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The Haunted Mine

The Lycene coast along Igniseri lands is remote and thinly populated. Sleepy fishing hamlets eke out a hard living far from the seat of power. Word comes to Granato weeks late that a novice Knight of Solace vanished in the haunted wilderness while investigating ludicrous tales of ghosts. What can an urbane city-dweller believe? Surely there isn't a haunted forest anywhere in the Hundred Cities. But the young knight is a month overdue...

Date

Oct. 28, 2018, 8 p.m.

Hosted By

Delilah

GM'd By

Delilah

Participants

Ariella Calaudrin Cullen Luis Quenia Merek Ian Lucita

Organizations

Location

Outside Arx - Lyceum near Granato - Docks - Giovinazzo

Largesse Level

Small

Comments and Log


Ian gets ugly, singed, stained, multicolor scarf from Aged Satchel.

Ian wields Heavy Cane.

Lucita wields Ember Reckoning, a rubicund dagger.

Lucita checked charm + empathy at difficulty 15, rolling 51 higher.

Merek checked perception + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 22 higher.

Giovinazzo boasts hardly so much a port as a collection of miserable docks. The fishing fleet probably numbers no more than fifteen or twenty boats of any kind of description. If the Carlotta showed up here, it would be larger than the town and the cove, never mind being run aground to the embarrassment of the Hundred Cities. Dozens of such places exist in the Lyceum: tiny specks of civilisation hard won from the forest or the scrublands, holding on by the skin of their teeth. They pay dismal taxes. The population doesn't number much past 200 or so, including vast outlying swathes of tangled brush and hills. If a past lord has ever shown up rather than a tax collector, be shocked.



The day is still and dismal under a thin sheet of rain that tapers off and builds. Rough road gives out this way, a track that links Giovinazzo to three or four other villages. The smell of brine cuts through the air, along with a trail of smoke lifting from a chimney on the low-hipped building on a bluff that Ian can instantly recognize as a warehouse for the fishery. Gutting, drying, packing, that's all familiar even if he can barely see it. They can all smell it. It stinks. It's probably a bit redolent of home.

The smell is an unfamiliar one for Cullen, definitely not something like the Greenwood, and it catches him by surprise. Lifting a hand to his nose for a moment, he offers Quenia a weak smile. "Marquessa. As lovely as Granato is, it appears there's interesting little towns to be found tucked away everywhere." Surveying the village a bit longer, his brow wrinkles over an entirely different matter. "Also...oddly enough...there's absolutely no defenses to speak of, not even a rude palisade. It appears there may have been at some point, but I cannot be sure from here. Other than the rocky bluffs and slopes, this is entirely indefensible, and a real Shav attack would overrun it easily." Pinching the bridge of his freckled nose for a moment, he also points out, "There's also a bit of...something isn't right. It's too quiet. The people are afraid of something."

Merek has on all his black leathers, with a sword upon his hip while he follows with the others. He was here to assist as a Knight of the Cities. The man sniffs a bit as he pulls his cloak to him, looking from beneath the hood a bit, "... No people, where did all of them go? Should be a lot more around right now," he mentions, while he sighs with thought.

Lucita wrinkles her nose at the scent but otherwise tries to ignore it while glancing over at Ian and giving him a little nudge. "I've always wanted to show you Granato, but the part of it that I know. There's a little tavern you would enjoy down near the shipping offices, and the food the cooks prepare in my old home is absolutely mouth watering, but seems Cousin Quenia needs us to check on some things here." She gives a little smile and nods amicably toward some of the villagers if they are close enough to notice. To the others in the group she murmurs. "The voyage here wasn't too bad. Cousin Quenia, did something happen here, maybe the pirates raiding? I know you had a problem with them at one time that Luis dealt with in a different site." She considers the people once again as she listens to the others and considers a moment their words. "Should I try to see if can work with them any to find out what might be going on? I'm really not that intimidating so maybe they will relax enough to talk with me?"

Calaudrin was on the original surveying team, so when there's a call to go back and mention of a Knight of Solace being missing? He's on it. They arrive at the little town and he frowns, looking out at the docks. "Fishing ships are all in," he comments, reaching into his cloak and withdraw something to smoke. "Sort of weird. It's about the only thing this place has going for it and they're not out doing it. So what's up with that?" He wanders along in that direction, hoping to catch a glimpse or hint of whether or not any of the sailors are hanging around in the area or if it's deserted.

Delilah has rolled 1 20-sided dice: 5

"They think the mine is haunted," Ian remarks. "Might be enough to keep them from indoors if they don't have to be out. Strange that the fishermen aren't out, though." He showed no real response to the smell of the fish packing warehouse, so maybe he IS used to the smell. Either way, it doesn't seem to bother him. He's armored in the sense that he's wearing the leather coat and pants that he always wears. There's no sword at his hip, but he's got his cane, so monsters had better watch out! Nobody would ever confuse Ian for a people person, and he probably knows it -- either way, he stays out of the interactions with the villagers.

Not a single person stands out on the docks. Mind, standing on them is a good way to fall into the sea. The only reasonably permanent structure around the village square has light in the shabby little windows.

"The pirates were farther inland," Quenia tells Lucita as she makes her way into the village. She nods to the things that Cullen says, offering polite smiles here and there. She's definitely mentally taking notes. "I shall have to get you to remind me when we get back home, Cullen. I'm sure I won't remember it all," she gives him a polite smile. But, she breaks away from the group a bit to start chatting with the people of the village. At first, they are scared of her - particularly when she mentions who she is. She does her utmost best to try and assuage their fears, letting them know no one is going to be arrested, and finally the stories come. "It seems not just a Knight of Solace went missing, but also a courier. Something to do with the woods over that way," she points in the direction of the woods. "The villages believe, rather firmly, they are cursed and full of ghosts. They think they were taken there."

Lucita checked charm + propaganda at difficulty 20, rolling 40 higher.

"I would be happy to do so, Marquessa." Cullen answers Quenia promptly, if quietly, then takes a spot to the side and behind her to let the Marquessa do her thing with the people. A people person he is not, so the Greenmarch knight is happy to stay out of the way here. When the explanation of fear and a ghost in the woods comes, his gaze turns in that direction with a frown.

Merek walks to the tavern so he can look around a bit, then he moves to where the others are once more. He seems to be following Lucita at the moment as he does, cloak about him while he looks at the village's decor.

None of the villagers in the tavern come /anywhere/ near Cullen or Calaudrin. Not a single one. They keep their heads down and stare into their cheap swill. The tavern is a smoky and forgettable place cast in the dark, but a pleasant escape from the drizzle building up into a proper November rain. The smell of stale ale is nearly as prevalent as the creaking of the building.

Ian wanders off a short way to let the social and talking people talk and be social without him looming nearby. Or looking skeptical when the ghost talk comes up again and annoying everyone that way. "The warehouse is seeing some use," he comments, returning (to join everyone in the tavern?) a short time later. "But if they're not out fishing, I don't know what they'd be doing with it." If everyone IS in the tavern, he'll go about trying to get someone to sell him a drink, seeming as at home in a run down hole in the wall tavern like this one a he was smelling the fish. Which means he probably knows not to expect quality.

"I know I'm not everyone's favorite person but..." Calaudrin attempts to get the eye contact of someone that passes him, squinting at the man's disappearing back as he walks away. "This town is even less friendly than I am," he mutters to himself as he uses a convienent torch set along the outside of a builind to light up his smoke. "Something is certainly off, they could be reacting just as Lord Ian says. Will we take a walk into those woods then?" He uses his free hand to adjust the bow strapped to his back.

"You really mustn't go. Um, my la... M-marquessa," says one older gentleman in a shapeless coat and hideous hat that would make any of the urbane denizens of the Lowers consider knifing him to put it out of his misery. Then him, just in case. His weathered face is seamed in worry, shaggy peppered brows low. "Nothing good down that road. Sure we'll have the p-payment for t-t-taxes when it comes round. Less you come to take the f-forest. Papa always said should have been burnt t'ashes." His rheumy brown eyes move to Calaudrin, and away. He shudders a little. "Poor girl. Nothing be done for her but memory. We tried to send word. So they'd keep her in prayers. But she's good as dead, Lagoma bless 'er."

Lucita settles into the tavern, her armor is a good quality but shows signs of wear. She gives a beguiling smile and quietly begins to talk to some of the servers and drops onto a barstool to begin talking with people seated nearby. Her manner is easy, relaxed and comfortable in the setting. She keeps her mannerisms gentle and accepting of the others, comfortable mingling with them. She gently nudges the topics into a direction from which a bit of information may be discerned. She murmurs. "A cursed road? Oh, goodness, really? Thank you for letting me know. And that poor Knight, they went out there even if should not have... ghosts?" She charms her way into learning bit by bit and finally something catches her attention and she asks. " Dues, time to pay the dues? I am not sure I understand."

Calaudrin checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 23 higher.

Cullen checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 9 lower.

Lucita checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 0 higher.

Merek checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 9 lower.

Quenia checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 3 lower.

Ian checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 4 lower.

"I mostly got that they were scared because I'm here. They think I'm going to arrest them for the disappearance of the Knight of Solace. I tried to let them know that's not the case," Quenia says to both Ian and Calaudrin. She looks over at Lucita and asks. "Did you get any other information?" And then Quenia's being approached by someone else. She turns to look at the older gentlemen, giving him am empathetic look. "I heard of the troubles happening here and felt it needed investigating. I have members of the Explorers here to help out, as well as a few people who are true friends to me who'll help find out what's going on. I don't believe anyone here is to blame for the disappearance." She glances to the woods though at his further words. "And, if it comes to it, and there's something in the woods doing things to people, I need to know so I can consider what to do about it."

Pale eyes take in the villagers with their refusal to look at him, so Cullen sheathes his weapon in case it is the brandishing of arms that is causing the reticence. Listening to whatever talk he can, he probably doesn't get much out of them. The muttering of the frightened older man in Quenia's direction has him standing closer to the Marquessa protectively, hand wrapped around the hilt despite the sword having been sheathed.

"Marquessa Quenia," Calaudrin starts with a tone of warning in his face, speaking at a volume /just/ loud enough to be heard by his companions. "The atmosphere has changed, someone is slipping out the back door to get away from us. I think they're heading towards the woods. We should follow them." That's his professional opinion and he'll back it up by taking a long drag on his smoking and moving through the tavern to that back door, popping it open just enough to peer outside and down the path.

The dim, shadowy tavern is filled by barrels and small tables meant for two or three. Drinks at the small bar scarred within a hacked edge of its life are served in questionably clean mugs. The ale isn't half bad, and the wine can strip paint or deoxidize silver and copper. The tender scowls at Ian and shoves over a foamy brew. "We got a room for..." Pause, extortionate rate incoming, "Fifty silver." Thud. "Get the missus to jolly it up for ya on account of the ladies. Ain't no other places round here." Someone will be shocked, surely.



Hmph. Lucita gets a blank stare. "Taxes," says the fisherman she was talking to. "Sea ain't giving up much. Things go bad to worse. Mangata spare us. We'll have storms for a month and pirates til May, just watch."

"Might want to start with the warehouse," Ian remarks to Quenia while prodding at the tavern's cold, swept hearth with his cane. "It's being used for something. No wood for the fire?" The last is directed at the innkeeper in his usual flat, calm tone. He lets someone capable of chasing do the, er, chasing.

"It's November. No need for the waste 'til it gets real cold." By Lycene standards, this is cold. Save on the northeast coast. He scowls at Ian. "You want wood fetched up, be my guest. Not wise to take from the woods. You might not come back." If only he had the least idea of who he was talking to.

Quenia gives a succinct nod in Calaudrin's direction. "We can look at the warehouse when we get back," she tells Ian, and moves to follow after Calaudrin at the back door. She pauses only a moment to see if the others will follow before following Calaudrin herself.

Lucita watches discretely out the tail of her eye as people finish drinks and instead of staying for another as would be expected, some villagers nearer her begin to drift away, the conversations being diverted to other matters and her question about 'dues' being answered as taxes. She glances toward Quenia and lowering her voice to reach her only. "Might be taxes, might be something else 'due'. Not sure the way they are acting and if I ask more, likely they will not share much. Want me to stand them a round and see if a few songs will let them open up more or come with you?"

Delilah has rolled 1 20-sided dice: 1

Cullen falls in with Quenia and Calaudrin, hand still wrapped on the hilt of his longsword. "Of course, Marquessa. I shall come with." Another quick glance over the tavern, face expressionless as he takes a protective stance and listens carefully to Lucita's words.

There's a bit of distance between top of the path and where it starts in the village. There's not exactly cover for anyone to hide and so Calaudrin slips out and just begins to walk casually down the road as if he's definitely not following this guy who snuck out that back door.

Ian doesn't seem to feel that now is the best time to be pulling rank, especially since everyone seems to be leaving. He pays the bartender and tips, but not enough to make the man uncomfortable or make things weird, and then finishes his drink and follows at an unhurried pace, watching his own footsteps more than he's looking out for fleeing villagers.

Merek places both his hands to the pockets of his cloak and nods to the others, "I am going to walk around a bit," he offers, as he moves to the village from the tavern, and next to the outskirts to study up the forest in the distance from beneath his hood.

Where did those villagers come from? As soon as Calaudrin steps outside, he might notice two of them headed off to a line of four weather-beaten shanties. They stoop low in the rain. Yes, they were in the tavern if memory serves. Another man sways his way off in the opposite direction back to his sorry excuse for a house. And meanwhile, a fellow sprints up the dirt track, falls in the wet conditions. He curses, and gets back up, hot for leather for the crest where he is soon out of sight.



Call it a sigh of relief as the departure of the nobility leaves the place less full to the rafters.



Ian might find a good half the crowd behind him seems to have evaporated in the time it takes for him to finish his drink, headed out the front or, apparently, a back door.

"Hey! Stop, I just want to talk to you!" Calaudrin calls out. This is eerily similar to patrolling the streets of Arx. And if you're wondering, does that ever work? Nope. The guy is probably going to turn around and throw a rotten cabbage at him. It's okay, he's used to the abuse. He tosses his half finished smoke onto the ground and starts off at a jog after the sprinting/falling person. Though, it would probably be helpful if someone younger and not pushing forty (that smokes like a stack) helped out with the pursuit.

As they head off to the warehouse, Cullen leans over and murmurs to Quenia, "Marquessa. Over there by the side of the tavern...and over there behind the warehouse...remains of a palisade, as I thought there may be. So they did have fortifications at one point, but now they do not. Finding out why would likely be important - who would tear down their defenses when so fearful?"

"The 'ghosts' probably told them to take them down," Ian snorts, drawing up to join everyone a little belatedly. "Right after telling them to turn over all their valuables."

Merek checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 31 higher.

"Come with, please, Lucita." Quenia says before she slips out the door. She's still following Calaudrin but stops when he starts yelling, and for the moment she falls behind Cullen - making sure that he's between her and whatever else might be there. She frowns when Cullen points out the fortifications being missing, not quite having gotten that point before. "Shav'arvani, do you think?" she asks him. He's her resident shav'arvani knowledgable person!

Merek rubs at his scruffy soft beard a bit, and looks over to Calaudrin as he reaches the crest of the hill. "... Cart marks seem to be going into th forst, it looks like there was an altercation here," he nods then to the other man as he pulls his cloak to him within the chill air. "Alas, I was hoping for actual ghosts."

"Oh for fucks sake. STOP RUNNING." Calaudrin makes it to the crest of the hill, having lost sight of the guy he was chasing. He puts his hands on his knees and mutters something about quitting smoking. Taking a moment to catch his breath, spots the warehouse looming in the near distance. He glances over to Merek and lifts his shoulders, "Might as well go in." Which he does, listening to Merek as he gives him his interpretation of what they're looking at. "They decided to set a fire in the last day or so. But no one mentioned that down at the tavern?" He gestures to the cart marks. "Could still be ghosts," he offers the other Iron Guard a wry smile. "Lets follow?" An invitation to go on a jolly stroll with him into the possibly haunted woods.

Ian regards the figures of Merek and Calaudrin, growing ever more distant. "The man they're chasing will be going to warn the 'ghosts' that we're here. Whoever it is will probably fade into the woods until we leave, but there's a chance they decide to fight. Those two can handle themselves?"

With Quenia walking behind him, Cullen's not dashing off anywhere. He came here to delve into mysteries and protect the Marquessa, and by the gods he'll do both! At her question, he nods his head before drawing the longsword again. "Shav'arvani definitely could be the cause. May have forced them to pull it down and keep it down so they could exact tribute as they wish, especially since there was that mumbling about dues needing to be paid. I'd think it very likely."

Lucita looks from one to the other as she watches the man running toward the warehouse. She is not the fastest of runners so not a good one to give chase but does follow along with the group rather than splitting up. She has a light trail pack on her shoulders and keeps a watchful eye out as she moves with the group, trying to keep Quenia in a protected position. "Have to rely on your advice for all that and stay with you all." She speaks in the direction of the more skillful fighters.

In the village... A few drinkers continue to shuffle off to their shacks and homes rather than going down to the boats. They move with purpose, and once they're inside, doors are shut and no lights come on. Whatever disturbance came out of the tavern keeps them from wanting to socialise anymore. No one but the nobles and knights keep to the road. Calaudrin and Merek vanish out of sight as they reach the top, veering off to the left towards the warehouse. Smoke continues to curl merrily into the wet sky.



On the hilltop... The runner goes straight for the warehouse. He kicks into high gear, dashing into the darkness with one worried look back at the man yelling at him to stop. Not a chance. A murmur of voices might be heard with difficulty. Two men pause, labouring among the charred wreckage to pull out burnt boxes and scorched barrels that spill salt and the occasional melted clump. They shrug, and get back to work setting aside what can be spared. A clearing sweeps back considerably far from the warehouse, evidence of yearly bushes hacked back. The dirt road turns and heads right into -- of course -- the spooky forest. The thin scrub builds up fairly swiftly into tangles of deciduous trees and bushes running amok, none of it friendly looking in the grey misery of the autumn rain. The meandering path is soon out of sight. It doesn't look nearly so well traveled or friendly as the path down to the village.

"Well, it's a good thing I learned the local dialect then." Quenia says, talking of lycene shav'avarni. "Just in case," she says mildly. She does hasten her step a bit, but not to the run that Calaudrin was at, to catch up with him. "What have you found?" she asks about, looking between he and Merek when she does finally catch up. She's assuming Merek is with him. "And does it look like we continue to the woods, or do we check out the warehouse first since it and we are here now?" she asks, suddenly happy that some of those she knows are Iron Guard!

Quenia checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 16 higher.

Ian is careful, walking over the uneven ground. He keeps up, but he's watching his feet a lot. He still seems to be taking all of this in stride, with a relaxed confidence of someone very much in their element. As they get closer to the warehouse he, if anything, gets -calmer-. He sinks comfortably into a profound sort of peace that could, if Zen were a thing, be considered zen-like. He also starts paying closer attention to the surroundings, even if that means stumbling once or twice.

Calaudrin watches the guy disappear into the warehouse, where he can still see him inside talking to other people. Before he moves off with Merek to go follow any cart tracks, "Hey! What happened in here, who decided to burn the place down?" If these guys run away from him too, he's going to start taking it personally. Quenia approaches and he waves to the inside, where a fire apparently happened. "It'd be nice if they told us what happened before we go. But it seems like there's some tracks here and a path."

Merek follows Calaudrin as he listens to him question people, then he allows his gaze to shift towards the forests a moment. He rubs at his chin as he nods a bit and looks back to the side, "Weather's perfect even for banditry," he admits. The Knight seems to be thoughtful.

Lucita checked perception + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 11 higher.

Suddenly, Cullen holds up a hand to keep Quenia and Lucita from going ahead any further. "So, we have some good news, and bad. The villagers have kept the forest cleared around the town and warehouse to help protect both in absence of the missing wall. Bad news...that warehouse was recently on fire, it's still smouldering - probably within the last two days - a lot of people were involved in a huge fracas, and large objects were definitely hauled out of there and into the woods. Perhaps Lord Ian and I should go take a look? Also, there's a horrid stench coming from in there, I hope it is just fish..."

"It's just fish," Ian says to Cullen. "Not even rotting fish covers up the smell of a man dead for over a day. I'd rather not leave the Baroness and the Marquessa out here alone, if you think you can handle it."

Quenia stops when Cullen asks her to stop, but that gives her a good view of the warehouse. "There are still people inside, and it seems they are working on something. And, they look rather nervous - but not because of the fire. We should talk to them before following the tracks and heading into the woods, see what happened here." She frowns a bit. "I wonder what it is they are trying to salvage..." She starts to take a few steps forward then, placing her hand on Resurgence, her rubicund sword.

"Fish," Ian posits. "One way to cure fish is to pack it in salt."

Calaudrin checked command + leadership at difficulty 20, rolling 30 higher.

By the warehouse... The two men working in the ashes to roll barrels out of the way heave and drag the charred wood out. They roll it aside with a rather impressive heap of salvage. Clearly they have been at it a while, their grey and sooty clothes telling a tale. No helping a crate full of charred catch. One slows a little, looking at Calaudrin with a distinct squint. "Your mother," he says.



His buddy grunts and shifts the barrel, sweat heavy on his face. "The Tolltakers. We're paid up now." He wipes at his face, leaving a warpaint streak of grey ash over it. "Who in Lagoma's sweet tits are you?"

Lucita looks at the smoldering, smoky area at one end of the warehouse and then lets her gaze drift along the faint tracks, not eradicated by the rain that leads toward the woods. "Toll takers?" She speaks amid the cluster of people. "Toll and taxes are not the same. Definitely something going on and if the toll takers removed much..." She lets her gaze travel along the road significantly.

"She's dead. But I'm sure yours is available tonight," Calaudrin replies to the man with an arched eyebrow, glancing at the rubble. After his gaze sweeps the ground, it returns to the man and he steps into the warehouse to extend his own hand. It's calloused and rough and the grip is firm, "Sir Calaudrin Estardes. We're looking for a Knight of Solace. Who're the Tolltakers?"

"Tolltakers?" Quenia says as she does finally move forward. Her lips curl into a light frown as she says this. "Your taxes pay for the roads that you use, of this I can assure you. There are no toll takers within these lands, at least not by my authority as Marquessa. Do you have the names of these people? And...." and then Calaudrin reminds them of the Knight of Solace, which she was about to do - so she lets him handle that part rather succinctly. "And did these people have you remove your village's defenses?" she asks, remembering what Cullen had said. She looks over at him, then back to the barrel haulers.

Merek looks over to the forest while the men talk, then he walks back up to the crest to watch it. He seems to be looking for signs that people are there while his hood is up, seeming thoughtful.

"Fish? I really don't know anything about fish. Or fish preparation." Cullen admits with a shrug to Ian, clearly out of his area of expertise, and obviously isn't going to stop Quenia from going to check out the warehouse or talking to the people within it, nor the Baroness, but he keeps nearby with a wary look, sword drawn and mouth shut, letting the Marquessa deal with her own people so as not to offend, other than to murmur to her quietly, "Indeed. If they're being extorted for some sort of toll, that would make it far more easy to do so."

Merek checked wits + empathy at difficulty 15, rolling 20 higher.

Ian considers the pile of salvage. "There are a couple of roads other than the main one." When he finally says something, his voice is pitched soft enough that only the people immediately around him will hear him. "They jog inland, so probably not a coast road. The Knight of Solace probably wasn't taken here. All the stuff in that salvage is what I'd expect to find in a place like this."

The more Lucita watches the woods, the more she seems uneasy. She lifts one wrist, the mirrored bracelet glinting on it and she tips it to survey her surroundings in its reflections, checking back and forth to see if they are the same. A glance toward Ian is given. "Don't know what but the woods don't have the same feel as the Forest round Arx or the woods in Saikland. Feels more like that bog did when we started to get near that island.

Merek stands up while he watches the forest, then he pulls his cloak to him while the hood is shifted so he can look at the horizon from beneath it. He looks from the crest to the others, "Tolltakers... Tolltakers, I think... There might be a Shav'arvani tribe, doing sacrifices. I don't know why I feel that, it's a guess, but... That forest has seen some dark times within it," as he walks their way to speak with them.

"Now you've done it," mutters the one worker. He turns back to scooping ash with a decrepit shovel, casting aside bits of burnt rope and the broken skeleton of a smoking rack. "Couldn't keep your big mouth shut. Next it'll be /your/ son..."



The second worker, Giuseppe, leans over to pick up a metal-banded lid to a barrel. He brushes off the soot with a gloved hand. "Giuseppe Gianvazzo." His voice has a rough weariness to it. "Ain't seen her in a month. Good woman. Respectable. We told her not to go on the road and she had none of it. Gods-sworn duty to Gild, she said, and we'd have a peaceful winter. None of that now." He frowns. "Tia was supposed to warn 'em in Granato she never came back. You here to deal with that, Sir Estardes? I hate to say that road never gives up what it takes. Better luck on the sea." He plunks the lid down on the barrel. "Tolltakers keep the road... clear. Never cheap. They make us pay but dear. All was fine til she left. Haven't had the means to pay up." His companion grumbles loudly, a warning he ignores. "They took their due. Sellswords, I figure. The ghosts don't take people anymore. Long as we pay, they kept the orthusi away."

"Sure, they got names. The Chief. The Deputy. One, Two, Three." The first fellow is slow to warm to Quenia, but he is mildly spooked by her title invoked. "Tia makes the levy. They set the terms. That's the way it goes."

Merek checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 10 higher.

Calaudrin checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 5 lower.

Quenia checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 2 higher.

Lucita checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 12 lower.

Ian checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 9 lower.

Cullen checked intellect + occult at difficulty 25, rolling 7 lower.

After staring at the woods for awhile, Cullen rubs fingers down his red-bearded jaw and murmurs quietly, "Something is definitely off in that forest. It kind of reminds me of something, just a bit...but enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little."

"You're sure it's ghosts?" Calaudrin asks the guy, not sounding as if he thinks he's /lying/ just perhaps, confused. "There's no possible way that the people leveraging a toll on you aren't the same ones that are making ghosts happen?" He frowns, crossing his arms over his chest. "I'd like to see if we can find her, alive if possible. If not, have her remains returned to her people."

'Orthusi?" Quenia asks, tilting her head to the side at one of the men. That Igniseri curiosity has gotten her at the mention of an unfamiliar word or creature or whatever it is. "I'm not sure what they are, but we'll be checking that out - along with everything else. Thank you for your time." There's enough people telling her that the woods need checking out that she looks to the group and says. "Shall we?"

Ian continues to radiate a sense not only of calm, but of peace. True peace. It's as though all is right with his world. On the edge of the spooky woods. With the smell of rotting fish all around. And ghosts or violent people pretending to be ghosts nearby somewhere. "Might be a good idea not to take the main road," he suggests. "If there's an ambush, that's where it'll be."

Lucita quietly listens and continues to watch. "Don't know any rituals or anything but I have a bottle of holy water left over and stowed in my pack if it is ever needed." She nods to Cullen. "They seem quieter than the woods have been in before, not 'silent' but not as noisy as the usual. Might be something near enough by to make the animals not as noisy, maybe.

"Sir, I don't know where you come from... but ghosts don't care nothing for the living. They care for themselves. Ain't going to ally with sellswords. We know it's ghosts. Been that way for ages. Forest is accursed and foul." He scowls at the woods, does the labourer. "The living keep to the living, the dead to the dead, and the things between should all be sent screaming into the pit, Lagoma take 'em all." Giuseppe shakes his head hard at the notion. He stops picking things up. "You all take a word of advice. Pray for the fallen knight. We don't have many holy people come by here often. Pray that she got a good end and tell her family she did right. But that forest won't give up no bodies. Wish Lagoma burnt the thing to stumps, clear it, pardoning the ladies."

And then something comes to Quenia after some thought. "Or. . . perhaps I do know what they are." She nods to Lucita, "Keep that holy water handy. They're hounds raised from cursed or blighted places, and will track people night and day." She bites her lip. "I'm not sure what defeats them, but I remembered a story my. . . ." she pauses, somewhat uncertain as to what to call him. "Step-father told me once. It was meant to scare us, of course, as my ers.sister and I had asked for scary stories." She looks to Lucita, saying, "Oberion..." as if to explain WHICH of her step-fathers. She looks to Calaurin, "It's possible someone put them on the scent of the Knight of Solace. Sounds almost like the murderdogs the Gyre's pirates used."

Merek walks over to some metal which he picks up to inspect, then he begins to clean it and work with it as he speaks to the others, "Orthusi, gytraski, sankogrims... Here in the Cities they are known as prey trackers, they keep to the darkness. They will hunt a person all around, and don't stop doing so. They are driven by symbolic associations," he puts words to what Quenia voices about the story. Though his sounds like it's recalled from Scholar Research.

"No, I meant that-" Calaudrin shakes his head and cuts himself off short. "Thank you for the information. I think we'll be on your way." He falls quiet, listening to Quenia's explanation. At the mention of the Gyre's dogs, he frowns and draws himself together. "I never saw one of those in person. But I've heard they're fearsome. Lets hope it's just very clever bandits." That last comes muttered under his breath and he cuts a glance to Merek. "Greeeat."

Ian shakes his head. "Let's hope they're not like the Gyre's dogs. We're in a lot of trouble if they are."

Lucita turns pale on hearing those words from Quenia. "If anything that strong is involved.... we may not make it back to Arx, Quenia." She says softly, worry showing in her eyes. "I think I recall being told one attack from them would be enough to end my life, and that they took down some of Arx's strongest most capable fighters.

"I don't think they're the same, if that's any consolation," Quenia tells Calaudrin. "Not that I've ever seen any of them up close, or... you know... ever." She looks to Calaudrin, "So, stay off the main road? Who's taking point?" He's the explorer she knows!

Quenia wields Resurgence, a rubicund saber.

Listening closely to Lucita, the information of having holy water on hand makes him smile a bit in relief, at least until Quenia brings up this idea of cursed and blighted hounds. Murderdogs. And then it gets worse as Merek starts rattling off weird names he's never heard, the knight shifting from foot to foot. "I hope that isn't the case, that these aren't those dogs. Rather some angry hounds instead. Not that I assume we'll be that fortunate..."

As they get ready to head into the woods, Ian tugs a truly hideous scarf out of his satchel and loops it loosely around his belt a couple of times. No sword at his hip, but he has A SCARF. And a cane.

Merek looks to the others as he keeps that metal as a memento. He then frowns a bit as he looks to the forest, "... Violence seeps to the land, a deep hunger is resounding, it's not satisfied," his orange smouldering gaze seems to be in his thoughts, "Whatever we're going to face, I'm pretty sure it is not completely human in existence," he offers. "Something happened in that forest, a battle? Some violence, do you know anything about that?" he asks one of the men. Still he seems to be kind of working with what he knows from books, NOTHING MAGIC HERE.

The two fisherman drop their shovels or whatever they are holding when Merek speaks. Without hesitation, they hustle back double time into their warehouse, calling to the people inside. "Back to your houses! Ain't safe out here! Let them knights go do their business!" Cue friendly panicked retreat.

Suddenly, Cullen scowls and his already pale face grows downright chalky. "Oh. Marquessa, Baroness...I have heard of gytraski. Old tales in the Greenwood, tales the shamans used to tell us to scare us. Or so we assumed. But...they're serious, dangerous. They cannot enter sanctified land, and in one tale a shaman prayed over a few blades and sanctified them...it did turn back the creature, but nearly all the warriors died in the process. The old and infirm and young escaped into the trees..." Clearing his throat, he asks in a quiet voice, "I don't suppose we have a shaman on hand?"

Lucita remembers Ian's scarf and can not help but give a little grin from showing when she spots he is preparing for battle with wearing it. Taking his action for a cue to be ready for the worst she starts to hum, preparing to sing, mundane hymns but none the less effective ones in certain circumstances. Bits of ones to Lagoma, the Sentinel, Gild and Mangata might be recognized. as she mentally reviews the lyrics and walks along with the others.

Ian touches Lucita on the elbow and says something softly to her as they depart.

"Right, remind me not to be poetic about stories I've heard," Merek offers, with a sigh as he shakes his head a bit. "Still, there's no reason for such creatures to be here according to lore, unless something did actually happen, and it'd explain all the weirdness all of you feel."

"No. We have one true singer on hand, but no one else that I know that can do anything special." Quenia sneaks a look in Lucita's direction. "And Lucita needs a choir, to do anything that might be protective, I think." She looks over at Merek. "I don't know of anything that happened here, and those that could give us answers just ran back home," she looks in the direction of where the workers ran. "We could at least scout out the place, and see what we can find, or we can return back to Granato for now and come back with those who might be better able to help us. I'd rather see what we could do tonight, if people are willing though. I just don't want to put anyone in needless danger, and these people are my responsibility as much as all of you are."

"They sound like... they could be minature versions of the Gyre dogs." Calaudrin scratches his head, looking intensely troubled. More troubled than he normally looks. He sighs and cuts a glance to Quenia, nodding. "I can try and follow these cart tracks up the path into the woods, keep an eye out for you as you walk the path." The bow is removed from his back and brings an arrow to it, just so that he's ready. Off he goes, down the path and into the woods ahead of some of the others.

Merek checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 6 lower.

Lucita checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 10 higher.

Ian has rolled a critical success!
Ian checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 10 higher.

Cullen checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 10 lower.

Quenia checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 5 higher.

In the woods... Ahead lies the road. It's still little better than a dirt track accumulating puddles in the rain. Bushes choke the sides and fringe close in, leaving nothing of a shoulder to speak of. The pass is wide enough for a cart to pass comfortably and not much else, given the thin population in the area. Leaves gathered in fallen heaps make footing treacherous. Grass dying in the cooler temperature pokes up in places, speaking to how few people bother coming this way. The daylight, silvered by the clouds, grows darker since the branches knit together in places. Scrub and trees growing mostly wild together block out the view, a wall of dappled grey and brown, though it's better than facing the Gray Forest or the Greenwood by far. Cullen at least is likely to feel comfortable in that. As they take to the serpentine route, the quiet bears down in a heavy, oppressive wave. It isn't immediately noticeable. Sounds are sharper than they should be. The weight settles on the brainstem and simply refuses to let go. The crack of a twig is likely to startle.

Calaudrin checked composure at difficulty 15, rolling 4 lower.

Ian checked perception + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 39 higher.

Calaudrin wields Iron Shooter, a recurve longbow of alaricite and walnut.

Merek wields Torian Nightsong.

Lucita nods to both Quenia and to something Ian says. "The special singing does not always work, and it is uncertain I can do anything but sing truths without the other singers in the choir, or a musician with a special skill. I've never been in a situation to try. But sometimes plain battlesongs or hymns help though, hearing the plain holy words of them seemed to slow and help weaken the thing in the bog.

As the group creeps along the woods, Cullen remains closer and closer to Quenia, practically right in front of the Marquessa eventually. "Marquessa, these woods...there's something really wrong here. Extremely wrong. Just...oozing evil," he murmurs rapidly with eyes darting from side to side. "Feels like a place in the Greenwood. A blighted place where a demon fell after many died to bring it down. Feels kind of like that. It's not right."

"It may help bolster spirits at least, of the non-supernatural kind," Quenia quips back at Lucita. The heaviness is there for her, but perhaps not as much as for others. She very carefully follows along the path that Calaudrin is setting, giving him enough room ahead to properly scout things out. Resurgence is now in her hand, the familiar feel of it's grip within her hands. She gives Cullen a curious look when he mentions these things and gently places a hand on his shoulders. "If it is like that, we still need to know," she tells him quietly. "For the sake and safety of my people."

Calaudrin hates this forest. In fact, he doesn't even bother to hide it, "This forest sucks. I'd take the Gray Forest with all of its bullshit over this any day." He'll continue moving up along the path, looking for any signs of a missing knight as he goes. The man consistently finds time to mutter his disgruntlement about the woods.

Ian is not in his element in the woods, picking his way over the uneven ground, using his cane to sweep aside leaves to keep from stumbling on anything they hide. But all that just means that he's REALLY paying attention to the path. And maybe it distracts him, as well, from the oppressive atmosphere, because he loses none of the sense of peace that he radiated back at the warehouse. He pauses, close to an hour in, and sighs at something he sees on the ground while way-picking. "Do we want to do this? Go after the dogs."

Merek walks to the forest with the others, while he draws his sword to shift in a twirl within the main hand which he uses for it. The weapon is a beauty it would seem, while he takes his scarf and places it about him, the fireweave soft as the mesh of velvet within allows a nice warm quality to it. The man looks to Lucita, while he rubs his scruffy soft beard, "If we have some alaracite and diamondplate, we should be able to manage alright."

The Knight senses how the place feels like the others, but he does his best to not show it, while he looks from beneath his hood to he others, "Embrace the feeling and make it power within you. Remember the feeling, and remember it is what we must best to protect the people." The sheer amount of things he's felt within places like this or while in combat means that while he does feel it, and it shows upon his features, he won't voice it.

Delilah has rolled 1 6-sided dice: 5

Lucita checked charm + performance at difficulty 15, rolling 45 higher.

Deeper in the woods... Ian points to a practically non-existent path. The thickets are a tangle of thorns and unfriendly bushes. Without him pointing it out, in fact, there's no way for an untrained eye to easily see it. Nothing implies that anyone has gone that way without getting eye to eye with the ground. Rain pours down on them through the denuded canopy, the natural protection essentially gone except for a few miserable leaves. A clump of acorns crashes down on Cullen, the holm oak leaves gone brown. He neatly avoids the squirrel crashing into the ground, however, and the furry little creature bounces three times and disappears into the maquis undergrowth.

"Not really. I want to go after the knight. Which I guess I hope is also this way." Calaudrin stops and scowls at a tree that seems to have a face of some sorts. Surely it's an optical illusion but he's not impressed. He steps passed it and continues along until Ian points out the path. And so, he changes direction slightly and starts heading along that way. It seems even creepier than the last road!

As the clouds open and rain starts to fall, Ian tugs his scarf free from his belt and wraps it around his neck in such a way the it can be drawn up like a hood. A ridiculously garish, not at all badass, faintly smelling of fish and burnt wool hood. Burnt WET wool, now.

Lucita begins to sing some of the hymns and battlesongs that seemed effective at Setarco and in the Saikland bogs. Her voice is clear and sure, confident with each note filling the air, not loudly but projected to reach each of the people in the party. She does not play to accompany her singing but holds a dagger at the ready in case it is needed.

The oppressive air surrounding them lifts considerably. Nothing helps for the darkness or the silence in the forest of ghosts, but the anxiety eases back while her superlative voice weaves between the trees.

"We'll look for the Knight of Solace first. We may need additional aid to take care of the dogs, if they truly exist and aren't just rumors and conjecture," Quenia tells the others. "Unless we find the people controlling the dogs, and then that might not be needed." But then they are shifting paths, and she's trusty the trusty pointman!

Nerves on edge, Cullen nods quickly at Quenia. "Of course, Marquessa. I know, and I am behind you completely on this. I just wanted to get that off my chest." Possibly because the Greenmarch knight is close to hyperventilating, so when the acorns bounce off of him he practically jumps, although a nervous laugh escapes at the sight of the cute squirrel pinwheeling off into the underbrush.

Ian hasn't actually plunged down the new path, to be clear. He seems to be leaving that to more in charge people. What he does say is: "Two people and a dog went this way." Nodding towards the... non way where there's apparently a... path? "Roughly two people. I can't speak to the other path."

Merek shifts a bit to look at the oak, then he seems to be soothed with the song which Lucita offers to the people. He nods to the others, "The rescue seems pretty important, and if they are in the condition, they can assist us with any combat we do."

Calaudrin checked perception + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 34 higher.

Merek is overheard praising Lucita: Beautiful music!

The woods... An hour of travel deeper treks further into the northeast. Gone are any hints of the sea, the coast abandoned. No signs of ready travel meet the eye. Clumps of leaves and overgrown grass impede the way. Wind-damaged trees are common enough. A hornbeam lies over on its side, hoary roots pulled up. The way narrows considerably thanks to a fallen and crumpled deciduous tree, forcing them to go single file if they try to get past.

Tramping up ahead, Calaudrin will keep his hands on his bow until he comes along a piece of material on the ground. He kneels down and picks it up, wiping the mud away from the fabric. He squints at it and then presses his lips together before waving it up. "Gotta a symbol of Gild here. Maybe ripped off of a cloak."

Strained nerves get calmed down a bit with Lucita's beautiful singing, the confidence projected like none else. Cullen gets ahold of himself enough to even peer around for the squirrel, perhaps with the idea of coming home with a new pet, but abandons it and focuses on the task at hand. Still taking up his protective position in front of the Marquessa and whomever is behind her, he quickly freezes and raises a hand. "Traps. All over the road. Look..." Pointing at a wire laid over the leaf strewn trail, it would trigger a deadfall that would have a tree come crashing down in them. "We need to be extra careful here, obviously. Traps mean people who want to keep us out."

Lucita interrupts the singing long enough to ask "So we go the main path instead of the little one since two persons and a dog do not seem to have the Knight that disappeared? They won't be going to a camp or anything?" She resumes singing as the trek continues. Her features show both concern and an alert focus on her surroundings. "Traps sound human made, not something else, yes?" And back to singing she goes.

Ian falls behind naturally, as he tends towards moving the slowest. He doesn't trail after the group, but winds up a rearguard. He gives the fallen tree a long look, and then scans the woods around them.

Merek seems to be collecting samples to put in packages as well as vials while his sword is shifted to his back once more until it is required it would seem. He seems to be also searching for the herbs and flowers that grow in such a place.

Quenia stops moving when traps are pointed out. She doesn't see them, not really, since she's not a survival bound type person. "Alright, how do we avoid the traps?" she directs her question to Cullen, then looks back to Calaudrin. "Do you see a continued trail from where you found the scrap?" she asks.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + stealth(4) at difficulty 15, rolling 44 higher.

"I'm betting it's from our missing knight." Calaudrin looks the scrap over before he pockets it into his cloak. "Not yet, but I'm going to search the grounds around here. It looks old, like's been out here awhile." When traps are mentioned, he swings his gaze to the ground.

Ian touches Merek's shoulder first, and then Lucita's elbow, subtle indications to draw them to a halt. He speaks to them low; his voice won't carry past the three of them, especially with the rush of rain to deaden sound. "If I was going to put an ambush somewhere, it would be here. I don't see anyone, but not being seen is the point of a good ambush spot. Pass the word forward to be ready."

Cullen checked perception + survival at difficulty 59, rolling 20 lower.

Calaudrin checked perception + survival at difficulty 59, rolling 10 higher.

Lucita does not look down like most after she observes where they are searching, but up into the trees, so if anyone or anything is on an overhanging limb. She nods to what Ian says and reaches forward to tap Quenia on the shoulder and let her know and ask her to pass it on to the others.

Merek checked perception + survival at difficulty 59, rolling 30 lower.

Calaudrin is looking for more signs of a knight, looking for more signs. And then he's looking at something dead straight ahead of him in the woods, he holds his hand up to halt that group. He turns back to the immediate person behind him, who we'll just say is Cullen, and whispers to Cullen, "Two archers ahead of us."

Quenia checked perception + survival at difficulty 59, rolling 42 lower.

Lucita checked perception + survival at difficulty 59, rolling 38 lower.

It's subtle, the way that Ian puts himself between Lucita and the space ahead of them as word comes back. But it's definitely what he does.

Delilah has rolled 1 6-sided dice: 5

Delilah has rolled 1 6-sided dice: 5

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + archery(4) at difficulty 15, rolling 15 higher.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + archery(4) at difficulty 15, rolling 46 higher.

Still keeping himself in front of Quenia as much as possible while trying to disarm the trap ahead of them, Cullen never sees the archers until Calaudrin says something. Even then, it's not sure he sees them, but he does try to keep the Marquessa from being a pincushion.

Merek draws out his bow and nocks an arrow, while he looks to where Cal notes for them. He then seems to aim in that direction to wait and see if the archers shoot at them.

Calaudrin checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 15, rolling 45 higher.

Calaudrin doesn't appreciate people raising their bows at him, so he raises his back and sends an arrow off at one of the would-be attackers.

Ian checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 15, rolling 35 higher.

Quenia passes the messages back and forth about ambush spots and archers whenever they are passed to her. She does the best thing she can do, without any bows or such devices, and ducks down hoping the tree that forced them into single file gives her some cover!

Lucita sees nothing as she sings but trees and leaves and the back of Ian and a few others beyond him. She does stop singing as she considers the traps and the potential for ambush Ian mentioned but still sees hide nor hair of anythihng odd.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + dodge(3) at difficulty 45, rolling 8 lower.

Lucita checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 15, rolling 22 higher.

Ian checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 46, rolling 18 lower.

A pair of arrows come flying out of the understory of the forest. Exactly from where: ahead and off to the east, it seems, somehow bending around the trees. The first sign of their presence comes as a high ringing zing, as the first barb takes flight at the gentleman in the hideous scarf. Ian must have really offended them. Following soon after, a slightly different angle, comes the second from a narrower angle that manages to skim over a bush. The steel-stricken point buries itself hard in Ian's side, but on the plus side, it's not pincushioning Lucita.

Caladurin draws his arm back and sets loose an arrow. It travels through the trees, finding a true target in the body of one of their attackers. "Stop shooting at us!" he shouts at them before he knocks another. When he catches sight of Ian being hit with one in the side, he grumbles deep in his throat and aims to bury an arrow into the second guy.

Ian didn't know where the archers were and it's dim in these woods, so it's hard to say how he knew what was coming. He shifts from that state of peaceful, passive readiness to action in the blink of an eye, he shifts his grip on his cane, and an alaricte blade sings free of the wooden casing, deflecting the first arrow as part of the motion of the draw. He grunts as the second arrow hits him, but doesn't seem seriously injured.

Unwilling to leave his protective position in front of Quenia, and also quite hesitant to charge over traps in the road he spotted, the bowless knight does what any rational person would do in this situation - starts to pick up rocks and heave them at the archers, for what that's worth, while interposing his body between the Marquessa and the fiends down the road. "Remind me to bring a bow next time. Even if I am terrible at it..."

Delilah has rolled 1 6-sided dice: 6

Delilah has rolled 1 6-sided dice: 5

18 inflicted and Ian is unharmed.

Lucita's eyes widen and she gasps as Ian takes an arrow. "IAN." She moves to try to let some of her armor protect him and get him over where a tree and some growth protect him. "How bad is it? Anyone a healer? What do I need to do?" Even as she asks, she moves to a point she can protect his back, flaring her cloak out to help present a larger obstruction to view of any trying to sight in on them. "If I can spot one of them, I can throw one of these skinning knives or a hairpin at them, I have extras."

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + archery(4) at difficulty 15, rolling 33 higher.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + archery(4) at difficulty 15, rolling 26 higher.

Merek has rolled a critical success!
Merek checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 20, rolling 49 higher.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + dodge(4) at difficulty 49, rolling 22 lower.

Calaudrin checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 15, rolling 49 higher.

Merek shifts back the bow and takes out his sword with a 'SHIIIING' while he draws the weapon. He then moves through the forest as he charges the foe with a twirl of the blade as he moves forward. It would seem that the archer wasn't expecting him, and he spins around, "ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" he then takes the man's leg from him, slicing clean through it as he then hefts the weapon up with a Eurusi style, "Surrender, or that leg is coming off from you all the way."

Ian checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 33, rolling 7 higher.

Ian checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 26, rolling 21 higher.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + dodge(4) at difficulty 49, rolling 24 lower.

Lucita checked dexterity + small wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 25 higher.

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(3) + dodge(4) at difficulty 25, rolling 58 higher.

Lucita catches a glimpse of one of the shooters from the tail of her eye and sacrifices one of her knives in attempting to hit him before he could draw down on anyone else.

Lucita says, "I see one, I see one, I'm going to throw this knife at him.""

Calaudrin is an archer and there's no way in hell that he's going to go charging up into the woods with his bow. He takes a knee in front of the group however and continues to methodically pick off the archers that are still shooting at them. Merek goes charging up along the path making a lot of fancy noises and he sighs quietly to himself, adjusting his position slightly to fire at the man that still has both of his legs. His next arrow sinks into the man's flesh and he smirks in satisfaction.

Quenia takes cover rather than face the direct danger of an archer. Her blade is drawn, all the same. Better safe than sorry. Which proves a good thing because the shots don't stop flying over them. The disappearance of Lucita behind a tree has no limit for the archer aiming at her, the other taking a quick, pointed shot at Ian. It would be nice, presumably, to feather him. If only Marek weren't coming up in his face, though, and the one backing away with his own injured leg cannot move aside fast enough. Soon as that blade strikes, he screams loudly. The hollow glare of impenetrably dark eyes turns up to Marek. There is a wrongness in those eyes. An absence of anguish. Instead, a terrible hunger marked by blood pumping out through the wound. The other archer has a far better time of it, though his arrow doesn't meet its intended target. Neither is he prepared for Calaudrin, forced to escape a knife flung at his torso. Sacrifices: to escape one bad end, he accepts another.



They all hear the distant, keening howl that rises thin as a coil of smoke on the horizon, a smudged sound gone distant.

"I'm alright." It's eerie how level Ian's voice is even as he uses the wooden part of his cane, the 'sheathe' of the sword, to nudge Lucita behind him and steps around her. An arrow streaks through the place where he just was, even as he's using the hardened Cardian leather of his fencer's spaulder to deflect another one, intended for her. "Marquessa. Keep your head down and come to me."

Eyeing that deadfall trap and calculating the angle where he'd have to slam into the weakened tree to push it over on their assailants, Cullen quickly tosses out a prayer to Lagoma and Petrichor, then nods grimly at Lucita and Quenia. "Stay low, Marquessa. I have an idea." Whether or not he should have tacked on 'here, hold my beer' after that is yet to be determined. Jumping over any tripwire or the like - or attempting to - between him and that weakened arboreal deathtrap, the knight goes to slam into it!

Cullen checked strength at difficulty 15, rolling 3 lower.

Delilah has rolled 1 20-sided dice: 14

Cullen has rolled 1 20-sided dice: 10

Delilah GM Roll checked dexterity(5) + dodge(1) at difficulty 15, rolling 19 higher.

Delilah has rolled 3 20-sided dice: 8, 15, 17

Lucita checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 15, rolling 53 higher.

20 inflicted and Cullen is unharmed.

20 inflicted and Ian is unharmed.

Lucita scowls as the tree starts to fall. She has only to step off the trail and behind the adjacent tree and says to Ian, "Back here!" Short and sweet, not time to say a lot while someone is bashing into a tree and it is sliding down to fall.

Ian glances back at Lucita and Quenia, the barest look. But whatever mental calculus he does apparently comes up with him not scrambling out of the way of the tree. Which isn't to say that he steps into the blow, of course. But it's a tree, so when it glances off his shoulder, it drives him to his knees. He might be trying to keep it from falling all the way long enough for Cullen to get out from under it with all his guts in the places where they belong.

Ian checked strength at difficulty 15, rolling 6 higher.

Merek checked charm + diplomacy at difficulty 15, rolling 32 higher.

Quenia cries out when that trapped death-tree sways. She is already in motion when the teetering weight tips over Cullen and directly down the path lengthwise. The crashing and snapping branches tear into the mud. The Greenmarcher disappears in the mass, and Ian and Lucita remain right in the trajectory. Leaves and bark of the hornbeam fly everywhere, dirt sprayed, muck landing in every direction. Calaudrin manages barely to dive into the brush onto his stomach, his armour scraped by demanding fingers. Quenia dashes to the other side of the road, low and crouched. And apparently Lucita is made of something other than flesh because one moment she's in the way, the next, she finds cover behind another tree. Wasn't she always there?

Lucita quietly casts an eye over the others then moves to a spot she can see where any remaining archers are, readying another knife to throw so they have time to recover from the falling tree and get to cover.

Lucita checked perception at difficulty 15, rolling 5 higher.

Merek shifts up the blade of his to drive it next to the man as it strikes the foliage. He then twirls it with a hand while he looks to the man, "Listen, both of you, don't do this, don't get killed here. I don't know what master you serve, I don't know what she has done to you, but fight it... Fight that name within you, I don't want to kill any more of you, taken from homes to serve their will."

The Knight then speaks louder to them both, "You can live, we can find a way to free you, we can find a way to make sure you can live in peace," he then leans to speak to the one he's with, "I know that the will wishes to serve the name, I've seen it before, but I've seen that you can be saved from it, protected. Listen, if there is a bit of you left that can see reason, know this. There is always a new way, I don't have the magic, to free you, I don't have a lot of things, but I speak to you, as a man. SEE THIS REASON AND FIGHT IT, I KNOW SOMEWHERE WITHIN YOU, YOU CAN STILL WIN!" he then places a hand to the man's shoulder, if he allows, even if that means he might get shanked, yes he's opened him self up for the sake of this, allowing them then to assail him if they must, showing his trust. "This world, all shall be free upon Aion someday, please... See that as a worthy cause then."

Lucita spots the archer who is wounded and calls out to him. "I have you in range and I'm good with knives, You want to lay the weapons down so we can talk with you?

The tree comes down, and Ian doesn't dive out of the way the way the others do. It looks intentional by the way that his sharp eyes move, taking in Cullen, Lucita, the angle of the tree, Quenia on his other side.... And then he shifts and... if it wasn't a tree, he'd be catching it on his shoulder. But it's a tree. So it's questionable whether he catches it, or it catches him. Either way, he's on his knees in the mud before he's able to, with a heave of pure upper body strength, heave it away from Cullen before it falls all the way. He doesn't get up right away. He just took a tree to the shoulder, so maybe that's understandable.

Lucita has rolled a critical success!
Lucita checked charm + manipulation at difficulty 15, rolling 130 higher.

Freed from the tree of pinning, Cullen gives Ian a look of gratitude, then pushes himself up to his feet. "Alright, that...was not by best idea ever." Sword picked up off the ground, he extends a hand to help the Kennex lord up in turn before heading towards the archers and leveling the point at one of them. "I'd listen to them, because I'm not the sort to talk, and now I have bark embedded in my armor, as well as wounded pride."

Ian sheathes his sword into his cane and takes Cullen's offered hand with the hand that didn't get some one on one time with a tree. Since the fighting seems to have paused, he takes a moment to inspect what should be a nasty arrow wound. "Huh," he says after drawing out the arrow that was stuck in his armor, but not his flesh. And then he slides a star iron portrait case out of his vest pocket, the one that holds Zoey's painted picture. There's the faintest scratch where the arrow hit it.

Lucita moves closer to the wounded man, "Sir Merek has good ideas, you should listen to him. You can do as he suggests if you just try! Lay down your arms and let Sir Merek talk to you.

Two archers, one bleeding heavily and the other gored by an arrow, turn their heads to Merek. They aren't in any condition to run from a man with that fancy blade, though the tree falling on Cullen /does/ bring a savage smirk to the one with a mostly intact sense of humour and leg. The forest resonates with the shattering of a sensibly large tree trap, and perhaps just then it might be possible for the less damaged one to launch an attack or withdraw. Harbouring pain in his pale face, the other one stares with those impossibly dark, matte eyes at Merek, hands wrapped around his leg to apply pressure to staunch the bleeding. It shouldn't be enough to stop the cut. And yet... it looks to be. The immense pressure that he bears on himself ought to make the joints groan, the bone bend. His skin is blazing warm, when Merek drops a hand. Even through the rough leathers, that isn't right. Neither is the pallor. Neither is... everything.



The one a bit more with it cocks his head. Lucita's approach earns a blank look from the mask of his face. He looks back at Merek. And then at Lucita. These aren't shavs /exactly/, these men. One of them might be, the scars being sufficient enough. The other clearly doesn't have that sensibility of it. He looks like a damn merchant from Lenosia, dressed shabbily now, turned sellsword.



That mournful howl rises again. Louder by a bit, only a little bit. Still, the ringing ululation presages something out there among the lack of animals except one dazed, broke-neck squirrel.

Merek steps back and motions to Lucita so she can continue the conversation, then he nods to the others, the one who he put the hand on, he looks at his fingerless gloves while he shifts a bit to look in the direction of the howls. He leans in to whisper to the woman so that she knows a bit more about what's going on. He then looks behind him, and looks next to the forest canopy, as he rubs his scruffy soft beard a bit.

Ian presses a catch on the top of the case and it clicks open to reveal the porcelain disk inside, painted with Zoey's likeness. He takes a moment to make sure that it's not cracked before that howl rises again, catching his attention. He snaps the case closed and puts it back in his pocket, then rolls his shoulder with a creak of his leather fencer's spaulder and shifts his grip on his cane again, preparing to draw.

Lucita looks at Merek for a long moment and then reviews the information she helped find so long ago. Her color becomes paler as she does this and she actually turns to look back down the trail for a moment as she lowers her voice to say to Merek. "If that is what this is and they have truly settled in, we are not equiped to handle this, will take someone like Princess Reese and some of her special group to have a chance." She looks troubled. "I thought they were only infesting the Gray Forest, not all the way here, maybe... maybe it is early on... but this... so dangerous." And after that she turns toward the wounded man and speaks in her most convincing persuasive totally Lycene way to restore him to what this small group of people might consider 'good sense."

"Why?" mumbles the sellsword. He hasn't pulled out the arrow, at least, and must be a bit more with it. He clenches his jaw, doing his best not to bleed badly. Not much of a smile shows there, nor a lack of one. At least he is talking. "What's it you want?"



Calaudrin has approached closer, arrow drawn. Quenia helps out with leaf and tree removal duties, as required.

Merek pulls his cloak about him while he nods to Lucita a bit, "Perhaps, unless there are not that many," he then turns his attention to the sellswords while he crosses his arms once his weapon is sheathed again. "We are looking for a Knight of Solace that was taken from the village not far away, and we're also looking to keep that village safe," he admits.

Cullen observes the exchange between Lucita and Merek, gazing curiously at the two men and their rather odd appearance and demeanor. "So what's this about, then? I'm afraid I don't really know, or why it would require the Grayson Princess." Leaf and tree removal duties are very appreciated, Quenia getting a great smile of gratitude for it. "Baroness, is this something you can tell me about, later on?" Holding the diamondplate longsword in a tense grip, his brows furrow.

Lucita waits till those questions asked by Merek are answered before she asks any of her own. To Cullen she nods. "Later, will explain later."

The confused look on the archer's face isn't clearing up readily. "They couldn't go free. Would talk, you see. We weren't going to let them go away." He has no emotion otherwise. The words come out wrong, flat. His face moves to make them malleable, but obviously the response has none of the inherent empathy anyone would expect. The archer slowly bares his teeth. "They didn't fight. Except her. Not going to be a problem anymore. The ville paid. The village is safe. That's the arrangement."

Merek has rolled a critical success!
Merek checked intellect + medicine at difficulty 15, rolling 60 higher.



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