A Trivial Distance
OOC: Trying to rediscover a holy site! Preference is given to Knights of Solace org members, but if we can find a reason for you to go, you're welcome to join. I'll likely only be taking six a part from myself. I might open it up a bit more if there is a lot of interest. All skillsets could be of use. PROBABLY. This is part one of an ongoing series for this PRP.
Sept. 19, 2018, 8:30 p.m.
Comments and Log
A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Thena before departing.
A Trivial Distance.
Scholar Walen told them it would be a trivial distance. Not very far at all. The expedition would go and check on the site, Scholar Walen would inspect it to gauge the authenticity of the site and they would all be on their way home. Discoverers of a lost Holy site of the Faith. A treasure that will be cherished for all of Compact history. So really, what's a couple days of travel? Come on everyone, into the wagon!
That was a week ago. They haven't found a holy site. They haven't found shit.
The small band has gone on the road for sometime now outside of Arx, sticking to the roads. It's well known that this isn't the safest time to go galavanting about looking for holy sites. It's why Scholar Eamon made sure to nag/negotiate the Knights of Solace to ensure his safety on the roads. With many Knights otherwise occupied, Scholar Eamon quickly harrassed pretty much anyone that would listen to aid in this endeavor. Enter Kalani, Harlex, Rosalie.
It has been a long week. The days on the road go by slowly. Luckily among their number there are those who are veterans of the lonely roads and have mastered the art of killing the slow passing time in new and creative ways. At the behest of Sir Jeffeth Bayweather, the Alphabet game of spotting something while working down through the letters in alphabetical order has been played at least six times. They usually cheat when it gets down to x. Because that's hard. There has been plenty of time for pairing off for quiet conversations or times of great festivity at night. It was slow at first, the way a group of relative strangers slowly warming up to each other. There are those that know each other some better than others and it's easy to sort of drift with what you know than what you don't. But by the third night, Scholar Walen, in an attempt to raise morale reavealed his reserve he had brought along for this exact reason. And those who particpated got /smashed/!
It started with some low manly rumbling between two of the fighters of the group. With a sufficient amount of alcohol the two eventually were coaxed into an armwrestling. It was a long drawn out affair with mostly talking and laughing about it rather than actually /doing/ anything. But eventually the competition was had, Jeffeth was able to come away the victor. Rosalie quickly took the stage by making both of the competitors whiskey glasses undetected while they were concentrating. She put on a show of being able to make things disappear until finally Juniper ended the night with a sweet melody to liven up the party. The week went on with endless walking in the day and fun at night. Though when it came near the end of the week questions started to rise to Scholar Walen (the one who has mostly abstained from any merrymaking) such concerns were met with "Only a little while further." But generally very short and borderline dismissive answers.
Still, the two wagons the party have brought are in good supply. They have enough provisions to last a while, and as of yet there has been no sign of danger. And so Scholar Walen encouraged them, a little further on.
Juniper has rolled a critical success!
Juniper checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 42 higher.
Harlex checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 7 higher.
Thena checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 18 higher.
Kenna checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 32 higher.
Rosalie checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 33 higher.
Juniper checked charm + performance at difficulty 15, rolling 38 higher.
Kalani checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 0 higher.
Juniper is not a fighter or a scholar. She isn't godsworn, or even particularly devout. She is most definitely /not/ a ranger (she brought /silk/ to wear on the road!). What she is, however, is good company. The courtier has a seemingly neverending supply of ditties that are brought out to repair flagging spirits, and they range from the saucy to salacious, from the sweet to the maudlin. Truly, a song for /every/ mood, every occasion. When times slip quiet after camp is made each night, a point is made to draw every other member of the party into conversation, both alone and in groups, on peaceful walks and companionable fireside sitting-- there are no awkward silences here. Just camaraderie. She makes it happen through sheer force of will and a hell of a voice.
At least until the morning after the booze-fest. /That/ she spent yawning, and rubbing her eyes, swaying on a horse behind someone else capable of riding and letting them handle steering while she watches the scenery going by. The little Northlander likes her drink but she is not immune to the after effects. No one can be perfect though, right?
Thena is known for not being great fun at parties, and if she has any fun party tricks she keeps them to herself. She's been spending a lot of time poring over the route, casing the wagons on a regular schedule and arguing with Walen. Still, other than that she's companionable and willing to chat, play the alphabet game 3 times out of 6, drink with the others and linger on the fringes enjoying their efforts.
Kenna's a cheerful soul, even after a week of looking and finding so very very little. She doesn't mind even a bit that they haven't find stuff, brushing it off with a wry, "Sometimes lost things just take time." Then she goes back to giggling about the games and listening to the music that is shared about. Her poor horse though, it is probably ready to be oh-so-done with her and her not-so-awesome riding skills.
While she may not be the best at surviving off of the land, Kalani is pretty useful when it comes to finding edible plants and other bits of flora and fauna to add to the meals enjoyed (Or endured) by the group. She'd never be able to snare a squirrel or take down a buck, that's for sure, but she's a morning person and there's always a pot of water brewing for tea every morning. It's just the Seliki way.
Rosalie isn't normally the one people think of for adventures. But she -is- quite knowledgeable on a number of subjects! So she tags along, just in case her mental gymnastics are needed. She also has a few tricks up her sleeve for entertaining folks! Sleight of hand, parlor tricks, able to pull silver from within the ear, able to make said silver disappear with the wave of a hand! Even the shot glasses are made to 'disappear'! Rosalie doesn't partake in alcohol, demurring that she has no tolerance and never touches it, but she's merry and of good cheer regardless! And doesn't suffer a fuzzy head or dry mouth the next morning either!
It's all he's wanted these last few months. The dark-clad mercenary, Dread Wolf of the Crimson Blades, missed nothing more than the breeze of the wind through his dark, dark hair and the quiet regard of nature as they trekked the lonesome wagon road. Harlex proves, however, that he doesn’t just pretend to be taciturn--long hours are spent with that wistful, weary gaze looking out toward nothing. Or listening to something which he can't explain. He spends much of the trip, while in route, wearing the black plate-mail, swords, cutting the fierce image which he's paid to bare.
He does join in the late night gatherings, the campfire, the quiet conversations. He'll regard the stars, observe their course with no special knowledge, and on occasion speak. Because Juniper won't let him brood too often. Given that sheer force of will. Harlex doesn't get lively until the booze is broken out. Then he's a little more gregarious, quicker to grin, wolfish under certain luminescence. Boy, does he like whiskey. It might be a problem! And he's a good sport about the arm wrestling, he definitely gives it his all. But he's swift to congratulate Sir Bayweather and share a round of shots from their well-used cups. He is in no special hurry, ever. But on occasion he does mediate somewhat fondly on a monogrammed handkerchief, like a real forlorn fool.
That was then. This is now.
Rain. A lot of rain. The kind of rain that make it hard to see and harder to hear. The roads were getting unmanageable but Walen over the course of the last day or so has been getting excitable. He urged them forward. Nearly there. Nearly there. Then one wagon got stuck and another wheel broke off. "Mudslide!" Was shouted out by Jeffeth. Because they were on M on a new go around of the alphabet game. But likely no one heard him. The horses and animals were stuck with only a small copse for shelter. But Walen's persistence, nearly there, nearly there, never faltered no matter how hard the rain. Eventually it was decided that if Walen is right there are miles not days of travel left. Might as well get this finished as the rain shows no sign of stopping. Sir Jeffeth would stay behind, look after the horses, repair the broken wagon and probably on his lonesome pull the stuck one out of the mud. The rest of the group would dare forward with Scholar Walen, off a less trodden path, but a path all the same. Leading deeper into the woods.
"Be careful!" Jeffeth can be heard shouting through the clamor of the rain, though his booming voice is nearly lost in the downpour. And on the party goes, surrounding the bearded scholar into the woods towards his alleged quarry.
Whose bright idea was it to wear silk on an adventure? Pfft. Juniper is going to have stern words with herself if she comes out of this undrowned, and without double pneumonia. A protest is put up at the idea of leaving Jeffeth behind but... these are seasoned and experienced people. Surely they know best. She's just the entertainment! Jeffeth is subjected to a small amount of fretting. Then she sets off with the others, bundled beneath a borrowed too-large cloak. The rain makes an even louder patter against its out-held surface but they're all hanging close(ish) so they /may/ hear her when she remarks, "Do you think we're being followed?"
Kenna is hiding under her cloak and making sure that she does stay more or less covered against the rain. As they leave off she'll pause before they're out of range, "THAT DOES NOT START WITH N." Hopefully he'll have the proper thing for them when they get back. Oops, maybe she shouldn't yell but, that's right, she'll shut up and put a hand over her mouth.
Harlex shrouds himself in the deep, black pelt of his cloak. But he's wet. His black hair hangs around his face and really, if not for the bright green eyes, he'd be hard to stop. He carries his helm under his arm and Juniper's words catch his attention. Though he doesn't remark, not trying to spook anyone in the group as they set out and leave the wagon train behind. He narrows his vision a bit and searches around them. He tries to stay ahead of the others, just enough, that if trouble came at them he could do his job more effectively. Ah, protecting others. What's happened to him.
Knowing that Sir Jeffeth is never someone you say 'You and what army?' to, Thena grudgingly leaves the knight behind and goes along with Walen.../someone/ has to hold him accountable, after all. As they slog along she turns her head part-way towards Juniper and says dryly, "I'm just going to go ahead and assume so." Especially with that yellin'!
Just because she can path up patients on the rain swept deck of a wave swamped ship does not mean, necessarily, that Kalani loves the rain. Maybe she does, to be fair. But there's 'enjoying a good rain while enjoying a cup of tea while warm before a fire' and slogging about in it looking like a drowned blonde rat. Right now it's the latter of the two options, rain is quite literally dripping off of the tail end of the braid draped over her shoulder. "You be careful too," she says to Jeffeth as she guides her horse past the disabled wagon. She tugs her cloak a bit tighter around her shoulders, not that this really helps all that much at this point but it's the thought that counts.
Juniper checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 3 higher.
Kenna checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 38 higher.
Harlex checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 37 higher.
Kalani checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 0 higher.
Thena has rolled a critical success!
Thena checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 37 higher.
Rosalie leaves Jeffeth with her stashed flask of... hot chocolate! Excellent for when its cold and miserable! Then she's off and hurrying to catch up to the others. Dress in gold seasilk and wrapped in a warm, but soggy white cloak, she loosk more ready for a tea party than an adventure! And yet, she never loses that good cheer or happy smile. "If we are, they'll almost certainly make themselves known when we get close enough to our objective! That seems to be how these things work. So hopefully sooner than later!" Whether her cheerful tones carry far enough to be heard?
Rosalie checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 2 lower.
"Nuts!" Is heard faintly behind them as Jeffeth's form fades out of distance. The road winds a little as they set out on it, Walen becoming increasingly more antsy the further they go. He has been a quiet man for most of this trip. Thena's yelling has been met with calculated silences and well timed one liners. But mostly he has been in thought. Now however he is a whole new creature, hands gripped tight together, brows set in a constant knit. He tries to push past the rest at least a couple times because they're going SO SLOW. But with the rain beating down on his cloak it doesn't take much effort to keep him in line. It's only a solid fifteen minutes down the road when...
Kenna has worked her way over to try to see if she can get close to the scholar and try to put a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay, we'll get there!" Trying for reassuring even as she catches sight of something up and ahead which makes her tilt her head. A glance back at Awesomesauce Thena. "Do you see that?" Notsure of herself.
Thena isn't yelling now, at least. She's taken up a position towards the mid-front of the party and about the time Kenna looks back at her, her hand goes to hover near one of the daggers on her belt. "Yeah, something up ahead. Wagon maybe." She turns a sharp dark look at Walen and perks her eyebrows questioningly.
Out of the corner of his eye he spies Walen trying to hustle past him. Whatever Harlex has seen ahead gives him pause and he simply puts out a hand and pushes the man into line, the slightest of gestures. "No," is his singular command. He looks to the side, toward the others, and then Kenna who calls it out. Harlex gives a nod and motions toward it, "A wagon. I need another hand to investigate it. Rest of you should stay back little. Just in case." He says speaking to those without the martial inclinations that he possesses. Without the subtlest gesture his hand comes to loiter by his sword hilt.
Tugging the edge of her cloak closer to her neck, and the hood slightly more over her head so the rain doesn't literally fall right on her face constantly, Kalani keeps a wary eye on the Walen. That is, when she can, at least. Keeping a wary eye on Walen would take her eyes off of the muddy trail, which is probably a bad idea. But between her, and her horse, and the muddy trail, and the rain, she's only able to spare a glance for Walen from time to time.
Juniper doesn't seem particularly bothered. Except for poor Jeffeth, left back at the wagon, who's well out of sight by now but who still provokes the occasional backwards glance from the courtier. After one such look, she shrugs the cloak higher over her head and regards the rain-fogged shape that is Rosalie with some interest, overlooking Walen's growing agitation. "I thought I saw someone at camp last night. Do you think there may be an ambush? I've never been in an ambush!" How exciting! And right on schedule... not an ambush! A wagon is slightly less exciting. "I should probably stay back," she obediently volunteers.
Rosalie looks towards Juniper with a bright grin, "Its exciting, isn't it? But you must remember, its also quite dangerous." Still, she flashes another grin towards the Whisper before looking around at the rest of the group. When Harlex calls for help investigating, she lifts a hand, "I'll help! I can't promise an excellent blade, but I can look at things with the best of them!" Yep, that good cheer just doesn't go away.
Harlex draws his sword with a faint glint of brightness even in the hard rain. Just to be safe. He keeps it low at his side. He nods to Rosalie. "Stay close. And," a pause, "Stop hollerin'. Please." He said please as nicely as possible. But there's a certain shift of menace in his eyes, a narrowness, like his veteran bones can sense danger the way some can sense inclement weather.
Harlex wields Acrimonious, a fiendish longsword.
Rosalie wields luminous edges of pale gold concealable blade.
Thena sighs softly and rubs at her temple with her free hand. "I'll cover the ones staying back," she says, trying gamely to conceal how much she thinks they might need covering. "I'm not much use at investigating things."
"I'm a keen eye, but I'll probably stab someone if there is fighting." Instead Kenna will hang back here under Thena's watch and pat poor Scholar Walen's back. There there, it's okay. They'll get going again soon.
Juniper is not so obedient she doesn't call, "Don't die, Harlex! I'll be /very/ upset if you do!" It's not technically hollering because courtiers do /not/ holler. They address. Occasionally with volume (as when one's voice is trained so prettily). The wink she follows up with for Rosalie might be missed in the rain but there it is. She obligingly angles nearer Thena, shielding her eyes with an awning made of lifted cloak in order to look ahead, squinting at the wagon. "Isn't stabbing people while fighting the point?"
Giggling, Rosalie makes sure her dagger is near to hand (just in case!), but pulls her cloak a little tighter and moves up to join Harlex. She smiles up at him and nods, "Okay, but the happy doesn't leave with the volume, just so you know." Then she's trudging gamely along to go inspect this wagon they've found!
Harlex also has to put on his helmet to free up a hand. As an aside. Pesky two hands. But he leaves the top jaw of the wolf-shaped helm upward. Less obstructive that way. He wrinkles his nose as Rosalie to fight a smile.
Harlex checked perception + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 9 lower.
Leaving her horse behind and roaming forward on foot, Kalani refuses to lament on the amount of mud that's coating her boots before she's very much farther along. But she's game for the challenge, even if she's really not sure what it is that they're looking for.
Rosalie checked perception + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 36 higher.
Thena draws a plain diamondplate dagger in one hand, then selects another one, steel with star engravings, for her off hand. "That's usually my strategy," she replies to Juniper with a faint trace of humor even as she keeps her eyes trained on those moving ahead.
Well. It's a wagon. That much is clear. Good job ace team. You solved a mystery!
Heavily waterlogged the wagon has not been spared the rain by any kind trees. The wagon is nearly empty. It has a tailgate which is broken down and nearly broken off the wagon entirely. The yoke sits wedged into the mud, unused. There is a single bag in the wagon, soaked through. One of the wheels is wedged into the mud as well. Otherwise, there isn't much to go on at first glance. The wagon is pointed the way they were heading, though horse nor driver is anywhere to be found.
Harlex approaches the wagon with some caution. He leads with his sword, moving the lips of the bag he's spied open enough to reveal the ghastly, eldritch horror of dried fish. He makes a face and narrows his gaze briefly before he steps away from the abandoned vehicle. "Nothin," he wonders. He looks back to Walen without saying anything specifically and then the wagon. He moves to the front of it, trying to spy any tracks from that absconded horse.
For all that she's wearing an impractical seasilk dress and pretty white (well, once-white) cloak, Rosalie doesn't seem to have any problem getting right up on the wagon, poring over every inch of it. Running her fingers over the edges of the wagon, peering underneath. She watches as Harlex sifts through the bag, her brows popping up at th4e sight of something on or in it. Then she's casting about on the ground, looking all about before spotting something and going over to inspect it carefully. "Okay. So it looks like the driver was ambushed. Probably at least two attackers, one archer, one bladesman. I suppose its possible to be one attacker, but that seems foolish to purposely put yourself into melee if you already have someone at the disadvantage of range. There was a fight, blade marks on the sides of the wagon, there's an arrow under it, stuck in the mud. Some blood on the inside of the bag, so likely whatever they were after was in the bag. Also, there's tracks, multiple people, heading north off the path." She points in the direction the tracks lead, "And it loks like the yoke was cut, so the horse was set free to wander away. Which is odd, but I won't question random kindness to animals." She pulls out a handkerchief and starts wiping off her hands, smiling brightly towards the group, "So! Do we rescue the man or keep going towards the holy place?"
Kalani's nose wrinkles at the smell of dried fish and hangs back while Rosalie and Harlex take point on sorting out what happened and why. "It's possible that someone was wounded and they needed the horse to carry that person away. Or to cart away what ever it was that they pulled this heist for in the first place," she suggests as she stands clear of the tracks, tugging one muddy boot out of a deep wheel rut as she paces around. "Won't this holy place still be there whether we go right now or not? All life has value."
"Rescue!" Did anyone doubt Juniper would fall on that side of the aisle? "If the place has been holy for forever, it will remain so," she chimes agreement with Kalani. "And maybe the man on the wagon was going there too. What was in the bag?"
"We rescue," says Thena sharply with a Look at Walen.
Kenna cants a shoulder upwards when the question is asked. She's following Thena whatever she says.
Harlex brings up his sword to rest on his shoulder. He looks at Rosalie, "Well. I was right. You do got a big brain in that pretty little head." A nod of approval is given. Though whether to rescue or not is no concern of his, he'll go with the majority on this one.
At this hiccup Walen has grown increasingly anxious, sinking into his cloak further. A tight look is given to Thena. "If the Grandmaster thinks that's best." Comes the deep voice of the man, eyes resting warily on the wagon. "All life has value." He repeats Kalani, nodding. "Take the lead if you feel that is what should be done."
Juniper checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 20 higher.
Kenna checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 19 higher.
Harlex checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 6 higher.
Kalani checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.
Rosalie checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.
Thena checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 15 higher.
"Thank you, Harlex," Rosalie responds with a grin before nodding to Thena and then the others. "Rescue then! North is the way they were headed and we'll probably need to move quick if we don't want the tracks to wash away completely."
Kalani treks her way around the wagon entirely and back in time to share a nod with Juniper first and then the rest of the group. "If they're on foot as well, and they're going toward the holy site, is it possible to circle around and come at the site from another direction?" she wonders as she skims one hand over her face and wipes the rain out of her eyes. "I don't know the terrain," is admitted with a grimace, "so I don't know if that's possible or if we're coming up on some sort of cliff face."
Kenna doesn't really mean to move towards the front of the group, but a natural curiocity prods her in that direction anyway. "Hey, isn't that puddle deeper?" Pointing to one and then stepping next to it to make another. They look more or less similar, even if Kenna's is probably a bit smaller. "I thinkkkkkk it might go this way." Her hood has fallen off in her searching and she's getting very wet now. But they're FINDING STUFF. It's EXCITING.
"You're right!" With the group reaching consensus (and no ambush to enjoy), Juniper leaves Thena's shadow to fan out with Kenna. She squelches through the mud (a challenge even for a seasoned courtier) to cast about in search of possible tracks. Rosalie said that someone might have been carted away! So she looks. "Here!" comes a call. And then "Here!" And then... yes, that's going to continue. It's a good thing they're all best trail friends now, or that could get annoying quickly as she helps uncover the right way to go.
Thena doesn't bother to put away the daggers, and as more of a city girl than a woodsy type, she lets the better trackers lead the way. She'll just keep an eye out for danger that might need stabbing.
Harlex stays close to the others and follows their guidance. He's got to keep his eyes out for those attackers. Mercenaries don't really believe in things like 'coincidence' or 'happenstance' or, on some occasions, 'kindness'. Despite the armor, which he doesn't mind muddying up, he's quite at home in the terrible conditions. A road-weary vagrant only a half year ago.
Rosalie sticks closer to Harlex now that they're on the trail after Bad Guys (TM!). She's not great with wilderness, but she's learning! And while she's certainly more used to creature comforts, she slogs through the rain and mud without complaint. A smile is turned towards Kenna as she gives an encouraging nod, "Good spot, Lady Whitehawk!"
Kenna and Juniper, expert trail friends lead the party through the brush and through the trees. They take a turn here, then a turn there. Punctuated by HERE calls from Juniper and excited confirmations from Kenna keep them going on. Occasionally the two have a small meeting of the minds to figure out what the heck THAT puddle means but for the most part it is a good steady burn through the soggy forest. There are a few more turns until the two Very Best Trail Friends bring the group to a ledge and to a halt. Because down a small ledge there appears to be a few open flapped tents about a hundred feet in the distance. For now, there doesn't seem to be any movement.
No movement besides the rain. Because there's a lot of that.
With Rosalie in his shadow, Harlex follows after the V.B.T.F until they reach that small ledge. He gestures a halt, if his company needs the reminder. Then he looks over the tents. He speaks quietly (quieter). "We need to get down there, anyone see movement?"
Kenna checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 16 higher.
Harlex checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 8 higher.
Juniper checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 3 higher.
Thena checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 26 higher.
Kalani checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 4 higher.
Thena checked dexterity + stealth at difficulty 15, rolling 13 higher.
Rosalie checked dexterity + stealth at difficulty 15, rolling 33 higher.
The K in the VBTF stands on the edge of the cliff and looks down for... anything. "Yeah, I can't see anything." She glances over at Juniper to see if there is anything that SHE sees. Besides nothing. "There's rain." Not helpful.
J-fren takes a knee beside Harlex and squints quite atmospherically at the camp. It looks pretty but it ends with a sage, "...much sky water," to show solidarity with Kenna.
With a sigh and a look up at the cloud obscured sky, and of course the trees that are mostly in the way of the cloud obscured sky, "And more rain. Also," Kalani says with a sigh, "mud. Did we mention the mud?"
"Sky water." Kenna's going to just tuck that phrase back into her pocket. "I can't help but wish that it would you know.... stay there." Just making conversation.
Rosalie pulls off her cloak and hands it to Harlex with a smile, "Please try to keep hold of that for me." Then she's drifting off and away and just sort of... disappears into the brush and detritus.
Harlex is her cloak-rack. No problem. He is about to say something when she's just gone. The only evidence of her presence that cloak in his hand. He stays low, keeping watch with the others.
While Trail Friend scout team alpha remains on the ledge, a small scouting team treks ahead. Thena and Rosalie move quietly down the side of the ledge, making there way to the bottom. As they approach the tents there appears to be no sign of a sentry immediately. Though this does seem to be a small camp. A fire place has been dug out under the safety of some trees, keeping the coals that glow and the smoke that pours out relatively untouched from the copious amount of skywater. The tents seem to have people living in them even if there isn't anyone present immediately. Save for one. As the two creep towards the tent they will find both a man and a woman, seemingly unconscious laying on a pile of furs. Both bound at the ankles and and their hands bound behind their backs to what seems to be stakes pegged into the earth. Their heads droop forward and they make no movement. Thena is able to get spot the trail of tracks of a person leading off. Possibly a watch, possibly a sentry. It's hard to tell, but whoever has made this camp home, they seemed to have left their prisoners unguarded.
Thena squints thoughtfully at the falling rain before vanishing after Rosalie, only not quite as awesomely. When they find the camp, she looks around the area, clearly troubled, and says something quietly to her Sneak Friend.
Juniper tucks her lower lip between her teeth as other trail friends go super stealthy. Better not make wisecrack comments at the moment. They're reconnoitering! Which would be a fun word to say but alas. So she settles for hugging the cloak more tightly about herself and nodding agreement with Kenna.
Lingering in the shadows, and trying her hand at being as quiet as possible, Kalani's eyes narrow with outright suspicion at the empty camp and it's prisoners. It looks like a trap, to the Seliki healer, and she doesn't even try to hide the suspicion in her expression.
Kenna's totally up here on the cliff and not down there doing sneaky things. So she absolutely quips, "You make a great hanger Harlex."
Harlex growls. Though, yes. He does. No one would steal your cloak or coat if it hung on the mercenary.
Thena checked dexterity + stealth at difficulty 15, rolling 30 higher.
Rosalie checked dexterity + stealth at difficulty 15, rolling 26 higher.
Down below, Thena and Rosalie confer in quiet voices before melting away again. When Thena emerges back by the others she swipes some rain out of her face and says, "Trap."
"They want us to come in and rescue people?" From Juniper's tone, it is evident she can't puzzle out the sense of this trap. Ambush trap to do good?
Harlex explains to Juniper, quietly. "We use to do it in the Crows. Called it the lamb-lure. Wound a scout and let him crawl a while to bring his fellows to aid him. Then you attack." He doesn't look glad to explain it, as a point.
"It makes a sick sort of sense. When you have one wounded soldier you lose another two to carry that one. Two wounded people? Now you're down six," Kalani murmurs with a nod to Thena and Rosalie. "I'll go check it out though, if you guys want to watch for movement," she offers. Chronic volunteerism.
"Did they expect //us//?" Kenna sounds more than a little bit disbelieving of that. "Or just... someone?" A small shrug as she looks at the people who are better at this kind of thing.
"Definitely a trap," Rosalie agrees as she appears once more, approaching Harlex to retrieve her cloak with a smile. "Thank you, Harlex." Then she's looking up at him and lifting a brow at his explanation, though she nods towards the others. "They expect -something-. Maybe not us exactly, but something. And... the two that are down there. I don't know. This just reeks of a setup. Like playing three card rook. Search for the Queen but she'll never actually be on the board. She's always up the sleeve, or in the pocket." Shrugging, she offers, "I'm not saying they -are- in on it, just that they could be."
Juniper returns to worrying at her lower lip with her teeth. Her eyebrows tuck down in a sharp V. "We can't leave them," she chirps. This seems fundamental. But she is no tactician, so she tilts her head to look (with wide pleading eyes) at Thena and Harlex.
Juniper checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 29 higher.
Kalani checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 1 lower.
He nods to Rosalie, smiling faintly. At her raised brow he looks a little guilty but there's work to be done. Juniper's pleas earn a deep breath. "We just can't risk it. Not yet." Harlex says.
Thena checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 9 higher.
Rosalie checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 11 higher.
Harlex checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 9 lower.
"I certainly don't want to leave them," Thena says with a hint of frustration as she tries to think through the situation. "If it's a smallish party we might be able to take them on under the right circumstances."
"Why not circle the camp, see if there's anyone else hiding in the trees, figure out which way they've run off to? Get someone between where ever it is, and the camp, while I try to get them free of the pegs?" Kalani wonders as she grips the carrying strap on her physician's satchel, clearly anxious.
Harlex considers the options. The best tactical move. He studies the area, falling quiet for a time.
"The pegs will be easy, the ropes can be cut. But we dont' know if they're sleeping or unconscious, if we can wake them or if they'll need to be carried. If they need to be carried... that's going to be a problem." Rosalie offers in her pragmatic way. She smiles briefly towards Harlex, no censure in the young Redtyde woman. Looking back, she chews her lip, "We can always try to trail the sentry, follow his tracks, see if maybe wherever he's at is where the others are..."
This is not Juniper's forte. It's enough to hear the others discussing concrete ways to pull off a rescue, ways which bring light back to her eyes and leave her looking attentively from one to the next. "I'll do whatever you say I should to help," she says of the as of yet undecided plan. "I can make a distraction. Play siren in the trees or... something."
Harlex checked wits + war at difficulty 15, rolling 23 higher.
Thena grimaces a little. "I would rather take out the others before we try to rescue the prisoners. Having anyone down there while they're being used as bait is dangerous and I think we should avoid splitting up as much as possible. Still..." She looks at Juniper. "A distraction might work."
In delayed addendum, the courtier asks, "Where did Walen go? If he knows the area, he could be helpful. Juniper straightens up from her crouch and cranes a look around. "...did he have to water a tree?"
Walen is, indeed, not with the rest of the group.
Harlex says, "Shit." He doesn't say why he says shit. But he says it. The sellsword notes Walen's absence afterward. "Too late. We're in it now. Form up, stay together. Weapons out. They already know we're here."
Juniper wields brilliant sunset symphony pinks charming hairpins topped with treble clef.
Kalani gets a physician's fine steel scalpel from a physician's medicine satchel.
Kalani wields a physician's fine steel scalpel.
"Well that's one way to solve it," Thena mutters quietly, reaching for her daggers again.
Looking around with an expression of surprise, Kalani carefully slides the scalpel free from it's designated slot in her medical bag and holds it at her side. Just in case. "Could all of this have been a set up? Just to get him here and then to heck with us?" she wonders in a low, wary, tone of voice.
Juniper gives a very unwarriorlike squeak. Her question had been idle. The reaction in the group is /not/. An awkward yank frees the hairsticks from her hair, one to each hand. They're lovely and pink and hold a wicked edge...and they look utterly ridiculous in her unpracticed grip. /She/ looks silly, curls plastered to her face and back, clothes soaked through. "Someone /was/ at the camp... I think. This is a lot of effort for a robbery ambush though," the young woman whispers.
Rosalie looks towards wher ethe scholar had been, then follows the tracks with her eyes.. just in time to see someone step out of the trees. She palms her dagger as she murmurs, "This is no robbery... this is something else. Something much bigger." Shifting around to place herself behind Harlex as much as she can.
Harlex takes in the area as he speaks, "All the same to me." His voice has a lilt of low harshness. He raises his free hand and tugs on a small strip of leather beneath the parked metallic ear. Snap. The top jaw slams shut over his visage, sparks cast by the sharp rough cut fangs colliding. "Point them out, find cover if you can. Work together. And don't blink."
"/Asshole/," Thena proclaims with fervor when Walen is discovered to be missing. Then she silently pulls her own helm, yes it's a squid helm it's a long story, and steels herself.
Well the jig is up. Figures start to pop out from behind trees. First one. Then another. Then a third. Then a fourth, this one a very large fellow. Perhaps as tall or even a bit taller than Jeffeth. A large blonde haired man with a wild untrimmed and untamed beard. This man steps out with Walen in front of him. One hand on Walen's shoulder. An easy shove sends the scholar to his knees, hands swinging forward to catch himself from falling over completely. A woman steps out from behind a tree, and is speaking. But it's raining. So it's hard to hear her. Her mouth moves, but the group cannot hear anything. She looks at them expectantly. Frowns, takes a few steps closer and yells a bit louder over the rain. Her dramatic monologue, completely ruined. "You tread on our lands, with /this/. In search of things you should not find. What you seek is unfit for heretics." It is stacatto as the woman has to practically shout to be heard over the rain. She motions with her head to one of the other Abandoned who stepped out from behind a tree, they go running towards the camp. The group hears,
"They figured it out! Come on!" Bellowed from below them in the camp.
Then the woman is yelling again. "You proved resourceful and intelligent. You may leave with your lives. But this one pays for your transgressions." A simple motion towards Walen.
Harlex steps forward so that he may be heard. "Reckon I can't do that," he says. Regretfully. "That man owes me. He's my employer." A gesture to Walen with his sword. "And our contract ain't up." His voice is clear even through the metal visage. His sharp, green eyes staring ahead toward the abandoned. It always comes back to this, doesn't it?
Juniper checked composure + performance at difficulty 15, rolling 13 higher.
Thena lowers her daggers...still holding, mind, but lowered. "I'm afraid we do need to hang on to him," she says, sounding perhaps a tad regretful. "Is there anything else we could interest you in?"
That's...a lot of people. Juniper tucks her lip between her teeth as she visually counts, one by one by one, the figures which appear in the rain behind silver-washed trees. It seems a good time to at least pretend competence. A huddled courtier doesn't add to a party's formidable count. But with a small roll of her shoulders, the lifting of her chin, she adopts a stance which aspires to match the others'. "A different toll. For passage, and to apologize for the transgression," her voice lifts in support.
"Uh..huh.. okay.." Kalani's voice is low, "that's a first," she wipes her left hand against her face again and blinks at the melodramatic monologue spouting woman before trying to get a nose count on the number of people running around and through the camp. "Right. What he said. Sans the.. payment.. thing," she pats down her pockets. "Could we interest you in some chocolate instead? We've hot chocolate, in fact."
Rosalie tries to do her trick where she just sort of slides off into the brush and disappears from view, but it doesn't quite seem to work this time. Or at least, not completely. Her companions may lose track of her but it seems the Abandoned haven't.
The woman looks at the rest of the group, the ones from the camp slowly emerging up onto the ledge. The man and the woman that were 'kidnapped' look decidedly less so. They bare only a few cuts and scratches, but look majorly put out at being beat up for the trick to completely fail. The woman at the lead raises her hands, "This worm would seek to defile what is holy to us. He shall never touch that what the Highest deems sacred. Whether he a part of the People, or a part of your Compact." The big man behind Walen gives a kick to the mans back, sending him down to his hands and knees once more. "Yet you were likely deceived by him. The Highest, Queen Gloria's sisters would beg us to have mercy on those deceived in such a way." She admits giving a slow nod to Juniper. A hard look is given to Kalani. A few moments pass, "We will take the chocolate. But that does not buy you passage." When Rosalie starts to creep into the bushes, a few bows are nocked and a hissing sound is made. Unh unh! The woman holds up her hand. "You may let The Highest, Queen Gloria decide your fate." A little smile is given as she gestures to the large blonde bearded man. "Karl is an excellent tool when used to decide Gloria's wishes."
"Gloria... they want an honor duel! An honor duel to decide our fate," Rosalie looks to Harlex and Thena, seeming almost excited once more. "We just need one person to take on, and beat, Karl. If we can do that, we can go. All of us." She looks back to the woman and calls out, "If we lose, do we all forfeit our lives? Or are we dueling only for the Scholar?" She motions towards Walen. Then pauses, then asks, "And can I talk to you about your religion while the duel is occurring?"
Harlex isn't that religious of a man but he gets the gist. He's steady, tall, and he sheathes his sword for a moment. But his hands stay close to the waist of his wide belt. Another step forward is taken, sizing up whom she called Karl. "Big fella." He comments, looks to Rosalie at her excitement. "We'll see." The Dread Wolf curls in his claws and shakes his hand loose, slow-moving and unhurried. "Then let's get to decidin'," he replies, aggresively loud. "I'll put up the blood and I'll put up the steel."
"Oh, that's much better than an ambush," is Juniper's first instinct. Her second, however, is concern as expressed in a worried look at the wolf- and squid-helmed members of their ragtag band. "Not to the death. We can't let them set the terms for death. Don't agree until--" Aaand then Harlex is taking charge. Right. Damn. She says something that may or may not be very, very rude, in Northern Shav'arvani. Softly though.
"Yeah. We were deceived," Thena confirms dryly, dark eyes lighting on Walen briefly and without much sympathy. "We'll deal with him." She looks about ready to say more, but Rosalie beats her to it and she just looks sidelong at Karl. Then Harlex, and she lets out a sigh through her nose. "I am a priest. Would an apology in...Queen...Gloria's name be acceptable instead?"
Kalani checked charm + diplomacy at difficulty 15, rolling 26 higher.
Making a short sound of amusement, a chuckle really, Kalani stows the scalpel in it's carrying sheath then unslings the backpack she's carrying. "Queen Gloria, you say?" she wonders as she finds the tin of chocolate shavings and seals the pack again before shrugging it back onto her shoulders. "Does someone have a kettle to boil water or would you like to use mine?" is wondered while the talk of a duel and the ground rules are agreed upon.
Benvolio, a beleaguered valet arrives, delivering a message to Harlex before departing.
"If the Highest decides in your favor than you may continue to harbor our runaway. For today." The woman states flatly before looking to Rosalie with an arched brow. "All who wish to abandon the heretical ways of the compact are welcome in the Queen's embrace and that of her sisters." The woman looks from Thena with an arch of her brow then to Kalani. "I suppose if two sisters, as capable and strong as yourselves. Were to swear to the Highest. Perhaps her desire for justice could be sated today." She brings up one hand to stroke at her cheek thoughtfully. "Otherwise the terms are yours to set. Karl shall be our champion. And I suppose this one shall be yours." As the group goes by it starts to become clearer and clearer that the woman is only addressing the woman of the party and Harlex gets only fleeting glances.
Harlex falls into a lean, half slanted. He rests his claws on his wide buckled sword belt. He does lift the top jaw of his helm, at least, while he studies Karl. Appraising him as a foe. He makes a 'tch' at the corner of his mouth and spits to the side. But, otherwise, he lets the women-folk do all the important talk.
With a look at Kalani, then at the Abandoned leader, "Personally I would rather avoid bloodshed. Clearly we've all been duped by this one here." Thena makes the faintest gesture towards Walen in the mud. "He has led us far astray."
"I didn't know Gloria has sisters." This from Juniper as she eases over towards Harlex. Reassured this won't end in death, she gives his armoured arm a nudge and slides something into his clawed gauntlet. Visibly. Where the Abandoned can see that yes, he's part of the group too, and worthy of /that/ consideration at least. A few quiet words are said before she retreats to go lend a hand with Kalani's preparations. By uh...holding things. As needed. "...wait, isn't he a Scholar?"
"A matriarchal society in which Gloria is revered as highest among the Gods... miss, if you please.. do you still worship Mangata and Lagoma, or the Queen of Endings? Is it only the female of the Pantheon that gets your praise, or do you worship Glorida solely?" Rosalie has that 'scholar' gleam in her eyes, wishing only that it were not raining so she could pull out a journal to record her notes! Instead, she pays quite close attention, committing it all to memory for scribing down later. "You say the scholar there is a runaway. He was born to your tribe then? Raised among the worship of Gloria?"
Thena checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 50, rolling 33 lower.
"Mmhmmm," comes from Kalani in a low, musing, tone of voice as she eyes the titular speaker of the group, continuing to toss the tin of chocolate shavings from one hand to the other. She angles a look from Harlex to the ah 'champion' and back again as she walks to the nearest fire and shares a nod with Juniper as she joins her. Off goes the backpack, again, out comes the tea kettle and she sets it on the ground before pouring water out of the canteen at her side into the kettle before setting it on some rocks near the fire to heat. At the very least, she could make some soothing tea, if push comes to shove.
Rosalie looks back and forth between Thena and the Abandoned woman, letting Thena try her hand at the diplomacy bid. When that appeal seems to fall on deaf ears, she draws in a deep breath and steps forward once more. "Well then. Since Gloria demands justice, let us give her what she wants. The terms of the duel... if our champion wins, we get to take the scholar with us and we leave peacefully. If our champion loses, then you get to keep the 'runaway', and we will leave your lands immediately." Rosalie smiles towards the other woman, "Either way, we will leave your lands without further disturbance. We duel for the right over who gets to keep the runaway for punishment. Is that agreeable?"
Rosalie checked charm + diplomacy at difficulty 15, rolling 61 higher.
With Rosalie's offer on the table, the Abandoned accept the terms. Once the terms are accepted and a fight is soon to get underway the Abandoned seem almost... Pleasant? Gathering in with Juniper and Kalani, most of those who were previously waiting on any attempt to attack now sit side by side with those from the Compact to watch the duel. One of the tents is even repositioned so the women of the party are shielded from the rain while Kalani bews the tea. The woman who has taken the forefront, takes a seat as Harlex and Karl begin to square off.
Harlex checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 30, rolling 45 higher.
Harlex checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 30, rolling 19 higher.
6 inflicted and Harlex is harmed for minor damage.
Harlex regains his height. He let's out a breath and he can't hear a damn thing else but the air in his lungs coming out, warm through his hard, bitter lips. He approaches Karl as the duel begins. He walks, steady in his pace. Focused. The helm is snapped shut. Sparks fly. His hands are swinging at his sides and then suddenly---a breeze moves through his cloak and his sword is off to the side in his clawed hand. Blood coming deep from a wound on the Abandoned's side. He pivots and his eyes are unholy green terror behind those crooked slots. He launches himself at the giant, taking a minor hit in the previous. But it had begun.
Harlex checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 30, rolling 14 higher.
Duels are no foreign thing to Juniper. The stakes for this one aren't a matter of life and death (so far as she knows). The form is the same as it would be in Arx, to a certain degree. And still, under the awning, beside the others, with hot chocolate bubbling merrily in cups, she finds herself holding her breath as she watches. Holding her breath and moving her lips in a silent prayer to Gloria and to Lagoma both.
Harlex checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 40, rolling 26 higher.
Harlex checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 30, rolling 39 higher.
Harlex checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 40, rolling 4 higher.
12 inflicted and Harlex is harmed for minor damage.
Karl steps forward, drawing the greatsword from his blade. His armor is a little more rudimentary than Harlex, but he's a beast in it all the same. The large man pulls a chain coif up around his head and charges forward at Harlex in turn. He immediately takes a wound from Harlex, letting out a grunt. The second exchange, Harlex is able to completely avoid Karl's strike. Stepping in, Karl follows up, swinging his greatsword down. There are a few more exchanges, though Harlex is decidedly able to keep pace of the fight, having the upper hand even if the other man may have the advantage in strength, the man in the wolfheart armor is able to keep the control of the fight for the most part. The greatsword continues to rain down, and Harlex is able to continue to defend. One glancing blow is able to catch the man in the side, causing a small fleck of blood to leak down. Until Harlex makes his riposte, which drives straight into Karl's gut, sending the big bearded man straight to his knees. And the woman watching straight to her feet. Eyes wide she watches, dropping the cup of tea Kalani had just made her. There is silence for a long moment.
"Take your scholar and go."
Harlex puts up a boot to kick Karl off his sword and he watches the Abandoned fighter, doubled over to the ground. That sucking wound through his gut. He only looks for a second and then sheathed his fiendish longsword and lifts his helm up and under his arm. No words to say. The deed is done. Life and death as irrelevant as they ever were and there stood Harlex. Survived again. He has a few cuts, which reveal themselves in blood trickle over his segmented dark plates. When he reaches the tent, he looks to the women. "We're done here." Nothing cute. Nothing quippy. His eyes a radiant, devastating coldness. No hesitation in what may have been a fatal strike.
Rosalie collects the scholar, hauling the man up to his feet as soon as the word is given. She nods towards Harlex and looks to the rest of the group, "Lets honor their wishes and leave immediately. This is no place for us." Not with this small of a group, anyways. Maybe with more people.
It seems the diplomatic thing to make a quick, quiet exit. Juniper has an aching look for the fallen Abandoned champion but it doesn't prevent a little touch, fingertips brushed to arm, as she bestirs herself to approach one side of Harlex. Support is offered if he needs it and if she makes a note of the frost in his eyes, nothing is said about it. "Gods bless," she says for those they're leaving behind. Small consolation, given they're down one.
The party picks up their scholar and pushes on. The destination was only a little bit further. At which Walen ultimately states 'this isn't the right place'. So it's sure to be an extremely fun week for everyone on the ride back. The scholar remains mostly quiet through the inevitable interrogations that come. He does reveal that yes, he is a prodigal, but there really is a holy site out there. They just have to find it. He has another possible location where it might be and it is of course, just a trivial distance away.
However for this trip, they are finished. The Knights of Solace will have to consider whether or not they will escort the scholar once more or if this has proven to be more trouble than its worth. When the soaked through party finally arrives back at their animals and horses, Jeffeth has been able to get the wagons unstuck and is waiting for them with a concerned frown. "Vexed person." Is called out at Thena, Jeffeth pointing at her, somewhat proudly. They finally got a V on the alphabet game.
And then... Back to Arx.
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