Whispers on the Wind - Hidden Hells
Dec. 1, 2019, noon
Outside Arx - Crownlands near Arx - The Field
Comments and Log
This little group met at the Merchant's Gate, ready to head into the forest. At that time, Sorrel had an image of a sigil, drawn on a slip of paper, that she shows to the group with the explanation: "Elder Mirk says they found the Butcher's House. This is his personal sigil, that marked his tools. The tools that helped him achieve immortality. Elder Mirk and his team destroyed these tools and much of the corruption clinging to that place. It is no longer the Butcher's sanctuary, they way it once was, but they were not able to end him or his threat."
Without any trouble, the newly-godsworn Sister Dianna finds Lady Zoey Kennex at the agreed-upon location. Typical of Dianna, she embraces the woman and gives warm cheek-kisses. Atypical of her, she wears pitch black leather armor tooled with musical notes that is surely not her own, although the fit is fairly good, if a bit snug in places. A dazzling diamondplate glaive is strung onto her back, the blade reflecting even the slightest bit of light in the mirrorsilver reflection. "How did you sleep, Zoey? Are you sure you're feeling up to this?" Dianna dotes on her friend quietly. She is surprised to find her twin at Merchant's Gate, when they arrive, though not surprised to find Sorrel. "Sister," Dianna greets Alessia with a cheek kiss. "Princess," Dianna bows to Sorrel with a gleaming smile.
On the agreed upon location, Alessia greets the group with a faint smile, returning her sister's hug. Ultimately though her attention is solely on the business at hand, her eyes drifting to the sigil Sorrel has drawn. She nods at the princess' words as she listens attentively.
The Archscholar has been largely out of the public eye for whatever reason of late, but she is still doing things, things that she deems most important. When the time comes to follow the map found in the home of the Tenney twins, she is there along with the others at the Merchant Gate, wearing her exotic leather armor and the sword Brixeur'Ame at her side. She does pause briefly, staring at the renovated memorial, and the place where Shaivassa's shadow once was, but is no longer. A little frown etches its way onto her lips, before she turns to Sorrel as the Bladesong explains about the Butcher's symbol, and what Mirk and his group found there. She nods a little. "So the Butcher's home was found, but he was not in residence? Perhaps we will find him on our own journey, following this map," she says quietly. "I pray the Sentinel grant us justice, and Gloria grant us her strength, and Vellichor his wisdom." She inclines her head to Zoey, then offers a brief smile to Alessia, and then to Dianna. "You must be Sister Dianna," she greets. "I am Archscholar Sina. Welcome to the family of the Faith," she says warmly.
"I'm fine, really," Zoey assures Dianna. "See? I even wore my leathers and brought my bow. I'm ready for whatever comes."
She goes next to examine the sigil. "That's a lot more intricate than most maker's marks I've seen. Creating a magical sigil was certainly no accident."
"Thank you, Archscholar. Another time, when this is done, I would love to talk," Dianna greets Sina with a small smile after absorbing Sorrel's words. Dianna has many questions about the purpose of this hunt, but, truly, she has but one focus: Protect Zoey Kennex and her unborn little one.
It's a good thing that Sina pointed out to him that there has been headway made regarding the Butcher. Amund stands next to Sina, clad in his fireweave, with Moonlight sheathed at his back, rather than side. Tugging at the fingers of his fireweave gloves, he considers the briefing given before nodding once to Sorrel. "So putting an end to him is what is needed, now. Sounds good to me."
"Today, we shall sing to the Gods, for we shall do their work!" Sorrel says brightly in agreement to Sina, even as she not-so-casually checks the armor of everyone who is going with them like the good knight that she is, all clad in red. She claps the Archscholar on the back approvingly, then nods to Dianna with a smile. "We shall have to get you armor appropriate to your station, Sister Dianna. I hope the gift of aeterna helped with your new wardrobe."
Sorrel checked intellect + survival at difficulty 45, rolling 7 higher. Sorrel rolled a critical!
Rysen arrives at the Merchant's Gate in time to hear Sorrel's words. Some time has passed from his late brush with the Quene's embrace, and he seem to have recovered, thank to the superb care of Marquessa Reigna's star pupil. The sigil of the Inquisition forming the broach of his mantle gleams in the light, as he says to Sorrel, "I'm glad the Elder was able to break whatever enchantment held the Butcher in the dream." His arm comes to rest over the hilts of his swords, and he offers a bow to the others who have assembled.
Alessia checked intellect + survival at difficulty 45, rolling 2 lower.
Rysen checked intellect + survival at difficulty 45, rolling 4 lower.
Sina checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 30, rolling 8 lower.
"Indeed, it did; thank you, Princess. Again, another time, I will show you my plans for it." Dianna does not bother even trying to understand a map she has only just come to understand exists. Again, her focus is all she needs to know, for she trusts the others here.
Dianna checked intellect + survival at difficulty 45, rolling 27 lower.
Well. Maybe just a peek, but the damned map makes no sense whatsoever to Dianna. She sticks close to Zoey.
Sina smiles to Sorrel, and gives the Bard a squeeze of the shoulder in return. "It is good to travel by your side once more, your Highness. It has been some time, not since the Thrax tour." At mention of armor for Dianna, Sina turns to study the newest Godsworn thoughtfully. "If you have need of armor, you might speak with one of the Legates. Mother Cassandra had mine made for me," she notes. "The Faith is generous to its own," she says with a soft smile, before she turns to Amund. "I am glad you are with us, Sir Amund." She does give a concerned glance to Zoey and her pregnant state, but she does not comment on it as the lady indicates she is prepared. She stares at the sigil again for a time, then she looks at the map with the others as they all attempt to decipher it. The Archscholar gives a slight shake of her head. "I'm afraid I can make no sense of this."
Zoey checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 30, rolling 10 lower.
"It's probably because I drew it," Sorrel admits when it comes to the copy of the map that they're using, which may be why she's the only one making sense out of it at all at this point. "I think we go *this way*!" she declares, and starts heading off in a direction, confident that the others will follow.
Zoey glances over someone's shoulder to get her own glance at the map then shakes her head. Nope.
Attention focused on the map, Alessia's curl upwards on the mention of doing the god's work, nodding in agreement. "Right we will." She attempts to decipher the map, potentially seeing a pattern but ultimately nothing that would lead them a clear direction. Luckily Sorrel is able to guide the way, and the glaivedancer swiftly follows.
Rysen chuckles, and follows after Sorrel, taking some jerky out of the leather holster in his belt and tearing into it happily.
Spring is a time of hope and renewal, and as the new day grows warmer near the Merchant Gate, the sun shines in a pale blue sky. The map is a cryptic thing, but with some intense study and a solid knowledge of the surrounding landscape, Sorrel is able to figure out the placement of Arx on the map and the first landmark of the route.
The destination? A flat plateau about fifteen miles south of Arx. The ride promises to be one that takes at least 3-4 hours.
Gravely, Dianna's brows lift at Sina's suggestion. "I do, indeed need armor, Arcscholar; and have written to Legate Aureth to speak of it; thank you." Dianna smiles gently to Amund and to Rysen gives a light bow and introduction. "Sister Dianna Godsworn, born Mazetti in my former life. Lady Alessia, here, is my twin," she explains, then makes her way, ever by Zoey's side, with Sorrel in the lead.
Sina checks her gear one last time, then follows after the others, setting off alongside Amund. She has her three Templars with her, who follow along at the rear of the party, keeping quiet watch. She never goes anywhere without them, for reasons. The Archscholar keeps a careful eye out as they move off toward the location Sorrel leads them to, her expression taking on a pensive quality once they set out.
"It's a pleasure, Sister Dianna," says Rysen after swallowing his food. One hand rests gently on the reigns of his Crovane war horse, named 'Bandit' by Duchess Fianna, as the knight rides beside the Glaive Dancer. "And good to see you again as well, Lady Alessia. I hope Lady Narcissa is in good health." Turning again to Dianna, Rysen says, "I heard about your recent decision to join the godsworn. Congratulations."
The ride is not an easy one for the Kennex Lady, but she does her best to hide and manage her discomfort as they travel. She is sure to stay beside Dianna, and stays near the middle of the group at all times. Every few minutes her gaze sweeps over her surroundings, almost as though she expects danger to appear with every steel-shoes step her mount takes.
Riding fairly well in these conditions, Dianna smiles with easy peacefulness over her shoulder to Rysen. "Thank you. I am honored by the number of friends and family who came to my ceremony; and honored more by the welcome I have received by others - particularly within the Faith. There is much to do, of course; and much to learn." Dianna glances often at Zoey, attentive to her mood.
Sorrel rides a small sorrel mare, and she keeps an eye on what she considers her charges, which includes both the Archscholar and the pregnant Kennex lady. Still, she's got backup here, and she's brimming with confidence as usual. As they ride, she engages in singing songs to the Gods, and in particular Hymns to Gloria, to help pass the time.
Amund murmurs something to Sina on their way down the road, the sellsword-turned-knight keeping vigil over the flank of the group; he's always half-turning to regard their surroundings, check for roads, rivers, and anything of the sort that can pinpoint a location for them. His blade is drawn, just in case. One is never sure what's going to happen, out in the wild.
Sina gives Amund a smile at whatever he murmurs to her, and inclines her head. "I have no doubt," she murmurs quietly. The Archscholar resumes her quiet study of their surroundings as she rides. She does so a bit awkwardly, not used to being in the saddle. She grew up on a ship, after all, not around horses. After a time, she joins in with Sorrel, singing those hymns to the Gods, particularly Gloria, meeting Sorrel's gaze briefly, her silvery eyes shining with a light of shared faith.
Riding alongside the knight, attention on the road ahead, Alessia smiles with a nod. "It's been a while, sir. And I haven't seen Lady Fidante in quite some time, it's a true shame." She shakes her head. "Funny that I see her less /after/ she becomes a fellow disciple." She turns to Dianna briefly. "Have you met my sister already?"
At least the weather is good, yes? The sun shines, there are few clouds in the sky, and those are bright white and fluffy. The Great Road makes the travel easier, crossing the great gray river over a wide bridge, though the route is, by necessity a little out of the way. Still, they make good time, and the sun is only a little past the zenith when they turn off the road and ride out onto the plateau. The treeline creates a natural crescent as the ground rises in a subtle incline to the raised edge of earth that rises into a natural wall of sorts at the edge of the plateau, looking out over the water of the Mourning Sea. An ancient fallen tree, the trunk blackened as if from some long ago lightning strike, leans against the raised edge of the plateau, the trunk extending out into the open air, the ocean waves crashing against the cliff below.
Rysen nods as he listens to Dianna, and his grey eyes shift to Zoey, but he says nothing. "I would love to know what prompted your decision, Sister," says Rysen to Dianna, as he takes a long drought of water from a drinking horn. "If we survive, perhaps I can convince you to meet with me sometime to tell me how you came to decide. Gods and spirits," he says softly, tilting his head upward, and closing his eyes for a moment as he rides. "It's good to be out in the open air again."
"Not formally until now," replies Rysen to to Alessia. "I am Lord Rysen Crovane, Sister Dianna." He smiles, though it fades when they come to the blasted tree and the plateau. Rysen's eyes shift to Sorrel.
Alessia checked perception + survival at difficulty 35, rolling 10 higher.
Amund checked perception + survival at difficulty 35, rolling 6 lower.
Rysen checked perception + survival at difficulty 35, rolling 25 higher.
Sina checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 29 higher.
Zoey checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 4 lower.
Dianna checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 5 lower.
Sorrel checked perception + investigation at difficulty 30, rolling 24 higher.
"Convincing me would be easy, my lord," Dianna's sweet and melodious voice rolls forth across to Rysen. "For, all you need do is ask and I shall come, quite happily." For a moment, Dianna's amber gaze rests with peaceful warmth on Rysen's eyes, ever touched with a hint of allure. With the introduction, Dianna dips her head again, and her full lips bow into a soft smile. "My lord Crovane, it is a pleasure and an honor."
But not for long does Dianna pay the man so much attention, and even with her attention given him, she keeps a bead on Zoey's manner. She sweeps her gaze across the horizon in a gentle arc, looking for... anything unusual.
Rysen checked dexterity + athletics at difficulty 15, rolling 47 higher.
As they continue along, Alessia's brows furrow as she glances about her surroundings. "There's something a little too precise about this." She shakes her head. "It's a little... unnatural. I can just sense someone's hand in every fixture...." She trails off as she spots something. "I see it." She turns to the others to see if they see what she has. "The drawing."
The pleasant conversation with Dianna and Alessia coming to an end at plateau, Rysen dismounts, swinging out of his saddle, with only the slightest wince for an old injury, when his left leg touches the ground. Looking around beside Alessia, Rysen kneels down at the base of the tree. Glancing back to Sorrel and Sina, the knight of the Northlands says in agreement with Alessia, "The sigil's been carved at the tree."
When they reach the plateau with the scorched fallen tree, and the cliff overlooking the sea, Sina brings her mount to an unsteady halt, then glances around, her eyes studying the terrain curiously. "Let's split off into small groups, and explore the place thoroughly." Her attention fixes for a time on the scorched tree, then she makes her way over to study it as Rysen points out the sigil. When she reaches the base of the tree, she exchanges glances briefly with Sorrel and Amund, then crouches down and looks off in a particular direction, pointing. "There's a path this way. You can barely see it, unless you're standing right here."
Sina points about thirty paces to the right, along the cliff wall.
Something seems to catch Rysen's eye, and he drops down on all fours like an animal, sliding beneath the tree. In a moment, with more force than grace of dignity, he pushes himself out, and rises to his feet, dusting himself off. "There's something else too - another sigil. It resembles Mangata's, but... it's odd..." he says to Sina and the others.
Zoey looks up at the tree initially as a welcome distraction from the flat land. She is tired and uncomfortable, and it seems to be affecting her focus. One hand on the reigns and the other on her belly, she calls out to Rysen, "Odd how?"
Sina checked mana + occult at difficulty 30, rolling 19 higher.
"Lead the way, Archscholar. I've got your back." Amund offers towards Sina as he glances about, in the direction that she points. "Probably Abyssal," the knight mentions, once someone points out a corruption in a sigil that is reminiscent of Mangata's. "Or Eurusi. Probably warrants a closer look."
Sina checked intellect + theology at difficulty 15, rolling 37 higher.
Her brow furrowed deeply, marred with a crease above the bridge of her nose, Dianna does not yet dismount, but gazes down at Rysen, awaiting the answer to Zoey's question. Her amber eyes narrow; explanations will come. There is Zoey to protect, after all - and enough intellect in the group that Dianna does not need to worry overmuch on missing anything.
Rysen shrugs to Zoey. "Wish I could say, My Lady, but it's not anything I've seen before." He glances towards Sina, with a look that suggests confidence in the Archscholar's wisdom.
"Yes, I see the path," Sorrel agrees with Sina as she moves towards it, very carefully. "And honestly? Abyssal and Eurosi are not too different at this point, given they worship the Dark Reflections as gods." She is listening but she does not want to lose track of the path, either.
"Is it reversed?" Alessia asks Rysen, studying the sigil intently.
Sina steps closer to the sigils that Rysen has pointed out, and she takes a closer look at them. Her silvery gaze seems to become a little unfocused for a time as she stares at them, particularly the odd sigil of Mangata.
Zoey carefully dismounts and moves closer to the sigil Rysen has found. "Let me get a look at it."
Zoey is on the ground, so, too, Dianna slips from her mount. She steps just behind Zoey, scanning the area keenly.
Zoey checked intellect + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 19 higher.
Alessia checked intellect + occult at difficulty 35, rolling 11 higher.
Dianna checked perception + survival at difficulty 35, rolling 13 lower.
After she stares at the sigil for a time, Sina frowns darkly. "It is indeed Mangata's symbol reversed. It is as if someone wished this place to be free from Mangata's power or authority here. There is something else... there is a similarity to the things we saw in the Tenney house, in that there is a strangeness about the sigil which matches. A sort of... bluish glow, that I can see. I saw the same glow on the stone that we found in the Tenney house." She glances to Dianna briefly, and then Sorrel and Zoey. "I would like to... see if we can cleanse this place of this corruption. Mangata's authority should be restored to this place along the sea," she says quietly.
Dianna wields a diamondplate glaive set with mirrorsilver and sapphires.
Rysen slides over so Zoey can get a good look. Forgetting to keep a placid appearance, a look of concern passes over his features when she comes to examine the sigils, though with Dianna close behind her, with her dangerous-looking glaive, he seems to relax a bit.
At Sina's suggestion of cleaning the place, Rysen nods in agreement.
Sorrel looks then to Sina and nods seriously. "I shall sing to Mangata, then, a cleansing song, but it is but me, and though we cleansed the statue, we also let loose an Abyssal monster that was clinging to it. So let us be certain that we are not loosing something else. Everyone be ready," she declares.
Sorrel wields Resonant Edge, a lightly curved diamondplate saber.
Instincts - and the fact that so many are focused on /one/ thing - demand of Dianna to remove and wield her glaive. Not seeing anything - but the culmination of information and the ominousness of it put Dianna on high alert. She notes Rysen's expression of concern; notes Sina's words - and agrees.
"Cultists." Alessia says with a nod once the sigil's nature is clarified. "I should have brought my holy water." She dismounts from her steed.
Alessia wields Requiem - an ancient glaive with an iridescite handle.
Sina wields Brixeur'Ame.
After a moment of intensely studying the corrupted sigil of Magnata, Zoey says aloud, "Be careful. This sigil could also be meant to counter her power, not just keep it away. It's like Sorrel says, we might wake something up that doesn't want this place cleansed." Zoey takes a few steps back from the fallen tree and draws her bow.
Zoey wields Dawn's Light, an alaricite bow.
Amund quietly dismounts from his borrowed ride, turning to wield the sharp alaricite blade, before considering Zoey's words. "If it awakes, then we put it to sleep for good, this time."
At Sorrel's words, Rysen draws out Moria, the black alaracite sword etched with runes. He grins at Alessia, and reaches into his holster, and tosses her a canteen. "Blessed by Archlector Madeleine as it turns out." He also draws his second sword, and stands between Zoey and whatever may come after Sorrel's song.
Rysen gets Crovane Sigil Canteen from Holster of Knightly Necessity.
Rysen wields Moria - a rune-etched bastard sword.
This place should be windy as can be. A precipice on top of a cliff next to the ocean? It should be extremely windy. But the air is still in this place. It's not so calm just a few yards away, the trees swaying in the wind, but here? Here it is still.
"We don't know if we can." Alessia says to Armund with a faint grimace, though brandishes her blade, ready to strike at whatever comes.
Always, Dianna is more comfortable with her sister's hand and glaive nearby, the newly-godsworn is calm - though not as calm as the stillness of this place. She does, however, draw her gaze slowly around, awaiting Sorrel's song and backpedals carefully such that her back is near enough to Zoey while remaining far enough away that her long glaive, once spinning, will not catch upon her companions.
Sorrel checked mana + performance at difficulty 40, rolling 29 higher.
"We'll only know if we try." Amund's retort is thus, but the stillness in the air gives him pause. "What are the odds this is a shardhaven?" Asked of no one in particular, but likely oriented towards Sina.
There is a song that Sorrel knows, that another spellsinger wrote, and it is designed perfectly for cleansing Mangata's things, and she sings it powerfully, almost as an attack against the corruption here. Her voice is strong and smooth, a sweet and powerful soprano, with a great intensity.
"Then we're about to encounter the worst creatures mankind has beheld." Alessia says to Amund with a wry smile. She listens to Sorrel's music, calmed by it, though remains vigilant.
As she listens to Sorrel's song, Zoey nocks an arrow.
Sina's features settle into an expression of resolve at Sorrel's words, and she draws Brixeur'Ame from its sheath. "Let us not allow fear to keep us from doing what is right in service of the Gods," she mumurs quietly. She glances around, frowning a little. "There is no wind... but perhaps our songs and prayers may yet carry. While you sing, your Highness, I will offer up my prayers." She glances to Rysen as he tosses the canteen to Alessia, and she says. "Sprinkle the holy water upon the sigil, and let us all offer our prayers and song to Mangata, lady of the wind and sea." She kneels, then, setting the blade on the ground for now, and removes the prayer beads from her wrist, the largest of which has been engraved with Mangata's symbol. Holding them in her hand, she begins to pray. "Mangata, Goddess of the Air and Sea, we seek to cleanse this place, and make it once more holy unto you. Your winds have not touched this place in some time, but we will free them to sing here once more. We cleanse this place in your name, to drive back the unholy taint which has settled here." She gives a nod to Alessia for the holy water, and continues her prayers in a clear voice.
Alessia checked dexterity + athletics at difficulty 15, rolling 66 higher. Alessia rolled a critical!
Sina checked mana + theology at difficulty 40, rolling 10 higher.
Few prayers to any but Tehom are truly known to this former glaivedancer now sworn to the gods, but Dianna's words are earnest, and powerful predominantly as she remains so completely calm. She bends to but one knee and prays, quietly murmuring - for, as yet, this godsworn is a private person, whose love of and connection to the gods is quite intimate.
Alessia checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 4 higher.
Dianna checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 8 lower.
Sina checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 15 higher.
Sorrel checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 5 higher.
Rysen checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 2 lower.
Zoey checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 22 higher.
As Sorrel's voice begins to sing, the stillness of this place seems to intensify. The air thickens, the sense of stasis, of closeness intensifies, as if fighting against the purity of Sorrel's song. As Sina's voice lifts in prayer, there comes a further tension, as if this place were covered in a glass dome, a dome whose walls are thinning with each note, each word. The clouds above gather closer, blotting out the sun, a gray pall cast over the sunlight, though the clouds themselves are limned in golden light. As the song and prayer reach their conclusion, a great bolt of lightning cracks through the sky, striking the top of the tree and sending frissons running down the trunk. One strikes Dianna, another Rysen. The electricity races through the both of them, dulled by its travel through the ancient wood, but still strong enough to knock them both off their feet. In the wake of that lightning strike, a powerful peel of thunder, enough to nearly deafen those gathered for several long moments. The air reeks of ozone, and a powerful gust of wind begins to billow in from over the sea.
Her closest companions - her protectors - are struck down by lightning, leaving Zoey standing alone. She draws back her arrow, but what is she supposed to aim for? The clouds? The tree? Her eyes visibly widen, but she does not leave that spot.
10 inflicted and Rysen is harmed for minor damage.
10 inflicted and Dianna is harmed for minor damage.
Amund checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 3 lower.
Rysen listens to Sorrel's song and the incantation of Archscholar Sina. Suddenly the lighting forks through the ancient wood, and the Crovane lord is thrown backward, tumbling over the ground. On instinct, he pushes up to his feet only to raise his weapons defensively against intense gust of wind that sends his blood red mantle waving in the air behind him.
Sharp knives rip through Dianna's body - or so it seems, with the rush of electricity that sweeps through her knocking her from her posture to the ground with great force. The diamondplate glaive sparkles, motes of electricity sparking at the ends of the blades and seeming to bring the sapphire eyes of the carved hydra to life. She groans softly and lifts her hand to her forehead. Gods above, three-and-a-half bottles of liquor didn't give her such head- and body-aches. She pushes herself up again, standing fully and blinking, softly, attempting to reorient herself.
Sorrel does not stop singing, but she does lift her glimmering sword as if in a threat. She will not be bowed by lightning, and she will not be cowed by thunder. She may be practically deaf, but her song continues fiercely, and she checks her companions for injuries, relieved that they are but minorly injured.
Though Sorrel keeps singing, it seems the sky is done for now. The clouds part, to reveal the sun, and the wind blows in with that heavy ocean scent.
As the song and the prayer build and build, Sina's expression becomes even more fervent. She lifts her silvery gaze toward the sky as the clouds begin to gather overhead. She doesn't break her prayers, but the sight of the clouds strengthens her resolve further, and she closes her eyes once more, bowing her head as she continues her prayers, the energy of it melding with Sorrel's song, and the prayers of the others, to bring Mangata's full power once more to this place. It's hard to predict what will happen, but that powerful lightning strike is enough to raise the hairs even on her arms and the back of her neck. Her prayer breaks off in a sudden gasp as the blinding light of the lightning sears even behind her eyelids. She gives her head a little shake, her ears ringing from the peal of thunder. Heart racing, she opens her eyes wide, and stares in shock at seeing Rysen and Dianna fallen. Lifting her hand to her mouth to cover it briefly, she seems stunned for an instant, then she seems to gather her resolve. She doesn't yet rise to her feet, instead maintaining the prayer, turning it into a prayer of praise Goddess. "We praise you Mangata. You have shown us your awesome power. Let none ever bar you from this place again. Petrichor, we ask that you sanctify this land. Mangata, bless it with your cleansing rains. Let it heal, and be whole. So may it be." There are tears running down her face, though she's seen Mangata's power before.
Catching the holy water deftly from the Archlector, the other hand still holding onto the handle of her weapon, Alessia sprinkles some onto the sigil as Bladesong sings. At the conclusion of the prayer, her head whips around as the lightening cracks through the sky before she understands what is happening. Seeing the bolt hit her sister, she runs towards her with widened eyes. "Di?" Though relaxes when she sees her rise once again. She turns to Rysen too just as he rises. "You're both alright." She glances up at the sky.
As the fresh sea breeze moves over the party, Rysen grins wryly, and nods to Alessia. "I'm good, thanks." He glances to Dianna, and then to Zoey. Resting his bastard sword on his shoulder he comes to stand beside Sorrel. "And I thought your operatic performance was impressive, Your Highness."
Should any choose to look, that perverted symbol of Mangata has been blased off the tree trunk by that bolt of lightning. The ground is singed in a perplexing pattern that looks like arrows.
Clearing her voice with but the quietest of whimpering sighs, Dianna regains her composure. "Shocking, I would say, Princess," Dianna dryly quips, following Rysen's compliment. Dianna's eyes may sparkle but the waning pain grips Dianna still too much to lift her smile.
Zoey releases the breath she didn't realize she was holding before returning the nocked arrow to her quiver with its fellows. She notices the scorch marks on the ground and climbs back up on her mount to see them from a higher angle.
"I don't think we're done yet," the Kennex lady says after a moment.
Sina finishes with her prayers, and then rises shakily to her feet. She looks to Sorrel with a soft smile, then she picks up Brixeur'Ame, though she keeps it out of its sheath for now, her silvery eyes glancing around warily. When she sees the scorched arrow marks, she moves a little closer to study them, and the path they originally saw before they decided to cleanse this place.
Amund watches as those struck by lightning rise again, as a sigil is made in a tree trunk. He considers this in his silence before nodding affirmatively to Zoey. "This is just the beginning for our task here."
Demeanor warming as her sister makes the joke, Alessia hands the holy water back to Sina. "Thank you, Blessed." She turns to Sorrel. "And you, your highness." She nods as they speak of having more to do and turns to study what has caught the Archscholar's attention.
Taking Zoey's lead, Dianna may as well see the streaks that gave her such a headache from a better perspective. She steps to her agitated steed and rests a hand on its thick neck and, gazing into its eyes, murrs softly, stroking the beast. Horses, thank the gods, are of the only animals that Dianna knows will be charmed by her soothing charm and gentle ways. "Easy," she softly coos, "easy." When the beast is calmed, Dianna mounts fluidly, the time she takes with her stallion seeming to have brought her back to herself. She looks down upon the marks, though she yet has to steady the skittish, backpedaling beast.
Finally letting her song fade, Sorrel considers the marks on the ground. "Guidance?" she wonders, looking up to Zoey who is mounted now. "There's also a path over here that we might follow. I have not forgotten about that."
Sina takes the holy water from Alessia, then she turns to Rysen, and studies him carefully for a time. "You alright, my lord? Sister Dianna?" she asks, glancing over to the newest Godsworn. She hands the canteen of holy water back to Rysen. "Thank you for the use of your holy water." She then turns to investigate the singed tree and the obliterated unholy mark, as well as the arrows scorched into the ground.
Rysen slides his swords back into their sheathe and moves to clam Bandit. "Easy, boy. Easy," he says, running a hand along his neck. The presence of the other horses, and perhaps the restoration of the natural order allows the horse regain its composure.
Accepting the canteen back from Sina, Rysen says, "Of course, Archscholar." He slips it back into his leather holster, and swings into his saddle. His grey eyes linger on Dianna for a moment, with a slight smile and a nod to see that she's recovered from the blast of lightning.
Rysen puts Crovane Sigil Canteen in Holster of Knightly Necessity.
"Yes, just a touch of a headache; it is waning, now. Thank you, Archscholar," Dianna gently smiles to Sina from the improved height of her mount. Dianna now turns her gaze to Zoey, waiting her interpretation.
Sina inclines her head to both Rysen and Dianna, and then she moves back toward her own mount, sheathing her sword once more when it seems there will be no fighting of demons right now. She pulls herself up into the saddle and takes up the reins, looking down at the arrows again. She seems calm, despite the apparent dangers of their journey.
"The arrows indicate that direction," says Zoey, pointing west-northwest. "Highness, what does your map say is off that way?"
Rysen checked intellect + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 8 higher.
Sina checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 15, rolling 2 higher.
Zoey checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 15, rolling 9 higher.
Alessia checked intellect + riddles at difficulty 20, rolling 4 lower.
Amund checked intellect + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 1 lower.
Sorrel checked intellect + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 3 higher.
Dianna checked intellect + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 19 higher.
As the map is presented for all to look at, things seem a bit clearer. Perhaps it is Mangata's presence here, but the glyphs on the map seem to correlate to known landmarks. The next closest landmark is a field just outside of Ashford lands. The next, a point along the Gray River, southeast of Stone Hearth. The last is on the Arx-side of the river east of Bastion.
Studying the map for a while, seeming to use a different tactic to decipher than is usual, Alessia squints. "Gray River next, southeast of Stone Hearth." She sheathes her blade to her saddle and gets on her horse.
"We'd best get going," Sorrel agrees thoughtfully. "We have a lot of ground to cover, and there's no telling what we'll find."
The lightning strike has jarred Dianna more than physically; for her mind is suddenly crystal-clear. "That map," Dianna turns to Sorrel, her voice touched with urgency. "Look, there." She points to the other landmarks, listing them in order. "Ashford lands, Gray River - yes, Lessi; Ston Hearth, and Arx, near the Bastion." Dianna nods to Sorrel in agreement. "All together, then? Or shall we split?
Sina steps her mount closer, to take another look at the map with the others, and nods in agreement with Alessia. "Seems reasonable," she murmurs. She's a bit quieter and more contemplative now. "We should stay together though, I think. I wonder if there is a significance ot the pattern of these locations."
"Divided forces would mean we are less prepared for whatever we encounter," says Zoey. "I'm in favor of staying together.
"In my experience these things love to pick at smaller numbers. Easier to ambush." Amund remarks after remounting his horse once the map's been figured out by better rangers than him. "Best to bring holy water."
"Yes, after the field, that is." Alessia nods at Dianna's list, correcting herself. "Sticking together is best. The more heads and hands, the better." She smiles faintly.
Given the distance, it's at least another twenty, possibly even thirty miles to the next landmark. This means another 5-6 hours in the saddle. Given teh time of day, they would likely arrive just after sunset. Thankfully, the advent of the Great Road means that more and more Taverns and Inns have been built along the road, catering to travellers who use said roadway. Finding lodgings for the night is easy enough, close enough to the second landmark that within an hour's ride the next day, they can easily reach the general location.
Far from arguing, Dianna quite agrees - and prefers - to stick together, for it would be difficult to part from her sister in such grave circumstances. "Very well," Dianna says, gently, catching her sister's gaze and lingering for a bit. She smiles warmly after re-establishing her native bond.
Rysen rides with the party along the Great Road. Both horse and rider seem content to be out of doors, and the lingering damage from the lighting doesn't seem to dampen the lord's mood much. When the light of the sun begins to fail, Rysen rides along side Sorrel and says, "That inn seems like a good spot to rest. Shall we get some food, and find a place to hole up, and continue in the morning?"
"Yes, let's," Sorrel agrees with a nod to Rysen as they continue down the Great Road. "Fighting scary things at dusk is a bad idea." So they find one of those aforementioned taverns, pay too much for lodging, as they can afford, and get ready to go out the next day. At breakfast, Sorrel says, "Eat hearty! No telling what we'll need our energy for today!"
"Not too hearty. You don't want to cramp." Alessia calls with amusement in her voice as she drinks her whiskey. Yes, in the morning.
Mazetti-born, Dianna is not shy to consume just enough, and with relish, finishing it off with - of course - the closest she can come to brandy. Which, of course, is whisky; but not /too/ much, as she needs her wits about her - only four fingers, this morning, and several cups of ...less than perfect coffee. Still, energy is required, and Dianna enjoys this breakfast with her companions, all of whom she will already consider friends.
Zoey and Dianna share a room for the night, and sit together at breakfast the next morning. Zoey packs what will keep in her satchel, and eats as much as she can handle of what won't. "Won't that dull your senses?" she asks the twins.
Accompanying the others along the Great Road, Sina takes in the sights, both for practical and curiosity's sake. She hasn't traveled the Great Road much since it was built. When they reach the inn, she gratefully slides out of the saddle and finds her bed, the three Templars setting up shifts to watch over her. In the mourning, she's refreshed and does indeed eat well. She seems to prefer tea over whiskey in the morning, and usually mostly all the time. She'll converse with the others, and seems ready to start the day, armored and armed and ready to go when the time comes. Thanks to their shifts overnight, the Templars are mostly refreshed as well.
"If you really want to dull your senses, I still have a box of Lycene haze that Prince Luca gave to me, and it's very fine," Sorrel notes with a measure of amusement as she downs her breakfast with tea, in high spirits.
Amund rests enough and adequately, but he does take a few half shifts keeping watch during the night. His meals are sparse but nutritious. Like a soldier on the move generally eats and rests.
Shaking her head softly at Zoey, Dianna tosses back the second half of her tumbler of whisky with one swallow and smiles easily. "No, it helps take the edge off of the riding we must yet do and allows me to remain /more/ alert," proving she does, in fact, hail from Mazetti stock.
Dianna turns her attention to Amund and scrutinizes him openly, though her expression is gentle. "I can't say I've ever seen you about the city, Sir; what keeps your attention there?"
Dianna smirks to Sorrel, a twinkle in her eyes. "/After/ we are finished, Princess, I will be happy to indulge with you - and everyone."
"You'd think." Alessia says with a chuckle, resting the glass on the table, before pulling her plate close to herself. "Yes, as my sister says. And I tend to function a little worse without it." She winks. "Just a little."
Sina curves her lips in a faintly amused smile as Sorrel offers up her haze, but she doesn't comment. "I would prefer to keep my senses alert," she says softly, keeping her voice low so that only those at their table might hear. "Perhaps we should go over the things we found in the Tenney house for those who were not there?" she suggests. "There were the corpses with the rotting bees and honey, who were definitely not the twins. The journals of the Tenney twins. The map, and of course, that odd stone that we found, and that creepy chill," she murmurs quietly. "We know the twins were looking into what happened to their parents, and a number of books on... esoteric matters best left undiscussed, were found, mostly eaten. The father went off on some obssessed journey looking for something, and their mother followed, somewhere in the Gray Forest. The windows in the house were shattered, and we can surmise that a flock of birds flying out of the house were the cause. Am I leaving anything out?"
Rysen checked charm + performance at difficulty 15, rolling 13 higher.
Rysen is glad to take the haze and drink a bit of whiskey while he rests at the inn by a fire. "Thank you, Your Highness," he says to Sorrel. "Fine haze, indeed," he says, letting his fingers glide across the strings of a blackwood lyre he'd taken from his saddle bag. The melody is a simple one from the Northlands, but pleasing and serene.
"I remember," says Zoey, rubbing her forearm. "I think that about covers it. Fairly certain it was the bees that ate the books, though they only ate the parts with practical knowledge. It wasn't random which sections they consumed."
"I am a Sword of a noble house. Before that, I was a mercenary. Business, mostly, holds me to Arx." Amund explains to Dianna, keeping his focus on the Glaivedancer for a long time before nodding to the road. "We should make sure we aren't followed."
Focusing immediately on Sina as she recounts what has been found, Dianna's demeanor is sharply alert. "These twins were the ones who were murdered, I presume? Pardon, but I have scant information on the reasons for this endeavor -" Dianna glances at and nods to Zoey, "aside from what I have heard of rotting bees and honey, and something of a murder."
Dianna is not unaffected, though, by Rysen's playing: the godsworn seems to relax and smile to the lord as what he plays clearly strikes a soothing chord in her. She nods, gratefully, to Rysen, taking note of the fact that he, too, drinks whisky and smokes the fragrant haze. She turns her attention, albeit more gently, to Amund as he speaks, her attention drawn by his lingering gaze, which she holds with her own ambers until he is drawn away by concerns for the road.
"/Knowledge/ was eaten?" Alessia says, her brows rising at this, as she leans forward. Her demeanor seems to lose some of it's mirth. "Interesting that. I wonder how that connects to the reverse-Mangata symbol." She looks thoughtful, fingers tapping the table lightly to rhythm of the song.
"Yes, I met them in the Great Archive. They were there helping me do research into the Butcher. I feel like I may have given them some guidance by accident," Sorrel notes a bit guiltily. "Ah, and I even promised to speak well of them as they continued towards being Godsworn. They both intended to take vows."
Sina nods to Dianna and elaborates, "Yes, it is why I have taken a personal interest. When two young Godsworn hopefuls among my Scholars end up killed, I can't just let it go uninvestigated." She nods to Alessia then, her expression grave. "We know, of course, of only one entity, or its followers, who delights in eating knowledge," she adds quietly. "How it ties into Mangata, I do not know. I do know know why that place was defiled."
Rysen continues to let his fingers dance over the strings of the lyre, and his lid under the influence of the haze, the music, the companionship and the warm fire. When the group starts to discuss the twins, the lord shifts his attention to the conversation, though he continues to play his slowing melody softly.
"That Herald, that entity, may be attempting to ally with the Herald of Mangata's Dark Reflection," Sorrel notes mildly to Sina with a little sigh. "As uncomfortable as that my sound."
Zoey quietly eats for two, washing down breakfast with hot cider while she listens to her companions.
"'Eaten'," Dianna repeats her sister, then is drawn irrepressibly by Sorrel's description of the twins. Too many coincidences, too many similarities draw Dianna's mind, her attention back, intensely, to the table. "Might you check, Sir?" Dianna gently asks Amund. "Or, would you have someone come with you?" Though it is clear she does not intend to come, having been provoked to listen raptly to all Sorrel and Sina speak.
Sina adds, "Then, of course, there was the thing in the Archives, that knocked over the bookcases... my brand new bookcases! It seriously injured Lady Catalana Kennex."
"It's what I found so odd. Does... the maw." Alessia decides to call him, probably fearful of using any form of name where they are. "Have known connections to Mangata's reflection? I didn't think so." She grimaces.
Sina shakes her head slightly. "Not that I have heard. We do know that some forces from beyond the mirror are allied, but this is the first I have heard of any connection of Vellichor's reflection with Mangata's reflection." She clasps hands over one another, pressing idly with a thumb against her wrist."
"Thankfully Lady Catalana was able to make a full recovery, and her baby was unharmed," Zoey says softly. "It looked grim for a moment there."
"We shouldn't rule out dealing with facets," says Rysen thoughtfully. "There was a noticeable chill when Lady Catalana was attacked, and in the home of the Twins."
"After the Pirate War, the Gyre's replacement has been... fairly mercenary about who she harms, so long as they are not Tydes," Sorrel replies grimly to Sina. "Or so I am told. She is not officially part of the new Triarchy, though."
There are a few other patrons in the tavern this morning, locals from the look of them. One of the Innkeeper's children rushes out in the middle of a game of chase, barreling into Amund. The child is a young boy, blond haired and blue eyed. He laughs as his father, the Innkeeper picks him up. The man has a forced smile on his face. "Apologies, little Robbie is full of mischief this morning."
Alessia turns to Sorrel, a light worried frown on her brows. "Is that name marked?" She says, when the Triarchy is mentioned. "I apologise if I'm being overcautious."
She nods at Rysen's mention of Facets. "You're not wrong on that."
"I don't stray from the rest of the group. It is a good way to get picked off. Just keep your ears sharp." Amund says, to Dianna, reaching for his canteen. After removing the lid, he takes a sip. The child is given a stare, long and thoughtful as he addresses the innkeeper next: "Not a problem. Children have much energy and precious few ways to spend it. Robbie, is it? He'll be a fine warrior."
Sina meets Sorrel's gaze gravely, and nods. She doesn't speak more, however, as the little kid comes running and barrels into Amund. She breaks off any other conversation, which she's been attempting to keep low, studying the innkeeper with his forced smile. She offers him a smile in return, not forced at all. "Gods' blessings upon you, Goodman, and your little one."
Attending her companions with stoic silence until they are interrupted by a child playing - apparently the Innkeeper's - Dianna unhurriedly swivels her gaze to the child, then lifts her eyes to the Innkeeper, blessing his face with a charming smile, complete with a twinkle in her eyes.
"It's hard to know what names are marked, at this point, as they fade in and out of use. For it is use of a name that gives it power," Sorrel replies thoughtfully to Alessia, frowning thoughtfully. "Even our euphemisms gain power as we use them." She glances to Sina. "But I wanted to be clearly understood by the Archscholar, and sometimes that means a name." She isn't concerned about Robbie; she has her own children, after all.
Zoey watches the child in his carefree play and rests a hand on her own swollen belly. "We should probably get moving again soon," Zoey says to no one in particular. "The days might be warmer and longer, but that's no reason to waste daylight."
"My name is ROBBIE! POWER!" The child flexes, combining Amund and Sorrel's words into a thing of his own. The Innkeeper winces at his child's antics and he says, "Normally his mother is here to keep him entertained..." He tries to usher the child away from his guests, but the kid is way more interested in showing off his 'power'.
"Alright." Alessia says to the child with an amused smile, allowing herself a break from the more dour topic. "Show us your power."
Sina gives a nod in agreement with Zoey, but turns her attention back to the child. She doesn't seem content to linger on such dire topics in the presence of a child, and a stranger. She curves her lips in a little smile as the child proclaims his power. "How do you do, Robbie?" She gives the innkeeper a curious glance as he mentions the boy's mother. "Has she gone somewhere, then?" she asks casually, making polite conversation. "The boy's mother?" The Archscholar's armor clearly indicates her as one of the Godsworn, each piece emblazoned with the interlocking circles of the Faith.
Faintly, Dianna's eyebrow raises at her sister, but the former Mazetti says nothing, merely observing the young boy with the hint of a smile. She does not entice the child, for gods only know what the child may mean - and she has already a fresh memory of the effects of 'power' in this journey. Still, there is an inquisitive expression to Dianna's watchful expression.
"She went missing a few weeks ago." The Innkeeper says with a grimace. His child, Robbie is doing a dance that includes a lot of 'hi-YAH!'s and air punches and flexes. He lifts a hand to his cheek and scratches at his beard. "I -- forgive me, I need to go back to the kitchen."
Zoey's suggestion and the words of Robbie and his father bring a conclusion to Rysen's song. The young knight's eyes mournfully trail after the innkeeper as he leaves, before turning to Robbie. "You've got a fighting spirit, lad."
Sorrel is on her feet almost immediately. "We should go. Weeks is a long time, but maybe we can find... something," she says, frowning deeply. "Her path and ours may be very similar."
Sina listens to the innkeeper's words regarding his missing wife. "I am sorry to hear that," she murmurs, and gives concerned glances to the others at the table as the innkeeper returns to the kitchens.
"Before you go -- where was she headed before she went missing?" Amund interjects, watching as Robbie tries to increase his power through his name. A sliver of a smile crossing his lips at this.
Dianna merely watches, listens with interest, not yet rising to go. She follows the back-and-forth of conversation, glimpses to Sorrel as she stands, her amber gaze so very bird-like as she absorbs those gathered here with deep intent.
The Innkeeper pauses and turns, "She was taken from here. One night as the sun set. There was this bitter wind. I heard her scream. Ran outside. There was a bucket of milk that was dropped when she got taken. I searched for days." The man looks on the edge of tears, clears his throat and swallows. "I, uh. I have chores. Robbie! Come on, lad. I need you to help with the dishes, son." The boy grumbles, but obeys, "Yes, poppa." And he waves to the group before heading back to the kitchen.
Rising steadily from the bench, placing her helmet on her head, Alessia turns to the inkeep briefly as Amund addresses him. "What value would she have been?" She asks the group quietly, when the man heads off, more ponderous than disbelieving.
"A bitter wind," Zoey repeats softly. "Perhaps we will find out."
The mention of the breeze causes Rysen to glance towards Zoey and then to Alessia, he rises quickly from his seat, taking his lyre, and adjusting his sword in his belt. "I'm going to get Bandit saddled." Turning to Alessia, he says very, very softly, "Inquisitor Delilah has suggested the entity may need blood sacrifices."
Only now does Dianna's mouth break into a smile, softly waving her fingers at the child before lifting her gaze to the Innkeeper's eyes. "I'm so sorry you loved one was taken from you," Dianna empathizes with sincere warmth. "Is there anything else you know? Was she interested in anything unusual? Or anything, particular of note, at all?"
"I suppose. Though the blood wouldn't be especially valuable. But primum is primum I guess." Alessia says to Rysen, ready to head off. Though she pauses in case the inkeep turns back to respond to her sister's queries.
The Innkeeper pauses, and looks back to Dianna, swallowing tightly again at her empathy. There is a shake of his head, "I... I don't know. Leafa, she means the world to me. But she was, I mean, she was a farmer's daughter. Always had a way with gardens. Her produce is the best around. Made our Inn here known for our food... I just don't understand why anyone'd do this to us. We ain't done nothing to anyone."
The innkeeper's words cause Rysen to frown. "Even better if she's favored by Petrichor, I'd imagine," he says softly in reply to Alessia, and makes his way out of the inn toward the stables.
Rising with exceptional grace, Dianna nods serenely to the Innkeeper and blesses him with her gentle smile. "I am indeed sorry for your loss - and for your understandable concern. Raising children cannot be easy on your own, I am sure. May Mangata's winds bring her back to you, Messere," Dianna gently blesses before he walks away.
Zoey also stands and follows Rysen out, saying something to him in a low voice when she catches up to him.
Sina nods in agreement with Alessia and Rysen, and looks to the farmer, and says, "We will keep an eye out upon the road for any signs of your wife," she assures him quietly. "If we can find her, we will." It's a promise, from the Archscholar.
Murmuring to the Archscholar, Alessia nods at Rysen's words, faint amusement on her lips. "My thoughts too."
"Do you know who took her?" Amund asks of the Innkeeper. "I suppose it is time for us to depart and find that place on the map." He places a bag of silver into the innkeeper's hands, around a thousand. "Thank you for your lodging and food."
Sina adds in a quieter whisper to Alessia, "Blood magic is powerful. Some blood is more potent than others, of course... but if she is blessed by Petrichor, or a descendent of the Sylv'alfar, for example, her blood will be very potent indeed." There is a troubled look on the Archscholar's features, and she hastens to finish her meal and her tea. Then she rises to her feet, buckling on her sword belt with the slim alaricite blade at her hip. "I wonder what he meant by a bitter wind? Perhaps the chill that others have reported?" she muses.
Brooding silently, Dianna mulls over this new information as she departs with her companions, her gaze shifting from one to another of them as they talk among themselves. The newly-godsworn fixes her gaze on Sina's eyes as she speaks to her sister of blood magic. When they reach the steeds, Dianna helps Zoey into her saddle, then pulls herself into her own.
As Zoey catches up to Rysen in the stables, and speaks to him quietly, his eyes open a bit in surprise. "Gods and spirits," he can be hear to mutter, as he throws his saddle over bandit, and begins securing teh harness, and leans in to share his thoughts with the Lady of House Kennex.
The man looks astounded by the amount of silver Amund offers, hand closing around the bag. "You have my deepest thanks, my lords and ladies," He bows, and though he tries not to, hope is clearly born in his eyes. "Thank you. Any word... any word at all..." He retreats then, before he cries in front of strangers.
Their horses are ready outside. The ride to the next landmark only fifteen or twenty minutes or so. They find a field, with spring's thaw of the land, plowing has already begun. In the center of the field, there is a gnarled tree, though it is, peculiarly, upside down, the roots sticking up in a frill while the downed trunk has fallen into a pit, dirt and soil piled up, burying it.
"A descendant of the Sylv'alfar." Alessia repeats quietly to the Archscholar, having just considered that angle. "Of course, my first instinct was Petrichor but the Sylv'alfar would certainly have such expertise in plant life." She ponders this before approaching the stables.
"Let's see if we can use the horses to pull up this tree," Sorrel says as she looks suspiciously at the tree, frowning deeply. "I do not think this is a good sign."
Frowning, Dianna rides up to the tree and dismounts, looking into the pit. "Agreed, Princess."
As the team approaches the inverted tree-pit, Rysen glances towards Sorrel and Sina, and then moves to dismount, giving Bandit a few pats, and standing a short distance from the pit, until all are ready.
As they mount up and continue on their way, Sina is decidedly quiet, her expression focused with thoughts turned inward. Her Templars keep an eye out, fanning out, one to either side of her, the other riding behind. When they reach the inverted tree, the Archscholar draws her mount to a halt, and stares at the tree with a frown. "Be careful," she murmurs to Rysen as he approaches it, though she dismounts as well. She glances around, and draws her sword, just in case. But she'll follow after Rysen as well and investigate.
Trotting up beside Sorrel, Alessia nods in agreement at this suggestion before dismounting. "I'm inclined to believe others with powerful, primum rich, blood may have been targeted too. We may consider keeping our ears peeled for other missing folk."
As the group approaches the tree, several things become very, very apparent. The wide berth given the tree is not just because it is a tree in the middle of the field, the party's instincts to pull it up were likely considered by the farmers as well, however, there is a low, persistent humming that comes from the area. The soil around the tree itself is... different. Muddy isn't exactly the right word. It looks less like mud and more like tar. And then there is the smell. It is not the scent of good earth, but rather like something diseased, rotting.
Sina grimaces at that rotting smell, and warns, "Stay back from it. I suspect there may be bees." She doesn't draw too near herself, though she does her best to examine it from a distance that ensures her feet do not touch the soupy ground around the inverted tree.
"Petrichor's sigil is a tree," Zoey thinks aloud. "I'll bet you there's a corruption of Petrichor's sigil carved on that one."
Sina checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 35 higher.
Zoey checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 23 higher.
Her nostrils flaring at the scent, Dianna withdraws before she is too close. She stares at the tar-like mud, skeptical. "Gods and monsters," Dianna murmurs. "What is that? Disgusting."
Sorrel checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 20 higher.
Rysen nods to Zoey and takes a few steps back to stand at Sina's side. "Definitely the right place." He reaches into his holster to retrieve the canteen of holy water, and hands it to Sina. "For when the time comes," he says to the Archscholar. He then begins to circle the perimeter to look for any obvious sigils or symbols before attempting to move closer.
Dianna checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 34 higher.
Rysen checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 5 higher.
Alessia checked perception + investigation at difficulty 20, rolling 23 higher.
"This is corrupted," Sorrel notes obviously, and she nods to Sina. "Almost certainly bees. Well, I don't have a song particularly to clear up Petrichor's corruption, but I can adapt something that'll work. But... wrap your faces and exposed skin in cloth first, because I'm pretty sure we're going to get stung, and you can't really fight a swarm with a sword."
Rysen gets Crovane Sigil Canteen from Holster of Knightly Necessity.
Zoey wraps her face as best she can and readies her bow.
Alessia turns to Sina, with a wry smile. "Is that what the substance is? Tainted honey?" She's probably joking. She circles the tree, scanning it for anything she can find.
Scarves, godsdamnit. Dianna did not bring a /single/ scarf - and Trini, her assistant, has /so many/. Instead, Dianna takes hat from her head and covers her face with it, only her eyes showing. Wishing, all the while, for the half-mask she used to wear, and swearing to herself that her new armor will have it again. She does, however, crouch in a cat-like movement to peer into the stuff. "Zo," Dianna's muffled voice comes from the hat, "Is this what you had spilled on you?"
The Mazetti uses her cloak to shield herself from the onslaught.
Rysen pulls his hood low, and lifts the face wrap. "Was it you who got splashed with the rotting corpse honey last time?" comes his muffled voice to Zoey. The squint of his eyes suggests a grin.
There are a pair of symbols at the base of the tree, nearly hidden among a nest of roots. The symbol of the Butcher, and anoter, a stylized tree that looks as though it were made of disease on the back of a beetle. As they linger, that buzzing sound gets louder, blackened bees that look more like beetles begin to appear along the bark of the tree, squirming out of hidden tunnels that appear to permeate the tree trunk.
"Yes, I was the one who had a rotten corpse full of this same rancid honey dropped on me," says Zoey. "And whoever sear Aeterna doesn't stain never tested this stuff on it. I had to burn that dress and stay upwind of the fumes."
A muffled laughter comes from beneath Rysen's mask, and a grey eye winks in the direction of Dianna.
Dianna checked dexterity + dodge at difficulty 15, rolling 20 higher.
Sina nods to Sorrel, and pulls her cloak out of her pack, and then uses it more as a scarf, ensuring that it covers her face and neck except for her eyes, so that she can see. She's already wearing her gauntlets and her armor, so she's otherwise pretty well protected. As Rysen pulls out his canteen of holy water, Sina takes it, and focuses her attention on Alessia briefly. "Yes... I suspect it is the same honey that was pervasive in the home of the twins," she agrees quietly. "I think it has the same stench." She glances to Sorrel when she speaks about adapting a song for Petrichor, and nods. "I do not have any specific beseeching rites for Petrichor either, for most of the beseeching rites have been lost to us, but that should not hinder us, so long as we know the basic structures of a rite, which I have been studying," she explains quietly. "In this case, perhaps along with your song, we should perform Petrichor's Prayer of Stewardship to sanctify the land."
Amund checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 3 higher.
Alessia checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 7 lower.
Rysen checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 0 higher.
Standing with care and backpedaling swiftly, Dianna moves back several steps to evade the swarming bees
Zoey checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 22 higher.
Sina checked mana + theology at difficulty 30, rolling 19 higher.
Sina checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 3 higher.
Sorrel checked mana + performance at difficulty 30, rolling 38 higher.
Sorrel checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 0 higher.
Dianna checked mana + theology at difficulty 30, rolling 20 lower.
Dianna checked luck at difficulty 10, rolling 3 lower.
Sina steps forward just a little. "I will need to give myself wholly to Petrichor in order to do this," she says softly. After a moment, she takes a breath, and pulls out a small vial of sand from the belt pouch at her waist. "This sand... is a thing of great personal meaning to me. Perhaps it will help." She uncorks the vial, and then uses it to sprinkle around the perimeter of the upside down tree in its rancid pit of rotting honey and bugs. As she does this, she begins to pray, this time to Petrichor, to sanctify the land around the tree, focusing all of herself on Petrichor, and opening her heart to him.
Sina gets a crystaline vial filled with sand from a structured cincher of scaled leather that pulls in the stomach and waist.
Sorrel sings a song for Petrichor -- and it's a beautiful organic thing that winds and flows like a vine, branching into soft melodies and trailing into the prayers that Sina and Dianna offer, as if their words are like part of her song.
Amund wraps his fireweave scarf around the lower half of his face, considering his sword for a moment. Quietly, he reaches into his bag for something that Tyrus has given him some time ago -- the perks of a Thraxian patron, as it turns out -- Thraxian Fire. "You're right. You can't fight swarms with a sword. You can fight them with fire." He has dismounted and likewise followed suit with his fellow adventuers.
As Sorrel and Sina work together once again, it takes a moment for anything to happen. That rancid stink remains, the weak sunlight is watery, rendering the colors around them pastel and watery. But then as the song and the prayer begin to build, that low humming buzz grows louder, and more and more of those deformed beetle-bees pour out to the surface and take flight, swirling into a massive oblong shape that eventually begins to take on roughly humanoid features, like a giant, angry face. The mouth opens and the buzzing takes on a sibliant speech, "Yoooooou may trrrrrry to weaken me, you fooooolish innzzzzectssss! But you only focus my wrrrrraaaath! Youuuuu cannot defeat MEEEEEE!"
Zoey nocks an arrow and aims at the face, but does not fire. Would hitting one, or even ten of those black bees do any good in this case? She doesn
When the hideous creature forms before them, and at Amund's words, Rysen draws a bottle of highly flamable alcohol out of his holster along with a copper ember stick. "Love you, Mikani," he mutters under his breath, as he removes the bottle's cap and strikes the ember stick on his blade.
Rysen gets Bottle of 100 Proof Alcohol from Holster of Knightly Necessity.
Rysen gets a set of copper ember sticks from Holster of Knightly Necessity.
Zoey nocks an arrow and aims at the face, but does not fire. Would hitting one, or even ten of those black bees do any good in this case? She doesn't know, and she is not about to waste an arrow.
Sina hands the canteen of holy water to Dianna, and continues with her prayer and the sprinkling of the sand. In spite of the angry face that appears in the swirling mass of bees, she continues what she's doing, only increasing the volume of her voice to call upon Petrichor and his blessings to sanctify the land. She gives a nod to Amund as he speaks of fire. Perhaps, between prayers to Petrichor, songs from Sorrel, cleansing flame, and cleansing holy water, the job may be done. "Petrichor, lord of the forest, the deep woods, the fields, and of growing things - your stewards come before you to ask for your blessing, and your grace upon this defiled place. Aid us as we seek to drive away this blight upon your sacred land, and restore the peace and sanctity of this place. Let your blessing infuse the land to sanctify it once more. May new life grow forth to forever protect this place."
Her half-mask used to conceal part of her face, Alessia keeps her gloved hand on the hilt of her dagger, while the other uses the cloak to shield her face.
Drawing a deep, deep breath Dianna puts the hat and considers. Waving a hat? Or spinning with a glaive - which is better? Definitely the glaive. Dianna murmurs under her breath and gazes into the bee-created face. Thank the gods for holy water - if it will help; Dianna opens it and waits, listing to the song and prayers spoken. At least she has some weapon, now, of the Faith.
Sorrel's song continues strong and fervent, with its religious fervor. She even brandishes her sword at the face, as if daring it to do its worst. She does not seem inclined to stop now, just because the bad thing is angry with her.
Once someone has a lit torch, Amund pours the strange Thraxian oil down the fuller of his blade until it is dripping off the point, on both sides. Then, he inches it against the fire as flame starts to crackle over the blade, the fireweave-clad swordsman staring down the swarm-face as he steps forward, sword held sidelong, making his way to the enemy with determination to put it down. "I find it funny that a bug is telling us we are foolish insects."
"It's the Eater." Alessia says to Amund with a grimace. "It's what he calls us." She doesn't elaborate on how she knows.
Several things happen all at once, or at least within rapid succession. First, Rysen murmurs to Zoey, who nods, bow still at the ready. The Face O' Bugs looks like it's gearing up to make another speech, when Rysen ignites a slip of linen that is connected to the high-proof alcohol before tossing it towards the swarm of bees.
Zoey's arrow is loosed from her bow and strikes the bottle perfectly, exploding the bottle, sending shards of glass and alcohol into the cloud of insects. The flame ignites the aerated liquor creating a massive fireball at the center of the swarm. The face within roars in fury, unspooling two tendrils at either end, which lash out at the party, striking Dianna and Alessia respectively. Both of the twins are covered in stinging, biting insects.
From above, in the sky comes a noble cry of a great hunting bird, and from the treeline swarms a host of creatures, great and small. Mostly inbetween. Deer, foxes, rats, raccoons, an entirely family of beaver charge in towards the tree, attacking it with paw, tooth, hoof and claw.
The face of insects roars again, but it is much diminished given the majority of the insects are burnt husks on the ground.
15 inflicted and Alessia is harmed for moderate damage.
15 inflicted and Dianna is harmed for moderate damage.
Dianna checked composure at difficulty 20, rolling 3 higher.
Alessia checked composure at difficulty 20, rolling 4 higher.
Blinking softly at something, Dianna gazes - no, /stares/ into the 'eyes' of the formed face with great interest. There is something enigmatic and alluring to /actually/ finding oneself face-to-face with the greatest enemy one considers one's own; and Dianna Godsworn, nee Mazetti, is captivated, curious, studying the swarm's movement.
Until, that is, she is /covered/ by the black things, her glaive doing literally /nothing/ to dissuade the bees. Dianna drenches herself in the holy water that she has in the canteen, biting her lips and humming, her eyes filling with tears as the bastards sting and sting again. She does not even notice that her twin is being stung simultaneously. (But, at least, they will look more or less the same, when all this ends?)
"I don't suppose you have another?" Zoey asks Rysen as she nocks another arrow.
Overcome by the force of the creatures, Alessia finds herself surrounded, unable to hold them off, that is until Zoey and Rysen take care of them with flame.
Staggering back as they turn to burnt husks, she winces in pain, though it's not as bad as it could have been. Bites on her neck, face and other parts less protected by her armor. She straightens, swiftly regaining her composure, as her attention shifts to the face as it rises again.
"I wish I did," replies Rysen to Zoey glancing at Dianna and Alessia with no small amounts of concern. He replaces his ember sticks in his holster, and draws his blades.
Rysen puts a set of copper ember sticks in Holster of Knightly Necessity.
Rysen wields Moria - a rune-etched bastard sword.
15 inflicted and Amund is harmed for moderate damage.
Sina doesn't respond to any comments from others. She is wholly absorbed now in her prayer, her focus spiraling ever closer and closer to Petrichor, her words mingling with Sorrel's song. She does her best to tune out all other distractions, including the arrogant face within the swarm of insects. As the others lob fire and other projectiles at the hideous thing, Sina continues with her prayers as those animals come in to join the fight. Her eyes open, as she hears the sounds of hoof and claw and wing around her, and again, her face swells with a light of warmth and joy. She finishes with the sand, tucking the vial away, and then turns to face the angry swarm of bugs, and she continues to call upon Petrichor with a focused determination. She prays, while the others attack, and are attacked in turn. She smiles with grim determination as the creatures of the earth attack the thing, silvery eyes alight with focus. "You have no place here, insect," she tells the thing in turn. "Petrichor answers our call, and you /must/ leave. Begone from here, and taint this land no longer with your foul presence!"
Unafraid to get stung by a number of bugs, Amund steps into the swarm and starts swinging the sword in rapid, quick back-handed strokes of his blade; Moonlight swears through the bugs with ease as the alaricite melts their sad little carapaces, cluster after cluster of bugs dropping to the ground as he continues to make short work of what's left. He /is/ stung, though, and though he is bleeding in the end, there isn't much of what was already left of the swarm to speak of.
Flicking some dead bugs off his blade by sweeping it aside, the former sellsword inspects his handiwork as he continues to slash away; with a little less strength to his blows. Not that strength was what needed in the first place.
was that needed*
As Sorrel and Sina continue their work, the animals of the land start breaking the tree apart -- a task that is far easier than it might have appeared, given the invasive hollowing out done by those insects -- the tree is rapidly turned to dust, crackling and breaking apart, fragile as paper. The ash disintegrates, revealing a crevice, the syrupy honey soaked up by the tree dust, leaving the path walkable as it descends down into the earth.
Sorrel presses forward to take the path down into the earth, leading with her sword and boldly heads in. "We're going to need some light here, I think," she calls out.
"We should stop and patch up the wounded first," Zoey calls after Sorrel.
As the befouled tree is finally broken up through the work of the animals, the fire, and the blades and arrows that have assailed it, Sina finally allows her prayer to become a gentler tone, giving praise to Petrichor as well. She makes a point, too, of offering her thanks to the animals, a gentle smile upon her features. Then she bows her head, and allows herself a moment to recover from the work of her prayers. It is only when Sorrel speaks up from the entrance to the path that she lifts her head. She nods in agreement with Zoey's words. "We should rest, and tend to the wounded. Those insect bites and bee stings will need tending, lest they become infected."
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