A Lapse In Judgment (IC)

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MinusInnocence
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A Lapse In Judgment (IC)

A New Day

"Well, the song of the blackbird is mighty clear on a mornin' such as this/And all those useless pains and fears, those things that I won't miss" - William Elliott Whitmore, "Dry"

Morning comes after an uneventful night. It was the first time in quite awhile the party has slept under the open sky without hearing the sound of distant thunder or even seeing a cloud in the sky; Dalvar has finished his morning studies a little after sunrise, just in time to join the others for breakfast. 

Perhaps he never ventured very far afield or maybe he can just smell the other beasts the party has rescued from the Keep but Puck eventually finds his way up the hill to join the Heroes just as the sun is coming up over the hills.

There wasn't any more sight or sound of Raphael or anything else, for that matter, emerging from the Keep after the great hall experienced whatever calamity caused the structural damage. For all the party he knows, he was sucked into some netherrealm between this world and the next, devoured by fiends, or finds himself otherwise indisposed. There must be a compelling reason for him not to have rejoined the others if he had succeeded in performing his exorcism.

Edited by: MinusInnocence on 02/16/2018 - 14:04
deadDMwalking
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Rested and with the sun up, Argus offers, "I'm going to the keep to check on Raphael". He swings onto Puck bareback, hoping to keep this trip brief. "Anyone else?"

Darker

Thunk stares at Argus with incredulity, "No eat yet? Thunk eat, Thunk go find talky magic man."

Talanall
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"Pieces of him, anyway," Dalvar mutters under his breath. Still, he gets up from where he was studying his spellbook, and replies to Thunk in conversational Orcish, "Hurry up and eat, then. We're going to Kuiper's farm after this, and if we do not waste time I think we can be there in time for luncheon."

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

Darker

"A luncheon!" Thunk exclaims back in Orish, "Thunk loves luncheons!" He stands to grab what breakfast he can quickly stuff in his mouth and then again what he can hold in each hand as he gets ready to trot alongside Argus.

MinusInnocence
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The terrain along the hillside looks very different in the light of day but the pair and Puck find their path down and back around to where the King's Road (what locals call the trail that runs alongside the Churnett River from Blackstar all the way east to Thurmaster and beyond to the Halfcut Hills) terminates at the foot of the path leading up to Parlfray Keep's front gates. Thunk finds himself in unusually high spirits this morning, even for him: he knows the kind of spread the ranger Kuiper lays out for his guests, and it may be that recuperating at the farm for a spell is just what the doctor ordered for his blood-brother Jugg.

Argus needs to dismount to lead Puck up the path past all the burned out wagons and charred corpses trailing up to the gates but the party had no trouble escorting a dozen beasts of burden back down the same way last night so he anticipates there should be plenty of room to maneuver around up there. Once inside, everything in the courtyard looks exactly as it did before they left, though today it looks like someone has shut the doors leading into the great dining hall. The several incinerated skeletons and zombies Feruq laid low with his enchanted necklace lie undisturbed outside the door. The tall windows flanking each door are shattered but the glass must have blown inward, though the heavy curtains still block the Heroes' sight of anything transpiring within. Each windowsill is piled high with shards of glass where the drapes stopped its ingress.

Meanwhile, back with the rest of the party, poor Lyntern has been quiet most of the morning. It is plain to see he will need a significant amount of time before he can fully process all that has happened to him and his family; let alone the incredible burden rule must be to rest on such young shoulders (not to mention the terrifying and blasphemous way in which that rule was passed from father to son).

However, once the pair depart, he speaks up. "Word of your deeds preceded you at my father's table," he croaks, clearing his throat when he realizes his voice is still groggy from sleep. It must have been a significant amount of time before the party rescued him that he had spoken to anyone; no wonder, since the only other sentient being locked in the dungeon was his Undead father, who he personally witnessed eating Squire Marlen alive.

"The Heroes of Haranshire are well regarded here. Even my father begrudgingly respected you, and he had no real use for sellswords or busybodies. No offense," the boy offers, raising a hand to no one in particular (he can't see any of you anyway). "I just... I hope I can help these people in some way. But I do not know how I ever could, now."

"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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Argus motions Puck to stay while he moves to open the door to the keep. "Have your weapon ready, just in case" he whispers to Thunk before trying to open the door fully in a single push.

Fixxxer
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"You are being blind," says Feruq to Lyntern. "You are not being dead. You are to be having many chances to be helping, if you are being brave enough to overcome yourself."

Darker

Thunk grabs Argus's arm before he pushes the door open, stopping the ranger. Sniffing the air, he says, "Thunk smell... devil."

Talanall
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Dalvar chimes in, "I do not know much about exorcisms. But Raphael seemed to think that the haunting was the dead redheaded woman. She almost certainly was a devil cultist. A worshiper of Asmodeus, probably. We should be very careful. Maybe even go back and get Feruq, if he is willing to come with us."

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

deadDMwalking
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"Just be ready to run." Argus pushes against the door after pausing for the warnings.

MinusInnocence
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Apparently not interested in even a few moments' unnecessary delay, the ranger shoulders into the right door and lends his full weight behind it as it swings open. Everyone can smell what Thunk detected now, but at least for the moment there doesn't seem to be any sign of fiendish activity inside. The weapons and armor brought to bear against the Heroes yesterday by the Undead soldiers who made it inside the great hall are left unattended, and a bloody trail of viscera and coagulated goop leads from where they congregated here in the doorway around the table toward the hearth. It looks like more of the ceiling has given way since yesterday over in that area between the fireplace and sundered summoning circle in the center of the chamber - large piles of rubble and debris litter the floor that weren't here on the Heroes' first visit.

If Raphael is in here, he hasn't made any indication he detects the party's arrival.

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

Talanall
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Dalvar whispers, "The corpses have moved. Either they have been reanimated, or Raphael spent half the night dragging them around. Let us assume that we are not alone."

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

deadDMwalking
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"Perhaps brewing coffee would summon 'the nose' if he still lives." Argus doesn't laugh at the feeble joke but draws his weapon as he cautiously enters the room.

drumandfight
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Jugg awoke groggily, looked this way and that with his heart beating rapidly. Instinctively he reached for his weapon, but calmed as he heard Feruq's voice. With an effort, he pushed himself up into a seated position and stared off into the distance.

MinusInnocence
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There is enough sunlight filtering in from outside for Argus to pick a route across the room where his steps won't attract too much unwanted attention; still, if Raphael yet lives, sneaking up on the witch after the night he must have had might not be prudent. Eventually swinging wide around the debris in the center of the room, the ranger comes upon several severed limbs and other body parts partially buried under the new pile of rubble. Looking up, he can't see any more of the third floor exposed to the chamber below, but thinks that the hallway leading to the library is likely extremely unstable now.

From this position, the woodsman can see Raphael's backpack tucked back against the wall next to the hearth. Its flap is open, and he recalls this is where the man had left it when he and Jugg were recuperating earlier while others explored the rest of the Keep. If the Heroes can't find any sign of him here (and there is quite a bit of rubble for them to sift through, but Argus and Thunk should be able to make short work of it) and he had to abandon his possessions, he must have been in a terrible hurry.

"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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Argus moves over to the backpack, then calls out softly, "Raphael!"

MinusInnocence
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The chamber remains silent except for the movement of the adventurers. Argus can see that at some point during the night, the fire Raphael had been stoking since yesterday afternoon bloomed to swell out of the fireplace and scorch the wall above the hearth nearly all the way to the ceiling. The stone is stained with soot almost as high as the rafters, but the wooden mantle looks like it was affected quite differently. The wood appears to be corroded somehow, not necessarily burned at all; and a powdery green residue has been left behind.

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

Talanall
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"Argus," Dalvar says, as quietly as he thinks he can speak and still be sure that the ranger will hear him.

"Argus, we need to get out of here. Grab his pack. Raphael is either dead, in hell, or no longer himself." The wizard pulls a stick of charcoal out of his pocket, and quickly scrawls a message on the stone floor of the hall.

"He can follow after us if I am wrong."

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

deadDMwalking
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"If he's become changed like Gideon, it might be better to deal with gim before ge torches a farmstead." Argus looks like he's about to leave. He grabs the pack and spares another look at the hearth, hoping against hope that he might be alive but injured and unable to respond.

MinusInnocence
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The adventurers make it back to the hilltop encampment without incident, hundreds of pounds of saddles and other riding gear (not to mention Raphael's haversack) in tow. It takes a little time to sort everything out and get the horses and mules fitted for a day's ride but it is still two hours until noonday when the final preparations are made to head west. Cutting through the Redwood where Argus first encountered Puck, the party will have to navigate some terrain that is a little bit rougher than the trail that runs alongside the river; but if Jugg and Thunk ride heavy horses and some of the heavier gear is relegated to the mules, they should be able to make it with eight hours of riding if they don't take any breaks or encounter unexpected delays.

"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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Here Comes The Rain Again

"And what a happy fellow I am to finally see the sun/Now that the rain is done, 'cause I've had about all I can stand/I can't tell where my pond begins and where my cornfield ends/The cattle done floated away 'cause the water's up over the fence" - William Elliott Whitmore, "Lee County Flood"

The Heroes saddle up and head out, with the extra gear and heavier packs distributed as evenly as possible amongst the horses not bearing riders so the mules can keep up with the pace set by the mounted riders. They make good time to the Redwood and venture under its boughs in short order, just before noonday; but by the time they have traveled west to the other end of the forest, Argus calls for a halt. It has now been raining for perhaps half an hour and by the time the party finds themselves peering out at the open grassland that lies between them and Kuiper's farm, the precipitation turns from a healthy spring shower into a downpour. Thunder cracks the sky and the ranger (not to mention just about everyone in the party save for Dalvar) know they're in for two or so hours, at least, of dangerous travel conditions. It's been long enough that the waterlogged conditions that plagued the Churnett riverbanks and surrounding regions have dried a little, so stopping here to find shelter wouldn't necessarily mean prolonged delays in the day or two ahead of them.

"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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Collectively, the party decides the best course of action is to get somewhere safe as soon as possible before anything worse happens. Today has been a good day so far - they all woke up alive and well after fighting their way through the haunted keep and, though the weather spoiled their plans for a long day's ride, they just so happened to be surrounded by adequate shelter from the worst of the storm. Now that it's passed, they can ride on, even if it's darker than one would like.

THere's not much risk of getting lost, traveling due west as they are and with the Thornwood looming on the other side of the river a few miles to the south. Even in the murk, the landmarks on all sides are unmistakable so the party loses little time keeping their bearings. Still, it is always prudent to take precautions, and the animals are roped together to keep any from straying.

It's a good thing, too. THe wind is uncomfortable and the rain is still coming down hard enough to make communicating with someone even a few feet away a little challenging. Some gusts are actually strong enough that smaller animals might find it difficult to move forward at all, and it is only because they are riding out in the open that the Heroes don't face any risk of being pelted with flying debris.

About half an hour after resuming their ride, the party have traveled another two miles or so when Feruq spies something to the southwest, closer to the riverbank than Argus has elected to lead his companions. It looks for all the world like a bobbing, bouncing light - perhaps a lantern suspended from rope, perhaps something more sinister. It's impossible to make out any further detail, being at least fifty or sixty yards away. It is past six o'clock in the evening now and the sky is dimming rapidly.

It is possible to change course now and eventually hit the river, which will of course lead Feruq and his friends to Kuiper's farm anyway. Alternatively, they could hold west and ignore it. No one else has made any indication they saw it.

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

Fixxxer
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"What is being this?" Feruq says, indicating the light and trying to be heard over the weather.

Talanall
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Dalvar squints through the rain, shrugs, and replies, "I see nothing."

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

Fixxxer
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Feruq steers his horse in the direction of what he's seen, though he doesn't do more than a dozen feet from his companions. "It is being... a light, I am thinking. Someone is being out there."

Darker

"No see light. Thunk hungry." Thunk argues.

Talanall
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"I have little interest in involving myself in the business of someone who does not mean me harm. We should keep an eye out for trouble, but otherwise I think it best to hurry on to Kuiper's farm and get out of this rain." This said, the wizard casts a spell on himself, presumably something that will get him ready for trouble if trouble comes.

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

deadDMwalking
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"Whatever it is, it might be worth a look. They might have information about Gideon."

MinusInnocence
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Lyntern clears his throat and speaks up. "I have a responsibility to render aid whenever my people need it. I know I CAN'T right now. I am not a fool."

He shakes his head ruefully. "I know I am helpless without YOUR aid. But if you would guide me toward this light, I would be in your debt."

Jugg looks extremely upset and conflicted.

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

Talanall
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"It is likely a will'o'wisp," Dalvar speaks up in his usual unemotional, matter-of-fact tones. "They prefer marshy ground like that which is just across the river, but given the torrential precipitation that has plagued Haranshire in recent weeks, the near side is hospitable enough. They are unpleasant creatures that literally derive sustenance from their victims' terror. Usually they try to draw someone away into the wilderness, preferably at night or in in inclement weather. Or both. It would be pure folly for us to pursue this creature into conditions that favor it."

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

MinusInnocence
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Jugg makes a noise like he was playing with a wad of phlegm in the back of his throat until he started gagging on it. "Ach! Or maybe it's some poor sod who needs help. But what of it? What if we get led by the nose over there and end up in just as much trouble, or just as much dead?" The dwarf spits before righting himself off in his saddle. "Your majesty," he gestures to Lyntern (seemingly sincerely), "We get to Kuip's farm and stay put. At LEAST until it stops raining. THEN maybe someone comes back out here to look for whoever might need help."

He isn't really offering it as a third option between staying or going. It sounds like he thinks it's the most obvious thing in the world and anyone else would be a fool to question it.

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

Fixxxer
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Feruq looks conflicted for a moment. "Helloooo by the river," he calls. "Are you needing help?"

MinusInnocence
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Lyntern appeared crestfallen after Jugg spoke up, but suddenly he perks up in his saddle. "Yes! Yes, i hear something. It's faint, but I hear a man calling out! I can't make out the words..." he strains to listen closer, apparently indicating that he detected something in the same general direction that Feruq thinks he saw the light earlier. Even if he is quite mad or playing a prank in terribly poor taste, that's a pretty lucky guess.

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

Talanall
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Dalvar shouts into the darkness to the south, "Mglagln bug! C'ephainafl ah mgepah'legeth! Mglagln bug, ngnah ah'mglw'nafh!"

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

deadDMwalking
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"If it were a will'o'wisp, it would have made sure we all saw it, at least briefly. And surely it would not have been heard? I don't mind checking it out. It's strange, but I have a feeling like we're turning away from a date with destiny. Turning away now seems fundamentally wrong, somehow." Argus isn't usually one to be philosophical. Leading the string of animals, he hands the rope to Thunk, immediately behind him. Guiding Puck with his knees he takes a few steps in the direction of the light and voice, still having seen and heard nothing.

Talanall
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"Destiny is a lie we tell to absolve ourselves of responsibility for our own pigheaded decisions," replies Dalvar. "Come away, Argus. You are behaving like Raphael."

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

deadDMwalking
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"Okay. Pigheaded decision then. I'll be back." Walking slowly away from the group with a lantern held high, he moves in the direction that his companions saw and heard something. His hand is resting on the pommel of his sword, but the blade remains sheathed.

Talanall
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"I do not know why I bother trying," Dalvar observes, "when it is so much easier to say, 'I warned him' over the remains of those who disregard my warnings."

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

MinusInnocence
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Dalvar, completely uninterested in being devoured by monsters in the dark, stays with Jugg and Lyntern. The young Count is frustrated at his own helplessness but contents himself with the knowledge that if Argus can confirm it is safe for him to approach, he will have an opportunity to join the others and see if he can help (or at least offer to). Thunk also stays behind, increasingly concerned with every moment the party tarries out in the middle of nowhere when hot food must surely be waiting for them at Kuiper's farm.

Argus and Feruq slowly, carefully make their approach; within a minute or so they spot the light again up ahead, reorienting their ride to intercept it. Eventually, the truth of the matter reveals itself: perhaps two hundred feet or further from where Feruq first spotted the light, the pair find three men and a boy. Each is armed: one with a spear, the man holding the lantern carries a dagger, etc. They aren't looking for trouble, but they're obviously from around here and know how swiftly a situation can go from calm to dangerous in these parts.

It takes a moment but when they close to within shouting distance, Argus recognizes the boy as Kurt, the young werebear the Heroes met while accompanying Kuiper the morning after Seralis was murdered. The man with the lantern is his father, Krynen, who gifted the party with the ring his mother had left him as recompense for rescuing his son.

The quartet appears to be working to try to lift a downed tree, and Feruq can easily see why: a cow, covered in mud and obviously terrified (but by this point too exhausted to struggle) lies pinned underneath.

Kurt waves his arms excitedly when he spots the adventurers. "Here! We're here! We need help!"

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

Fixxxer
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Feruq does not hesitate, and moves forward to lend his strength to the cause.

deadDMwalking
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Argus, too, moves to help. "Our companions are just a short distance away. We can get Thunk to lend his strength if we need it."

MinusInnocence
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Kurt yells as the Heroes approach, "We couldn't get her indoors in time to beat the storm and the fence came down. It's a lucky thing we found her out here at all!"

His father, Krynen, spits. "Aye. But more lucky still that you lot showed up! Come now. The tree is too heavy for us to pick up on our own. But if we all lift at once, maybe your horses can drag it off of her."

"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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Argus instructs Puck - he knows the horse will understand. "Let's get to it."

MinusInnocence
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A minute or two later, one end of the downed tree is affixed to Puck's saddle by lengths of rope. The ranger and his mysterious colleague help the farmers get into position and on the count of three, the tree is hauled up and away from the cow, allowing it to escape but without any cause for panic. It shakily rises to its feet and remains nearby while the horse hauls the heavy load out of everyone's arms and throws it clear into the mud. The operation is executed flawlessly.

One of the farmhands approaches Feruq after everything is said and done. "We loaned half our herd to ol' Kuip after what happened at his place last week. If we had lost Agatha tonight, we'd be sunk. Please. Take this." He presses a sheathed dagger into the monk's hand and turns away before allowing him the opportunity to decline the offer.

Krynen, Kurt's father, clasps Argus on the shoulder. "That's a hell of a thing you did for us, son. You have the way of the wild in you; I wager Kuiper and the others will offer an invitation to join the Circle before too long. You come see me when it's all said and done; I have a story to tell that might be worth your time."

"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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"I've always been good with animals. Better with them than people, anyway. You always know where you stand with a beast."

Fixxxer
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After a moment of quiet consideration, Feruq slides the dagger into his belt. "She is having wandered very far," he observes.

Talanall
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Back with Jugg'r and the young count, Dalvar makes a stab at small talk, "Count Parlfray, do you happen to know where a woman named Elysa might have gone? It is my understanding that she served your father as the physician in residence. I did not see anyone at the keep whom I could be sure was her, and it has been preying upon my mind."

Dalvar is bad at small talk.

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

MinusInnocence
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In answer to Dalvar's query, the Count nods his head. "Elysa is... was... our court physician. She is very gifted and has served my father since before I was born. She left near the beginning of the new year to take the Pilgrim's Path." Dalvar knows Lyntern was present and presumably still in possession of his mental faculties when Gideon and his comrades-in-arms arrived with the overdue pilgrims in tow. There isn't anything in the boy's voice to indicate he thinks anything is amiss (i.e., that Elysa should have been back now and that he or anybody else expected her to be traveling with the group that was sacrificed in the ritual in the great dining hall).

Meanwhile, the man who offered Feruq the blade nods his head and whistles, clapping the monk on the shoulder. "Aye, t'was a miracle we found her as far out as we did. Krynen's boy has a real nose for this."

For his part, Kurt pipes up. "Will you be riding on to Kuiper's for supper? If not, I'm sure we can make room at our table..." he offers, letting the question hang in the air between his father and himself. Krynen nods. "It's only right, boy. What's ours is theirs." After making sure Agatha is back up on her feet and there's no permanent harm done, they all look up to Argus and Feruq.

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

Talanall
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Dalvar pauses, and then comments, "I think that unless you intend to abdicate your title, you still have a court." He continues, trying to be as delicate as he can, "But it has never been clear to me whether your late father was on good terms with the Sylvan Circle. Or Mayor Carman. If you do abdicate, one of them is likely to become the de facto head of government in the county of Haranshire. Carman and the Circle have enjoyed considerable independence in recent years, and people look to them for leadership. They will naturally accrue greater authority if you abdicate. Or even if you simply refrain from asserting yourself as heir to the Parlfray coronet, if I may be frank. I am concerned that there may be some contention between them as a result."

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

MinusInnocence
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"Yes. Quite right," Lyntern replies, straightening himself deliberately in the saddle. "Especially now, with so much blood and misery, the people need order maintained. I might be holding court at Kuiper's farmhouse or a suite at the inn in Milborne but Haranshire needs its Count."

After several moments, he visibly slumps. "I need to talk to Tauster."

"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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