 5 cp
w/ personal wealth Show
Antsy 35 gp; Armalia 45 gp; Flint 1 gp, 9 sp; Nefertiti 47 gp, 6 sp; Riardon 70 gp; Wil 65 gp, 9 sp, 8 cp
grand total 920 gp, 4 sp, 3 cp
Items & Equipment: Javelins?
I calculated it out myself and got the same thing, Steph, so we're on the same page.
Before Riardon can do anything Antsy heads off to talk to Carrie. Seeing the kiss and the slap, he decides to stay away. Riardon sits at Lord Padraig's table.
He carefuly looks both ways before saying in hushed tones, "Sir, it appears we have a cult problem. Orcus worshipers have been working in the area and are potentially trying to do something really bad. We're still looking into it, but have reason to believe that there may be a traitor in town... possibly an elf. Is there a large elf population here? Also, I would appreciate if you kept this quiet. We would like to be the ones to handle it and don't want to start panic or a wich hunt." he says with a meaningful look.
I'm assuming I had 5 mins to refresh Suggestion.
Diplomacy using Arcana through Suggestion (1d20+15=19)
Padraig nods slightly, rubbing his chin with his hand. "I see, I see.... And what would you be needing from us?"
"A little hair," Nefertiti pipes up, sitting down at the table and starting to pick food off the nearest food. "From you my Lord, and from Valthrun. I'm collecting it...--" She takes a moment to consider a good excuse before deciding on the truth. "--...in case someone kills you. I'm starting a collection."
The shifter avoids the emotional wife - some situations call for a deft tongue, and that is something he doesn't possess. He sits down next to Pandraig with a thump raising a hand with index finger raised for the waitress. While Riardon is explaining a bit of the situation to the Lord, he places an order in for a meaty meal, not-so-subtly indicating it to be on Pandraig's tab. When the mage finishes the shifter turns towards Pandraig and leans on the table as he talks.
"Possibly's a wishy-washy term. The traitor's an elf as far as we know, and it possibly might not be. We've met the local ranger and flower-picker. The ranger, Ninaren, with the wolf seems alright to me - though I've been wondering how the flower lass does all 'er pickion' without being chomped on."
He takes a long pull at a tankard of mead and wipes his beard with the back of a furry hand.
"Whatever it is, we don't stop it, some big bad rift-portal thing will open up to the shadowfell or abyss or Gods-know-where. The two brains over there know better than I," indicating Wil and Riardon,"but it ain't pretty. We'll need all the support we can get supply-side."
Both sage and lord arch their eyebrows in surprise. They each speak a name at the same time, though not the same name. Ernest Padraig chuckles very uncomfortably, but then continues. "Ninaran's been very valuable as a scout for the town. She's help us track the nomadic tribes as they've come through the area, warned farmers of marauding wolves. All in all, her ability with wildlife has been a general boon to the town."
Valthrun nods. "And Delphina's been quite helpful at acquiring all sorts of components needed for a variety of rituals. Her knowledge of the flora both local and regional is quite extraordinary, and should be commended. When she isn't out gathering herbs and flowers, she makes herself useful to anyone in need of domestic help; with children, or housework. Hells, she's the only reason Old Eilian's clothes have ever been washed in the past score years. I've known her my whole life, and I cannot see her lifting so much as a finger to harm anyone, not by accident much less vindictively."
They both are silent a moment, but not long, as Valthrun asks (with Lord Padraig's affirmative nod), "You do realize that they are twins, yes? Fraternal, not identical. Orphans, too; their father died helping to defend the town in the Bloodspear War, and their mother died in childbirth not long after." He sighs. "Ninaran may prefer animals, and Delphina flowers, but the Moongem sisters have been as much a part of this town as anyone else here - moreso, all things considered."
Padraig nods once more. "Certainly, misinformation has been given to you from somewhere." He pushes back his chair and stands. "Be that as it may, I will take my leave of you now. If there is anything else you need of me, within reason, send a message through the guards. Otherwise, I have some business to take care of tonight." He nods to all, and pauses a moment to see if there's anything else before leaving.
"It is possible that we've been fed miss-information. All we ask is that you keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour." Riardon says. He then bids Lord Padraig farewell when he leaves.
After getting a full belly and a few tankards of ale in her, Armalia nods off while the Lord and the others are yapping. Her chin is balanced in one hand, and everytime she nods, she jerks awake as her arm slowly shifts. Finally, that arm sinks down to the table, and the dwarf snores softly.
Antsy stands to salute as Lord Padraig prepares to leave. He finishes his meal, careful to taste all the vegetables in case Valthrun was enchanting them again and downs a mug of ale. After the long day, the one ale has his eyelids wanting to droop to his feet. He was too tired to even suspect poison.
After getting the room arrangements ironed out, he gently elbows Armalia and with her sleepy assistance, manages to get her plopped onto her bed. He starts to take off her boots and then decides not to risk it. He props a chair in front of the door and Armalia's axe against the chair as a makeshift alarm - at least as well as he can manage from outside the room. He gets the chair near to the door and then snakes an arm back in and pulls the chair as close as he can get it without trapping his arm. Unless they were being very careful, Antsy was hoping that any shenanigan-eers would at least topple the axe.
Once the dwarf was settled, Antsy brought some water to his room, gave himself a thorough scrubbing - not taking any chances as he was around so much death today - and settled himself in. He grabbed a few strands of straw from the bed, lit them and then blew them out. He let them smoke and waved them around the bed, smoking out the bugs. When done, he dunked them in the wash-water to ensure they wouldn't relight while he slept. Safety first.
One by one, the citizens of Winterhaven leave the tavern, until only those they are beginning to call "heroes" remain behind. One by one, they retire for the night, readying themselves for the next chapter of their story.
Here ends this Chapter of the tale.