Gideon's Justice (IC)

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MinusInnocence
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Gideon's Justice (IC)

Stormy Disposition

"I'f I'm a pagan of the good times, my lover is the Sunlight/To keep the Goddess on my side she demands a sacrifice" - Hozier, "Take Me To Church"

Perhaps an hour before the first shift change, the storm begins to develop in the sky over Thurmaster to the south. Dalvar and Thunk watch in quiet reflection as lighting streaks among the clouds high above what used to be home to nearly a hundred souls, occasionally cutting the air like a knife as it touches down here or there on the ground. This continues until it's time to wake Jugg and Feruq, and the wizard and his stupefied comrade are fast asleep before the ponderous funnel cloud is born. There are a handful of false starts, but eventually Argus' prediction comes true: the twister makes contact with the ground, and the near-constant bursts of lightning illuminate the awesome, horrifying display of Nature's fury.

The storm meanders slowly to the northeast, close to the Halfcut Hills where Parlfray Keep is nestled, then abruptly south before returning to hover over Thurmaster. It spirals and looms over the village for close to half an hour, and in the flashes of blue-white light from the heavens an unchecked stream of debris from the ground can be seen. Trees, homes, the earth itself are drawn up into the clouds to feed the elemental beast. The dwarf and monk are certain of it: if any of the townspeople yet linger there, tonight they breathed their last. It is surreal to have this picturesque, entirely safe panoramic view of the storm's unbridled destruction and think at the same time about what it must be like for those cowering in their hovels in the backwater thorp before death takes them.

Eventually the storm continues its inexorable slide to the southeast, over the tract of trees separated from the Thornwood by the Woldcote River known as the Blessed Wood. The stars are visible again over the land and the sounds of the birds and beasts of the Redwood resume once more. The remainder of the second watch passes without incident, and Argus and Raphael likewise stand sentinel over an unremarkable three hours. When it is time to wake the others, everyone perhaps wishes they could have had just an extra half hour or so of shuteye, but by the time everyone has finished their meal and completed their "morning" routines it is already noonday.

Darker

Thunk blinks his eyes, looking more groggy than normal in the morning, "Where Thunk at?"

Talanall
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"Haranshire, somewhere around ten to fifteen miles north of what used to be Thurmaster," Dalvar replies, cheerfully, adding, "You got disgustingly drunk before we left, and forgot how to talk. How does your head feel?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Thunk squints at up at the sun and looks back to Dalvar, "Thunk... head... hurt... bad." He looks over at Jugg. "Thunk was in bar. Thunk shot in face." He chuckles, recalling the event, but immediately regrets it as he winces in pain.

Talanall
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Dalvar sets about dishing up his share of breakfast. He manages to clang metal on metal an inordinate number of times, whistling shrilly and off-key as he does so. It's barely recognizable as a tune.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Thunk considers how much noise cutting Dalvar in half would make.

Cronono
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Argus witnessed Raphael's transformation from mud caked disaster in the morning. As soon as he was roused, Raphael prepared coffee from the coffee pot hooked to his belt. Oddly, he removed something from the coffee pot before setting the pot on two smoldering embers.

While on watch, Raphael spent at least thirty minutes bathing himself. By the time the rest of his companions were awake, Raphael was immaculate and pristine. In addition, he was happy to share his morning's exotic coffee with any who were interested.

Talanall
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Dalvar avoids the coffee, preferring his usual bowl of magically seasoned gruel and a bit of chilled water. Similarly, he used magic to clean himself up within about thirty seconds of his awakening that morning. Like Raphael, he's now immaculate as if he'd just come downstairs from a comfortable inn.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

drumandfight
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Jugg watched the destruction in silent awe. His lack of speaking was partly due to the sublime power of the tornado and partly due to his exhaustion. "Hope no one was foolhardy enough to stay there," was all he offered to Feruq. His eyes never left the spectacle.

+++

In the morning, the burly dwarf awoke groggily for the second time. His mouth tasted like a goblin's ass and his eyes didn't want to open fully. He made his way down to the river and thoroughly bathed the previous day's drinking and marching off of himself. Satisfied, he put on a fresh shirt, sleevless as always, and made his way back to his gear to equip himself.

As Thunk began reminiscing on yesterday's festivities, Jugg chimed in. "Aye. Thunk shot in face. Jugg won drinking competition," he said in the half-orc's vernacular. "Come on, let's get some food in ye. I have one meat pie left. Might as well eat it - it won't last. Wanna go halfsies?"

Darker

Thunk nods, "Thunk eats."

drumandfight
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"Right." Jugg sat his pack on the ground and opened it up to retrieve the last meat pie. A small wooden box with gold inlays sat at the very top. In the confusion and haste of the previous evening he had forgotten all about his prize. Gently he pulled it out as though he might destroy the delicate object before finding out what it contained. Inside he found the small velvet purse right where he had left it. Slowly, he pulled it open and took a look inside to see what it revealed...

MinusInnocence
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Peering inside, the sunlight filtering into the mouth of the pouch from over Jugg's shoulder reveals a chalky white powder; not quite as fine as white sand, with a few bits here and there that are quite a bit larger and coarser. But as he looks on and considers dipping a finger in to test its texture, it begins to change before his eyes. It isn't clear where the transformation begins but by the time he determines it isn't just a trick of the eyes, the substance in the pouch has been entirely replaced with a grayish, slightly reflective powder; perhaps graphite or something similar.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

drumandfight
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"That's odd." Jugg stared at the dust for a moment, willing it to change again. When it doesn't, he simply stands up and shouts, "DALVAR, I NEED YOU."

When he comes over he points. "What's this then?"

Talanall
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"It looks like a bag of dust," the human replies politely, after a moment.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

drumandfight
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"Right. You may go."

Jugg tightened the bag and put it back in the box, shoving it deep inside his pack. He then grabbed a meat pie and went about splitting it with Thunk.

Talanall
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Cheerfully, Dalvar toddles off to put away his personal effects, replying as he goes, "Since it was given to you as a prize for winning a contest of epic debauchery and drunkenness, one might surmise that it is some kind of recreational drug. It would be thematically appropriate. Perhaps it is meant to be snorted. That is a common method of use, when it comes to powdered drugs."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

The wizard continues, "Or perhaps a hangover cure? Not unreasonable in the circumstances. Or perhaps I am focusing too closely on the thematics of the situation. Perhaps it is some sort of magical powder that you are intended to sprinkle upon yourself in order to change your appearance. A sort of cosmetic or disguise. It would be a strange prize for a drinking contest, though. My impression is that such affairs consist in drinking until you feel proud of yourself."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
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Raphael shakes his head.

"You can't look at dust and know without a smell an' a taste. Put yer nose close, but not too close, and see if you can smell sweet like suga' or acrid like garlic. If you don't smell any of that, then give it a wee taste."

He takes a sip of his coffee straight from the pot.

"No point in guessin."

drumandfight
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"If I wanted your opinion I would beat it out of you," Jugg said to Raphael.

Fixxxer
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Feruq, quiet at the best of times, seems downright subdued this morning. Perhaps he's just very tired. Or maybe it was witnessing the power of the storm. Regardless, he doesn't speak, save for polite greeting. He spends some time straightening his beard as best he can and re-wrapping his turban. He does, however, take Raphael up on his offer to share the coffee and his expression perks up a bit after he tastes it, like he's being reminded of pleasant memories.

Cronono
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Raphael smiles as Feruq as Feruq tries the coffee.

"The thing I love about coffee is that it takes all that foggy time after I wake up and helps me move at my a speed of my choosing. I wonder sometimes if coffee is actually designed to bring people together, unlike the Dwarf over there who seems vaguely tyrannical."

Raphael appraises Jugg's demeanor.

"The Church of Asmodeus would probably make you pretty popular in Northreach. You could beat heretics to your heart's content up there and they wouldn't say a word against ya. I can put you in touch with a few Tieflings if you want to get to discussin the initiation rites."

He laughs at his own generosity as he takes another sip.

Fixxxer
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The coffee seems to help bring Feruq out of his funk a bit. "My mother ways always having it after dinner," he volunteers. "She was using it to be falling asleep better, like a ritual. I was always preferring to be having it int he morning, before the day is beginning."

Cronono
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Raphael nods. "I'm more like you than your ma." Realizing the ridiculousness of the statement, he attempts to correct the statement. "With regards to the coffee. In the morning." He rolls his eyes over his broken nose. "You know whatta mean."

Taking a slow sip, he goes on.

"It is a bit of a ritual for me too, though. It is good to start the day with a definitive jolt, innit?" He smiles. "Did yer ma sleep well drinkin it before bed?"

deadDMwalking
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Argus avoids a snicker as he looks to the dwarf, expecting a witticism about what Feruq's mother did all night.

Darker

Thunk looks curiously at the coffee. In his experience, drinks only eliminate memories, not bring them back. He knows this from the night of memories that was recently eradicated with the drink from the previous evening.

Cronono
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Raphael takes a sip from his coffee and extends it in an offer Thunk.

Darker

Thunk takes it and cautiously sniffs it. He takes a small sip. He eyes go wide and he spits it out, spraying the liquid over Raphel. "Poison! Dirty man posion Thunk!" The fact Raphael is no longer a dirty man doesn't seem to make a different to Thunk.

Thunk leaps up (and momentarily wavers on his feet) and points an accustory finger at Raphael.

Cronono
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Raphael laughs and laughs and laughs while wiping his face clean.

"I had a sip and so did 'e!" Raphael jerks a thumb at Feruq. "If yer not tough enough in yer intoxicated state to enjoy proper coffee, that's completely fine."

Raphael takes the coffee back finishes it with a big gulp.

Darker

Thunk pauses a moment while the logic of Raphel's statement sinks in. He lowers himself back to sitting on the ground while keeping an eye on the man, not entirely convinced.

deadDMwalking
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"It's an acquired taste. I've never seen the point in acquiring it. It tastes like shit and if someone told me I drank enough of their runny squirts I'd learn to like it, that wouldn't be incentive enough to start."

Fixxxer
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Feruq shrugs. "Each being to his own. My mother was sleeping well each night. I would not be doing so well if I were to be drinking it before sleep."

drumandfight
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Jugg walked over to Thunk. "If he tried to poison you again, we should kill him and be done with it." Jugg then took his cup and poured some of the coffee without being offered.

"Much obliged," he offered Raphael with a hard look he reserved for missionaries and goblins claiming to be fit for society. With the power move ended, he trotted back to Thunk. "Anyway, lad, talky-man says the dust I won at the contest will help your achin' head. Apparently it's good for the days after nights of long drinking and merry-making."

Cronono
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Raphael cackles at Argus' vulgarity.

"I suppose folks enjoy what they enjoy. I can't sleep after drinking coffee, so I envy Feruq's mother for her pre-bed ritual. I also don't enjoy threatening to kill folks and then partaking of their imbibed refreshment, but I have met my share of Baatezu cultists so I do know that is not all that uncommon."

He thumbs his nosetip, scratching an itch.

"Maybe the fiends are more in touch with the way of the world and I am the naive one. My fondness for prayer left me after I saw Tyranny worshipped, but I would pray for less blood and more mirth if I could."

He smiles at Dalvar.

"That isn't a joke about fucking, by the by."

Talanall
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Dalvar holds up one finger in admonition, and tells Jugg, "Point of clarification: I said that it MAY be a hangover remedy, among many other possibilities. Unless you would like me to devote time and effort to a proper assay of the powder in question, you proceed only at your own risk." Switching his attention to Raphael, he adds, "And although I did not construe your . . . advice . . . as a joke, I shall nevertheless refrain from copulation for the time being. Thank you for your interest."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

drumandfight
drumandfight's picture

"Well, that was why I asked for your help in the first place. Magic and the like seems to be your field, but you decided to be a smart-arse about it. I dinna know if its the weather, or the fact that we have been humpin' through and through for hours and hours, but everyone round here 'cept him," he said pointing directly and Thunk, "him," he said pointing at Argus, "and him," he said pointing at Puck, "Have made poor travelin' company as of late."

Then he turned to Thunk. "Don't drink talky-man's powder. Could make your head feel better or make you crap fire. Who knows?"

Talanall
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Sarcastically, the wiry human comments, "I admit that I am somewhat ignorant of dwarven ideals, but your past comments on the subject of one's duty to his clan led me to believe that apprehending the individuals who kidnapped your kinsman was a matter of the utmost importance to you. Imagine my confusion when the prospect of swilling down inferior ale and gorging yourself on tainted meat pies proved more compelling to you than investigating the matter with the rest of us. Within the space of perhaps two hours, Thunk was unable to speak coherently, and barely able to walk. And had the rest of us not interrupted your joint carouse, there is little reason to think that we would not have found him comatose, so that we would have been forced to give up our pursuit of Gideon and his new comrades."

Dalvar does not seem angry, so much as disgusted as he concludes, "So how else should we react, Jugg'r? You were more interested in having a party than in saving your own blood, or in avenging yourself for Gideon's murderous betrayal. Should we be happy that your priorities shake out in this fashion? Should we fall over ourselves to do you favors after that? Is THIS the honor of Clan Shieldcrusher?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

drumandfight
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Jugg stands and throws down whatever was in his hands and approached Dalvar with the same look he had given Grimy the day before.

"Look here you uppity human twig. Where I come from a good ale or twelve is the best way to pass the time when waiting for everyone to finish gabbin' like milk-maids in their towers o' magic! Would we'ave found my kin faster had I stayed outside the fuckin' door to the fuckin' tower while you talked about spring cleaning, smart man? Eh? Did I fail in my duty when I walked out of the tavern like a true Dwarven drinker and marched all the way here without a complaint? If some can't hold their alcohol, then some shouldn't drink. But that's up to them and them alone and we are all here now. All fine. And still on the hunt."

He walked up to Dalvar so that his nose was at the man's chest and looked up. He put one thick meaty finger into his chest and pushed hard. "I tell you this, Dalvar. I like ye much as one can under the circumstances. I like fightin' with ye too, but you call my honor or my clan's honor into question once more - just once - and I'll break ye where ye stand."

***
[If nothing was immediately forthcoming from Dalvar] He hocks up a wad of phlegm and spits on the ground. "Have fun gettin' off on the sound of each other's voices. There's actual work to do." With that, he moved off to assist Argus on the search for the trail.

deadDMwalking
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"Peace friends," Argus offers, including Raphael in the greeting. "We're frustrated and it's catching up to all of us. All of us here," this time he unconsciously excludes Raphael, "have been trying to provide our assistance to the people of this region, and it goes from bad to worse. We haven't found Jelenneth; we haven't found Jugg'r's cousin; we weren't able to save a town from a tornado; I still suspect an Aboleth behind all of this and we're no closer to finding a way to locate and destroy it. And of course, one of our companions betrayed us and is murdering his way through the countryside. I wouldn't blame Jugg for relaxing if he had the time for it, and clearly he has the fortitude for it. Everyone loves Thunks good nature, but I don't know that any one of us could stop him from overindulging if he took it in his head to do so. Here's the thing - I don't know that everything we do doesn't actually make things worse - it seems trouble is following us. But people are calling us heroes because we are making a difference. Maybe it's a small thing bringing Kurt home and dealing with the spirit in the lake. As bad as things might get, as long as I know I'm doing my best to make things right I can take satisfaction in that. Now, it seems to me that Gideon is all mixed up in the kidnappings. If we can find him, we might be able to hit three birds with one stone; rescuing Jelenneth, rescuing Jugg'r's cousin, and wreaking vengeance on Gideon. So what now? There aren't going to be tracks fit to follow after that storm. I'm at a loss. If anyone has ideas on where to go from here, I'm all ears. I'll take help wherever it's offered."

Talanall
Talanall's picture

"I believe that Gideon must be headed for the Great Rock Dale," suggests Dalvar, his face smoothed to bland expressionlessness once again, "Because the Sunstone is there. If Kuiper was right, it already has reached out to all of us from there. It seems more plausible, at least to me, that Gideon is in its thrall than does the notion that our adversaries in the Night Below have managed to get close enough to compromise him, while somehow failing to elicit any notice from the rest of us."

Shrugging, he adds, "But do have a look around for tracks first, if you can. I believe you if you say that the rain will have spoiled them, but it is never a bad thing to double-check!"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Coffee, it would appear, brings out the worst in people. But after Argus gives his speech, everyone seems to calm down long enough for him to take his leave to investigate around the campsite. It seems like too much to hope for that his quarry would have settled down here in this exact spot, but unless Gideon & Co. turned off from their northerly exodus from Thurmaster before now, it seems likely they at least passed this way.

The rest of his party are busy breaking down the campsite and preparing for another long day wihtout a bed at the end to look forward to. It is now just past noonday, and enough time has passed since it last rained here that the sun is a welcome reprieve from the somewhat cool temperatures slogging through bad weather in the past day and a half. It is that bad weather that prevented Argus and his colleagues from searching for sign of Gideon's passage before now: stopping to look to see if he could pick up their trail would have slowed everyone down even more than they already were, possibly risking everyone's lives considering what happened in Thurmaster after midnight. And it is the same bad weather that had the ranger thinking he likely wouldn't be able to come up with much, save perhaps enough to make an educated guess and move on from there.

His problem, the first of many today, is quite the opposite. There are more tracks here than he knows what to do with. Excluding the party's own tracks along the perimeter of their campsite, it looks like at least one group of people and horses did make camp here at some point. But there is another group, some mounted and some not, who passed through the same area.

All told, the way Argus reads it, the two different groups of horses and men did not actually cross paths here. An indeterminate amount of time passed between when the first came, made camp and then left again; and the second group passed this way and continued off in another direction.

Both groups include about a dozen people and ten or so horses. Maybe more, maybe less. One of the groups appears to have ridden around the border of the Redwood, likely north and west after that toward the Great Rock Dale, as Dalvar predicted. Another rode due east from this location, which would take them toward the Halfcut Hills. Count Parlfray's Keep is also located there, but it is farther to the south.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

deadDMwalking
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After completing his analysis, Argus shares it with the company, looking to Dalvar to make the decision on which direction to go and what speed to move.

drumandfight
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Argus' speech had calmed Jugg down quite a bit. As mad as he was at the newcomer for being a prat and Dalvar for being a prick, he was most mad at himself for not yet having found his cousin Snagg. While passing the time attempting to re-locate tracks with Argus, he offered his thanks.

"You're good with words, Argus. I appreciate you calming the situation. Would have hated to break the smart-arse's head." He offered a wide palm, hard with callouses and covered in dwarven runic script.

+++

Back at the camp, he has outfitted himself and is ready to travel. His gear was packed and squared away. He stood against a nearby tree tightening the straps on his breastplate and sword belt. When that was settled, he leisurely placed the Dorn Dergar around his neck and shoulders and waited for the word on which way to go.

Talanall
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Dalvar seems preoccupied with some deep thought process; he is glaring at the nearby forest as if every one of the trees disgusts in some deeply personal way, and therefore he does not respond to Argus's non-verbal request for leadership.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
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"The tracks survived the weather better than I would have expected," Argus waves at the dimples and divots in the dirt that could only mean anything to an experienced survivalist. "Two groups passed through here, but at different times. One heading toward the hills, but not directly to Lord Palfrey's keep; the other in the direction Dalvar believes Gideon is heading. My main concern is that even if we ignore tracks and travel as fast as we can, we won't catch up to Gideon. I'm surprised he hasn't run any horses to death. He's making good use of his remounts. If we head toward the Palfrey hills, perhaps he'll rendezvous with them after he finishes his other business. We might actually be able to cut him off at the pass. Or we may just find one of Palfrey's patrols and be a week behind Gideon; but we're getting close to falling that far behind with only one horse between us."

MinusInnocence
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Not receiving much in the way of an opinion about one trail or the other, and not relishing the thought of splitting the party to pursue both leads, Argus resolves to follow the mounted party that broke camp from this location just 24 hours before the Heroes did. Their path will take the ranger and his brothers north along the eastern edge of the Redwood, and likely west after that; this is the closest to what Dalvar suspected of Gideon's ultimate motives, to attempt to lose his pursuers in the Great Rock Dale.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

MinusInnocence
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Argus trusts in his skills and the aid of his friends. At no point does the trail degrade or require another set of eyes. As he suspected, the riders moved north around the perimeter of the Redwood, but when they cleared the treeline and the craggy, forbidding terrain of the Great Rock Dale is visible some miles to the west, it appeared that something changed for Argus' quarry. There doesn't appear to be anything in the marks they left in the earth that would reveal their change of heart, but it looks as though a rest was called briefly and then they all promptly wheeled around and went back the way they came. The party resolves to eat and drink on the run, only stopping for five minutes here or there for one of the Heroes to relieve himself behind a rock.

A mile or two north of where they made camp the night before, this trail breaks off toward the east-southeast. An hour past sunset, the party is not far north from where they started at noon and are well and truly worn out. They've been marching in the dark for an hour and could continue to do so, but only at the risk of exhaustion. It would appear, however, that both sets of tracks from this afternoon may converge somewhere in the Halfcut Hills, likely in the vicinity of Parlfray Keep.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Cronono
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Raphael yawns.

"I do so love an invigorating walk o'er the muck." He chuckles. "At least we have intellectually stimulating conversations whenever we piss amongst the rocks." He reaches into his pack and pulls forth a small metallic orb. He twists it, pulls it, and generally fumbles with his little metal ball. Without looking up, he inquires: "Shall we break camp?"

Talanall
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Dalvar watches Raphael's antics with the orb.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
Cronono's picture

As he's getting ready for bed, Raphael approaches Thunk.

"I wanna apologize to you. Coffee is an acquired taste and if yer not ready for the bite it can get you. That's what got you, but not what I wanna apologize for. Coffee also wakes you up, makes you feel sober. It makes yer mind sharp but it is ultimately a drug. I realize now that you probably weren't prepared to decide if you oughta be drinkin a drug. If you ever do sober up, and feel like you did during your favorite brawl, with your heart pumping in your chest and your world awash with vigor, I can give you some of the watered down coffee to taste. Maybe put some cream in it."

Raphael holds out a hand to Thunk.

Darker

Thunk narrows his eyes at Raphael, but slowly takes his hand.

MinusInnocence
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The near-catastrophic crossbow bolt to the face Thunk received during Boozapalooza turned out to be barely a graze over his right cheekbone, and it had mostly closed up on its own after a good night's rest. But until now, it still hurt a bit when the half-orc opened his mouth too wide. A warmth floods into his body from Raphael's touch, and when it travels up his arm to his shoulder, and up the neck to his face, Thunk can feel... well, for the first time since he was shot, he feels nothing there at all. Another few hours of sleep and, aside from a barely noticeable scar, he should be right as rain tomorrow morning.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

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