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Narrator GM
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It had been six months since The Conjuncture, as many were calling the crazy days Ptolus saw catastrophy like it hadn’t in centuries. A barbarian horde appeared on their horizon then camped outside the city for barely a day. A new moon appeared in the sky, completely disrupting magic, shutting it off for three days. Dragons flew overhead, meeting with the barbarians and apparently giving three people over to the army. The group who had accompanied them was lauded heroes by the populous. However, they hadn’t been seen much after the events. Probably trying to maintain a low profile and avoid the rabble.

Dozens had been slain during the Conjuncture. Many magic users had been dragged from their sanctuaries, or attacked in the street as they were helpless. Countless robberies happened, as magical protections we’re stripped away. All over the city buildings had been burned, broken into or worse. The rich people’s floating apartment fell from the sky, killing many of the uppity, wealthy citizens of Ptolus.

City Watch patrols were everywhere, government wizards in the skies constantly. But the authorities were overwhelmed with all that had happened. More crime occured in those three days than likely the past decade combined. People were turning to alternative methods for attaining justice more than ever since the Watch simply couldn’t handle the workload.

All the criminal organizations tried to capitalize on the lack of magic and protections, not to mention the inability for divination to reveal their crimes. Blood veritably flowed in the alleys and sewers.

The Nobles’ Quarters were almost completely shut down. City Watch members locked down Dalenguard Castle, and their numbers were boosted with Delvers and Mercenaries. Noble estates had double and triple the guards, also paying many Delvers to guard their interests.

Thankfully, after six months, most of life had returned to normal. At least so far as anything in Ptolus could be considered normal.

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Temple
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There are a number of magical healers in the city of Ptolus – by no means enough to treat everyone but a number nonetheless, and under normal circumstances they’d be sufficient to keep up with treating and healing those members of the general population who, in the course of their day are wealthy or important or connected enough to deserve treatment. Non-magical healing is the playground of veterinary practitioners moonlighting on desperate people, tincture and nostrum pedlars, wise women, herbalists and barbers – particularly in the form of surgery, since cutting someone open and actually rummaging around inside them to work out what’s wrong is the sort of thing that’s only half a step from Necromancy and is roundly frowned upon (not least because to get any sort of experience in it, you do actually need to cut some folks open and that requires bodies) – and is therefore, dismissed by those who can afford better as a field of amateurs and quacks.

Temple however, is neither. He dissected his first cadaver when he was barely old enough to see over the top of his work table (standing on a wobbly stack of books) and he dissected his first humanoid cadaver an insufficiently long span of time thereafter for the comfort of anyone who knew what he was up to.

His success rate – aided and abetted by his alchemical studies, which give him the knowledge and tools to fight back many fevers and agues – is startlingly high by any estimation and, during the Conjuncture his was a skillset in great demand… A demand he exploited relentlessly, living for three days and three nights on a diet of insomnia powder snorted from a fine silver snuff-box, strong black coffee and sandwiches held in someone else’s hands as his were too busy being washed of crusted-on blood to spare.

He removed barbed arrows, stitched stab wounds, extracted broken-off bolt-heads… He treated poisoning, opened up no less than eight heads to remove bone fragments from fractured skulls and reduce swelling (a shocking six of the recipients of which treatment survived). He put in a full day working in one of the volunteer stations treating watchmen, guards and charity cases but he invested two in looking after members of the gangs and syndicates around the Warrens, stocking up favours and gratitude against need – and occasionally turning away someone who had wronged him or his in order that their painful, desperate death could serve as a warning against future misbehaviour.

Afterwards, he slept for most of two days with his Insomnia Powder tin sitting in the back of Lady Merith’s cage so that he wouldn’t be tempted before setting out to capitalise on the changes in town.

Which of course means, that when the other ‘graduates’ from his youth have need of him… He’s entirely at their disposal.

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Narrator GM
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Date/Time: 1st of Birth in the Year 722 IA

It was a cold and windy day, clouds muting the sun to a dim, overhead glow. Temperatures were in the mid-40s, and the wind howled down the narrow streets and alleys of Ptolus. Birth, the second month of the calendar year, was the month where the days started to get longer, but only barely. Most didn’t even notice the earlier sun rise, and later set.

Ptolus didn’t get much in the way of snow. Occasional dustings would add a white tint to the streets and rooftops. Wind and traffic quickly blew or melted away the white precipitation though.

Almost no one inside the Skull and Sword cared about the weather. One of the roughest bars in Ptolus sat on the edge of Midtown and the Guildsman District. Smoke and the stench of stale ale and sweat permeated the place. Most of the tavern was actually located below street level. Themus Wuur, a hulking half-orc, lived above. The bar consisted of two rooms, the taproom above where Themus or his only employee Mardun Narvesh, a gruff human, tended bar. Then the lower room that was filled with tables.

The Skull and Sword served no food and had precious little beyond hard ale from a pyramid of kegs stacked on the back wall of the taproom. It was well known that shivvel dealers did business there, giving Themus a cut of each transaction and free shivvel to feed his own addiction. Mardun was a hulking ex-wrestler who was always spoiling for a fight. He seldom went an evening without happily breaking up a brawl.

Unsurprising, the place was frequented by many less-than-scrupulous inhabitants of Ptolus. In all likelihood, if anyone with scrupules entered the bar, they wouldn’t stay long. One had to always watch one’s back for a dagger there.

Next Steps: I would like you all to do some RP here. You can do about whatever you want. I would like this to mark all of you being together for whatever reason’s you’ve worked out amongst yourselves. Yes… I am starting the campaign with SO YOU’RE ALL IN A TAVERN! 😀

Don’t judge me.

Let’s Start In A Tavern! | Running the Game from Matt Colville https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPbMicg8yqM

The Skull and Sword

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Kray
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As Kray threaded his way through the tables, 7 mismatched pints of ale somehow juggled between his two hands, the Skull and Sword’s patron eased away from him.  Even to the rough and seasoned toughs with a few drinks already in their bellies, the Tengu was an unsettling sight.  The big raptor looked feral, with unblinking beady eyes and a long, sharp beak. His feathers gave him the appearance of being larger than he was, a purposeful trait of most birds, and his heavy cloak added to the effect.  The giant horn bow and javelin-sized arrows slung across his back just added to the effect.  He looked like a stalking predator, ready to pluck out an eyeball as a snack with his beer.

Of course, that was for those who didn’t know him.  For Crow and Ash, it was clear that Kray was bouncing on his toes in an exuberant excitement as he focused on getting the drinks back to the tables with most of their contents still in their cups.  With a sigh of relief and triumphant tilt to his face-feathers, the heavy archer set an ale in front of each member of the crew.

“A toast!  To Crow, for finding a juicy mark and a near-flawless plan… per usual… and to our pale-faced companion, with his perfect penmanship!   Kray tipped his cup to his sister and Temple in turn, then thrust it in the middle of the table for the cheers.

Dropping back into his seat, he gave his scaly brother a sideways look and an amused ripple to his feathers.  “Course, I thought Ash was going to give the game away by pissing his pants… the look on your face when that guard called you back was worth half my cut…  well, maybe a third.”

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Asho Iduska
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Ash finished a big swig of the brew Kray had just brought to the table.  Much better than the sewage they usually drank.  This place was classy for the likes of this group. A third o’ your gold for pissing me pants? I’ve been paid less for more, so I’d see that as a win.  The joke’s on you anyway, my feathered fellow, for that guard just wanted to know how we got our pet trained so well that it didn’t defecate indoors.  Ash gave the Tengu a good natured clap on the feathered shoulder.  Turning to smile at Temple and Crow he said, I still don’t know how you two got us into that place, much less how you figured out where we’d find the stuff, but my wallet most definitely says Thank you! Ash raised his now half-empty tankard in another cheers before downing the rest.  I think the next round is to you, Jinx. Ash made quick eye contact with the more silent member of the group.  But don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.  Ash then stood and began threading his way back where Kray had so recently come.  Tonight was a night for celebration.

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Jinx the Grey
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The mission was flawless and she was happy for it.  The group, Ugly Inc as Ash had called them had gone on a couple missions together now and with very little hiccups along the way.  On the missions she hadn’t barely touched her abilities that the others had known at least.  She had in fact had cursed a number of the guards they had come across which made it easy pickens for the others.

Jinx was pleased with their growth as a group.  Once again she was happy for her decision to have Cruch and her join the eccentric pairing of individuals.  The equipment she had purchased for herself kept her safe enough in the back.  The rest of her attire were rags, twigs, and baubles which adorned both her hair and he body.  She looked the part of what an Ugly Inc member would look like.

Jinx sat there and consumed the first round of drink that Kray had brought over for them.  When Ash had called to her saying it was he round she got ready to stand when Ash waved her off saying he had it for her…. she could buy her own drinks she thought, but would let Ash anyways.  She liked him and perhaps she would get the chance to bed him.  She saw just how he looked at him and she liked it.

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Temple
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“Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Temple states from where he’s sitting, a little uncomfortably to one side of the group, his shoulders already beginning to bruise from the back-slapping approbations he’s accrued this evening, “And it was Crow that did a great deal of the planning. I merely provided a keen knowledge of what was most valuable and the necessary documentation to secure it… Which I would not have been able to do if someone didn’t happen to find me some discarded copies to work with.” – a glance then at their feathered and scaled companion before he tips his drink their way.

“I’m pleased with the outcome, certainly.” he remarks, mind already whirling over what he might be able to do with the unexpected windfall of funds he’s just come into – the reagents and tools he could secure… Which of course means that he’s gone more or less expressionless and cold again, something he does a lot when thinking and which is the source of no small amount of just why he creeps the living hell out of so many people who haven’t seen him grinning wickedly before slipping the kind of fine dust into a guards bottle that’ll have them seeing fairies all night or tossing a smoke bomb into a crowded room before someone else shouts ‘fire’ so that the bets on the table can be collected by an inside man.

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Cruch
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When Cruch entered the Skull and Sword and saw the large half-orc behind the bar giving orders to a human, Cruch smiled.  He had never seen such a thing, it had always been the other way around, or at least that is what he had seen thus far in his time outside Pent-in and that included his time at the library.  Cruch thought then of Cassandra and wondered how she was fairing.  He would have to see if he could find her when she got out.  She would get out of Pent-in in probably another year or so.

Cruch sprang back to the present when Kray brought over the mug of strong ale. “Here is to proper planning then!  May it continue to make my pouch heavier and my belly fuller!”  Cruch roared.  Cruch looked around the place to spy out its clientele.

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Crow
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“This plan, yes? Was only as good as its execution.  We have a good crew here.  It will get better the more we work together.  I have more thoughts on that.  But for tonight, let us focus on emptying our cups.  Tomorrow we can talk more of filling bellies.”   Crow tipped her cup to Cruch, then to the rest of the group.  She gave a show of tipping back her cup and taking a long pull… but it truth it was a show.  The strix always appeared to drink when it was expected, but rarely ever drank much.  One must keep one’s wits, when strangers abound.  She looked fondly down the bench at Kray’s cup.  Despite his talk of rounds and toasts, his ale was mostly full too.  She was doing well by him, and he by her.

They would both need to keep an eye on Ash tonight.  Kray had adobted him as a brother, so that meant he was family to Crow too.  He was far more free with the drink, and tonight was likely to keep his ambitions high and wits low.  Their crew was talented and had real promise, but its bonds were still developing.  Crow couldn’t predict what a dalliance with Jinx would do to either of them, or Cruch, but rarely were good decisions made with deep drink.  Jinx was understated, but Crow had seen what she did that the others did not.  She would be a sharp and versatile tool for their crew.  And, with her went Cruch.  Yes yes, best to keep a keen eye on how things develop there.

Crow kept her tongue in check after that small speech.  They followed her when there was work to be done.  Best to let them take their own heads when it was downtime.

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Kray
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Kray set down his battered, and mostly full, tankard and stared into the cloudy liquid for long minute.  He clicked his beak, an affectation he had when steeling himself to say something.   He spoke directly into the mug, but the words were direct at his sister.

  “It is time.  We have put it off long enough”

“Hush nestling.  This is not the time”.    The response came balanced between fondness and dismissive.

Kray’s face feathers quivered, and his beak clicked shut.  He opened it twice to argue before standing up and emptying his whole drink in one go.  Slamming it to the table, Kray moved around to sit next to Temple and engaging the man in conversation.

“So, how do those potions of yours work?”

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Narrator GM
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The group enjoyed their celebratory night in one of the nicest taverns they had ever been inside, despite the fact it was still one of the worst in the entire city. They didn’t know any better, living in the conditions they had for so long. Night had set in full and the rain had picked up considerably. Cold winds blew the rain against the roof and wooden sides of the bar. A howl echoed down the chimney, causing the fire to flicker for a moment before someone tossed on a couple more logs.

Finally the group had enough for the evening and decided to head home. Steady rain fell from the black-gray sky. The crowded, rain-slicked buildings seemed especially bleak and frightful that evening, hunched together beneath the tireless rain. The closer to the Warrens one got, the tighter buildings were packed together. In the Warrens the concept of a true street was almost non-existent.

Only a few lights burn in windows, but mostly shutters have been closed for the night. The scent of chimney smoke filled the air, and everyone could hear the din of water trundling from the rooftops, splashing into dark alleys, and turning street gutters into rivulets.

They traveled through the driving rain, cloaks pulled tight and they had reached nearly back to the warrens before they heard a howl which wasn’t the wind. The holler, which is what they realized it must be, came from a bit behind them.

Retracing their steps the group followed the noises of scuffling and cursing to the mouth of a mist-shrouded alley. Down the alley they could make out three attackers kicking someone on the ground.

(Make perception checks. The first person to post, rolling an 18 or greater, should click this link and share the contents if they wish: https://onetimesecret.com/secr…x8p78bxzijmiqsvzn687)

From what they could tell, all three of the attackers were human. Each had cloak hoods pulled low over their faces, blocking any view, to keep the rain off them.

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Buto
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Buto had a couple of pints of ale in him, but he had never been a heavy drinker.  He was helping to steer a stumbling Ash, who WAS a heavy drinker and had apparently attempted to drink his own weight in Ale tonight, through the drenched Warrens streets.  He and Ash brought up the rear as the group turned onto the misty alley.  As the others were looking toward the three men crouching over whatever poor bastard was their target, Buto heard a soft scratching sound from above, which cause him to look up and see a fourth man, armed with a heavy crossbow, repositioning himself on a rooftop above them.

Buto made a soft clucking sound to get Crow’s attention, and then silently pointed a finger upward toward the man.  People get caught up in alley brawls all the time, which was nothing Buto was interested in involving himself with, but it was odd to see someone with a crossbow covering the action.  That made the whole scene feel planned.  Maybe this wasn’t a drunken alley brawl as much as it was an ambush.  Now that could be interesting.  Breaking up an ambush would prove a glorious bit of combat.

Buto pointed to himself and then down the alley indicating the attackers, then pointed to Crow and Kray and then towards the roof, indicating the bowman.  He then leans Ash slowly against the building and begins to walk down the alley, adding a bit of stumbling to his walk to give the impression that he is drunk.  Calmy, but loudly, so as to be heard, Buto yells to the men Hey buzzards!  Why waste your time picking at that bag of bones.  There must be better things to do tonight. Buto continues to slowly stagger down the alley, trying to look as non-threatening as a giant, muscle-bound Suli can manage, which is to say, not very well.

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Crow
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Crow was slightly annoyed with the big Suli, and Ash for good measure (despite being predictably inebriated), when he turned back to investigate the sound.  Being too curious about things happening in back allies can lead to unwanted trouble… or offal.  Usually both.

Casually sliding her bow out of its case, just in case, she followed behind keeping an eye out for trouble.  She couldn’t make out anything more than cloaked shapes around the boys, but she did catch Buto gesture toward the roof.  She needed to rethink her assessment of the big brawler.  He was not stupid… just straight forward and blunt.  She would keep an extra eye on him and reserve judgement.

Crow was easily able to spot the “archer” on the roof top.  She felt they were inserting themselves in trouble they did not need, but was too late to pull the hulk back from nosing in.  The slight Strix let out an audible sigh and quickly scanned for a nice perch offering a shot on the ally and the other rooftop.  She also slid a pair of arrows from her quiver and made ready to shoot that crossbowman if he aimed his weapon at her crew.

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Crow
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Kray carried his bow in one hand and held his cloak close around him with the other as he walked through the streets toward home.  It was a fine night with plenty of moonlight, and drunk revelers heading home from a bar made for tempting targets for local cutpurses.  Looking at their group, from the Giant Suli toting along a still singing Ash in the back, to the green-skinned bulk of the two half-orcs in the lead, Kray didn’t think they would have too much trouble with ordinary vultures tonight.  They had made a few enemies and earned a few enmities in the past few months, and Kray wasn’t taking their safety for granted.

The tengu heard the holler from behind and was surprised that Buto joined him in turning to look back for the source.  He could practically hear Crow admonishing him “not to seek trouble for trouble’s sake” or “don’t invite other’s trouble to be your own” , and he was glad that the Suli turned back first.  He stayed close behind the two, one walking, one half dragged, as they moved to the mouth of the ally.  Two thick arrows slid from his quiver as he prepared for a possible fight.

Three men mugging another in a side street was hardly surprising or noteworthy, and perhaps not worth investigating further.  The man’s bad luck after all, but he might have earned it.  No need to take a knife for his folly.  What was unusual was the crossbowman pointed out by Buto.  One doesn’t usually have rooftop archer support for a simple mugging.  There was certainly more going on here, and Kray was again glad that it wasn’t only his curiosity that was tickled.  Perhaps it wasn’t their business, but it would be interesting.

Kray kept both eyes on the crossbow-wielding tough on the roof as he slid to one side of the ally mouth.  If that man raised his weapon toward Buto or them, he would take a shaft to the neck.

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Temple
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Temple drank through the evening – lightly, as is his wont – and begrudgingly permitted himself to be jollied into the festivities by Buto despite himself, but as is usually the case his smile is just a little off and his movements just slightly out of time and tune, unconsciously disconcerting rather than comradely no matter what he may intend.

He does however, stand his round and – when the group is on the street – he makes sure and to arrange his coat so that sharp-edged steel is flashed from beneath it every so often (a panacea against casual street robbery, albeit by no means a sure one) and to glare into dark alleyways or doors that the group passes… Which means that he’s a half-heartbeat behind when Buto shouts out and involves them in what is most definitely and assuredly Not Their Business, eliciting a soft sigh from the fastidious surgeon, who automatically takes the alley-side opposite Kray, a hand dipping into his cloak to lightly finger a leather-covered belt flap of small vials.

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Narrator GM
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One of the toughs turned toward them and the group could see half his face was painted white while the other half was black. The paint had the effect of transforming his face into a grinning harlequin’s visage. He turned to bark at the interlopers, but quickly saw the number of beings at the alley mouth and began backing away. A whistle sounded from the rooftop and the archer moved to the opposite side of the roof’s peak, mostly obscuring their person. They were small of frame, dressed head to toe in black and moved with a practiced litheness.

All three of the attackers backed away from those entering the alley, exposing the young man in robes laying on the ground. As the trio faced the group while backing up, it was clear all of their faces were painted in the strange style. Once they reached the intersecting alley they rushed away.

If you decide to give chase we will deal with that. Regardless I will describe the victim.

The person laying in the street turned out to be a young man, likely younger even than his rescuers. He stirred and groaned, pushing back his cloak that partly covered him. A nearly new chain shirt was revealed, looking like it had never seen combat. A mace hung from his belt, clearly never having been drawn before he was set upon. Then around his neck hung the ankh of Lothian, marking him a cleric of the order.

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Temple
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The departure of the odd little band of garishly costumed assailants frees Temple up to lower his hands from his weapons (and with the right appreciation for the powers of alchemy, almost anything can be a weapon) then step forward, putting one hand on the man’s chest and gently slapping his hands if he tries to do anything with them, stating on a cool, calm fashion “Stay there. Open your eyes and look at me…” as the opening to a short, brusque field expedient check for concussion and other serious injuries.

21:53, Today: Temple rolled 19 using 1d20+11.  Heal.

18:32, Today: Temple rolled 19 using 1d20+7.  Knowledge (Local).

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Jinx the Grey
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The rain coming down drenched Jinx to the bone.  It caused her hair to become flat and made her look like a dig that just came out of a pond or something.  She looked pitiful but didn’t have a care in the world.  Her pockets were fat with coin as she didn’t spend a copper at the bar, thanks to Ash and his need for more liquor outweighed his sense to have others help pay for it.

As the wind howled and the others turned back to see what it was Jinx pulled at Cruch’s wet cloak to keep him from following the others.  But, true to his loyalty to the crew, Cruch pulled away.  Jinx followed behind shortly after.

When they came to the men in the streets and the crossbowman above, Jinx was ready to put one of them asleep if needed.  Then the men all slinked away.  But what was the meaning of the paint on their faces Jinx did not know.

“Have you seen that before?” Jinx whispered to the night…

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Cruch
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Cruch was feeling good, not drunk but had a buzz in his head which didn’t beat to the same drum as the rain hit the rooftops.

When Jinx had tried to steer him away from going back he looked at her and said, Oh no, we stick together!”  Cruch followed till he saw the men beating a man in the street.  Cruch felt bad for the man for he remembered all too well the beatings he received at the hands of the guards at Pent-in.  With a shrugged he fell in behind Buto as he advanced on the guards.  Cruch made no attempt to act drunk as Buto had for he doubted he could pull it off anyways.  Perhaps that was a mistake as the 3 men took off running probably not wanting to deal with a group such as them.

“Have any of you seen faces painted like that before?”

Has Cruch seen it before?

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Crow
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Crow didn’t think they should be involving themselves in this business, but she did believe that if you were going to do soemthing, you should do it right… and something about this felt off.  Simple robbers might where masks…  but the man on the roof was still strange…  hmmmm…  Crow could tell her curiosity was starting to take hold in that way it did when it caught the scent of a secret that might turn a profit.

“don’t let down your guard.  They may not have gone far.  And somebody keep an eye on Ash.  Jinx… make sure they don’t circle behind us.  Yes? “  The instruction came in that short clipped way the Strix had when speaking to anyone except for Kray.   Not harsh or demanding, just quick and to the point.  Good suggestions that would be followed because they made sense.  Her tone did slow at the end when addressing Jinx.

Crow took her own words to heart, crouched down on her powerful legs and swept her thin cloak back between her shoulder blades.  With a mighty push from her talon-capped feet, she leaped up with a gust of air from her wings and lighted on the rooftop recently vacated by the crossbowman.    She carefully scanned the other rooftops and streets to see where the gang had gone.

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Kray
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kept his bow ready as he stepped up next to Temple.  He hadn’t needed his sister’s suggestion to stay ready.  Those men may have just had a beef with the church of Lothian and were having a little “fun”.  It probably wasn’t worth the trouble to tangle with a big group like theirs just to continue their sport… probably.

The armored raptor tried to put on a friendly expression and leaned down to speak with the cleric.  Kray was oblivious as always to how little others could dread his expressions.

  “What is your name friend?  Did you owe those men money or did they take offense to some unintended jest?”.  it was intended as a joke to lighten the tension, but that likely was not clear to the man on the pavement.

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Asho Iduska
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A bleary eyed Asho Iduska tried walking through a world that kept tilting underneath him, his feet ever finding air where he was sure there had been earth.  A thick pair of green arms wrapped themselves around him and, although the world continued tilting this way and that, his feet somehow make a better show of meeting purchase with the elusive enemy.

As he stumble-shuffles, he looks to his left to see the owner of the supportive appendages, only to see a familiar, bearded Suli face.  Buto.  Getcha mitts off me, mate.  I’m fine, I c’n walk juss fine myself.  I dunn need your bleedin’ help. The slurring Nagaji tried with no success to free himself from Buto’s grip, but the effort of finding the ground was taking all of his focus, relieving him of the required faculties to wrest himself away from the Suli.

They seemed to move in circles, or the world was moving in circles, and then Ash felt something hard, cold and wet against his side.  He opened his drowsing eyes to see two giant Butos stumbling away from him.  Buto!  Bloody hell, you gotta twin?  Wa’s this world comin’ to?  Two Butos, bollocks!.

The hard, wet surface began to move past Ash’s head until a moment later a softer, cold wet surface met his face.  The cold water splashing into his mouth and nostrils caused the Nagaji to sputter and cough, which brought the world somehow a little more into focus.  Enough for him to realize he was face first in a puddle of muddy water.  He managed to struggle into a sitting position and leaned back against the hard, wet surface, which seemed to be the outer wall to some kind of building.

He could hear the rest of the group nearby, but he couldn’t quite focus on them.  Kray! Com’ ‘ere and get me up before Buto puts me in another headlock.  It’s COLD!  Bloody bird.   Ash’s eyes became unbearably heavy, and the sound of his companions, the falling rain, and the rest of the world around him, faded to black and disappeared.

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Narrator GM
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“Ruphus. Ruphus Laro.” The cleric groaned. Rubbing his ribs, he looked up and blanched seeing Kray peeking over Temple inspecting him.

“Thank you… And your names are?” Every race walked, or flew, around Ptolus. But Kray was still among a very small number of his kind.

Ruphus groaned again. It was obvious his ribs were bruised at the least. He brushed himself off and fussed after spots on his cloak that were dirty.

“I certainly did not owe the jesters money. They threatened me for investigating missing children from an orphanage. But I have no idea why they would care, unless they were affiliated with the party responsible for taking them.”

The cleric coughed then groaned and doubled over. He might indeed have a broken rib.

Temple figured he had no concussion. It seemed the attackers had knocked him down then kicked him around the midsection and back more than anything.

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Temple
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“Ours.” Temple answers when he’s satisfied that the other man isn’t going to fall straight back down again, whereupon he watches him rise and then moves in once more to use stiffened fingers to poke here, there on the mans midriff then his chest – remorseless but patently competent, “You’re going to piss blood for a couple of days.” he states after eliciting a few grimaces, “And I recommend cold compresses on your chest, three-four times a day to bring down the swelling. Avoid strenuous activity. Get help slipping out of your armour and don’t put it back on for at least a week. Deep breathing exercises a couple of times a day too… And if you have trouble breathing, make sure your will is up to date before you see a healer.”

He does not, to any particular degree appear to care about orphans, missing or otherwise but then, that’s the sort of normal human response he mostly outsources to the others.

OOC: Any information from my Knowledge test last turn?

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Cruch
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Cruch had been keeping a watch to make sure that is friends were safe.  That is when he heard what the man had garbled out between coughs.  Missing children from an orphanage???

“Orphanage??  Which orphanage are you talking about?”

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Buto
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Buto, somewhat disappointed that the apparent ambush did not develop into glorious combat in the muddy alleyway, was no longer particularly interested in the priest laying on the ground.  So? Orphans run away.  They probably wanted to get away from the dirty place.  Good for them.  I hope you never find them.  Even the dirty streets are a better life. Now, where did I put that… Ash, why are you on the ground?  Grr.  Buto begins to walk back towards the snake-man, who has drifted off to a dreamworld filled with significantly less rain and mud.

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Kray
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Kray chuckled at the thin man that had somehow become a part of their group, despite Crow and Cruch.  He assumed the man spoke in that manner to be funny and it probably helped lighten the mood while he worked on injured patients in pain.  Well, he made Kray laugh.

The archer had an avalanche of questions bubbling to crawl out of his beak but Kray knew that having everyone question Ruphus at once, while being prodded by the surgeon, would not help clarity.  Assuming that Cruch would cover the vital bits, Kray stepped around (over?) the man and clicked down the ally toward where the men had disappeared.  He could silence his feet when he wanted, but they were likely long gone… Likely, but not certainly.

The avian warpriest held his bow in one hand, ready but not threatening, as he looked down the side street for the attackers.  No doubt they could be waiting to ambush him, but he was a curious bird… who knew his sister was watching from above.

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Ruphus Laro ()
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[Private to Temple: Knowledge check result: You recently heard a rumour about a newer group forming in the city called something about Laughing. Can’t remember it exactly. They paint their faces apparently. New group too. A gang of sorts. They hadn’t really done enough to be on anyone’s radar, you just caught it in passing conversation one time.]

Ruphus blanched at Temple’s matter of fact delivery that he might die. “I will have a fellow priest cast a healing spell on me. Hopefully that will be enough to avoid any… complications. Thank you for the advice though. Are you a healer as well?”

Crow made it onto the roof, but the darkness and the rain made it impossible to find the rooftop archer who had been watching over them. She could confirm that no one else seemed to be nearby on any other roofs.

Crouch and Buto both talked over each other, and the cleric shook his head at both of them.

“No. No. We don’t believe they ran away… Hope we never find them? What’s wrong with… why would you say that? We want them to be found and be safe. Anyway.” He looked over the group as much as he could.

“Might we move out of this narrow alley? It’s rather stuffy in here…”

Whether the group moved out or not he continued. “No. The children were certainly abducted. My superior asked me to investigate further and see if I could figure out why they were taken. To answer your question, they were housed at the Black Lantern Orphanage.”

The group knew about Black Lantern. It was much smaller, and by most accounts nicer, than Tenpins, and located in the North Market.

“These toughs attacking me without provocation only makes me believe even more that something nefarios is happening.”

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Temple
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“When I must be. Necromancy is a notoriously unprofitable career path.” Temple answers obliquely with his usual dust-dry sense of humour, eyeing the man for a moment without remarking upon the sort of casual claim he has to magical treatment – which rarely runs to less than a months wages for a dockhand or a labourer for even the simplest of maladies.

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Jinx the Grey
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The Black Lantern Orphanage?  Jinx had heard of it, of course.  If the children had been taken from Pent-In it probably would have been a blessing for them but from the rumors she had heard, Black Lantern was a much better orphanage for the children.  Why though were children being taken?  Jinx bumped into Cruch’s back then and gave him that ‘look’.

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Cruch
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Cruch knew of Black Lantern, the children there were living like kings almost compared to Pent-In.  “If you are here did you have some lead that brought you here?”

Cruch looked to the others then in the pouring rain, which didn’t bother him any, and asked, “think we could earn some coin finding the kids?  Might be interesting…” the last part was said loud enough for the man to hear him as well.

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Kray
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Crow crouched low on the edge of the rooftop above the alleyway, one ear focused on the conversation below as she scanned the roofs for movement.  Her large wings and jerky head movements gave her a birdlik appearance at least equal to her feather-covered brother below… for anyone who could actually see her.  Her skin, clothes, and feathers were all pitch black, practically invisible against the night sky.

Kidnapping kids from an orphanage….hmm….  While Crow could understand the sentiment expressed by Buto, she doubted whoever needed to kidnap orphans had good intentions.  That was perhaps the only fate worse than living in that horror.

This did not feel like a trouble they should invite in, but Crow knew her brother would want to learn more. Surprisingly, the strix found her blood begin to boil the more she thought about it.  MEN!  Always taking from other peoples… from HER people.   Hmmm…they had just a good job, and had some coin to get by on for a moment.  Perhaps now would be a good time to lay out on robbery for a minute, and spend some time on a more personal pursuit.  Yes?

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Ruphus Laro ()
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Ruphus blanched at Temple’s comment about necromacy but just shook his head for the umpteenth time during this interaction. “Right…” Was all he offered in response, looking at the only human – other than him – in the group.

Looking UP at Cruch he nodded to both questions. “Yes. I was following a lead. Someone said there was a man named Dorophil

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Crow
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Having seen nor sensed no further sign of the Men, Crow glided down to join the group.  Whatever thoughts the priest might have had when he saw the night coalesce into a large, jet-back demon, Crow was oblivious to them.  She rarely thought about the reaction others had when seeing her for the first time.   She looked perfectly normal to herself, of course, and black was just the most practical color for nocturnal people.  And night was the best time to hunt.  Yes?

lighting next to him with barely a whisper of sound, she must have startled the man base on his reaction.  ” I am called Crow and you have the Black Birds to thank that you can still breath.  For coin, we may be able to ask questions of this Dorophil.  If beatings come from our questions, it will not be us that gets them.  Yes?  Perhaps we already know who ask, and what”

A small voice could be heard from down the ally, as Kray was returning from scouting for the attackers.  “Hey! I thought we were going with Ugly Inc.?

The strix ignored her adopted nestling as she continued.  They had not decided on a proper name for their little group, but this pink-skin didn’t need to know that.

Crow had never heard of this Dorophil, and spent little time in the Guildsman district, but this Lothian kin did not need to know that either.  She knew what questions to ask, and who not to ask them to, and all groups of men were much the same.

” What more can you tell us of these children you lost?  The more we know, the faster we can track them down.  Every detail helps, even the smallest one.  Hold nothing back. “

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Temple
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Temple does not, of course actually dabble in Necromancy and does, in fact have something of a well-honed sense of contempt for the art. Any half-wit with a scrap of magical talent can substitute magic for the semblance of life-force, sustaining motive force and even a kind of independence of will in a body past the point where vital forces have broken down and ceased, but what of it?

Where is the craft in that, the understanding?

No, his search, his quest, his art is a higher one by far… To understand enough of life to need no magic, to require no defiance of natural law… To be able to craft, warp, sustain and heal flesh and life through sheer comprehension of its creation and its laws.

Of course, such a quest does require a certain amount of practical experimentation, which is why he has occasionally been mistaken for a Necromancer… And why he is absolutely no fun at all to sit next to at parties.

“Good grief.” he mutters quietly as Crow expresses an interest in helping him out, although in fairness the promise of hard coin isn’t entirely unwelcome – his little nest-egg (so to speak) has grown rapidly as a result of their recent endeavours but coin always spends and is always useful.

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Jinx the Grey
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Cruch pitched in, ”yea, Ugly Inc works better, I ain’t no Black Bird!  Besides that if we earn some coin then I am up to see what is going on.”

Jinx put on the best scowl she had for the whole predicament but deep down inside she knew that they needed to get into some other business or eventually they would be far from saving and down a dark and murderous track.  Jinx looked up into the sky then and said in a soft voice barely audible, ”watch over us.”

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Kray
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There appeared to be no trace of the attackers down the side street, and also no sign of a follow-up attack.  The kind of men that would beat a cleric in a back ally likely did not have the mettle to face a group like the crew.

Kray was glad to hear Jinx was on his side.  She rarely spoke above a quiet whisper, but her words went far with Cruch… and Crow.  Kray didn’t know if that was just because she liked to hear another woman’s voice amongst all the boys or if Jinx had impressed her with a keenness of mind.  Either way, he was happy to have her as an ally on this.  People were going to hurl slurs at them anyway, behind their backs and to their face, so why not beat them to the punch?

The diminutive archer padded back to the group, with black feathers and muted steps making him appear right out of the night.  He was content to let his sister take the lead on this.  She knew what questions to ask and seemed like she was heading them in the right direction here.  Their crew didn’t need to be all smash (or sneak) and grab.  They could do a lot more, and there were lots of ways to make money besides fencing stolen goods.  And some things didn’t need to make them money to be worth doing.  At the blocks, they are learned to look out for the younger kids.  Just cause they were out didn’t mean the block rules no longer applied.

The Tengu took a good long look at his scaly best friend sprawled in a puddle of…. water?  Kray hoped it was water.  He looked up at Buto “Well, we can’t just leave him like this, can we mate?  I will wake him up if you can help him to his feet?  Good?”

With that, Kray took the back end of his arrow and began gently tickling Ash’s face with the feathered fletchings.

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Ruphus Laro ()
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Ruphus’ head bounced back and forth, watching with furrowed brow the conversation among the friends. Finally he patted his hands in the air. “If I may make a suggestion… Would you be willing to accompany me to my home church? It’s late but I believe Jenya, my superior, would like to speak with you. Plus… I would feel better having capable people walk with me the rest of the way.”

He turned to head toward the Warrens, waiting on the others to follow. Then he asked, “So… Your sobriquet is Ugly Inc? Did you choose that, or were you stamped with it by someone else? Also… I should have been more specific. What are each of you called? Your names?”

The group walked in the rain, heading East toward the Warrens. Ruphus stuck to the main road, Iron Street, which led them to Vadarast Street and back south. St. Daris’ Church, the patron saint of justice, sat at the intersection of Smith, Curtain and Vedarast Streets almost directly across from the huge Foundry. Thankfully it’s smoke stacks were dormant and not belching out their typical choking vapors. (Roll Knowledge Checks. Local, or “plain.”)

A small tavern, Tabby’s Den, was located just up the way and the group had been inside several times. It was mostly ironworkers and other laborers. People who weren’t of the working class – or at least who looked the part – were unwelcome. It was a nice enough place to get a drink and a bite, so long as you didn’t mind the occasional cat hair. The owner, Tussi – a human woman – had a predilection for cats. There were always a half dozen or more of the creatures enjoying free reign of the place. The plastered walls were even covered in renderings of tabby cats, painted by Tussi herself.

The two-story Church dedicated to Lothian, named St. Daris’ Church, had white marble walls suffused with veins of vivid blue. It stood in stark contrast to the ramshackle and industrial buildings which were all around it. A pair of white marble statues depicting armored warriors stood on either side of the temple’s heavy oaken door. Each of the statues raised a great mace to the darkening sky. Above the door’s marble architrave was boldly inscribed the following words in Common: WITHIN LAW LIVES HOPE.

Each of them was also well aware just down Curtain street lay the area’s fire house, then just a few more doors down was the Watchhouse. Past that and around the corner back closer to the Warrens was St. Laphest’s Open Arms. All of them had eaten there several times, th anks to the Order of Dayra sisterhood who maintained it.

Ruphus produced a large skeleton key and unlocked the large door. It creaked open and the group entered the sanctuary.

“Wait here and I’ll wake Jenya.”

The Foundry

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Temple
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Looking out for the younger kids was never really a lesson Temple learned. Looking out for the useful ones though?

He was right there, front and centre (or, more accurately standing off to one side, just behind the spot occupied by the most dangerous of the bullies, usually in a good position to slip something pointy up against their kidney and inquire as to how certain they are about their decisions).

He’s never been a one for direct confrontation as his first choice of resolution, but he’s never entirely dismissed its use, either.

Not that that keeps him from occasionally performing those little acts of moral outreach when his f… when his acquaintances seem to have need of them. They generally cost little and repay the effort invested, just like those small acts of solidarity which others seem to cherish so.

Unhurriedly, and with his hands out of sight in his coat pockets, Temple follows along in the wake of the priest, attentive on the whole, not to his rambling but to the streets through which they pass and the ones who observe them doing so.

00:12, Today: Temple rolled 20 using 1d20+7.  Knowledge (Local).

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Cruch
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Sobriquet???  What the hell is that Cruch thought to himself?  His name though he could give but only if Crow gave his first.  “I brought the name up.  I mean look at them.  They are ugly!!”  Cruch naturally didn’t include himself nor Jinx in his assessment of ugly.

While Cruch didn’t exactly want to go to church, he followed the others as they escorted the priest back to his temple.  As they approached the building, Cruch noticed the writing above the doorway.  It was something simple and something he could understand all too well. Mind you they had broken many laws over the past few months with the missions they had been taking on but those were man’s laws.  Not his laws so to him they didn’t hold the same weight.
06:58, Today: Cruch rolled 26 using 1d20+6.  Local knowledge.

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Asho Iduska
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Ash re-entered the conscious world to the feeling of a boulder bouncing against his stomach.  After managing to pry his eyes open, he found that it was rather he that was laying on top of and being bounced by said boulder.  Said boulder, of course, being Buto’s shoulder.  Put me down, ya git.  I’m fine. A moment later Ash was deposited without ceremony on the wet street.  Someone shoved into his hand a cup filled with a very strong concoction that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike coffee.  Ash threw the swill down his throat, and found that his head was clearing.

Nagaji are, of course, snake-people, and as such, have an incredible resistance to poisons, of which alcohol is, despite its acceptance in society, most certainly one.  As such, it takes a shockingly large amount of any beverage to get Ash drunk, and double that to get him stumbling drunk.  Achieving such a condition for Ash is, in fact, a feat all its own.  This resistance to poisons, socially acceptable and otherwise, also means that Ash has a tendency to recover from his drunken state with astounding swiftness, and very little of the traditional hangover punishment.

Ash managed to pull Crow to the back of the group for a quick word, where he was informed, with a number of bird-like bobs of the head and infuriating “Yes?” comments, of exactly what was going on.

Nalivinati’s forked tongue, Crow! This bit of Nagaji profanity would have been considered by those of the Nagaji society to be quite obscene.  Given that Ash has never lived in a Nagaji society, it is unclear where he acquired this spicy phrase.  I don’t mind helping out some orphans, especially if there’s clink to be had, but this… That holier-than-thou cleric might’ve had his halo dinged so hard in that alley that he didn’t bother to ask who we are, but you can bet your feathers that pretty soon someone is gonna want to know exactly who this monstrous group of misfits is that so gallantly leaped to said Cleric’s rescue.  We need to have some kind of cover ready, or those questions are gonna start to feel like Temple’s knife at your back, if you catch my drift. So, who are we?  Ugly, Inc, investigative specialists.  You lose it, we find it?  This all said with an acidity that belied the actual nature of their friendship, but Ash, perhaps fitting of a Nagaji, was known to have a venomous tongue.

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Crow
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Crow smiled to herself has the cleric had them escort him back to the church.  Trust a Man to just expect a group of “lesser beings” to not see through his pretense and also to just assume they would protect him.  He certainly could have given them the info they needed, but clearly, he would rather piss his pants than walk home alone.  He carried nearly a plat of armaments, but the only blood he had ever seen was a cut while shaving.

She let herself be pulled to the back by Ash.  He seemed to have sobered up quick… she knew this about him and so never worried too much about his constantly emptying cup.  “There is no worry about spinning this pig a tale.  He will just assume all of US will jump to serve his will. Yes?  What do we do?  We are traders.  We find things people want to buy.  We can be hired out for other jobs too, for a little shine.  Perhaps the customs man does not know about it.  Yes?  They will assume we are crooks without our words, so why lie?  We just let him think the lesser crime.”

As they neared the temple, the silent but massive shadow of the Foundry tickled at her mind.

Knowledge local – 21 (23 if it is about humans).

Crow was less certain about this as they approached the church.  Her group was young, and the bonds still forming.  This task was likely to be a bit divisive, and at least some of the crew would be averse to working with the arrogant and sanctimonious Men of the Church.  It was likely to be easy coin though, and unlikely to get them into trouble with the watch.

Crow slid up next to Temple, in the hearing of Cruch and spoke quietly to Temple.  . “A little coin earned without having to take it from under some guard’s eye.  Yes?  You would know them better, but they have coin that we can spend? 

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Kray
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Kray always enjoyed his chances to see more of the City.  Pent-in rarely let them out of the blocks except for work release.  Crow’s work as a trader had let her travel all throughout the city’s numerous districts, but the apothecary shop Kray had been sent to work in was depressing close to the orphanage.  He gotten the chance to work with Temple on several occasions… but his “shop” was almost more depressing than the Blocks.  Kray had relished his chances to work with the skilled man despite the locale… he was funny and very knowledgeable.

The Tengu listened in as Ash pulled his sister to one side to complain about their current job but waited until Crow moved back to the front of the caravan before approaching the brawler.

Punching his friend on the arm, as he couldn’t actually reach the Nagaji’s shoulder, Kray ribbed him a little. “What happened to the skinny garter snake willing to take on the biggest, meanest bully in the whole yard in order to stop him picking on a smaller kid?  I don’t know much about you snake people, but do the bigger your arms get, the smaller your snake eggs become?”

Kray knew it wasn’t completely fair.  His time spent learning about the gods had given him a more positive contact with the church than the rest of the crew.  It didn’t have a good rep in the blocks, and most of the kids there learned to despise the sanctimonious and bigoted clerics.  There were rumors they even hunted some non-human races.  But Ash needed to see past the messenger in this case.  He was bull-headed at times, but found the right path most of the time… with a little help.

“Nobody ever gave a rat-turd about us when things were bad in the blocks.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if somebody who made it out actually came back to give us all a hand.  Would have helped to know that somebody, ANYBODY, actually gave a raven’s tit about us.  Yeah?

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Asho Iduska
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Ash had to credit Kray, as insufferably optimistic as he sometimes was, it WOULD have been nice to have someone show any concern for them, especially when they were very young.  Alright, alright.  Quit yer chirpin’.  I’m here, aren’t I? Besides, we should be on the lookout for a replacement in case someone gets a mind to take you on as a family pet.  Ash gave Kray a good-natured ruffle on the feathers.

They passed a foundry which brought absolutely no memories, thoughts, visions, or ticklings at the imagination to Ash, whatsoever.

As they approached the white-marble church with the inscription Within Law Lives Hope, Ash quipped Huh, within law lives hope, and within this church lives an awful lot of gleam.  Maybe we’re in the wrong business.

Ash, tired from the long walk and still not completely recovered from the beverages, plopped down onto one of the pews in the sanctuary and propped his feet up on the back of the pew in front of him, hands behind his head, to await the return of the cleric and this Jenya

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Buto
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After setting Ash down, Buto walked in silence, moving closer to Temple as they progressed.  It wasn’t that Buto saw Temple as a friend, exactly, but more of an equal.  He’d meant it seriously when he’d commented previously that Temple is to brains what Buto is to brawn, and sometimes brains needed brawn, and vice Versa.  Buto also felt a closer kinship to Temple that he did to the rest of the group.  Ash, Crow and Kray had been in a different block at Pent-In, and there had always been a distance imparted by the closeness of those three to one another.  Cruch and Jinx had been in D Block with Buto, but they had each other, and it was difficult to fit in with them.  But Temple had been alone, much as Buto had been, in their own ways, and maybe, despite their very great difference in appearance and demeanor, there was some deep, internal quality that they shared.

Buto understands now, Temple, why he can’t live in your shop.  It is for business, has to be clean and not, well, it isn’t the right place.  So, Buto will find his own place.  Buto has asked Desthi Nawta for a room in exchange for some muscle services, so, we’re going to be NEIGHBORS!  But don’t worry, Buto will knock before he comes in.  Isn’t that great!?

For all of his pent in rage, or even his Pent-In rage, Buto has a strange and sometimes jarring sense of humor that almost no one ever understands.  Maybe this has also contributed, as much as his bouts of violent rage, to the separation that he has often felt from the other orphans.

As they enter the church, Buto begins to look around at the intricate carvings in the marble, statues trimmed in gold, lustrous paintings showing Lothian and his various deeds.  All he said was Impressive! before falling silent to await the return of the cleric.

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Cruch
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While they stood and waited inside the temple, Cruch, talked softly with the others, that building we saw is called The Foundry.  I read something about it in my time scribing. It is a stronghold of the Shuul, local dwarves. The have been trying to restore the prominence of technological in the city. At one point I had overheard a priest talk about these Shuul, have started working with a criminal element in the city, but thiugh the priest didn’t know who.

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Crow
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” Dwarves… you won’t make any gleam trying to get one over on the stout beards.  They pull shine form the ground, turn coppers into silvers, but they keep it for themselves.  Smart.  Yes?  But still, they pay well for what they feel they need.”

Crow filed that away for later.  One must always be looking for an angel for the clink. If there Shuul were expanding, they might have needs they couldn’t fill themselves.   You couldn’t just look at the job in front of you… that made for an empty belly tomorrow.

The ranger found a corner of the room where she could see all the exits and crouched down, silently counting her arrows.

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Narrator GM
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Ruphus asked the group to find seats where they wished and explained he was going to wake his superior, Jenya, and return with her to fill them in a bit more.

After waiting for several minutes for Ruphus to return, two figures approached from somewhere deeper in the structure. A young woman with premature streaks of gray in her rich brown hair steped forward with her hand outstretched in friendship to the nearest person. She wore a brown robe with golden trim and the symbol of Lothian around her neck.

“Good evening,” said the woman. “I have spoken to Ruphus and learned of his harrowing ordeal, as well as your remarkable heroism. I’m Jenya, the acting high priest of St. Darius. I am in your debt.”

Jenya looked to be in her 30’s with dark brown eyes, and her hair tied behind her in the haphazard fashion of one just risen from bed. Although she stood barely five and a half feet, she walked tall and with determination.

“Would you care to join me by a warm fire for a hot cup of tea? Or coffee? Ruphus mentioned you might be interested in assisting us with the current situation.”

If the group agreed she led them to a room where a young man in an evening robe was lighting a fire and blowing on it to stoke the flames. Jenya took a seat in one of the several chairs, there was enough for everyone to sit.

“Ruphus shared what happened, but I would love to hear your recounting.”

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Asho Iduska
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Ash, who generally fails at taking anything too seriously, took the first stab at a recount As I recall it, everything was slantin’ left for awhile, and then it slanted right, that was an unexpected turn of events.  I seem to recall a short nap somewhere there in the middle, kinda cold and wet that was.  And now here we are.  Did I hear someone say coffee, by the way?

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Buto
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Don’t forget when Buto had to carry you through half the city, Ash.  Snake-man is heavier than he looks, but no problem for Buto. Then looking back to Jenya, Anyway, Buto didn’t intend to save anyone really, just to stop dumb birds picking on a little worm.

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Crow
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Men have coin, and so Crow had learned to stomach both their presence and their behaviors.  It turned her stomach… but she was able to stop short of vomiting on the creatures.  She had also learned that in spite of their constant attempts to grasp her hand, they would not like it. It was all smiles until they felt her talons on their wrist, then they tended to blanch and drop her hand quickly.

Funny to watch, but it could be bad when making a deal.  Crow had learned to give a slight bow instead, crossing her arms across her chest.  The silly piglings seemed to take it as a sign of respect, perhaps even deference.  What they never noticed is that it placed her right hand directly over her sword hilt.

“No drink.  We just came from the pub. Yes?”   Crow got straight to the point.  Taking a beverage from a stranger…  nestlings knew better.

”  Your friend had the misfortune of being set upon in an ally, alone at night… but the good fortune that we heard and thought to assist.  Yes?  Not street toughs, I think, with painted faces and a crossbowman keeping watch from the eves. Half their faces were painted with the white.  The other, the black.  Like a troupe on the stage. Yes?”

She would never admit this, but having to maintain extended politeness to the pillagers stressed Crow.  It was clear in her speech, as it emphasized her natural ticks.

“They had no taste for a real fight, and fled as soon as we approached.  I think their point was already made.  Yes?  They wanted to scare you.”    Crow left it unsaid that they had succeeded, she did not want openly offend them before the gleam was in their pouches. “They were scared of us though. Yes? We can ask the question without the beatings.  Better for you.  And coin for us.”

“Yes?”

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Kray
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Kray snorted through his nares at Ash’s jest.  You couldn’t give it to Ash without taking some back, regardless of how much ale he had in that scaley belly.

Kray cocked his head at the mention of birds and worms… it took a second to understand that Buto had just happened to pick that reference without realizing that Birds had actually saved the worm…

Half concerned about the priest’s misunderstanding, half wanting to rib a little at Buto, Kray piped in. ”  We aren’t the birds in that story, just to be clear.  The humans in masks are the birds, not the people with feathers… somehow.” 

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Cruch
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Having just finished what he recalled about The Foundry when the priest came back with an older-looking woman.  She held her head high as if she were the one in charge.

When she spoke about what she and the other priest had relayed to her, Cruch almost lost his stomach all over the floor when she said that they were heroic.  “Heroic?”  Cruch coughed then continued, “no as he just said we happened upon your friend there, and honestly, I was just looking for a fight.  A few drinks in me and I was ready for a throwdown.  It was too bad those silly-faced men didn’t have the stomach for it.”

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Temple
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Tending to linger more towards the back of things by preference, Temple probably didn’t hear his name being taken in vain (so to speak) by Asho (although if he had, he’d probably have considered it a compliment), mostly because he’s instead favouring Buto with a thoughtful look as his enormous, often thoughtless, but never unreliable associate speaks up, and in doing so causes the slender young human-seeming surgeon to answer “Actually Buto, I had had the thought of doing just that. You’re quite right that I can’t make room for you in the surgery, but Madame Nawta” (and he invariably refers to her that way, since she is a madame by any reasonable measure, no matter how low her estate and how poor her services) “has been in search of a suitably muscular and intimidating doorman for some time now and I imagine that she and her girls and boys would feel much safer with you in residence.”

Certainly much safer than they do at the moment, for all that Temple did help them out with one small matter of impolite transgression against good hospitality just the other day – which while appreciated in the abstract, served to teach people a thoroughly distressing amount about just how little of a person need remain for them to serve as an object lesson.

But then, to deliver a lesson in the Warrens that lasts after the screams die away, you need to do something exceptional.

“Just remember.” he goes on to add, with something almost resembling compassion drifting around his tone “Not everyone is as comfortable around you as we are, so try to be thoughtful, at least at first. Few people will dare to tell you ‘no’ because of your appearance after all, even if you mean your request honestly.”

When they file into the large building he emulates being at his ease, moving to a seat by the fire and preparing himself a small cup of tea from the serving tools provided – either confident of detecting or neutralising anything anyone might be foolish enough to attempt to slip him, or simply uncaring.

Sitting stock upright with a saucer in one hand and the teacup in his other as he lets the little mesh-metal tea diffuser work its magic, he adds to the discussion “My part was similarly minimal, beyond ensuring your boy did not suffer a concussion. I gave him fairly specific instructions about avoiding lasting injury from his beating, but he seemed confident that someone would expend a months wages in magical healing on him, so I do not believe he was paying particular attention.”

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Jenya Urikas ()
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Jenya’s eyes bounced to each person as they spoke, frown lines creasing her brow.

“Yes. Well. Um…” She paused for a few moments, clearly trying to figure out what she was going to say next, then cleared her throat and spoke again.

“Be all that as it may, thank you for helping him. Yes, we will heal him. Being followers of Lothian, it’s not a month’s wages to heal our own.” She gave a small, half smile. “Now… If you’re interested… It seems we could potentially use some help. We thought this was a far simpler situation originally, but I used a holy mace named the Star of Justice that allows weekly divination and its answer is convoluted. Then add tonight’s events and it seems something is going on beyond a simple kidnapping.”

She poured a small bit of a spiced wine into a cup and wet her throat before continuing.

“Four children were kidnapped from Black Lantern three nights ago. Their names were Deakon, Evelyn, Lucinda, and Terrem. None of the other children and none of the resident staff heard or saw anything. The orphanage has barred windows and excellent locks protecting its doors. The children are locked into their rooms at night to prevent any midnight mischief. Our church has vowed to find the children and bring their kidnappers to justic. As I mentioned, I performed a divination with the question, ‘Where are the children who were abducted from the Black Lanter Orphanage?’ The answer I received was:”

quote:
The locks are key to finding them.
Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron,
But beware the doors with teeth.
Descend into the malachite ‘hold,
Where precious life is bought with gold.
Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.

“Does this mean anything to you? Would you be willing to assist us? We can pay if necessary.”

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Crow
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Crow needed a moment to think on that, but did not want to let the pinkie know they were as confused as she.

“It might.  We have certain knowledge that might help with your riddle.  Yes?  Each word, it matters.  Yes?  Write it down for us, please, exactly as it was said.” 

Crow had an inclining of a thought on this, but she didn’t want to discuss it in front of the Men.  Best they think the crew had it well it hand.  Which they might.

“As for price, what would you be offering?  For each child of course.  No guarantee they all still be breathing, but that is what haste is for.  If we find three and a body, you will still want them returned.  Yes?  Best to pay by the child, I think.” 

Trust these despoilers to skip on payment because one was already dead.  It was always best to work out all the terms before starting the work. It might be unpleasant, but it was smart.

  “We will also want to see the cells they were nipped from”

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Jinx the Grey
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Standing near the doors to the outside, Jinx was thoroughly uncomfortable inside the temple.  Something about it had the hair rising on the back of her neck.  She wasn’t much for religion as the spirits in her head often whispered to her how counter they run to her own beliefs.

As the woman gave out the wording to that which she had divined, Jinx thought about them.  A good riddle to get her mind off of her surroundings.

quote:
The locks are key to finding them.
Look beyond the curtain, below the cauldron,
But beware the doors with teeth.
Descend into the malachite ‘hold,
Where precious life is bought with gold.
Half a dwarf binds them, but not for long.

Locks are the key.  Now while she had zero experience with locks she knew that Crow did and that would serve them well.  The second line was something that perked her interest.  A Cauldron was right up her alley, or so she hoped.  She thought about that for a few moments while the others talked.

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Cruch
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Usually pretty good with riddles, Cruch seems stumped, perhaps his mind isn’t as clear as he thought it had been.  He certainly was grinning when Crow began to negotiate the price with the woman.  She would make certain that they got the most for doing any work for the humans.

Locks, teeth, cauldrons, dwarves… the only thing he could think of was The Foundry, having just told them about it.  Could it be that easy?  Or was it just a coincidence?  Cruch figured what they should do is go to the Orphanage first and ask around.  Perhaps they could get another clue there.

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Asho Iduska
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As part of his work program at Pent-In, Ash had spent years working in a mining operation outside of Ptolus.  As such, he was familiar with malachite and some of its properties.  Hmm, Descend into the malachite hold.  It’s a sort of mineral, malachite is.  It tends to form in small caves not too far below the surface, so a malachite hold might just be a natural cavern with the stuff growing in it.  We ran across them pretty frequently;  usually stalactites of the stuff hanging all over the place in a small opening.  It IS used often for cheap jewelry, and the dwarves are known to use it regularly.  I wouldn’t say a deposit of malachite implicates the dwarves, but it is another sign pointing vaguely in their direction.  But I think taking a peek at the Orphanage is a good place to start. Well, maybe a shower is a good place for this lot to start. 

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Temple
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“Not for you, it is not. Merely for the person for whom you do not pray that day.” Temple states blithely, putting no particular emphasis upon the words but expressing his very clear view that whether a spell is cast for free or not, there are still desperate souls the length and breadth of the city who would pay for it, if they could.

His attention soon shifts to the matter of the riddle, which sees him observe “Locks could refer to shed hair, which could be used in a divination. There are also water locks in the sewers and of course, door and chest locks through the city.”

“A cauldron could be a literal cooking implement, or a water feature. If the latter, then the curtain could be waterfall, since bad poetry often conflates the two. A toothed door could be a portcullis or a reinforced door with outward-facing nails or even a trapped portal. A malachite hold may refer to the mineral or to a noble or gang-affiliated fortress whose colours are some combination of black and green.” he speculates, taking each item line by line and applying both his broad education and alarming intellect to it “Precious life could mean slavery, but smuggling or indeed, clerical healing could apply. The last one however? A half-breed perhaps, but it seems too direct for poetic divination, I’d have to think about it.”

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Jenya Urikas ()
———————————————————–
Jenya watched the group think through the riddle and nodded along, but didn’t contribute. At crow’s comment about cells she blanched.

“I absolutely think it would be good to visit the Orphanage but the children are NOT kept on CELLS. But yes, I will have Ruphus accompany you to explain to the staff. Circling back to your question about payment, if you will look into this and recover the children I can promise you free healing here at our Church. We also have some gold for this Temple which I know the high priest would readily reward you from. I have no idea what to offer you, or I mean, how much to offer you for helping with this. Can you give me some idea…?”

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Crow
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A negotiator, was she?  All this pretense of piety, and yet she wanted to haggle on payments.  Well, Crow thought, she could haggle too.

“This is not a simple task.  Yes?  Or you wouldn’t need us to do it.  And whoever took these kids, they won’t be giving them back just by asking.  Lots of work here, and risks.  I say 100 gold each, plus a bonus for all four.  That was a significant payment, but probably not to these folk.

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Kray
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Kray let his sister do the haggling while he listened and walked around the room.  Lothian was not one of his preferred Gods, but every god had power and it never hurt to pick up as much as he could.

He mulled over the riddle as he looked at the holy symbols and artifacts spread around on ends tables and mantels.  The locks part was either too simple, referring to the locks of the kids’ rooms, or too obscure for any real insight.  They would want to look at the kids cells, “rooms” if the priest insisted, at the very least.

Curtain was a street right next to the church they were in, and one needed to pass it to get to the Foundry. Which was like a cauldron.  Likely there would be some doors they shouldn’t mess with, and a cave filled with malachite or a room used to store it.  The kids’ lives might be the ones bought for gold… and they had a limited time to find them.  Great.

The feather-covered archer approached the Ruphus, talon-tipped feet clicking on the granite floors where rugs didn’t insulate the sound

“Good thing you are coming with us.  Less likelihood you will need to add some dents to the armor or blood on your mace if you are with us.”    That was patently false, as they seemed to be magnets for trouble on some days, but he didn’t need to know that. Kray doubted if he had ever stuck a living person with that mace.  He would be shocked when he finally did…it was louder than one expected and messier.

“Do you know know these children?  Is there anything you can tell us about them? “

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Ruphus Laro ()
———————————————————–
Ruphus scrunched his face in confusion at Kray’s remarks, not quite following his statement about dented armor and bloody maces. He shook his head though. “No. I didn’t not know them personally. Jenya asked me to talk to the orphanage staff and then I was trying to locate the person I previously mentioned. Dorophil. I got that name asking around about the kidnapped children at the Red Stallion Pub. No one else knew anything.”

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Asho Iduska
———————————————————–
Not Cells? But there are bars on the windows and the children are locked into their rooms, right?  Clearly the focus was on keepin’ the tikes inside, which is why someone else was able to get them OUT without any notice.  Well, prison or not, we’ll take a look for the lads ‘n’ lasses.  Someone’s gotta care more than duck’s spit for ‘em. With this, he glanced at Kray who had appealed to Ash earlier about their own childhood neglect.

I say we get some rest and meet at the Black Lantern tomorrow morning to have a little looksee.  Maybe the priest can also fill us in on anything he’s learned about this Dorophil character and give us some descriptions of the kids.  That alright with you lot?

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Jinx the Grey
———————————————————–
“The locks, who has keys for the locks?”  Jinx blurted out loud and all of a sudden.  She had been but a shadow while the others spoke and talked about what happened.

Jinx had been heavily thinking how could someone get in unless the locks were picked OR someone had a key.  Why hadn’t the children called out when the were taken as well?  Perhaps it was an inside job.

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Crow
———————————————————–
“Yes Ash.  Too late to visit the orphanage.  All the children will be locked in their… rooms.  Staff sleeping.  Yes?  We can meet here in the morning.  Ruphus can take us to the orphanage.”   Crow looked at the priest with a slight cock to her head.  “Don’t bleed out on the inside while you sleep.  Yes?  We will have a need for you in the morning. “

Crow will wait to see if anyone else has any questions or anything they need to say to the priets, then she will move them out the door and back toward her roof.

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Jenya Urikas ()
———————————————————–
“100 gold for each of you, or for each of the children? And a bonus if you get all 4 children back safely?” Jenya asked of Crow.

“How about as a show of good faith I give you each a light curing potion? They sell for 50 gold each. There are 7 of you, so that’s a value of 350 gold, yes? If you return all 4 children safely, I will give each of you an additional potion and also a bonus in gold. Plus, I or Ruphus will offer healing for any injuries you incur during this endeavor for free.”

To Jinx she answered, “I don’t know who has keys. Gretchyn, the orphanage’s headmistress, should be able to answer that for you. Here, I will also give you a letter of explanation with my seal so she knows to trust you.”

The cleric gathered ink and parchment, then used one of the candles to pour a wax seal on the folded paper, pressing her sigil ring into the fast cooling wax.

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Temple
———————————————————–

It only occurs to Temple part-way through his analysis that absolutely no-one else has even the slightest interest in the nominally prophetic answer to the riddle he’s musing his way through, but he finishes with grim determination before observing dryly, with a teeny hint of sarcasm “I generally find I have plenty to occupy me in any given day, but if this is going to turn into something involving logic puzzles or poetic references, I’ll probably need to make an appearance in person.”

Then of course, healing potions are offered up and the alchemist simply looks at the good priestess for a long moment before remarking “I think, all things being equal that I should be happier with a potion of… Hmmm, Fastidiousness, perhaps? Good laundry and bathing services are hard to come by in this part of town and my trade does involve a high risk of… Let’s say ‘soiling’ and leave it at that, mmm?”

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Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch had turned at Jinx’s outburst.  It was not something she had ever done before but her question was legit.  Who had access to the keys?  The others had thought the kids were stolen but perhaps it was nothing so nefarious as that and were instead just led somewhere.

“I think she meant 100 gold for each of us.  I don’t think the potions are important.  We are more than capable of healing ourselves.  Isn’t that right Temple?”  Cruch commented.

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Jenya Urikas ()
———————————————————–
Jenya pursed her lips and nodded. “We can easily accomodate the potion of Fastidiousness. 700 gold? That is a LOT of money. You each need double a year’s wages of what most people in the city earn to help us with this?” The cleric was clearly chewing mentally over the costs.

“Is there any way you would accept half that in gold, then we will give you each any potion or scroll of your choosing?”

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Buto
———————————————————–
Haggling over prices for things is most definitely outside of Buto’s field of interest.  As such, he grew quickly bored of the back and forth and stood up, forced to bend over to avoid bumping his head on the ceiling, and began to walk towards the door.  Fine, if the orphans are missing, Buto will help find them. His investigative skills will no doubt turn out to be as incredible as his skill in battle.  Buto will come here tomorrow.  The priest will take Buto to this orphanage.  And with that, Buto squeezed through the door and disappeared into the hallway, though those in the room could see him looking left and right to try and determine from which direction they had come.  Incredible investigative abilities, indeed.

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Asho Iduska
———————————————————–
A look of amusement brightened Ash’s face as Buto speaks to his “investigative abilities.”   Ash, however, kept his mouth closed.  He knew that Crow, or maybe Temple, were better equipped to negotiate a deal for them.  Ash had struggled just to keep a straight face when Crow mentioned 100 gold each, but that was part of the art of the deal.  He was pretty sure that one of the party walking out mid-way through negotiations was NOT part of the program.

To be honest, Ash had to admit that Kray’s words earlier had awakened a care for the orphans that Ash wouldn’t otherwise have known was there.  He had an image of his friend, that small, black doll that Crow had carried into the place when Ash was just a boy, maybe three years old.  Ash remembered how frail his friend had been back then, and all the times he had looked out for Kray, or Kray for him, for that matter.  The others from Pent-In he would consider at least more than acquaintances, and there was no doubting they shared a bond, but Kray was his true friend, almost a brother.  What would his life be like if that small, ragged baby bird had been taken?

Crow could negotiate the deal, but, whatever it came to, Ash wanted to see this through.  It was a strange feeling for the young Nagaji.  In all his life, he had gone along with the rolling of the waves.  Now, to have, he hesitated at the word, purpose, was something entirely new.

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Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch’s eyebrows raised at the offer by the priestess.  Potions and scrolls could get expensive so a large grin appeared on his face.  “That is acceptable to me..” he didn’t get to say everything before Buto charged out of the room seemingly done with the conversation.

Cruch turned to Jinx and smiled with a wink.  He too knew that she could use a scroll and that they could make out with more than just the 100 gold he had asked for.

“Guess Buto is done.  I have nothing further if we want to head home.”

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Crow
———————————————————–
Crow would have accepted the Man’s offer, and so didn’t know if she was happy or annoyed at Crutch for chirping in.  It got them more money, and confused the pinkie as to whom she was negotiating with.  A good tactic if you can make them think the situation is unstable…  but only if they are desperate.  And clearly, this priest was.

Still, she would have to keep an eye on Cruch.  He had spent too much time leading, or playing at leading, his sister (Crow doubted anyone really led Jinx), and would try to take the lead here.  A good crew should have many strong voices, wisdom and skill never came from just one mouth, but these piglets didn’t understand that.  They saw it as a weakness if there was not one “ruler”.  See here how Ruphus remained silent as Jenya talked.  Savages.

  “I would not expect to haggle over the valued children’s lives.  Yes?  We will accept this reduced fee, but will be paid if we find any of the children.  We cannot be responsible for what happened to them before you hired experts.  Yes?” 

Crow specifically did not look at Ruphus while besmirching his abilities.  It was implied, but there was no need to be obviously insulting.   She turned to him a good few seconds after saying that, and stated   ” We will see you at the sun’s rise. Yes?  The hawk, it hunts with the light.”    It was a reversal of a true Strix saying “the owl, it hunts at first dark”, which is a saying for the nocturnal race to get an early start on their day.  Like all things, it has to be simplified for Men to understand.

The Strix uses her wings unconsciously to gesture to her crew to head for the door.  They had decided on a price and a time, and it would not due to linger.  A deal made should be left to let the ink dry.

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Jenya and Ruphus nodded in agreement and stood to see the rest of the group leaving after Buto had already departed. Everyone returned to their respective homes in the drizzling rain that was starting to peter out.

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Temple
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“I can certainly heal myself…” Temple answers, responding to Cruches comment, only to let a moment pass before he adds “And I suppose it would be no great chore to treat your injuries either.”, nodding when the woman answers his specific request – made because he can manage the same effect as a healing potion (at least on himself) for no cost at all and a potion that generates a spell effect that he can’t duplicate (particularly one so perfectly suited for surgical use) is valuable to him.

He doesn’t get involved in the negotiation side of things – he’s smart, but social interaction has never really been his strong suite and with his particular skillset he’s always found it more practical to just state his price and leave the other party to decide how attached they are to their limbs (so to speak).

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Morning was dawning the next day and the group returned to the church. Inside Ruphus was waiting, bouncing both of his legs with unchecked nervousness.

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Cruch
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Having met up with the others as prearranged before they broke for the night, Cruch asks, “You all sleep well?  Any other thoughts about the riddle we were given?  Jinx really thinks that the locks at the orphanage are important.  We need to find out who has the keys.”

Once they arrived back at the Temple Cruch waited outside with Jinx as per her request from the night before.

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Kray
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Kray discussed the riddle with Ash as the walked to the temple.  “It seems too easy, but I guess the spell was supposed to help the requester find what they are looking for.  I feel like the Curtain must be the street running by the temple, and the cauldron could be the foundry.  Man, this is just as much fun as a good heist.  This feels like a proper mystery, for like a story.  Course, I doubt things work out as well in real life.  I think we should probably hurry as much as possible.  I doubt those kids were taken for exercise and a party.  We might not like what we find, even if they are alive.”

Crow walked up next to them.  She seemed to have a knack for listening in from a distance then appearing to add her wisdom. She ticked the fletching on her arrows as she listed points “Keyholder, Curtain Street, Foundry, Basement, Trapped Door, Stone chamber, Slavers, Time limit.  We have pieced together, as a crew, what these Men could not.  Yes?  Remember, together, we are stronger them all of them.  If we stay smart, and stay together, and put family first.  Yes?”

Once they arrived at the temple, she spoke to the group, directing her head at each in turn. “Remember, all these piggies need to know is that we have this under control.  We will use this Ruphus to get us an in with the others.”   Kray knew Crow tended to look at all humans as one clan, and having a human with us would make the staff open up.  The Tengu guessed this Ruphus would be little real help with the orphanage. But he could be good for an introduction.  Hopefully he would be headed back here before any real action started. Kray guessed he was less than useless in fight.

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
The cleric didn’t want to walk from their church all the way to the northernmost part of Ptolus so he offered to cover the cost of two carriages to transport everyone to Black Lantern Orphanage.

Temperatures were in the lowest 40s, clouds obscured the sky and were whipping by with the fast blowing winds. At cross streets which ran east to west the winds rocked both carriages. Thankfully the thick curtains blocked most of the wind, and buildings protected them from most of the gale.

Outside one building near the northern border of the Guildsman district a small mob stood outside a home shouting up for someone to come outside. The carriages moved around the group slowly so as not to run over anyone.

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Temple
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“Tolerably, thank you Cruch, and yourself?” Temple answers as he adjusts the slightly tired lace cuff on his dark, velvet-like jacket… Not the finest of garments nor the most expensive, but sufficiently improved over the garments of his youth to imply ‘professional’ and ‘educated’ without marking him out as too obviously wealthy “And no more than I did yesterday. It seems early to speculate in advance of evidence.”

Kray’s point is greeted with a small nod and an utterly dispassionate “Haste is warranted. It’s likely that the children were taken as merchandise, and the turnover on such livestock tends to be rapid. If we’re more fortunate, then they were kidnapped to order. I’ll see if there’s any paperwork on their origins or similarities between them while you investigate the actual site of their kidnapping.”

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Crow
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Crow counted her arrows unconsciously, but obsessively on the way to the temple the next morning.  This would be the crew’s, her ugly inc.’s, first legitimate job.  She didn’t mind the jobs they had been doing and could care less about which side of the law she was on, but real money, and the security that came with it,  would come from flights like this.  She wouldn’t admit she was anxious, but any of the crew that knew her well should be able to see the signs.

It was all she could do to not openly sneer at the carriage the pink locust insisted on using.  Were his legs so weak, or his spine so liquid, that he couldn’t walk there?  Why would anyone except an invalid subject themself to being bounced in that coffin for an hour?  You couldn’t even see an enemy coming in there.  One good fire arrow could kill the lot of them…  of course, they would want to hamstring a horse first though, but that would be an easy shot for a good bowman…

It was with rising panic, unable to stop imagining all the ways that they(SHE!) could get trapped in that pine box, that she saw the mob in front of the house.  Normally she wouldn’t have cared about the group, except to wonder at who had left what unattended while they gathered to self-flagellate their own people, but she needed out of this death box.

” Ho!  Stop the carriage. “  It was a testament to just how much she hated the carriage that an angry, screaming mob of Men was an attractive distraction.

“Let us see what is about. Perhaps this is related.  Yes? ”

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Crow exited the carriage and inquired after the situation. One of the commoners, a man with graying hair tied back in a pony-tail met the bird-person’s eyes and quickly explained. “The scoundrel sold all of us counterfeit items! He’s trapped inside and we’re gonna bring him to the authorities!”

Satisfied the situation had nothing to do with missing children the group continued on. Both carriages rumbled along the wide way of Malav Street. After crossing over the King’s River into the Temple District. They passed the Temple of Excellence, a squarish structure made of imported marble, imported from where no one knew. The significant thing about the Temple of Excellence was that the priests possessed the magical means to turn one devotion or trained into another. It required an expensive and complex ritual, but ultimately people who visited the temple were able to magically change their knowledge.

OOC: Meaning they can reconfigure their skills or exchange feats.

Next, the Stormwrought Campanile stood high, completely unaffected by the winds. It was over 100 feet from the street to the top of the freestanding bell tower. It rang for several different religions, each of which paid a fee to the small staff of the campanile to call their faithful to prayer, mark holy days and holy hours, and to announce other religious events. It held a multitude of bells that could produce incredible variations of music and sounds. At present it stood silent, weathering the blowing winds.

The Stormwrought Campanile actually got its name from the days of the completion of its construction. Terrible storms came in off the Bay of Ptolus for days, which led some to call the belltower cursed. The builders, however, said the tower wasn’t cursed – it was immune to curses, because even the fiercest storms couldn’t delay its completion. Today, some folk come to the Stormwrought Campanile looking for shelter when they fear bad omens, ill luck, storms, or evil magic.

They turned onto Gold Elm Way which led from the gates of the Necropolis all the way to the end of the Temple District. They didn’t need to go that far, and both carriages turned North on Upper God Way right past the Celestial Conclave.

Columns surrounded the round, white monopteron, which was a circular temple consisting of a roof supported on said columns, without a cella, meaning inner sanctum. There was no need for a high, holy place as the Conclave didn’t worship one god, indeed they revered the act of worship itself. The structure’s interior contained a great hall which displayed every known holy (and unholy) symbol. A vast library of major sacred texts and books on religion filled the rest of the temple. The priests of the Conclave were the greatest experts on the world’s religions and cults.

Reaching Market Street they made a left in front of Mitoren’s Blades. Kharl Mitoren – a male human – sold weapons of all kinds – anything 50 gp or less – out of a permanent wooden stall in the crowded marketplace. He was known to be straightforward and honest. He was also a fair judge of weapon quality, although he’s no Rastor. Those who couldn’t afford Rastor’s higher prices, and typically far better weapons, would often visit Mitoren.

At last they turned north again on Diamond Street. Rather than due north, the street ran at a sharp angle going north east. This led them straight to the Black Lantern Orphanage that sat in easy view of the towering Ptolus wall.

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
The orphanage sat on Diamond Street just before the Church of the Lawgiver – another Lothian temple
– further to the North. The Black Lanter’s charcoal-colored stones were held together with mold-encrusted mortar. The windows on both stories were tightly shuttered, but a few slivers of light managed to escape from within. Lanterns hung on either side of the oaken front door, mounted to which was a green copper knocker shaped like a smiling gargoyles visage, its nostrils pierced by a copper ring.

Ruphus knocked and waited a moment. Finally an elderly halfling woman opened the door a crack and hollered out, “Who are ya?” Upon looking up and seeing Ruphus her face softened.

“Oh. Ruphus. Good to see you… Who… Who are all these you’ve brought with you?”

Explaining the group were here to help find the missing children she opened the door all the way. “Then come on in. Sorry for my gruffness. We’re on edge after the kidnapping. My name is Gretchyn.”

The group was immediately crowded as they stepped into a hallway which contained four doors, a stairwell, a hat rack and a pile of children’s shoes.

“My. There are so many of you…” The elderly halfling woman said with trepidation. “I guess we can go into the common room.” She gestured to the first door to their left.

Stepping inside several children at play looked up at the group with wide eyes. One very little girl ran behind the skirts of an adult woman reading to two others at the far table. She had more than a little elven blood in her, based on the point of her ears and her angular cheek bones.

Gretchyn shut the door behind her after everyone crowded into the room, then explained the situation.

“We’ve all worked here for many years and I trust every member of our staff completely. None of them would harm the children. On the night the children disappeared none of us saw or heard anything. We asked the children if they had, and none were woken. Endell, one of the younger boys – a halfling – said he had a nightmare about an evil gnome with crooked teeth and a tattered cloak trying to snatch his breath. It didn’t mean anything to us, but perhaps it will to you. All the doors and windows were locked up tight.”

Ground Floor:

Second Floor:

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Buto
———————————————————–
Buto squeezed through the doorway into the common area.  Even in this room, much larger than the entryway they had just left, Buto seemed to fill the space.  His black eyes took in the room, the children at play, the warmth of the place.  This was indeed a much different place then Pent-Ins.  Although the children seemed nervous, the way they huddled next to one of the caretakers showed that it was the newcomers, not the staff, that frightened them.  What it must have been like to grow up here.  An orphan’s life was always a challenge, but a place like this could even make that situation bearable.

Buto took two long strides forward, directly toward the children listening to the caretaker read.  He spoke to them all, but he looked at the little girl hiding behind the woman.  Buto sees that you are scared, little ones.  Little ones have nothing to fear from Buto. Look here. Buto knelt down, coming as close to eye level as possible, which still left him head, shoulders and chest above the children.  He held out hand hands, making a shallow cup out of them.  Come now, Yozhik.  Don’t be shy.  Say hello to the children.

A small, furry creature wriggled out of Buto’s vest and slowly crept down his arms into his hand.  . This is my friend, Yozhik.  He’s a hedge-hog. Buto to this day pronounced the word as two almost separate words, for the feel of them were strange to his tongue.

The diminutive creature leaped from Buto’s cupped hands onto the floor and began to sniff, looking left and right, before heading towards the little girl, hiding behind the caretaker.  Yozhik nosed the girl’s stockinged foot, eliciting a giggle.

Buto stood, Now you play nice with the children, Yozhik.  Buto will have a look around.   Buto turned back to Gretchen.  Buto is also an orphan.  We all are.  Buto thought your children must have run away, but that isn’t true, is it?  The children here, they don’t wish to leave. So, what happened?

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Crow
———————————————————–
Crow held her tongue as Buto began to break the frosty tension in the room.  The big continued to surprise her, and she was content to let him work his little magic for a few moments as she looked around the room. She tried to look through her periphery as much as possible, as she had been told her jerking head could be disconcerting to the weak-stomached.

She had a list of questions for this Gretchen, but she would see what impact Buto had first before they got down to business.

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Kray
———————————————————–
Kray was a little in awe of this place.  He didn’t know places like this existed., not really.  This looked like a fairy tale place that orphanages couldn’t even dream existed.  He started to look around the room, almost hopping for one foot to another… until he got a good look at all the children…  human children.  Of course.  Maybe a few with eleven blood, an “acceptable” people.  So, this is where human orphans went.

Kray clicked his beak shut quickly.  This job would not be helping out other orphans like them, not doing for the younger generation what they wished someone had done for them. No.  This was humans using their wealth to look out for other humans.  And using the Uglies to do their dirty work.  Kray didn’t share Crow’s extreme views on the “piggies”, but looking around that room, he moved a little closer to her vantage point.

Muttering under his breath, Kray pulled himself back to the task at hand “job’s a job, and gold still shines”

Pulling a little of his will and projecting it out with a complicated wave of his talons, Kray used his powers to search for any magical clues that might have been left by the abductors.

Cast Detect Magic on self

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Temple
———————————————————–

With his usual empathy and social tact, Temple stalks into the room behind Buto like someone called for a child-catcher, staring with judgemental, measuring eyes at the property and listening to each word expressed while not sparing so much as a moment of consideration for the emotional state of the children or their carers, addressing Gretchyn directly as Buto goes to work.

“Each of us has different skills. In my particular case, that is the possession of an analytical mind and an inclination towards clinical investigation. I should like to first see the rooms from which the individuals were taken, then the papers and files which you have upon them.”

===========================================================
Jinx the Grey
———————————————————–
Jinx entered after a few of the others and looked around the place with a keen eye.  She saw the others looking about as well and wondered what they were looking at exactly.  She noticed that Kray had cast a spell to detect magic within the area.  It was a good choice for perhaps there was some magically hidden area or something that allowed the children to be taken past the doors or something.  Jinx then edged Cruch wanting him to speak up and ask the questions they had talked about with the locks.

”Lady Gretchyn, I would first like to ask you about the locks on the doors.  Who all have keys to the locks for the children’s rooms?  Are there any spare keys anywhere?  I am sure you believe your staff has done nothing wrong but one can never be too careful. I would like to speak to them all if it is alright with you.”  Cruch knew all about how crooked staff can be and didn’t put it past any of them to have possibly been included in the heist.

Jinx smiled and nodded to Cruch’s questions.  It was working out just as she had wanted.

===========================================================
Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Several more children came over to Buto and to see Yozhik. The little hedgehog was an instant hit. Giggles, squeals of delight and fun livened up the room.

Kray was right in his estimation, based on what he could currently see. It seemed every child in Black Lantern was either of human or elven descent. However, his magical detection revealed no auras.

Gretchyn nodded at Temple’s request. “Yes. Yes. Of course. You’re welcome to tour the whole house as you please. Although, I do wish everyone could work together on this. The day after the incident the city watch sent someone to take statements from all the staff. The next day a pair of investigators came by. Then Ruphus visited us and later brough you all. Perhaps everyone could have a meeting to make sure everyone knows everything and you could all work together to find the children? I’ll have Neva take you upstairs sir.”

The halfling woman went around the corner and through a door into a separate room. She returned a few moments later with a middle-aged human woman with her. “This is Neva, our nurse. She can take you upstairs and answer any questions you have.” She raised a finger and turned cocked her head. “Do be gentle when speaking with any of the children… They have been quite shook up and I do not wish to see any of them upset.” Temple could hear the hint of a threat in the old halfling’s words as a mother would warn anyone to protect her young.

Neva, the nurse, nodded to Temple and directed him back the way they came, then up the stairs to the second story. “Right this way please.” Neva kept her brown hair short, which went well with her five foot, six inch frame. She carried a bit of extra weight, but walked with a light step.

Turning to Jinx the halfling nodded in understanding. “All of the staff have keys. There are 5 in total, with an extra kept in my room in case one is lost. All six keys are accounted for, and were never lost. We have five staff members. Jaromir Copperbeard, our gardener. Neva Fanister, our nurse. Temar Flagonstern, our cook. Willow Atherfell, our schoolteacher, who is there reading to the children.” Gretchyn smiled seeing the half-elven woman grinning ear to ear as the children played with the spirited hedgehog. “Finally there is Patch, our handyman and janitor. He is the one to ask about the keys. As I said before, we all gave statements to the City Watch, then shared the same again with the investigators, but we will share a third time if it helps bring back the children. Here, I’ll go fetch Patch.”

Gretchyn crossed the room, stepping over toys and around children until she reached the door at the back of the room. She opened it and stepped outside. A few minutes passed which allowed the visitors to observe the children at play and learning. Finally the halfling returned, followed by a half-orc which dwarfed Gretchyn. Patch stood just a smidge over six feet high and had a muscled build. His bald head was encircled by an item from which his name became clear, a leather patch which covered his left eye. Patch’s right eye was a stunning blue. He wore an apron which was coated in dirt, made worse as he wiped his hands off on it.

“Ello. I’m Patch. Gretchyns sayes you’re looking to look after the children and wanting to know about the keys, eh? All of our locks were made by Keygan Gelve. He owns Gelve’s Locks. It’s over on … Oh what’s his street. Gong? Chime? Bell! Bell street! That’s it. In Fairbriar, just down from Delver’s Square. He gave us a steep discount seeing as it was for us. Err. The children I mean. Being as it’s an orphanage, you see? They are far better locks than we would have been able to afford, seeing as he gave us such a good deal. Anyway. He’s the one to see.”

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Temple
———————————————————–

“And so we shall, but it would be a poor use of Buto’s time to ask him to go through paperwork and an equally poor use of mine to expect me to win over a small child.” Temple answers evenly, indicating his companions “I shall of course share anything I learn with them, and you.” he adds helpfully before accompanying Neva with a polite motion for her to precede him, the surgeon opening his bag as he goes and fishing out his working mask, running his fingers over the tooled leather before looking around the first room, affixing it in place and, making sure that not an inch of skin is exposed or hair is poking out, pulls up his hood and – with a hollow, resonant voice – asks “Please wait in the door.” before commencing a gloved fingertip search of the first missing child’s room, little clicking and cracking sounds emanating from his masked head as he muses over what he finds.

23:55, Today: Temple rolled 24 using 1d20+10.  Perception.

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Crow
———————————————————–
Once the garden had shared his information Crow stepped up.  Her degree of focus showed, as her head began to jerk between the head mistress, the teacher, and the gardener.

“Every set of ears you tell the story to, it is one more pair of eyes looking for the children.  Yes?  If you tell us every detail we need, it will be the last time you need to tell it.  We do not fail.” 

Crow kept her usual tone when dealing perspective buyers, or seller – clipped but light.  A clerk that talks fast, not because they do not wish to speak with you, just that they value your time.

“A master locksmith that gives away locks used for protecting children.  Curios.  When were these locks installed? Did you seek them out, or did they offer their work to you? “

The Strix listened to his answer, nodded politely in thanks, and then turned to the head mistress.

” These children, did they all sleep in the same room?  Were they in rooms with other children?  Have you had any recent visitors that do not regularly come?”

===========================================================
Kray
———————————————————–
Kray would have rolled his eyes, had his avain physique allowed it, when Patch entered the room.  Of course he would be the handyman.

He saw a few of the children eyeing his accent feathers, colored bright crimson and cerulean. The colors also formed whirls on the left side of his beak.  Kray had never met another of his kind, but he had seen them in pictures, and Crow had told him how they adorn their beaks and crest feathers with flashes of color.  He liked the way it stood out from his deep midnight.

They wanted to come ask about it, but he was a little too intimidating. That was fine.  People tended to take time to get use to him, to decided that he wasn’t going to snatch their hand from the arm, literally or figuratively. That was fine.  Kids might be quick to scare, but curiosity would always win out eventually. He wanted to ask them some questions, but he could be patient.

The giant bird, but small person, stalked his way through the orphanage, talons clicking on the floors.  He nodded to anyone he saw, but didn’t approach, giving them a chance to get use to him.  He was mainly focused on on scanning the surrounding his enhanced vision, looking for any traces of magic around the place. He slid around Neva and scanned the room with Temple, making sure to keep out of his way.

  Scan each each room, stopping if I detect any magic to ID what it is.   what magic does Temple have on him?

===========================================================
Re: 346341 Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch moved over to the muscled half-orc and sized him up as he spoke.  Cruch stood half a hand taller than Patch.  Cruch waited for Crow’s question to be answered before commenting, “Keygan Gelve.  What race is Keygan, if you don’t mind?  It is curious that he gave you such a steep discount.  All experience I have with most people is that they don’t do nice things for no reason at all.”

===========================================================
Patch ()
———————————————————–
In reply to Cruch (msg # 95):

Patch looked at the full blood orc standing before him, eyeing him up and down. With a hint of annoyance in his voice he answered.

“He’s a gnome. And he’s a good man. He was an orphan too, as was I, and he wanted to help protect the children.”

===========================================================
Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Kray clacked through each of the rooms, but he detected no magic.

Gretchyn answered Crow, “Yes. I suppose you’re right. We will recount everything we know. We saught out the lock maker several years ago, I’m not even sure how long. But a great many years ago, whenever the old locks were so rusted so as to be unusable. As to the children, we keep the genders separate. There are five rooms upstairs. We try to keep the eldest of each gender together, then the younger ones together. We do keep the littelest ones together in one room, the nursery. Four children were taken: Deakon Stormshield, Terrem Kharatys, Evelyn Radavec, and Lucinda Aldren. Two boys, and two girls. Deakon is a male dwarf, age 12. Terrem is a human boy, age 9. Lucinda is a human girl, age 8. Evelyn is human girl, age 9. We’ve had no recent visitors. No one new. Everything had been completely routine before the abductions.”

Temple sniffed around, a few older children were in the rooms upstairs reading and doing schoolwork. The nurse told them to step out while he did his investigation. They were more than happy to oblige, as the sight of Temple is his strange outfit was unnerving.

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Temple
———————————————————–

The only magical aura surrounding Temple at any point in the inspection is to be found in the slim metal hip-flask he carries on his hip, which seems to hold some sort of peculiar fluid, magically charged but not active… Or possibly active, but not charged – no doubt, in any case an alchemical preparation which makes use of his own innate energies to operate.

As for his inspection, Temple moves from one room to the next with exquisite care and attention to detail, examining underneath beds and at windows, looking for signs of forced entry or struggle and indeed, more or less anything else which occurs to him to be out of place, eventually returning to the main body of the group to report, with nary a sign of disgruntlement (and by then, he’s removed his hood once more) “There is nothing out of place in any of the rooms, so far as I am able to determine. No sign of intruder by window or door, no sign of shim or pick, no indications of a struggle or drug residue in water-jug or upon pillows. I am not prepared to rule out foul play entirely however, since it has been some time since the abduction.”

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Crow
———————————————————–
Crow cocked her head to look at Patch as he answered Cruch’s spoken, and her insinuated, question.

  “Orphans helping orphans.  Noble.  We are orphans, and we are here helping other orphans.”    She left it unsaid that they were getting paid for it, and certainly this halfing liked coin too.  But several years was a long play on a little shine, so perhaps he was more charitable than them.

“Master Gelve would best know how his locks could be disabled. Yes? Perhaps he will know how they could have been opened without key.  We will ask”

Crow turned back to the headmistress. “These children, they were in separate rooms. Yes?  Were other children in the rooms with them?”

===========================================================
Re: 346341 Cruch
———————————————————–
Something unnerved Cruch about the way Patch eyed him up and down.  The half-ord seemed annoyed for some reason but Cruch couldn’t put his finger on it.
14:05, Today: Cruch rolled 26 using 1d20+11. Sense Motive

“Just because someone is an orphan doesn’t mean that they are automatically a good person.  We should know…  there are more than a few orphans I know that have fallen into crime to survive.”

Cruch added to what Crow said, “Or if there is a master key that can open all doors.  I know if I were a locksmith, I’d have a master key for any locks I had made just in case someone loses their keys.”

===========================================================
Patch ()
———————————————————–
Patch huffed in frustration. “I was an orphan too!” He said with obvious disdain at their rough words. “It was during my time in an orphanage that left me with this…” He gesture toward the patch covering his eye. “I would never do anything to allow one of our children to come to harm. Keygan is a good man, and he did what he did to keep the children safe. I’ll take you to see him.”

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Gretchyn ()
———————————————————–
Gretchyn nodded to Crow. “Yes. There were several other children in the rooms with them. Since they were the younger children, each of them had 3 additional children in the rooms with them. The young boys and girls rooms each sleep 5. We’ve had to double up in times past, but currently they each have their own beds.”

She watched the interchange between Patch and the others with obvious concern, even laying a hand on Patch’s arm to calm him.

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Crow
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Crow held her hands in front of her, open palms out to show they meant no offense.    “We mean no offense.  This is why it is good to have an outside set of eyes.  Yes?  We make no assumptions, good or ill, and simply investigate every lead.  This keymaker, and all the staff here, would never hurt the children.  But we will investigate every rock, just in case.  Yes?  You do want us to be thorough.  We here who are orphans all want to help those like us…. but we all knew at least one child that would sell the rest out for a sweet.  Yes? “

Crow turned back to the headmistress, cocking her head in confusion.  “they were stolen from a room shared with other children and carried through the house unseen?  May we speak to these children?  Were any adults awake at the time?”

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Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Gretchyn and Patch both nodded. The hafling woman answered Crow. “Yes. That is correct. They were stolen from their rooms while 3 other children slept in each room. You’re welcome to interview the children, but they’ve been consistent in telling everyone that they remember nothing. The only thing out of the ordinary was Endell’s nightmare I told you about. But no one could make any sense of it. Patch and I sleep here every night. We have an additional bedroom which the other staff occassionally use, but they all have their own homes elsewhere. We were both asleep here that evening, and no, nothing woke us and nothing appeared out of the ordinary until the next morning when we found the children gone.”

Patch’s room is the dirty one in the top left of the 1st level. Gretchen’s is the much nicer one with the rug and private bath to the right.

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Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch wasn’t getting much from the half-orc besides his defensive response for the little gnome.  It was fine, perhaps Patch had no idea about anything.  “As Crow said, we will check every lead possible to make sure we are leaving no stone unturned.”

With his questioning done, Cruch waited for the others to be finished before leaving the orphanage with them.

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Gretchyn ()
———————————————————–
Gretchn nodded. “Rather than cram even more people in here, why don’t we step out back. Patch, would you ask Jaromir and Temar to join us out back?”

The halfling walked over to Willow, the teacher, and let her know they were stepping out. Patch took a right turn through a door just passed the two big tables and into what smelled like the kitchen. A moment later an older male human, Temar, exited, wiping his hands on a dirty apron and looked the visitors up and down as he followed Patch outside.

Once everyone was out back, Jaromir the garden came from where he had been working in the dirt. He turned out to be a young dwarf. He had a shaved bald head and a muscular build, accentuated by his sleeveless vest.

Gretchn explained to the two what the group was doing there and they both looked annoyed at being questioned yet again, but obliged.

“What can we tell you we ‘avent told the others?” The human cook, Temar, asked. Temar was portly, standing about midway between five and six feet. He had short, braided brown hair and deep black eyes.

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Kray
———————————————————–
Kray, having done his circuit of the building and found nothing, followed the gang as they moved outside.

  “Anything you noticed out of the ordinary the night before the abductions or the morning after.  The grounds here look well kept, of course, and someone moving 4 children out of the building might have left some sign.  Master Jaromir, did you notice anything amiss in the gardens and grounds the morning after?”

===========================================================
Jaromir ()
———————————————————–
Jaromir shook his head. “Nay. I didn’t notice anyt’ing. Ide know if any’one had gone through da gardens. I keep ’em cared for, so you can see.”

This message had punctuation tweaked by the GM at 16:13, Tue 18 Oct.

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Crow
———————————————————–
Crow replied to the dwarf.   “Yes, yes, well maintained for sure.  So they left, from a room full of children, behind lock doors, and left no mark outside.  Impressive.”

She turned to her companions. “Buto, you and Jinx should question these children.  Yes?  The one with dream also.”

Crow snapped her head back to the headmistress.  “Did the locksmith install the locks himself?”

===========================================================
Narrator GM
———————————————————–
Gretchyn scratched her chin and looked at Patch. “I think he did? I believe he also had a helper. I’m sorry but I honestly can’t remember.”

Patch scrunched his face trying to remember as well. “I know Keygan was indeed here. I cannot remember if there was a helper or not.”

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Jinx the Grey
———————————————————–
Jinx had been watching the interaction between Cruch and Patch.  The smaller half-orc clearly was perturbed by the suggestion that Keygan might have something to do with the abduction.

It stuck out to Jinx that he was so adamant as if trying to convince a jury of someone guilty that the person wasn’t guilty.

She looked at Cruch and motioned him over and whispered in his ear as she looked at Patch.  [Private to Cruch: “I can see you don’t believe him.  I don’t either.  Let’s get him alone and put pressure on him.”]

===========================================================
Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch nodded to Jinx as he looked at Patch.  When Jinx was done speaking to Cruch he moved back to Patch and said, “we would like to speak with you alone if it is okay Patch.”

===========================================================
Patch ()
———————————————————–
Patch nodded, looking at the bigger, well muscled and toned half-orcs in front of him. He moved off to the side of the back yard, away from the others several paces. “What can I do for you?”

===========================================================
Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch moved with Jinx and Patch out to the backyard.  It was time to push this Patch to see if he held to his thoughts or if he could get the truth to come out.

“Jinx, can you do your thing?”  Cruch commented and turned back to the man.  “If you don’t tell me the truth of all that you know about what has happened here I am not sure I can promise your mind won’t be able to do anything that even those children in there are able to do.”

Cruch is going to be almost standing directly over Patch and intimidating him.  (Rolled a 26 on the check)

Jinx is going to be using her evil eye (which you saved against but he doesn’t know that).  The evil look on her face should add to the intimidation that Cruch did.
Rolled a 15 on the aid check.

===========================================================
Narrator GM
———————————————————–
The half orcs could tell Patch was shaken up. He lowered his voice and moved in closer to them. “Listen. I absolutely promise you I would never do anything to hurt these kids and I don’t know anything about them being stolen. But maybe you could talk to Temar. Alone. The only thing different for months is that he’s seemed to have some extra coin of late. He hadn’t gotten a raise from here. And he’s not working anywhere else he’s told me about. But he got a brand new set of nice boots, and a new leather jacket and mentioned a couple other things that I wouldn’t think he could afford. Maybe it’s nothing. But that’s all I can think of. I swear. I would slit the throat of anyone who tried to hurt these kids. And if Temar had anything to do with it, I’ll slit his too.”

The orcs knew killers, and they could tell patch was not one of them. And he certainly seemed earnest in his affection for the children.

===========================================================
Temple
———————————————————–

Accompanying the others after his inspection of the rooms, Temple drifts quietly from place to place on eerily soundless feet (as is his wont), listening rather more than he speaks (likewise, as is his wont) until the interrogation starts to pick up its pace, freeing him to ask of Gretchyn “With your permission, I should like to see such paperwork or files as you have upon the missing children?”

===========================================================
Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch leaned in and listened to Patch give some information that perhaps should have been given from the start.  “Did you tell any of the other investigators or the city watch about this?”

Cruch turned to Jinx again and gave her an upward nod indicating for her to head back inside.  Cruch said one other thing to Patch before he too went inside, “If anything has happened to the children you can trust that I will rip out their throats personally!”  Cruch turned on his heel and found Temar standing off to the side as the others spoke.

Cruch moved over to Temar and asked to speak with him in private as he did with Patch.

===========================================================
Buto
———————————————————–
While the others began exploring the orphanage, Buto kept his focus on the children.  It wasn’t that Buto had a particular love for children, so to say, but rather than Buto has a particular love for animals, and, to his mind, children were not much different than little animals, without much will or ability to affect the world around them.

He found the one named Endell, who had suffered the nightmare.  With a quick thought in the direction of Yozhik, the hedgehog wriggled his way toward Endell, crawling into the boy’s lap.  Hmm, it seems like he likes you.  Or he senses something about you. He’s smart that way, you know.

Buto watches as the boy pets Yozhik’s soft fur for a minut before continuing, Can you tell me about your dream, little one?  Anything you might remember could help us in the search for your friends.

===========================================================
Asho Iduska
———————————————————–
Ash breathed a small sigh of relief as the group stepped outside into the garden.  Being back in an orphanage, even such a well-appointed one, made his skin crawl.  He thought he had left Asho Iduska, Asho the Orphan, behind, but being here brought back so many negative emotions that he felt overwhelmed.

Taking a deep breath as they stepped outside, Ash looked around the garden.  Searching for and finding clues of any sort was not really in the Ash’s wheelhouse, so he remained, surprisingly, quiet, while the others spoke with the staff.

===========================================================
Re: 369090 Crow
———————————————————–
“We will finish talking to the staff, then go visit locksmith.  Thank you for your help.  Where could I find this nurse?”

Crow waited for the answer, then gave a quick nod of thanks or acknowledgment, it was hard to tell.  She gave a slight gesture to Kray to have him follow her, then they went to seek out the nurse.

Once they found her, Kray took the lead on the questioning while Crow kept a close eye on her reactions, looking for any deception or unease.  She thinks she is much better at this than she is…

  Sense motive – 15 (13 if she isnt human)

Kray started with a little flattery before digging into the questions. “The children appear to be very healthy and well cared for.  I study in the healing arts myself, and it is clear that there is a well-practiced hand dealing with all the scrapes and bruises that children’s play inevitably generates.  They are in good hands. “  Kray bowed his head to her in acknowledgment of her skills.  The attempt at flattery was likely transparent from the inexperienced Tengu, but the ring of truth probably gave his words stronger weight.

  “Being a good healer is half being observant and asking good questions.  Have you noticed anything strange with any of the staff or children?  We won’t take anything as an accusation about the character of your coworkers, just a clue that could lead us to find these children.  Anything, no matter how small, could be helpful.”

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Re: 346341 Cruch
———————————————————–
Cruch pulled Temar out of earshot, he wasn’t manhandling him but had taken his arm roughly.  Once Cruch thought he was far enough he looked to Jinx once more with a nod.
Jinx looked at the man and wiggled her fingers as if casting a spell and mumbled some words.  Evil eye DC18 will save or -2 on saves.

Once completed Cruch looked back at the man, which he towered over easily, and said, “my sister has just placed a hex on you.  Patch had some interesting things to say about you, Temar.  Before I tell you what he said I am going to give you a chance to come clean.  Course if you choose not to, 1. I will know and 2. You will not like what happens next.”

Cruch got a 17 on intimidating this time.

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Temar Flagonstern ()
———————————————————–
Patch shook his head. “I honestly didn’t think of it until you asked.”

Temar’s eyes went wide as possible in his sockets. The middle aged man had extremely long, braided, and dyed black hair with green eyes. He was old enough that the cook should have had gray hair, thus the reason for the dye to keep it dark. He stood just under six feet, which meant he was still looking UP at the orcs, and rather a rather portly fellow. Temar was sporting a goat patch beard, also dyed black, which looked simply ridiculous on his chubby face.

“I… I… What…? Uh…” The man stumbled over himself in fear. He spoke in a whisper. “Listen. I had NOTHING to do with these kidnappings. I don’t know what Patch told you, but I just recently joined a group called The Last Laugh and they have been giving me some training. Please, please don’t tell anyone. I haven’t done anything wrong. A year ago another member Revus contacted me and paid me to ‘keep an eye’ on Terrum Kharatys. That’s it. When I asked him why they wanted me to keep an eye on him, Revus just told me it had something to do with his dead parents. I had NOTHING to do with the children being taken. I actually might get in TROUBLE for the fact Terrum was taken. I’m sorry. I swear. I’ve done nothing wrong.” He was practically pleading at the end.

[Private to GM: Temar is a 45 year old male human cook.
He has extremely long, braided, dyed black hair and green eyes.
He stands 182cm (5’11”) tall and has a round build.
He has an oval, sightly face with a long, braided goat patch beard.
He is mightily allergic to goblins.

He always keeps score.
He is materialistic.
He spends a lot of time studying other religions.
He always carries food in his pockets.

He is actually an Oni posing as a human.]

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Narrator GM
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The young boy Endell smiled and came over with Buto, playing with Yozhik. He repeated his nightmare, “I just saw an evil looking little gnome who had really crooked teeth and a torn up cloak. He was trying to snatch my breath away. That’s all I know. The next morning the other kids were gone.”

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Narrator GM
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Crow saw the nurse had joined them outside. Neva smiled at the flattery from Crow, but she merely shook her head at the questions. “I’m sorry… miss…? But trully there has been nothing out of the ordinary recently. All has been well. Just like I told the Watch and the elven investigators. Believe me, I would tell you anything to help.”

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Narrator GM
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The staff was more than happy to accomodate Temple and his request for paperwork. Unfortunately there wasn’t much on the children. There were records showing when the children were brought into the orphanage, and some quick notes about their behaviors. None of the children stood out as problematic or extraordinary.

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Cruch
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Once Temple was finished with his inspection of things, Cruch moved to talk with him.  “Jinx and I uncovered some interesting information from Patch and the Temar.  Patch had noticed that Temar over the past month or so seemed to have a little more coin and was purchasing things that perhaps he shouldn’t have been able to afford.  When I pressed Temar he revealed that he is recently joined a group called The Last Laugh and they had been giving him some training. Apparently, another member Revus contacted him a year ago and paid him to ‘keep’ an eye on Terrum Kharatys. It had something to do with the kids’ dead parents. He swears that is all and that he had nothing to do with taking the kids.  I have never heard of them personally but I figured you might have.”

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Buto
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Buto watched another moment as the boy pet Yozhik before holding out a hand for the diminutive Hedghog to crawl onto.  After Yozhik wriggled his way onto Buto’s shoulder, the enormous Suli stood and look around the room, his gaze eventually landing on some sewing materials on a small table.  Buto fished through the items for a moment before returning to Endell and delicately handing him a small pair of scissors.  Keep these under your pillow when you sleep little one.  Tell no one of them.  Should that gnome return one day to steal your breath, calmly retrieve your scissors, and Buto shows what he means with a quick swipe of his hand from right to left stab the scissors into the Gnome’s ear. Or, you could get a cat.  In my village they told a very similar story that we called the cat’s eye, about a cat who protects a small child from a breath-stealing gnome.  Buto could bring you a cat, if you like.

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Asho Iduska
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Ash joined Cruch and Temple as they spoke.  So, this place is kind of a bust, right?  Maybe we should get out of here.  There’s probably more to learn from the locksmith, anyway.  If we leave right now, we can probably be there before he closes for lunch.  I’d say, we should get moving, right, Cruch? Anyone with the slightest bit of perception could see that Ash was quite uncomfortable in the orphanage, and growing more with each flowing minute.  I think I’ll just step out front and wait for you there.   Without saying so much as a goodbye to any of their, if only for a very short time, hosts, Ash exited, closing the front door with a resounding thud.

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Temple
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By this point, Temple has taken over a table in the middle of one of the larger rooms and more or less covered it with the paperwork in question, which he’s gone through with the sort of fine toothcomb that one would expect of one of the more naturally talented forgers in Ptolus.

The ink seems to match, the paper is all of the same basic grade and the appropriate age, handwriting seems legitimate… And of course, the contents are as banal as he’d expected, without a single evident link from one child to the next.

“Mmmm. There’s certainly nothing in the papers. None of these children shared any particular traits that others did not. They weren’t together for any lessons that did not have others present, they arrived here at different times, slept in different places, weren’t funded from the same source. They are, as far as can be determined four completely unconnected individuals.” the sometime surgeon offers up as the fruit of his own endeavours – which is to say absolutely none whatsoever, although he does look thoughtful at the mention of the group ‘The Last Laugh’, “That name does sound familiar. A small, recently-formed gang with a thing for face-painting as I recall… Did he say what they were training him in?”

15:44, Today: Temple rolled 16 using 1d20+7.  Knowledge (Local).

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Temar Flagonstern ()
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Tamar was brought over and temple’s question was posed again. “They have been training me in some fighting techniques… And… Like… Security things. Personal protection sort of stuff.”

It was obvious to almost everyone the man was trying to avoid lying while also avoiding sharing everything.

A little intimidation he finally admitted they were a thieves guild. He defended himself that he had never robbed anyone who couldn’t afford to lose some coin and he had only some two little jobs so far.

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Temple
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“Affiliated with the Balcazzars or the Killravens?” Temple asks with an absolute disinterest in the fine details of thievery, the moral implications of it or indeed, anything else outside of the very specific task that they’re here to perform.

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Temar Flagonstern ()
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Tamar looked confused and shook his head. “What? No. Neither of them. It’s just a small group of people trying to help ourselves against people who legally steal from all of us. The rich. They live up on high and quite literally look down on us. They can afford to lose a bit.”

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Temple
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At that, Temple pauses and looks up from the paperwork he’s examining in order to give Tamar another, slightly longer look before remarking “You’re braver than you look.” and returning to his reading for a short while, letting the man stew for a bit, offering neither judgement nor comfort as he reassembles the files he was looking through for a couple of minutes, then looks up again before venturing a smile that he saw someone use to relax someone once.

It does not, surprisingly work for Temple even a little bit “You are also our only lead. This ‘Revus’ of yours is our only lead on young Mr Kharatys. That means that in order for us to find him, it is necessary for us to go through you. Tell me, Tamar. Are you going to help us with this?”

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Temar Flagonstern ()
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“Help you with what? I’ve told you everything I know.”

In regard to Revus he looked very nervous. “I don’t know how to find him or contact him. Someone would leave a note for me at home about where to meet for training. I don’t know where any of them live or how to find them. What do you want from me?”

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Kray
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Having thanked the nurse for her time, the siblings turned back to the group in time to see Ash leave the building and to catch the end of interrogation of the cook.  Kray jerked his head at door, indicating he was going to check on his friend.  He knew Crow would want to find out more about this theater-mask wearing crew.

Kray found his scaly friend, who the little Tengu looks at as an adoptive brother, looking agitated and out of sorts.

“What’s the scent, mate?  You caught a whiff of somethin that troubles ya?”

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Crow
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Crow nodded to her brother, her little nestling but she never said that around others, and stalked in to join the conversation with the pink-skin.  She caught enough after talking to the nurse to direct a pointd glare and threat to the soft piggie.

She spoke softly, for just their ears. “The rest of the staff, they would be unhappy to hear of this connection.  Yes? You taking shine to sniff around a child, then they vanish. Bad look.  The watch too.  And the temple.  They would not believe you blameless.  Yes?  Best if you give up everything now.  Your safety is tied to the children returning.  If we fail to find them….” .  The tall, ebony Strix looked carved from a nightmare as she leaned into him.

She took a risk, gave away a little info, but she thought this ham needed a little more heat.  “Your new friends, we stopped them from killing Ruphus.  He was asking questions about the missing children and they tried to silence him.  Bad look for you.  Yes?  Best you come completely clean and help us find them.  I saw a mob on the way here burn a man in his house.  They might cook you in your own oven.  Yes?”

  Intimidate – 20

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Narrator GM
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The cook looked absolutely terrified. He was shaking his head and both of his hands. “I have told you everything! I swear! All I know is they ask me to watch over the kid. Why on Earth would they pay me to do that only to then kidnap him? They never said anything about kidnapping him to me! I didn’t let anybody in! I had nothing to do with the children being stolen! And how do you even know that a member of our group is who messed with the priest? It doesn’t make any sense. Think about it! They asked me a year ago to keep an eye on him. They could have taken him at any point if that’s what they wanted. But clearly it wasn’t! It sure sounds to me like somebody else is doing something and trying to make it look like the last laugh is responsible.” the man was as out of breath as if he had just finished wind sprinting a mile.

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Temple
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Temple offers a small nod to Crow as she steps in to take over the interrogation – because absent actual coordination in something like this, the worst thing you can try and do is double or triple-team a question-and-answer session – closing up the folders on the table before him and rising to go and hand them back to the nurse, explaining quietly “I’m sorry, I didn’t find anything illustrative in these. There really don’t seem to be any remarkable features about any of the missing children, academically, financially or in their origins.” when he does so.

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Asho Iduska
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Ash had been absentmindedly pacing in front of outer gate to the orphanage when he heard Kray’s question.  Those priests and nurses can say that this place is different than Pent-In, but I don’t buy it.  An orphanage is an orphanage is an orphanage, and I don’t want nothin’ to do with ‘em.  We got out of Pent-In, and I don’t ever want to go back.  And this place may look different, but it smells the same, it has the same heartbeat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in on finding these kids.  If anyone needs a hero, its an orphan. But I can’t be in that place any more.   Ash felt a little better now that he was outside, and was relieved to release a bit of his stress to his brother.  I hope they’re about finished in there.  I could use to put a little something in my stomach before we head over to this locksmith. 

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Crow
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“These friends then, they will also want to know where the children went.  Yes?  They will be looking too.  They would not have you watch for a year just to have them, vanish.  We will speak with them. I am sure they would want to help find him.  Yes?

The big, winged, demon-like archer patted the man on his shoulder and smiled.  It wasn’t a very nice smile.   “You will set it up while we visit this lock maker.  We will return to get the details of the meeting from you.  Yes?”

She did not give him a chance to reply, but instead turned to the headmistress and thank her for answering their questions.  “Thank you for your answers.  We will speak with the locksmith now.    We will return once he has told us all he knows.  I would suggest setting a night watch.  They could come back for more.  Yes?”

With that, she gathered the rest of the crew with a few looks and left to find Kray and Ash before heading to the locksmith’s.

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