Back to Chapter 5 : The Quaan and Beyond : Part 6

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Narrator
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Cesio’s Grimoire drew Deacon in more than any other. He was right in thinking the book ancient. As his delicate fingers handled the cover, he realized the wrapping was not leather, but a rough skin, hard but supple. Realization struck him as he reached the Ni-Gorth passage and hidden, magical text began to float off the page at him. Dragon skin, scales removed. How much heavier the book felt in his hands as the weight of that reality set in, while magic floated before his eyes. Something was guiding him again…

A coldness swept over him. At first he thought it the poison’s effects, but when he fought against the white void which appeared before him, shapes began to form in the colorless eather cloud. Whatever Deacon focused on, took shape out of the nothingness until he was standing inside the great library. He could hear a woman speaking! Her voice was beyond compare in beauty, tinkling wind chimes and birds chirping in harmony.

“You’re close.” Deacon whirled, feeling breath on his ear as the woman whispered over his very shouler, only to find more void, until he focused once more and books floated into view.

Laying across a table was a tuning fork he had seen before, but vanished when he reached to touch it. Books kept floating toward him, then they began flying his way! Deacon ducked and dodged as the books sped up, like arrows loosed from taught strings they streaked by him. None struck the wizard, then they began to morph into faces. Face after face, person after person streaked by him. He caught mere glimpses but the elf knew each child was from the far distant past, and as they were streaking by, he could tell they came from nearer and nearer the present time based on their clothing. He noticed on every child a mark, on their face, arm, hand, bare back, somewhere, a rune marred their otherwise youthfully perfect skin.

The parade slowed and he realized that each of the children aged as they passed, then lay down in death as they passed behind him. Centuries of lives must have streaked past him, hundreds of lives. One young woman, the last of the line, did not. Instead she flew toward him and slowed, floating by him slowly on an unseen wind. She aged only slightly, to that of a young woman, yet did not die as the others had. A wind Deacon did not feel blew up her short, dark hair, to reveal a large birthmark across the back of her neck. She looked lost, and affraid. Then she faded from his view.

[Private to Deacon Havenhold: PM sent with a picture. Don’t share this with anyone else.]

As she faded, the void returned. From the white appared another device he had seen once before with the Archons, an orrery. A center globe was orbited by seven jewels. Each spun on wires depicting the jewels ascending and descending in archs around the central sphere.

Again a woman’s voice tickled his ear, So close…

An impossibly beautiful man floated and walked toward Deacon. In one hand he wielded a golden sword which resembled a dragon in flight, and from it’s mouth proceeded a golden blade that glowed like fire. In his other, a black chain glowing with power drug behind him. His spectre walked straight through Deacon. The elf whirled about to see the man watching him over his shoulder, then disappeared into the gem nearest the center orb.

Night approaches…

Again Deacon whirled to catch the speaker. No one was near, but a woman stood with several others about her. All wore black scaled cloaks, and all were focused on the lady speaking. He could not hear what was said, but they looked captivated by her every word and gesture. All of them avoided looking off to the side where an impossibly bright light emenated from a pearl. Some would steal a glance, only to squint their eyes and cast their gaze away. The lady looked over occassionally, but seemed unfazed.

As they talked, the light dimmned and all assembled look afraid. One by one the shapes of the listeners evaporated into black fog until only one man, and the lady, remained with Deacon watching. Blackness replaced light. Twinkles of silver streaked down the woman’s face as she regarded the shining light, now turned black hole of evil. Into her hand her tears fell until they coalesced into a mirror. With closed eyes she cast the mirror down, into the swirling blackness at her feet where it fell forever, out of his sight.

Then she met Deacon’s gaze and all breath left his body. The darkness could not touch her as she spoke to him. It assailed her like an angry cloud of smoke with purpose, slamming against an invisible shield.

This is the last. They come. Chains will bind them, but you must set them free.

Smoke amalgamated into tentacles of black. As they could not touch the woman, they roared toward Deacon. In fear he began spell casting, hearing his own words, but the woman waved her hand and he felt himself fly away, falling, falling.

He jerked his head up, long hair tossed around him as Deacon toppled his chair over backward where it clattered against the library floor. A unseen servant picked it up moments later while the elf, lathered in sweat gasped for breath. Never had he felt such power, both good and evil, in his life.

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Julia Graymantle
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Julia was deep in thought about the subject of keeping them safe. Becoming a part of an organization certainly was a coarse they could all take and it seemed that was the case for Deacon already since he had joined the Inverted Pyramid. Julia then wondered if Vogh and Talin were going to join the Knights of the Chord. Certainly both Bards had probably earned the right to join Julia thought to herself.

Julia could join the church easy enough, but where would that leave Bharash? Maybe together they could join one of the other organizations, perhaps the Knights of the Pale or Golden Cross, or even the Order of Iron Might? I think you are right, it seems the others are well on their way to doing such for themselves or already have in the case of Deacon. There are a few choices here in Ptolus that we could join together. The Knights of the Pale who you have seen for yourself and one in which fight against supernatural threats. Or the Knights of the Golden Cross who keep a lower profile but oppose all evil. The Order of Iron Might is a more fighter’s type guild, which I am not, but being a healer of any type would be welcome within any organization. The last of course could be that we join in with the church. Julia said with a smile.

After a moment of thought while Bharash was thinking about what she said, Julia added, Oh, and The Knights of the Golden Cross are enemies of House Vladaam if I remember correctly.

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Narrator
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Vogh and Talin, after dealing with Telleth and making sure she was settled and safe, let the others know they were heading out for their meeting with Hallusiun Everfar at Jodan Templehall, headquarters for the Knights of the Chord.

The day was cloudy and windy, with temperatures much cooler than they had been recently. Both the bards pulled their cloaks tight about themselves to stop the chilly bite in the air reaching their skin. No one milled about in the Square, instead hustling to and from their destinations.

A few mason workers were repairing a damaged building on Center Street. Crumbled and broken stone left part of the wall bare on the front of the shop, and around its corner into the alley. Talin touched Vogh’s arm, stopping her. He pointed to the ground beneath where the workers stood. She had missed the dark splotches of red before, but the sign of blood spilled and washed away was unmistakable. Then it was Vogh’s turn to point something out to Talin, scorch marks and blast damage from spells on either side of the alley. A battle had occurred here, but between whom was anyone’s guess.

Talin insisted they walk no further, so he waved down an enclosed carriage whose wheels were growling down the cobble stone street. Inside he gave the driver their destination, paid him a silver, then drew all the curtains closed. “What is happening to this city?” He sighed as they clattered along.

It took the duo nearly an hour to reach Tower Road where the Knights’ temple lay. Talin tipped the driver and opened the door, stepping out then holding the door for Vogh. Outside the attractive building, a small band of minstrels played without words. All nodded in recognition to the duo as both entered the unlocked door. Inside nothing had changed to Vogh’s eyes. The sitting room where she had first met Nivae was empty, and only a few tables were occupied. A dwarf, a human and an elf all sat at one table. Then a human and a halfling sat at another. The later two looked up and smiled at the newcomers, while the trio ignored them.

Vogh needn’t ask where Hallusiun’s office was this time, so she knocked on the closed door. The elf’s voice rang out and both entered.

“Vogh! Talin! Welcome! Welcome! Come in! It’s a pleasure to see you this morning! Did you all burn the candle at both ends last night, or did you turn in early?” He asked with a wide smile, shaking each of their hands from across his desk and gesturing for them to take seats.

[Private to GM: Ardifr: Male Dwarf Fighter, Neutral. Ardifr is rough in appearance, with blonde hair and soft blue eyes. He wears chain mail and wields a halberd. Ardifr is searching for his lost sister.

Cily Lowe: Female Human Ranger, Evil. Cily has long golden hair and hazel eyes, and a flat nose. She wears scale mail and wields a battle axe and heavy crossbow. Cily is quarreling with the town guard, who seem to be searching for someone.

Arwel: Female Elf Assassin, Evil. Arwel is short, with silver hair and bright green eyes. She wears leather armor and wields a poisoned short sword and dagger. Arwel is a practiced gambler.

Holmgi Rolfison: Male Human Paladin, Good. Holmgi has a narrow face, with matted silver hair and large brown eyes. He wears splint mail and wields a military fork. Holmgi is hunting the vampire who murdered his family.

Mella: Female Halfling Assassin, Neutral. Mella is tall and willowy, with braided blonde hair and bright hazel eyes. She wears leather armor and wields a poisoned dagger. Mella seeks to atone for past sins.]

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Bharash
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The thought of Bharash as some sort of Paladinic Exemplar of Lothian would run fairly headlong into his expressed conviction that ‘So he thought he was perfect did he? That’s probably why they nailed him to a tree, to teach him not to be so bloody cocky’ while anyone who has ever heard him sing – or at least do something which looks like singing to anyone who can’t actually hear him – is fully aware that he has a tendency to point himself at the end of a verse and dare the notes to get out of his way.

So probably not Knight of the Chord material either then.

He’d probably do pretty well in the Order of Iron Might, but it’s not exactly a tight-knit organisation which provides good protection from roving assassins, which basically leaves the Knights of the Golden Cross, who are fervent, dedicated and membership brings with it a wide and exalted variety of traditional enemies at no extra cost.

Things to think about, in any case as he cheerfully answers “Of course I’m right, I’m the sensible one. I don’t have all that magic taking up space in my head, keeping me from thinking my way through a problem without trying to cast a spell at it.” in tones as much teasing as censorious, only to address the final list of options directly with a small wince, “It rather defeats the object of joining a group so as to limit our vulnerability if we all hare off and join different ones, doesn’t it? I think we just had an eloquent demonstration this evening of how well that went for all of you and as good as I am with a couple of swords, I’m not brash enough to think I can just shrug off a couple of spellcasters who know what they’re doing.”

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia just looked at Bharash as he tossed out everything she suggested. “Well, I tried to suggest something for the both of us. Well, were not getting into the inverted pyramid any time soon. So, unless you have a better idea?” The frustration was evident on Julia’s face as Bharash didn’t offer a solution to his rejections of her suggestions.

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Re: Vogh
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The weather had turned for the worse as the clouds and wind began to pick up as Talin and Vogh made their way to see Hallusiun. Vogh had responded to Talin’s comment about the city with only a shrug, it did seem like more things were happening than before but perhaps it was just the unknown is what was making people act differently, Vogh didnt know for sure.

Deciding to use a carriage please Vogh and as they got in she snuggled up to him to be close. As she sat there holding his hand she broke the silence, Talin, I think we should both join the Knight of the Chord. It has always been a dream of mine and it certainly wouldn’t hurt your career any to be a member as well. Talin nodded his head as he responded, I guess we will have to see if they want me as a member, first.

Arriving once again at the Jodan Templehall, headquarters for the Knights of the Chord looked at the building differently for the first time. Walking in she knew where to meet Hallusiun and so they walked to his office and knocked. As expected Hallusiun base they enter and then had them sit. Good evening Hallusiun. We did burn the candle a bit long though not as long as some of the others though.

Vogh took a breath then and continues, This morning we met with High Priest Helmut and discussed some issues we were having. It was a productive breakfast but after he left myself and my companions were poisoned. We passed completely out but thanks to Talin’s natural resistance he managed to come out of it quickly and with the help of Bharash we were brought back. That is when I spotted the one responsible for it and though we couldn’t catch him we did follow him for some time. Returning with the news about the assassin an Urthon Aedar showed up and killed Telleth or at least who we thought was Telleth for it was a doppelganger posing as her. With the creature killed we couldn’t ask any questions ourselves. We found Telleth alive in the cellar and after taking care of her she told us what happened. So, it has been a long day already. But, I am very excited about this meeting!

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Re: Deacon Havenhold
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After resting for 2 hours Deacon rose again. He felt refreshed thinks to the power of his ring and he immediately renewed his spells he’d cast the previous day. It was far to early in the day to go far though, but he figured the Main Library was game.

He was still thinking about the vision he’d had the day before, he certainly needed to talk to the bards about it but there was also a pressing need to find the spells necessary to catch the assassin.

He had only found a few of the spells he had hoped to add for his investigation as well as protection. The library was so large the task might be well beyond a simple time frame. He knew there was a meeting scheduled in a week so he might be able to spend the intervening time on his spellbooks as well as further research on these new topics and visions he’d seen.

He had his meeting with Dora at lunchtime, and there was many hours until then enough time for him to peruse at least 4 spellbooks he believed. Less spellbooks if he spent more time on research. Which was more important. That was the question. He decided the first thing to do was to see if he took the one book again if the vision would return, or was it just a one time thing?

So upon arriving at the Library he went back to the shelf and retrieved The Grimoire of Cesio again. Again he turned it back to the pages wherein the vision had visited him and waited to see if they came again.

He read the passage again and no vision this time. Truly someone had interfened causing him to have glimpsed the vision. It was most likely the patron who had long helped him. Was that patron Ni-Gorth he wondered again. It was a passage clearly dedicated to him.

A puzzle that would have to be solved another time he figured as he rose and replaced the book on the shelf again. He then glanced over the titles again to pick out another volume to peruse this morning.

Alin’s Grimoire of Good caught his eye, but Deacon knew he was not good, he wasn’t evil either but like Ni-Gorth he had eschewed the extreme alignments. He like Ni-Gorth was more a force for balance, and the rise of chaos and evil threatened that balance at this time. Thus he would oppose it. He decided it best not to look at that volume, he’d heard of things attuned to certain alignments that would be devastating to those of other alignments, so best not to tempt fate he thought.

The Grimoire of Psychoportation most likely dealt in moving quickly he thought, he already knew Dimension Door and Teleport, he thus decided to pass on the volume for now, perhaps later when he had more time. The Codex of Shadows probably dealt in illusion magic, an area he needed to bolster but most likely would not have the spells he needed. Though as he nearly dismissed it he thought a darkness spell would be useful and perhaps there was one in the volume so he pulled the Codex of Shadows from the shelf and took to his desk again.

This volume’s cover was black leather, and the pages were also black with silver writing this time. Each page had a border of alternating crows and wolves. Very nice book if it wasn’t for the scratches on the cover.

Once more he cast Read Magic to speed the process.

1st-Shadow Trap, Shadow Weapon
2nd-Dark Whispers, Shadow Anchor, Umbral Weapons
3rd-Shadow Enchantment
4th-Shadowform, Shadow Barbs, Shadow Conjuration, Shadow Invasion, Shadow Step
5th-Shadow Evocation, Major Phantom Object
6th-Greater Shadow Enchantment, Shadow Transmutation, Shadow Walk
7th-Greater Shadow Conjuration, Simulacrum
8th-Greater Shadow Evocation,
9th-Shades, Greater Shadow Transmutation

An authoritative book on Shadow magic if he’d ever seen one, a lot of useful spells there but not the spells he was looking to obtain for the investigation.

OOC: This is before his meeting with Dora and will be a few more posts 🙂

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Bharash
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To be fair, Bharash only dismissed them all out of hand rather than tossing out any individual one or group thereof, but his point remains and he grimaces ruefully as he admits “I’m not sure that there is one. If the mages and musicians are going to hang us out to dry, then we’ll need to work something out though. Unfortunately, whatever it is we’d have best worked out together, and they already abandoned us for the night.”

Still, a moment later he more or less cheers up as he points out “Bright side though, you’ve got your church. They’d likely look out for you pretty well, while you’re there at least.”

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Re: Deacon Havenhold
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Not finding what he needed in the Tome of Shadows he replaced into unto its place and not seeing anything else on this shelf of interest at the moment moved on to the next shelf down.

The Gratur Slates
The Luminous Enchiridion of Arund
Thrinan’s Leaves
The Demonic Tablets of Euros
The Abyssal Scripture of Vola
Khatelch’s Scripture of Myths and Legends
The Compendium of Ghosts and Wraiths
The Baatorian Scrolls of Maruoe
The Libram of Evil
The Eternal Grimoire of Estos
Tesusos’ Scrolls of Psycrystals
The Libram of the Planes
Amedes’ Leaves
The Empyrean Tome of Inocles
Cune’s Enchiridion of the Lower Planes
Librio’s Manuscripts
Sene’s Enchiridion of Ancient Lore
The Damned Articles of Urul
The Heavenly Tome of Furi
The Book of Goblins
Cuna’s Articles of Ghosts and Wraiths
The Elysian Compendium of Drixom
The Grimoire of the Arcane
The Celestial Libram of Coimhla
The Fiendish Esoterica of Asidas
Nainan’s Enchiridion of Psychic Manifestation
Deaghe’s Scrolls of Darkness
The Elysian Enchiridion of Ristesib
Duli’s Articles of Metacreativity
Bori’s Libram of Mythology
The Tosippae Tablets
The Freri Fragments
Duri’s Parchments
The Vile Scrolls of Gedu
The Demonic Leaves of Heusyasid
The Fiendish Shards of Bifur
Philema’s Folio of Cataclysm
Foire’s Articles of Blasphemy
The Gamah Apocrypha
The Abyssal Scripture of Torasandr

He took from this shelf The Grimoire of the Arcane hoping for greater success than he had so far in finding spells he desired for the current situation. As he strode back to the desk he gazed all about all the books. Surely every spell was here someplace and somewhere.

The cover being in good condition was made from Lamia flank leather. The pages of the grimoire were elven paper made from fallen branches and naturally deceased trees. They had been stained through the ages. The ink was a blend of rose petals and witch hazel. On the inside of the back cover was a list of bodily parts from extra-planar creatures that the author believed could be used to power various magical items.

Angel Feathers — Feather Tokens
Cloaker Wings — Cloak of Displacement
Hezrou Claw — Dagger of Venom
Nalfeshnee Claw — Magical Dagger
Ice Devil Claw — Frost Dagger
Spine Devil Spines — Flaming Darts
Barbed Devil Claw — Flaming Dagger
Horned Devil Wings — Shield that provides Fire Resistance
Rakshasha Hands — Crystal Ball Stand
Succubus Wings — Hat of Disguise
Umber Hulk Carapace– Magical Plate
Arcanaloth Hide — Glamoured Leather Armor
Mycaloth Horn — Magical Short Sword
Mezzoloth Pincer — Magical Sickle
Heart of the Yugoloth — Amulet of Magic Resistance

It was only a list though and did not have detailed instructions on how one might incorporate such organs into the desired magical item.

He cast Read Magic on the Book to reveal the following spells

0 Level (20) – Resistance, Acid Splash, Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Read Magic, Daze, Dancing Lights, Flare, Light, Ray of Frost, Ghost Sound, Bleed, Disrupt Undead, Touch of Fatigue, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Open/Close, Arcane Mark, Prestidigitation
1 Level (15) – Jump, Feather Fall, Magic Weapon, Protection from Chaos, Summon Monster I, Silent Image, Color Spray, Ray of Enfeeblement, Sleep, Comprehend Languages, Enlarge Person, Cause Fear, Protection from Evil, Hypnotism, Animate Rope
2 Level (10) – Protection from Arrows, Gust of Wind, Phantom Trap, Fox’s Cunning, Continual Flame, Cat’s Grace, Command Undead , Hideous Laughter, Eagle’s Splendor, Scorching Ray

Obviously this was a Volume 1 in a set, but who knew where the rest of the volumes were as the library did not seem to be organized in any reasonable way, perhaps it was the volume of the library and books were just added as acquired. This made it impossible to group by topic, author or other considerations as there were just far to many books for any one person to organize. Thus this haphazard system had been developed. It was going to be a long haul.

It was still just now about breakfast time for folks eating it, so he had time for another couple volumes before his meeting.

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Re: Hallusiun Everfar
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The wise elf leaned back in his chair with fingers steepled while Vogh told her tale. When she finished he let out a long breath while running one hand through his long, loose hair.

“You two really have a knack for getting in trouble, don’t you? By the Spire. An Urthon Aedar? You saw one? Marvelous… Tales of their seemingly random actions leading to positive outcomes are legendary. So Telleth of the Minstrel was mimicked by a doppelganger, and was killed? She is very fortunate to be alive. The creatures seldom suffer those they replicate to keep drawing breath.”

Hallusian shook his head with a smile. “It sure seems you all are in the middle of something. Something big possible.” He narrowed his eyes, baiting them for more, but both bards were too skilled at keeping straight faces to give up anything so easily.

Raising his hands in mock surrender he continued with a wide smile, “Ok. Ok. Keep your secrets. So, you’re both still interested in joining the Knights then are you?”

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Re: Vogh
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Both Vogh and Talin were tight-lipped about the question Hallusiun had asked about what other things they were involved in. Though the banewarrens were completely sealed they still couldn’t bring up anything about it to others.

When Hallusiun asked if they were still interested, Vogh broke her non-emotional face and gave a huge smile, Yes, you are correct. Talin and I have talked about it and with all that has happened and all the things that are going on in the city, we wanted to continue making a difference, but have the backing of a strong organization as well. I believe our skills will benefit the Knights of the Chord as well. One of our companions has joined the Inverted Pyramid recently as well.

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Re: Hallusiun Everfar
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Hallusiun nodded, fingers steepled again as he leaned back in his chair and listened. “Understandable. And I’m not surprised the Pyramid wanted to snatch Deacon up.” The elf leaned forward, hands still intertwined, but he lay both on his desk as he sat on the edge of his chair.

“Just so you understand, the Knights are a two way street. We will of course be honored to have you in our number, and do all we can to support you and protect you; but, you will swear an oath to this organization which carries the mandate of your support as well.”

Pausing for effect, Hallusiun watched their faces for reactions. “We will come to your aid, but so must you come to ours. I don’t want you to make this decision lightly. You’ve made powerful friends, ingratiated yourselves to impressive individuals, and you seem caught up in the middle of monumental happenings. The Knights don’t ask a great deal of the membership, but when we do ask, we expect the call to be answered.”

Again the stately and wise elf paused, judging how each of the bards took the statements. “This might be the least popular part, but shouldn’t bothere you much, we also ask Knights to contribute from their personal wealth to further the organization and assist others. There is no set amount. Each Knight pays as their endeavors bear fruit, or from residual earnings, as they see fit.”

Everyone asked where the money went so he quickly explained that the Knight’s coffers were not deep, as they spent a great deal on aiding the less fortunate throughout the city. They bought instruments, weapons and armor for promising individuals. Food and clothing were often provided for those in need, where possible, as there was always more need than means. Finally, part of the money did go to keep up with the Templehall’s maintenance and supplies. Knights were welcome to live on the premises as well, and those often paid a small amount in room and board in addition to their dues.

“So… copper for your thoughts?” He asked with a smile, then leaned back in his leather chair once more.

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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In reply to Bharash (msg # 567):

You are right, I do have the church and if you are just looking for a place to stay the night I am sure we both could stay at St. Gustav’s. But, if you are indeed wanting to join an organization we should go speak with the Knights of the Golden Cross as I believe that would be the best idea for the both of us. We can even ask if the others could join. Julia says finally after having thought about what Bharash had said.

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Re: Vogh
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All what Hallusiun had said seemed on par for what she expected to hear from the leader of the Knoghts of the Chord. Vogh looked to Talin to gauge his reaction to swearing an oath. Vogh was already sold on the idea but she didn’t know what he thought about it. I have wanted to join the Knights of the Chord since I was young so my answer is a resounding, YES! Supporting the organization is also something that I have no problem with. I know the Knights help in many ways across the city and that is what I am about as well.

Vogh thought about being called for and she knew that it may happen but his acknowledgement that the Knights would also try and help with any protection needed. Even if Talin doesn’t join I will be joining. As you stated we have been entrenched in some major issues within the city and over the past tenday we have had two assassination attempts on our lives. One from the Sorn assassins and the last of unknown, though it all stems from what we believe is House Vladaam. We believe they have sent assassins to kill us though we have no proof as of yet.

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Re: Talin
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Talin had listened to all what was said by Vogh before they arrived and all what Hallusiun was saying. Talin had never been part of a group, heck The Calling was his first adventure group and while they were all nice and friendly it wasn’t something Talin was used to. He decided to ask, I do have a question. If I join and then decide later that it isn’t for me are there any consequences for wanting to leave?

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Re: Hallusiun Everfar
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Hallusian smiled at Vogh“Excellent! We will find you the best Knight for training.” His face rapidly dropped into a frown as Vogh explained their recent troubles.

“I’ve heard of the Sorn. Strange group, and it seems their alliances are with less than savory people… Are you still staying at the Minstrel? Perhaps you should keep residence here, to be safer. We have guards and some magical protections on the hall.”

The elf pursed his thin lips with eyebrows raised at Talin’s question. Then he narrowed his eyes in anger and lowered his voice, “The only way out is 6 feet under…”

Then he laughed loudly and shook his head and hands in jest. “Forgive my humor. Yes Talin, you may depart if that’s your wish. Few knights ever have. Very few. I actually cannot think of any who left. Retired, yes, but not broke with the order. Our membership is based on ‘Affaire du cœur’ or affair of the heart, meaning people identify with our cause and seek to help us further righteousness and goodness.”

With everything digested from the heavy words, a few more house keeping items needed to be addressed. There was a contract to sign, a small oath to take, and then finding an experienced Knight to train with.

“Do you have a relationship with any Knight of the Chord you would prefer to work with?”

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Bharash
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“It’s not so much that I want to join up with anyone, but that we need somewhere to eat and sleep where we can reasonably certain that assassins won’t kill us out of hand.” Bharash explains, before wryly adding “Although we might still get arrested if the cleaning staff stumble into one of those stupid traps.” then going on with a grin, “Look, it’s a big decision and there’s not much we can do about it until the others show up again, so how about we relax and worry about it in the morning? It’s bad form to set up multiple assassination attempts on the same day.”

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Re: Talin
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When told that it was no problem if he would decide to leave the Knights, Talin smiled once more. He liked being able to have a choice, but he too knew that the Knight was aligned with his desires to help the downtrodden in the city. As Hallusiun got all the paperwork ready Talin was prepared to sign up and serve the Knights. When asked about if he knew someone Talin didn’t really know anyone so he looked to Vogh and asked, Do you have anyone in mind that would be good to train me?

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Re: Vogh
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Vogh was eager to sign up and when asked who she would like to train her, Vogh smiled and said, I would like to have Nivae train me if that is possible? As for you Talin, I think that Giacamo Merrywind might be a suitable trainer for you. He kind of specializes in your types of music.. dirges and laments. What do you think Hallusiun? Is he available?

Oh, one other thing Hallusiun. You said we can stay here at the temple, is that only reserved for members? We have two companions that aren’t affiliated with any organization really and we don’t want to leave them exposed to further assassination attempts. Vogh asked of Hallusiun.

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia relaxed physically when Bharash said to. Okay, I think I need to say some prayers. Protecting ourselves from all sorts of attacks for the whole day is not possible. Our greatest advantage is to keep on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. I know you are against staying at Vogh’s house that will be built shortly, but we could stay in the lair. Degar and Theriad have both done a wonderful job of getting the place set up for living since they have been down there for a few months now.

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Bharash
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“That’s why I like the idea of having a faction behind us. We’d be vulnerable when we left, but that would narrow the window and let us concentrate on our defence.” Bharash answers before pulling a face at mention of Voghs project, at least as it stands in the current set of circumstances “I just don’t see it as lasting five minutes while people are trying to kill us. Well… Unless…”

Here, Bharash looks thoughtful for a few minutes, before snorting and remarking with rather improved good humour “Well, unless we found the money for a house in the posh quarter. So over would dare play at arson in that district, they’ve all got too many enemies to open that door. The lair sounds good though. They finally got a decent kitchen in yet?”

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia laughed at Bharash’s voracious hunger. He always seemed to want to eat something and him thinking about the kitchen now had her laugh slightly. Yes, I believe Degar had worked diligently to get the kitchen up and running. You know a dwarf has to eat… oh and drink as well. Julia laughed again. So, we have it settled then. Now let us just enjoy our time till they come back. Is there anything you would like to do besides drink? I am sure we have the rest of the day to waste before the others come back. I certainly hope that Deacon is having some luck with the Inverted Pyramid.

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Bharash
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Bharash appreciates food… But it’s true that he has the appetite that one would expect from upwards of three hundred pounds of muscular draconic warrior, even if he usually keeps busy enough to burn it off. He does however manage to pull an expression of mock offence as she asks if his plan for the day is basically to keep drinking, one he holds through the reply of “I’m not an alcoholic Julia. I’m an alcohol aficionado.”

Believable or not, he holds that pose for a moment and then relaxes again while musing “I’ve got about two hours of sword drills to put in, but I can do those later. And I need another couple of hours for something else but for now… Why don’t we go and Do A Thing? See a museum or explore a park, hit up Tavohs for some of their fancy pastries, see if anything good is showing in Midtown or try that insane flying leather bag thing?”

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Re: Hallusiun Everfar
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Hallusiun pursed his lips in thought when Vogh asked about her companions staying there. “No one has ever asked that of us before.” When he requested more explanation and Vogh told the elf how they were building their own shop which would double as their home he nodded in understanding. “Ah. I understand. So they would only need to stay here temporarily? Would you be staying here as well?”

Vogh further explained that it wasn’t a guarantee Bharash and Julia would stay there, but that she was merely asking as an option due to the recent events.

“Well, for two members, and for such grand heroes in our city, I think we can make it work. After all, we have the room since only a few members live here in the hall.”

With that settled, the conversation moved on to inducting them into the Knights.

“I would like to hold a ceremony for your induction. I received an invite to a party at the Kath manor coming up here very soon. What do you think about taking your vows there and having us formally introducing you at that time?”

Both bards were very enthusiastic about the idea. With House Kath’s ties to the Knights, it made even more sense and the family would be honored to host such an event, Vogh knew. Plus, the Kath’s and the Knights of the Chord were nothing if not showmen, and women, who like a little pomp and flair.

Hallusiun stood and shook both their hands. “It will be my honor to add you to our organization.” The stately elf walked around from behind his desk and led them out of his office into the templehall. Everyone still milled about that was there when the duo entered, no one seemed to be in a great deal of hurry. Vogh and Talin noticed music flittering at the edge of their hearing. Someone seemed to be practicing in one of the many rooms of the large estate.

“Stay safe my friends. I will make all the preparations and see you at the party. May Jode protect you.” Hallusiun bowed low to them as they departed.

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Re: Vogh
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With the evening complete it was time to head back to the Minstrel and see the others. Vogh and Talin had procured a place to stay if they would like at least until their house was built.

Vogh and Talin waved down another carriage and headed to the Minstrel. The weather had improved slightly but the sky was still quite dark and looked as if it would drop a torrential downpour any time. As they pulled up to the Minstrel finally it had begun to sprinkle so together they paid and ran inside quickly.

The crowd was much larger than when they left and a group of halflings were on the stage singing some joyful song that neither bard knew. Vogh quickly scanned the room to see if any of her companions were still there.

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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By the time Vogh and Talin returned Julia had already gone back to her room. It was late and the days events had been taxing. She wondered why Deacon was still gone though as she didn’t expect. Last she saw Bharash he was down in the main room of the Minstrel listening to the halfling band and having a drink after their dinner.

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Re: Vogh
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Date/Time: 20th of Growth Morning

Vogh and Talin didn’t see any of her companions so decided it was time to head to bed. It had certainly been a long day. They could talk to the others in the morning.

Vogh would send word for Belie to see if he had found out any information yet as well.

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Belie
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Belie sent back a quick note saying he was still working on tracking down any of the runebearers, that “these things take time.”

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Belie
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A second written missive arrived for Bharash. It seemed Belie and Vogh had similar thoughts as to training with the big warrior. “Sir, I’ve no other sparring partner at the moment and wondered if you wanted to meet up for a little martial training to keep us sharp? – Belie”

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Bharash
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Date/Time: Afternoon of 20th of Growth

Bharash mostly dealt with the disappointment of not having company for his entertainment tour of Ptolus by… well, undertaking his entertainment tour of Ptolus, taking in an an afternoon performance of ‘The Honest Vizier’ (a pretty good stage adaption of a new novel about a poor honest shopkeep who accidentally falls into the role of a villainous adviser by virtue of his very fine moustache, who then spends the rest of the story haplessly trying to make sensible, honest decisions while everyone around him lives their lives on theatre logic, cross-dressing, poisoning themselves and moping at balconies – all quite convinced he’s a villain and therefore trying to thwart his in fact, non-existent dastardly schemes) and then heading for the market he mentioned earlier to pass an enjoyable hour or two browsing and picking up the odd interesting spice or fascinatingly odd foreign fruit.

By evening he was back at the tavern however, stripped to the waist and exercising with live steel as is very much his wont – a process that led to Belie’s inquiry and come to that, Vogh’s being answered by an invitation to join him. The big Dragonborn’s technique leans heavily on raw physical force, backed up by the sort of uncanny flexibility you only really develop by spending hours every day whirling a three-foot length of steel in each hand while dancing around like a lunatic but he’s definitely good at what he does.

More importantly, he’s always happy to ‘step it down’ some to work with others, and since he usually spends upwards of two hours a day training at this nonsense, their company was quite welcome.

Date/Time: Sometime on the 21st of Growth

Bharash apparently does a number of things which are elaborated upon on his behalf.

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Re: Vogh
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Date/Time: Practice with Bharash

They had all met out on the large field. Vogh thought it was a great idea from Bharash to be as visible to everyone as possible. The wide-open field also gave them visuals of a lot of areas in case something happened. Bharash had gone through some routine movements at first with her and Belie. The warm-up got their muscles nice and heated and ready for the finer movements to follow.

Bharash was a fine teacher as he went through the movements, showing different attack routines with his two large blades. This Vogh echoed as she watched him perform the movements. Vogh could see Belie doing so as well. Then Bharash had Vogh pair off with Belie and run some of the movements between the two. Bharash explained that it wasn’t often to fight someone else with two blades but it did occur sometimes. Bharash then paired Talin with Belie, and Vogh with himself while he wielded just one of his blades. They went through some more routines against a single-bladed foe. It was all quite the workout, and by the end, Vogh was sweating profusely as was Talin even though he hadn’t worked out the entire time.

Thank you for the training Bharash. I am getting a better handle on all this. When I first started wielding both blades I just couldn’t;t get the rhythm of them working together well enough for my liking.

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Belie
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Date/Time: Afternoon of 20th of Growth

Belie had never focused on toe-to-toe, wide open combat like this sparring match. He had always skirted the edges of combat, used his wiles rather than brawn, and spinkled in a fair number of tricks to win. Against the dual-sword wielding and much bigger Bharash he struggled, but that’s exactly why he wanted to spar with the big dragonborne.

Against the single sword style Talin used Belie fared better, but the bard’s much bigger sword kept Belie dodging and using his shield far more than trying to parry and riposte. His magical rapier would likely sunder if Belie attempted to catch the greatsword Solarsong.

Vogh’s two handed style with her violet blades was new to her which allowed Belie much more freedom. Plus her slighter build and strength compared to Bharash and Talin afforded her less ability to merely overpower the rogue. Still, Belie had to rely on his shield, footwork and whip to keep up with the double sword patterns she was gaining familiary with every moment.

The rogues new, magical floating shield was quite fascinating and he hadn’t been unable to put it to much use since receiving it from the Dreaming Apothecary. This was yet another reason he wanted to try his hand against a skilled opponent. It performed marvelously. An added benefit was without a shield restricting his off-hand, the rogue could wield a whip, or throw daggers.

While unable to use both hands at the same time like Bharash, he could alternate defense and offense with a hand freed up. Thanks to the big warrior’s impressive strength, Belie was unable to rip swords from his grasp, nor trip the tree-thunk thick legs. But more than once a well placed whip snap kept him out of danger and gave him the breathing room necessary to recover from blindingly fast strikes coming from two directions at once.

Without the element of surprise, ability to duck away and disguise himself, or fade into the shadows the rogue was severely hampered. Not to mention his thin rapier, while magical, was not designed to directly deflect such thick and curved blades as the falcatas Bharash wielded. More often than not Belie had to catch one of the blades and either let the two magically enhanced swords scrape against one other, catching the falling edge against his sword’s pomel or simply slap the blade to grant him inches of room to side-step.

Breathing heavily and sweating far more than Bharash was, Belie was quite tired at the end of their session, far more than the sturdy dragon-blooded-man.

“Well fought sir. Were it not for my floating companion here, I fear I would have fallen to your blades a dozen times over. Suffice it to say, I’m very glad you’re on our side.” The charming man said with a wide smile and an overly grand bow with a toss of his new cape.

All along the crowed cheers and claps crescendoed as the dragon-warrior gave a much shallower bow to the rogue.

“I need a drink.” Belie quipped, wiping sweat from his brow with a crimson red hankerchief.

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Re: Deacon Havenhold
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Date/Time: Morning of the 21st of Growth

Shortly after 7 am on the 21st at the table normally occupied by Deacon and his friends his voice is heard upon the wind to all within 10′ of the table at the Ghostly Minstrel they were known to be staying at.

“My dear friends I am alive and well, do not fear. I am deep in research and hope to speak to you again shortly.” spoke the wind.

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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While eating breakfast, Julia heard the sending call from Deacon. She was happy that he was okay and wondered what research he was doing? Perhaps he was onto something with the assassination attempt? She didn’t know for sure.

Since nothing much else was happening this day and Bharash wasn’t around at breakfast, Julia came back at lunch to see if he would be back. When she saw him she sat down with him and asked Bharash, Did you take that trip around Ptolus? We could do it today if you haven’t or if you want to see some other things I am open for it. Yesterday I just didn’t feel like it after the morning we had.

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Bharash
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Bharash isn’t actually there for the breakfast conversation, having risen early to go out to the field for the training session, but he is there for lunch, which neatly puts him in place to answer amenably “No, I went out yesterday. Took in a new play over at The Cloud, had a bit of a wander around the markets. Heard word of a new food place opening up down at the Docks, Assarai cuisine, if you can believe it. I’ll likely swing by in a day or two, just out of curiosity. What about you, any plans?”

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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“Well now, that sounds like a lovely day indeed. Where were you this morning? I came down for breakfast and you weren’t here?” Julia asked while ordering some meat and cheese and some wine from the waitress as she came by.

“Assarai cuisine you say? Do you mind if I come with you? Can’t say I have ever had it before.” Then changing the subject she asks, “did you hear the message from Deacon? He is busy at the Inverted Pyramid doing some research. Not sure what exactly he is doing and for so long though. As for what I did yesterday,” Julia said with a hmmm, “oh a lot of prayers and relaxing. I had a really nice long hot bath. I guess you could say I took a ‘me’ day.”

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Bharash
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“Training. After a certain point, you can’t really stop so I try to get a couple of hours in every day. Vogh and Belie wanted to join me, so I invited then along – nothing puts a finer edge on an old technique than teaching it to someone.” Bharash explains as he thoughtfully demolishes a platter of smoked meats and cheeses, pairing one with another as he goes. He clicks his jaws as Julia asks to come along, shrugging as he replies “No reason not to. Wetland cuisine I understand – fish, shellfish… Lots of onion, pepper and celery. Never tried it myself, most Assarai do the homeless thing but apparently this one’s opening a food cart.”

He shakes his head with regards to Deacon, “Don’t think so, unless I’ve a message waiting. But that’s not surprising, In generally the last to know if something is afoot. Also, probably a reasonable reaction to yesterday in all honesty, I just preferred being a moving target.”

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Re: Talin
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As Bharash and Julia are in the middle of lunch, Vogh and Talin come from upstairs. You both haven’t seen them all morning.

Vogh spots both of you and heads over while Talin moves to the bar to grab drinks. After a moment he too joins you both and Bharash can see he has a bottle with a clear liquid inside and two smaller tumbler glasses. “Bharash, I was so sore from yesterday I spent all morning in bed.” Talin looked over to Vogh then and gave a smirk that she didn’t see. “I wanted to buy you a few drinks if you don’t mind. It’s the good stuff!” Which is obvious cause normally any of the lesser brands had a discoloring to the liquid. “So, tomorrow Vogh is going to be making that house of ours finally. If you all want to join us we will be leaving in the morning right after breakfast.”

This message had punctuation tweaked by the player at 13:31, Thu 06 Aug 2020.

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia smiled as Vogh and Talin came over to the table. Have you both been here all morning? Julia asked Vogh before Talin got over to the table.

When Vogh explained that they had, Julia smiled. She then turned to Bharash and said, “You know I have been thinking about that group that confronted us outside of the Pythones house and took the items we recovered out of the chests below. I think we need to see about tracking them down somehow. I mean that lead guy shouldn’t be too hard to locate. Not like he is an everyday run of the mill human, like me. What do you think?”

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Belie
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Date/Time: Afternoon of the 21st of Growth

Belie had joined the group for lunch as well. He had slept in a bit, then took a soak in hot water at the bath house across from the Welcome Inn to sooth his muscles before strolling into the Minstrel. In typical Belie fashion, he entered as an easy going youth with a mop of blonde hair, went upstairs where no one was present, then came back down as himself to join the friends, Bharash, Vogh, Talin and Julia around their table.

“Afternoon folks.” The affable rogue greeted them as he flipped his chair around backward then straddled it like a saddle, leaning over the backrest with both arms folded. “Seconded miss violet.” He winked at Vogh. “I had to take a soak this morning to relieve some soreness. Great session though. One of the most challenging of my life I would say.”

When Julia discussed possibly tracking down those who waylaid the Archon trio outside Pythoness house, Belie pursed his lips. “Lead guy? He wasn’t a human? You only briefly mentioned this forray you took, pray tell and maybe I can help with this too.”

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Bharash
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“Oh? Didn’t slow you down too much at training this morning…” Bharash answers Vogh merrily, his humour holding right up to the point where he pauses, blinks and groans “Wait, that was a sex boast, wasn’t it? I swear Vogh, just because you’re the only one getting to play hide the dragon at the moment…”

With a helpless grin, the big Dragonborn shakes his head, rueful but amused then hours in to address the actual business at hand “As for the thieves? Yeah, I’d definitely be in favour of a little payback. I’d try to locate the property, not the thieves though – appearances can be deceptive after all – were we even entirely sure what he was?”

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia was glad to see that Bharash had a thirst for some payback. They had worked hard at going through the whole of the place and had very little to show for it. Bharash, of course, had suffered the most when he had touched the key. The curse was a nasty one, which is why they had all decided to leave the key in the lair. “When you say property are you meaning where they are? Cause that may be difficult to do though we could scry the big guy or one of the others.”

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Bharash
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Bharash tends to operate on a fairly direct ‘things in the past are past’ sort of approach and doesn’t generally hold grudges as such, but he’s nothing if not willing to step up and support his friends, which is why he’s evidently on board with this plan, “Huh? No, property as in the stuff they stole. What I mean is we don’t necessarily know what they really look like – given how easily we got those magic hats – but we definitely know what the things they took were. If we can find those, we’ll find them and I don’t know much about magic, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier to find a thing than a person.”

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Re: Julia Graymantle
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Julia cocked her head at Bharash and his insight. She thought then that if he had put as much energies into magic as he does fighting with his two blades, he would be a strong magic user as well. Julia smiled at the thought then said, “Ah you are quite right. It is a lot easier to defend against scrying than it is against an item being found. I wish Deacon was back and we could speak to him.”

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Bharash
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Ironically, the truth is the exact opposite… His near impressively complete lack of anything resembling magical talent has left Bharash deeply distrustful of the whole art – which in turn means that he doubles down on practical, belt-and-braces solutions to problems instead of just merrily casting a spell and getting on with his day. He’s not clever and he knows it, but that in turn just means that he realises he has to spend additional time thinking about problems instead of coming up with the answer in a lightning flash of inspiration and cognition.

If he were as intelligent as Julia or Deacon, he’d probably not manage one half as well as they do.

“There you go then.” he agrees, still eyeing Vogh to see just what shade she’ll blush to as he chats with Julia “Yeah, we’ll want his power when we go looking too. Any more idea about who or what they actually were, the thieves? If we’re going to start a gang war, I’d like to know in advance.”

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Re: Vogh
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Vogh did in fact turn a shade of red in her cheeks at what Bharash had said. She listened to the two of them talk about the stuff they had lost. If you all need any help with taking the stuff back, you can let us know. Vogh turned to Talin then and smiled. Her cheeks still flushed from the embarrassment of what was said.

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Belie
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Belie’s eyes went wide at Bharash’s statement. The rogue had to hide his face to cover his own red cheecks and avoided looking at Vogh or Talin at all cost. “I can ask around a bit to see if I can get some info for you all. I haven’t had much time to make many contacts around the city, but it’s expanding every day, and someone as… unique… and this person you’ve described shouldn’t be THAT hard to find.”

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Bharash
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It’s a fair assumption on Bharash’s part, since the training was that morning and Vogh had been remarking on how tired yesterday had left her… But it would be a lie to say that the big Dragonborn isn’t also childishly delighted by how easily humans and their ilk blush, something his own kind simply don’t do, on the whole… And which he in particular, as a full-grown adult male hasn’t done in years.

So of course, he’s grinning brightly as he nods to Vogh and rumbles “It’s appreciated.”, then to Belie and adds “Might not be a bad idea to start with fences and the like. See if anyone’s been trying to pass on the stuff they took… Or, come to that was looking for it.”

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Belie
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Date/Time: Afternoon of the 21st of Growth

Belie nodded at Bharash’s statement and agreed. “Bharash, would you mind accompanying me to run a couple errands and possibly chase down some leads? I would love to have someone watch my back. We
could also work on your mastery of the disguising hat and garment items.”

If the big warrior agreed to accompany Belie then the rogue downed a glass of very light ale, barely even alcohol and stood to leave. “We’ll sneak out the back.”

[Private to Bharash: If you don’t want Bharash to accompany Belie I can edit all this to be him going by himself.]

The two left the others, Belie leaving a few coins on the table to cover his share, and headed through the swinging doors into the busy kitchen. Exiting out the back they were alone in the alley beside the Minstrel after moving off to the side of the building and away from the larger area where they had sparred. Here Bharash saw Belie’s feature’s change to that of a young man, likely in his late teens sporting more than few pimples and long blonde hair tied back in a pony-tail. His fine clothing changed into that of a working man, worn leather jacked and pants with heavy soled boots.

Watching Bharash change, Belie looked over the dragon-blooded man’s illusion and pointed out a few tweaks which sold the illusion. Bharash took the form of a very broad chested and large human man with matching blonde hair, implying the two were father and son. Although, given the limits of the hats, Belie would have been a rut of his “father’s” litter based on their size disparity.

Belie chuckled and nodded then the duo went back behind the minstrel and out to Dionys Street to Eriskal Street. For some reason Belie didn’t understand, Dionys ended in a wall between two buildings, so the round about way was required to reach Lower God Row. Being the always cautious man he was, Belie hailed a carriage and both jumped inside.

“Take us to Tavoh’s Bakery please.” Belie told the driver through the slot in the enclosed, four wheel carriage.

A quick snap of the reins had the duo heading away. Leaning in toward Bharash the rogue lowered his voice and whispered to Bharash, “That’s not actually our destination, but they do have tasty treats if you want.” He leaned back away with a smile.

The carriage rumbled over the Blessed Bridge and down the Street of a Million gods with its dozens of temploes. Both men frowned a bit upon passing the giant telescope adorned temple of the Watchers of the Skies.

Golden Elm Way took them all the way to the wide open market at the intersection of Carver Lane and nearly in sight of the Necropolis’ large and imposing wall. The multi-story Siege Tower which was home of the Knights of the Veil was even visible.

The smell of fresh vegetables filled the duo’s nostrils. The sounds of the crowd were evident, with vendors shouting their sales pitches above the noise. Both noticed a farmer toting a crate of produce with one hand and holding tightly to his young son with the other, judging by his wide eyes, it look like the first time the youngster had ever seen the big city.

The North Market differed from the South in that it is a “market” in a truer sense of the word. Open areas overflow with vendors selling from wagons, carts, tents, and stalls, and small shops clustered together in the district’s squares like this one. While the South Market contained many shops where artisans create and sell their wares, little is actually produced in the North Market. A soap seller in the South Market has likely made her soap in the back of the shop, but that’s not the case in the North Market.

About 75 percent of the goods sold in the North Market are perishables and food, not craftwork. Generally speaking, if you want a new leather jerkin, you’re better off going to the South Market, but if you need flour and milk, the North Market is a better destination.

As it were, Belie was taking Bharash to quite a strange, rather new, shop not far from the pastry location. The rogue licked his fingers clean finishing his apple turnover. “My word that is delicious.”

Still in the guises of humans the pair crossed the busy square then went down a narrow lane with a mixture of houses and shops, finally moving between a row of buildings which ran North to South that put them on Shell Road. Belie led Bharash up to a small shop which looked to be in poor repair. Over the door hung a new sign with a very ornate and intricate design of a dragon eating its tail overlaid with the words “Wondrous Tattoos.”

Ducking inside and shutting the door behind Bharash the dragon warrior saw dozens and dozens of parchments on the wall with all manger of designs and artwork. That this was a tattoo parlor was evident. A small, male gnome greeted them with big eyes and a wide smile.

“Hello! Welcome! What can I ink for you today gentlemen?”

Much to Bharash’s surprise, Belie dropped his disguise and stood there as his normal self, beautiful rapier on display and magical floating shield strapped to his equally magical haversack.

“Anageo. Well met today. This is a friend of mine who I thought I might be able to pursuade to help you.” Belie flashed Bharash a disarming smile, as he wasn’t entirely sure how the dragon-kin would react. He quickly moved on to explain.

“Anageo here is a very special tattoo artist. He puts ink beneath skin like most, but he is also a wizard and his tattoos work like potions you need not drink!” That Belie was excited was very evident. “So instead of reaching into a pack and grabbing a healing potion, or invisibility, or …. fire breath, or whatever! You can just touch your skin and boom! The magic takes effect.”

The gnome grinned wide as Belie explained the magical process, nodding along. “So you want another tattoo today Master Belie? And your friend wants one as well?”

“If there’s time. But more than that I wanted to impress upon my friend your plight and see if he might aid me.” Again Belie met Bharash’s human eyes. “You see, Mr. Quigg here has apparently run affoul of the killraven group. Few know about his excellent services. He should have setup shop nearer the South Market where delvers with coin are plentiful, but real estate prices down there were far too high for him to afford. He had to borrow heavily to get setup, and now one of the goons is really pressuring him…?” As Belie explained, he opened his eyes wide looking away from Anageo to indicate Bharash should take note of the killraven name, which had recently come up several times.

“Durant. Durant is his name. Nasty troglodyte. Most just call him the ‘stink man’. He’s found some way to suppress his kinds’ natural odor, but he still smells awful.”

“Yes. Yes. Durant.” Belie continued. “It seems this… troglodyte… is a person of some importance to the killraven group.” Again Belie opened his eyes wide for only Bharash to see, emphasizing the group’s name. He shrugged and looked to Bharash for comment.

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Bharash
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Bharash is quite ready to assist a friend on an errand, and so rumbles agreeably at Belie’s request before pushing himself to his feet and rumbling “Fair enough, I’ll get my coat.” then heading up to his room, coming down a few minutes later with a comfortable leather jacket over his doublet and…

…apparently doing all sorts of things in Belie’s company whether he likes it or not, although towards the latter part of the expedition he’s at least asked his opinion, whereupon he crosses his arms over his chest with a soft creaking sound of leather under tension and frowns, his faux human features shifting in accordance with his thoughts “Huh. Sounds straightforward enough. You took a loan from a shark without knowing what you were getting into, and now he’s demanding that you repay more than you can afford? Not sure what you’d want me to do about it. I mean, I could chop his head off – which would be murder – and then the rest of his gang would line up to collect the debt, unless they happened to know that you were involved, in which case they’d burn your store down, with you in it.”

A moment then, and he rolls his jaw a little, “No, it seems like the most practical course would be to find out why this Durant suddenly needs money so badly that he’d try sinking what could easily be a profitable business that could pay him for years. More Julia or Vogh’s field than mine. Unless I’m missing something, Anageo?”

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Narrator
———————————————————–
Anageo opened his eyes wide and was shaking both hands in the air at Bharash’s idea to kill Durant, they grew even wider at the idea of the goons killing him, but he finally calmed as the dragon-born talked the rest of the way through his thought.

“They pressure lots of people for money, all the time. It’s always been that way. If it’s not the Balacazars demanding protection money its these killraven goons. Tomorrow it might be someone else. I really thought my magical tattoos would be a hit among all the delvers and make me good coin, but like mister Belie said, my location isn’t good.”

Belie, nodded along. “My thought was that we might be able to talk to this Durant and see what we might learn…” Again the rogue shrugged, watching Bharash’s response.

“He comes around every few days. He’s not super regular about number of days or time of day, but he’s around often. Too often.” The gnome had quite a bit of hope in his voice, thinking these two might wind up helping him.

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Bharash
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It was less of an idea that Bharash was floating and more his pointing out why it would not be a particularly good idea to do it, quite aside from (as he pointed out) it being murder, but the gnome is under a great deal of stress and can probably be forgiven for missing that… Or for just assuming that the big muscular warrior sort keeps his brains in his scabbard with his swords, something more common in the fighting man fratenity than Bharash would be comfortable admitting.

“Protection racket, rather than loan sharking? Huh. And in competition with one another, yet? Seems as though they ought to be dealing with each other.” Bharash observes, only to not when Belie chips in “That’s more or less where I was going, that said…”

Here, he pauses for a moment then looks thoughtfully at Anageo “You know, if your location isn’t good, but your product is then what you really need is a way to get customers here. An advertisement in one of the broadsheets isn’t that expensive… But with your product, you’d really want to talk to someone at The Delver. Belie? Any ideas?”

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Belie
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Belie nodded along with Bharash’s statement. “Indeed. That would be a very good idea. I’ve got a bit of coin to add another tattoo today, perhaps you could use that money to go toward running an ad? Of course, I’m happy to tell some friends and fellow Delvers about your services too.”

The rogue waited a moment to let that sink in before going in for the kill, “So, do you think you could send a runner for us the next time Durant stops by so maybe we could have a conversation with him?”

After Anageo nodded his small head enthusiastically Belie smiled wide, having achieved his primary goal. “How about an invisibility tattoo this time? I saw you can do that, yes?”

Again Anageo nodded happily. Belie produced 30 platinum coins, but removed them from three different locations about his person. Accepting the coins, the wizard gestured for Belie to take a seat in the plush, leather chair to one side of the room. The rogue removed one of the magical sleeves and simply held it in his opposite hand while the gnome worked his literal magic, and ink. Bharash knew the use of arcane magics, having spent so much time around Deacon, and even recognized the eyelash encased in gum arabic used for an invisibility spell.

The process took over an hour, and left Belie with a rough tattoo of a closed eye on his right arm. “Remember, you need only touch the glyph to enact the magic. The effect will be identical to if you drank a potion of invisibility.” Anageo practically beamed as Belie complemented him on the work and reminded him to send word to the Minstrel the next time their ‘friend’ came calling.

During the time Belie asked Bharash to share anything he knew about advertising rates at the Delver. The rogue wasn’t sure how the big man knew so much about the publications, but just chalked it up to Bharash likely having lived in Ptolus far longer than himself.

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Bharash
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Bharash of course cheerfully writes the whole thing up to his not spending all his time with his big nerdy nose stuffed into a book, which means that he has time to get out and actually talk to people, visit places and generally live in the city instead of just sleeping there from time to time.

“Not too sure actually.” he has to admit about The Delver, musing aloud as he sits on one of the ridiculously undersized camping stools set out for larger patrons, arms folded over his legs and chatting back and forth, in due course proposing “It mostly services the underground and the dungeoneer community, so the folks behind it play things pretty close to their chest, but if you coul… Huh. Actually… Belie, you’re something of a rogue. You could submit an article. Something where you illustrate a skill you put to work, one that figures in how the tattoo helped you.”

He shrugs for a moment, enormous shoulders rising and falling expressively “I know a few budding journalists. You write something up, I can pass it along to them to get tidied up and if you like it, we can see about submitting it. If it’s informative and entertaining, it should see print in fairly short order.”

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Belie
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Belie feighned innocense and offense at being called a “rogue” but quickly laughed. “A very good idea. Anageo?” The gnome nodded rapidly again, making his hair fly around. “Alright. It’s settled. I’ll work on that, and you make sure to send word immediately when Durant shows up again. Don’t mention my name though… Just dispatch a messenger immediately upon his arrival, okay?”

Again the gnome smiled and nodded. Belie replaced the tube on his arm which magically transformed into new clothing. Then his features changed, short brown hair elongated and ligthened to blonde once more.

“And remember… I could be anyone…” Belie winked good-naturedly at Anageo before the duo exited.

Out in the hustle and bustle once more, Belie looked north then headed off that way. Ducking between two buildings put them out on a street which intersected another, heading west. Belie turned that way and stopped to look over the final buliding on the south side of what was apparently Crow Street. Terrible name for an avenue, but there were only so many names for streets.

Over the door hung a brand new sign, made of metal instead of wood, which was actually a huge gear and cut from the steel were the words, “Smoke Shop.”

Belie opened the very heavy, metal banded door, and stepped inside. A tall, older, bald man leaned on the counter inspecting something very closely with a pair of glasses which had multiple lenses on them. Each lense appeared to be attached to a small lever which allowed them to be moved out of the way. When he looked up, his eyes were magnified which was a strange effect.

“Good day gentlemen.” The elder man greeted them, but not warmly.

A very stout dwarf sat in a stool just down from the man. His beard was braided in two, and thrown over his shoulders. It appeared to be kept back by the neck tie of his very thick, black leather apron which sported dozens of tools in pockets down the front. A strange

Looking around the shop was mesmerizing. Instead of weapons lining the walls like Rastor’s, or armor like Bull & Bear, or magical oddities like Myraeth’s, it seemed the srangely named “Smoke Shop” specialized in every manner of cutting-edge technology. Spectacles, watches, spyglasses, magnifying lenses, goggles, precision tools. There was also an entire glass showcase with small glass bottles which each contained translucent orbs. Each bottle contained a few of the orbs all of the same color, but there were dozens of the containers, and dozens of colors represented. Belie had some idea of their purpose, but wasn’t certain yet.

Nodding, the rogue then saw some items which cause his smile to turn down just slightly. Several of the “boom sticks” were presnt, in both their short style called a “pistol” and the long format which was called a “rifle.” The rogue didn’t like the look of those at all, and it showed on his face.

Frowning right back the dwarf spoke gruffly, “You lookin’ for anythin’ in particular?”

Hearing the deep voice snapped Belie back to the present. “Apologies. There is so much to see in your shop it’s hard to take it all in!” Neither man nor dwarf seemed flattered by his compliment so Belie just cleared his throat and proceeded.

Pointing at the display case of colored orbs while walking foward, Belie asked about them. “Um. Yes. Can you tell me a bit about these?”

Narrowed eyes were all the dwarf offered, but the older man stood up, visibly supporting himself with his right hand. “Aye. They are potions, but in a form we call a ‘pill’ which makes them quicker and easier to take. Same efficacy, but smaller packing, easier to store, and easier to consume.”

“Ah! So it’s true. And all the colors indicate their use, yes?” The man nodded. “Quite ingenius. Your design sir?”

To this the man shook his head, “Nah. We’re the only shop that sells them though.”

Belie was trying not to make eye contact with the dwarf who was growing visibly tenser. “And why ya askin’ so many questions sprite?” The rogue looked his way, putting on his most innocent face. “Merely interested. I heard about them and wanted to see for myself. I’ve spent a little time below and some other delvers talked them up.”

Shifting in his seat the dwarf seemed partially satisfied, but the scowl didn’t leave his face.

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Bharash
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“So.” Bharash asks, as the two step back out onto the street, the Dragonborn sounding more amused than anything “You’re walking around in disguise specifically so that you can’t be found. How… Ahhhh, how exactly were you expecting him to get that messenger to you? Or does he have a faster way to send those message spells wizards love so much?”

It doesn’t keep him from walking along with Belie however, or from peering into shop-fronts as they pass, pausing here and there to compare prices and generally taking the time to keep his eyes open on things. The Smoke Shop though, sees Bharash looking more or less puzzled, the large warrior peering at the various weapons on offer, intrigued after the fashion of a warrior in the latest trends – it’s not quite the rapid turn-over of fabric-based fashions but it’s boundlessly embarrassing to be caught out in mail when falxes are back in style or wearing banded mail to a scuffle mostly resolved with bollock daggers.

It keeps him busy while Belie does… whatever it is that Belie is here to do though, and it’s interesting on its own account, so the time isn’t wasted.

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Belie
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Belie chuckled at Bharash’s question then shrugged. “I just told him to send word to the minstrel. He has a name so it shouldn’t matter if I’m in disguise.”

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Bharash
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“Mmmm, that sounds as though it’ll only work as long as you’re there though. If the man he’s worried about turned up twenty minutes after we left, we wouldn’t find out about it until we got back.” Bharash points out, working through the problem in that plodding, methodical way he tends to favour which compensates for the people he’s with generally being quite a bit smarter than he is (which isn’t to say that he’s stupid, only that he spends a lot of time with very clever people) by actually using the smarts he has to think about problems in order to solve them, rather than the more common adventurer approach of shouting ‘Tally-ho’ and trusting to luck and chance to let them jump over problems as and when they arise.

“On the other hand, he’s a known local figure. Fairly visible one too, by the sounds of it. Is there anything that would stop us from just finding him to have a word? We don’t actually intend him any harm really, so it’s not as if we need to be cloak and dagger about it.” he proposes, noting “Which would also obfuscate which business we’re operating on behalf of. Another layer of protection for your friend there.”

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Belie
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Belie nodded at Bharash’s logic. “A very good point indeed good sir.” The rogue actually stopped walking to consider the big warrior’s input, a bit surprised he hadn’t thought of the same. “Maybe we should go look for him here in a bit then…”

The two of them walked together, acting like neither had a care in the world, while also keeping an eye out for any danger. They worked well together. Without even talking about it, the two warriors fell into an easy rhythm. While Bharash stopped and looked into a store, Belie was watching his back and looking the opposite way. The dragonborn would return the favor as Belie looked at this cart or store front. Both seemed to have an equally paranoid outlook on their surroundings.

Inside the shop the four men stood and talked. Belie asked after the price of the potion-pills. “So how much are they, and how do they compare to healing potions all the clerics sell?”

Thinking he might have a customer rather than just a browser the older man perked up and explained that the pills followed the same efficacy levels of cleric spells, but due to their smaller and easier to handle nature, the magic was more difficult and thus they cost about 20 gold more than the comparable potion would.

Belie nodded in understanding. “Very interesting. Very interesting indeed. Before we delve again, I’ll have to pop up here and grab some. Better than dealing with the church…”

The rogue left his statement hang in the air to garner a response, but neither the old man nor the dwarf gave any indication of their feelings.

Shrugging he moved onto his next informational parry. “Just so as to make sure I don’t get in any trouble from the powers that be… Does the apothecary approve of your making and selling these items? I mean, I know you don’t make them. But I’ve heard tell of terrible… accidents… befalling those who make magic items in the city.”

Again he paused to see their reaction, and this time he was not disappointed. “Bah! Damn’em!” The dwarf spit out. “They ain’t got no rights to tell anyone and erey-one they can’t ply a trade! Bunch oh overstuffed pigmies.”

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Bharash
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Bharash just eyes Belie sidelong as the rogue looks at him with surprise, an expression of generalised (and supremely slappable) amusement on his saurian features… But he doesn’t comment much further behind observing “There’s no hurry.” and continuing his own browsing, occupying himself by hefting one or two of the ‘demonstration’ gonnes and looking at a ‘proof marked’ breastplate that’s got a hole the size of his fist punched clean through it by a gonne projectile, which seems to impress him somewhat.

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Belie
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Belie was shocked at the dwarf’s defiance toward the Dreaming Apothecary. The rogue figured this store, or at least whomever made the pills wouldn’t be long for this world once the ruthless group of magic users got wind of their endevor. He had heard tales of many people who tried to make magic items disappearing or dying. It seemed no one even tried anymore, ordering from the apothecary, or buying from one of the vendors of which Vogh and Talin might become soon.

Outwardly Belie pursed his lips in an expression of mock approval. “Well said.” Turning both his attention, and the conversation away from the pills, the rogue walked over to the rack of fire-spewing-armaments and inspected the devices.

“And what about these? Do you all make’em?”

Again the surly dwarf narrowed his eyes at Belie. “Why you ask so many questions boy? They are right in front of you. What matter is it where they came from? Huh? You wanna buy one or what?”

Belie shook his head, not used to such vehemenance from a supposed shop owner, or employee, or whatever this dwarf was. He looked to the old man who was eyeing him, but seemed to have less anger.

“Apologies master dwarf. You know what they say about curiosity killing the baby dragon.” Belie tried to disarm him with a smile. “I’ve only encountered these in the hands of some ratmen. Granted, they weren’t nearly as nice as your items, but I don’t know anyone who has used one. How do they work?”

Letting out a “bah,” the dwarf turned away from what he thought were both humans, Bharash still standing in disguise, to tinker with something sporting dozens of gears and springs on the countertop. That left the elder gentlemen to answer.

“Well, first, you gotta have an Imperial Permit to carry one. It’s ten gold and one gold per year to keep it renewed. Only citizens can even get the permit.” Walking from around the counter over to where Belie stood, the duo noticed he had a pronounced limp and leaned heavily on a cane. He picked up a short version which ended in a curved handle. The weapon had an iron dragon’s head around its muzzle so that its shot comes from the dragon’s mouth.

“This is a dragon pistol. It’s by far the most common firearm in the area. Much like a crossbow, you load it, pull the trigger and it fires. Unlike a crossbow it uses explosive powder to hurl a small projectile. Small ball of lead. You can imagine, the explosion causes the projectile to fly much faster than a quarrel or arrow, so the damage done is considerable. Extracting a bullet is also far more difficult than removing a quarrel or arrow. The longer version of this packs more of a punch, plus it’s got a better range, and it’s known as a dragon rifle. As a longbow is to the crossbow, so is a dragon rifle to a pistol. Greater range. More damage. Pistols start at 250 gold, rifles at 500. Ya want one?”

Belie nodded along in understanding while the older man explained. He let out a low whistle at the price.

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Bharash
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“Can’t say I’ve a lot of time for crossbows. They’re effective enough, if expensive and you can put them in the hands of a peasant militiaman and expect him to punch a hole in some damn’ fool nobleman at sixty yards, but the rate of fire is awful and I can outshoot one with a longbow most days of the week.” Bharash comments, extending his arm to let the curving grip of the dragon rest its weight on the underside of his forearm, balancing the barrel. He swings it around, examining how quickly it settles on target, how easy it is to aim and then lowers it before carefully returning it to its rack with an appropriate amount of respect “That said, I could see one of these being a damn’ sight easier to carry around than a longbow. What does the loading procedure look like?”

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Narrator
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The older man nodded to Bharash and showed him how to pour a spot of powder into the barrel, without doing it, he held a ball at the opening to show the tightness of the fit. “You use the small ram found under the barrel here to tamp down both powder and bullet. There are some new models which actually contain a casing filled with powder, and a bullet attached at the end of the casing, but they are very rare, and very expensive. You are right sir that they are a far cry better than crossbows, and you would be hard pressed to find a longbow that will do as much damage as one of these babies.”

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Belie
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Belie again scrunched up his mouth in appreciation and thoughfullness at the weapon. “I would hate to be on the receiving end of one. I’ve heard they do indeed pack a terrible punch.”

The rogue scrunched his face in confusion. “That said… everyone I’ve heard encountered weapons similar to these in the hands of ratmen… in the sewers… how under the Spire could such creatures get their hands on such sophisticated weaponry?”

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Narrator
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Pursing his lips in understanding and disapproval the man nodded. “Those are quite different, and much older, devices than these. You see, most of the weapons those nasty little buggars wield are not just firearms, but come from ancient chaositech, stuff of old legends the beasties dig up from down deep.” He replaced the dragon pistol on the rack and leaned heavily on his cane.

“The technology is old, but it’s been far improved. Those old guns blow up in their faces as often as they shoot.” He said with a half smile.

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Bharash
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“So, worse than a crossbow for loading then, but they hit harder when loosed.” Bharash comments on a thoughtful fashion, considering them for a few minutes and shaking his head “Not for me, I think. If you had all the money in the world, I could see making them less fancy and giving four or five to a cavalryman. Sweep in, discharge then in succession into a spear wall or pike block, wheel away and reload at leisure. The only defence would be damn’ thick shields or mixing crossbows in with the pikes, which would weaken then in the push.”

“Good looking though. I could see wearing one as a fashion accessory, which I’m imagining is most of what you sell good the styling on them. Also keeps them upper class, which is another way to say that if you’re in the upper class, you should absolutely own one or several.” – here, he grins toothily and chuckles “Clever business model. If we paid for the powder and bullets, do you have one we could shoot and a place to try it?”

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