Chapter 13: The Worm of Hatred (IC)

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Talanall
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Chapter 13: The Worm of Hatred (IC)

Dawn begins to pink the sky behind you as you ride west towards Morville. But by degrees, you realize that there is also a pink tinge to the western horizon. If you were riding up to Port Hope this would be the moment when you realized that civilization was in sight, but Morville is in no way large enough to stain the night sky with crimson under ordinary circumstances. Even if every villager in the place were awake and waving a torch you shouldn't see this kind of glow, and the self-styled Wolf King has already made it clear that when he's concerned, anything out of the ordinary is abjectly to be feared. Perhaps you could just turn around. Turn south, find the city. Start over someplace where monsters don't eat people just to torture anyone who dares stand up to them.

But Morville is where you have to go. So you ride onward, and the gradual effusion of sunlight confirms your fears as you get closer. Smoke—much more than at Arkady's farm, and the farmer and his children gaze wide-eyed at the black pillar rising to Oceus's heaven. Probably more innocents are dead under Cole's teeth and claws and blades. More homes torched and livelihoods destroyed.

Ryster was there. And Grandlekeen, the irascible trapper who wanted to feather most of you with arrows the second he laid eyes on you. Maybe they weren't caught unawares. Maybe they put up a fight and the villagers had time to flee. Time to hide.

Darker

Alannah stares, lacking any words for the moment.

drumandfight
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"Bollocks." Georgie practically spat the word. He readied his bow and scanned the horizon.

Talanall
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Gallielle speaks up, sounding dazed, "Oh, gods. This could be very dangerous." He dismounts, shakily, and suggests, "Put the children on my horse." Before anyone can get a word in, he shoves the reins into Arkady's hands, and continues, "We need to get into the village and look for survivors. Immediately."

Judging by the torrent of black smoke that boils into the sky, half of Morville is burning, but Gallielle's words carry a sense of urgency that goes beyond mere arson.

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

deadDMwalking
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Shocked to action by Gallielle's words, Garren begins a slow trot toward the village. He readies his bow and an unmistakably silvered arrow.

Talanall
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"Garren." Once the cleric stops, Gallielle leads Arkady, who seems equally stunned, closer to Celine, and waits while Yana and Rodion situate themselves on his horse, thereby freeing Garren to ride into battle if need be. Once that's done, the gnome says, "Alright, now we go. We must stay together, and be careful. Be very, very careful. There may be other things than werewolves in the village. So be ready to put your hands to cold iron."

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

Fixxxer
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Chuul doesn't even look angry. Perhaps his anger will come later. For now, he looks... ready. Prepared. Perhaps in a sort of zone, a place where he understands all the rules and has control. He wastes no time in couching his guisarme and continues toward the conflagration at a trot, his eyes scanning everywhere, as though expecting danger to leap out in ambush from behind every leaf.

drumandfight
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Georgie knocked a cold iron arrow and moved forward with Jalen.

Talanall
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The worst was hidden by the palisade around Morville, but once you're inside, the full majesty of the destruction is plain to see. Few buildings survive. Through the smoke, you can see the remnants of Mistress Elimindreda's Stone Goblin, which was the only building with more than one floor. Its thatch roof has burned away entirely, leaving exposed rafters and roof supports like a flaming skeleton atop the stone walls.

Gunther's smithy, where Chuul and Ryster once bought fine swords, also survives; the dwarfish blacksmith built out of stone, and roofed the structure with slates instead of thatch. Most of the other freestanding structures in the little thorp are in the process of burning to the ground, since they were constructed of wood. The loss represents nearly two thirds of the town.

Because of the shimmering heat and smoke, it takes longer for you to realize that the sod dugouts and shelters that made up the rest of the town's residences have also seen damage. And it's at this point, likewise, that you begin to realize that Berger Cole could not possibly have acted alone—the damaged soddies have been crushed like anthills kicked by an angry child, and werewolf or not, Cole simply would not have had the physical strength needed to cause this kind of damage, especially not in the amount of time that he had to work with.

So far, there's no evidence that anyone has survived the onslaught. There aren't even many bodies to be seen, other than what looks like Marc Grandlekeen, the trapper. He's face-down on the ground, perhaps sixty feet inside the gate. A bloody wound in his back suggests that he was trying to run away.

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

Darker

"Maybe we can see better from a higher vantage point?" Without waiting for reply, Alannah speaks a few singsong words, casting a quick spell. Wings sprout from her back and her head twists stretches and twists into an avian shape, ending in a wicked, curved eagle's beak. She screeches as she launches herself into the air.

Fixxxer
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Chuul trots over the Grandelkeen's form before reigning up. He spends a moment looking around, watching for hidden threats, before he dismounts and checks to see if the man is alive or dead.

Talanall
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Grandlekeen is alive, as it turns out. The wound in his back looks like it was inflicted with a blade, not teeth, and it's not really all that serious despite being messy. He's also got a couple stripes of bruising, one across his back and another on his temple, like someone beat the shit out of him with the flat of a sword.

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

Arkenian
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It takes Jalen several moments to get over the shock, then hops off his horse. He looks shaken as he walks up to Grandlekeen. He kneels beside him. "Master Grandlekeen, had I thought war would break out while I was gone, I would not have left. Forgive me. I need to know what happened." Before listening for a response he shouts after Alannah, "I need healing here, NOW." but doesn't bother to wait for a response, instead leaning down to listen to Grandlekeen.

Fixxxer
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Seeing Jalen's reaction to Grandlekeen's condition, Chuul reaches into his haversack and pulls forth a potion. Without speaking, he taps the vial against Jalen's shoulder and hands it to him once he has his attention.

Arkenian
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Jalen nods and says softly, "Thank you. A good man, if gruff." He uncaps the vial and offers it to Grandlekeen's lips to drink. "Drink, Master Grandlekeen." It is a command, if a polite one.

Talanall
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Getting the potion into Grandlekeen is more a question of pouring it into him quickly enough to force him to swallow it involuntarily, but not so quickly that he drowns in it. It's basically reflex; and although he doesn't look great afterward, the wound in his back now mostly closed. The half-elf is still out cold, though. Limp as an overcooked noodle.

Oskav stays away from the medical care, preferring to look around for signs of what may have happened to Ryster. He soon finds blood spatter on the ground nearby, and a muddy silver dagger that he recognizes as having belonged to the aasimar.

Before Jalen or Oskav can say anything, however, Garren notices movement inside the inn, glimpsed through one of its windows.


Meanwhile, Alannah lands at the riverside and takes a moment to process the view, which features . . . extremely widespread vistas of some poor soul. Inside and out. Even from the more familiar perspective of standing on solid ground, it's hard for her to piece together a coherent view of what's in front of her because she's never seen a person broken down into parts this way.

After a moment, she figures out that a large boulder that juts from the shore into the water is the center of the mess. It was used as a makeshift altar. Ropes around the victim's ankles lead to some kind of heavy weight that holds them submerged.

The other end of the "altar" features a small but intense fire, now burned down to coals and a sickly burned smell reminiscent of blended pork and frankincense. The fact that the fire appears to have been laid atop the victim's face, neck, and upper chest would explain the stench.

More rocks and rope hold the victim's arms spread above his head. Abrasions about the wrist suggest that he was alive and awake for at least some of what transpired here.

Between fire and water, someone has gone to work with a sharp knife. The grayish golden skin of the sacrifice's belly was opened up like a purse, and his viscera have been strewn about liberally, festooning the rock and the riverbank, and slowly waving in the current of the river itself. A wad of scorched meat next to the victim's fire-splintered skill suggests that the heart was the last thing to be removed.

The whole thing screams of ritual to Alannah, but she draws a blank as to the exact purpose of the scene before her.

A low sloshing sound in the river briefly pulls her away from contemplating the corpse, but when she looks, there's nothing out there.

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

Darker

Alannah is both horribly fascinated and disgusted at once. She's also more than disturbed that her new form seems to draw her to the fresh, raw corpse spread on a rock as an appetizing treat. She's sure she'll spend days retching when her body is back to her own, both from the sight and the forms odd reaction. Deep down, she also is sure she recognizes the grey-gold skin, but she pushes the thought away.

She launches herself back into the air, looking around the scene for any more clues and then follows the river for a bit before resuming her search pattern.

deadDMwalking
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Garren dismounts and silently commands Celene to hold position with a hand held to her face. Switching to his blade, he signals to Chuul about the motion inside the inn, moving to investigate.

Talanall
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A voice calls out from the inn, "Oi, it's us! The playwrights." Evidently they saw you, too, and noticed that swordplay is intended. You all recognize the voice of Jonas, the tall, bald one. He shows himself, keeping his hands in plain sight where you can see that he's not armed, and says, "Had a spot of bother here. A bloody werewolf attacked, and Rennit tried to participate in the, er, defense. Then about an hour later, a bloody great dragon flew out of the sky and wrecked the place."

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

Arkenian
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Jalen sighs, ignoring Jonas for a moment and says to Chuul, "If Grandlekeen won't wake with that, we're too extended to risk waking him just yet. A dragon is a plausible enough explanation, I suppose, although there are details that need to be sorted. We need to search, gather survivors, and supplies, and rest." He sighs, "And then . . . "

He rises to his feet and calls out, "It is Jalen. How many others are inside?"

Talanall
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Jonas calls back, "Me. Rennit. The fat elf lady, Elminster or whatever her name is. A few other people, all residents of the town as far as I know. The village blacksmith is alive, too, in his shop. He tried to shoot me when I went to ask if he was alright."

He clears his throat, looking somewhat bashful, and adds, "Er. About Rennit. He's . . . ah. He's not really feeling himself. Or possibly he's feeling more himself than usual, depending on how you want to look at it. You might as well come and see for yourself, but I'll thank you not to overreact."

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

MinusInnocence
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Oskav leans down, putting his full weight on his gnarled staff, and takes the silver dagger. Wiping both sides of the blade on his thigh, he tucks it into his belt and moves to join Garren. He nods to Jonas. "When you say the dragon 'flew out of the sky,' do you mean to say that it swooped down from out of the sky; and, though everyone in town was understandably shocked, it did not just appear out of nowhere? Or is it more accurate to say that one moment it was not here, only popping into existence the next?"

"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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"By the time I saw the thing, it had already set the inn's bloody roof on fire," answers Jonas, "so I don't know. Anyway, I never heard of any dragons around here to begin with. Just you people and Berger Cole. I'd have stayed in the city, but Rennit insisted we come out here as witnesses. If I'd heard about a bloody flying lizard that belches fire, I'd have sat on him 'til he smartened up." He coughs a little, and steps out of the inn where you can see him by the light of the burning village. With the better illumination, it's evident that his garments are a little singed, although he doesn't really appear hurt. The self-proclaimed playwright continues, "The damned thing was fifty feet long if it was an inch! How would anybody miss it?"

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

deadDMwalking
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"If you didn't fight to save the town, I will kill you. Please surrender to me your weapon while we allow the other survivors to testify to your assistance. If your companion has taken hybrid form, he need not fear unless he contributed to the carnage." Garren is grim, his gnarled knuckles white on his hilt.

Talanall
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"Rennit nearly died fighting for this place, and if I'd dodged a little slower, nobody would have been alive to save him. And after the night I've had the only way you're gettin' me weapons is point first. So fook right off," Jonas replies. He disappears inside the inn, but you can still hear him railing against Garren, "Them what's alive here is alive because of us, not you fookin' heroes."

His voice trails off into incomprehensibility, and then Elimindreda, lately proprietress of the inn and now destitute refugee, comes into view from where she was (as far as you can tell) sitting or lying beneath a window. She seems remarkably composed despite the destruction, and greets you as if she were doing normal business as a hostess, "Good evening. These . . . gentlemen . . . dragged people out of the street to keep the dragon from roasting them alive. The little half-elf gentleman with the mustache had a mishap in the process, and is in a rather poor state and I would take it as an unkindness if you troubled either of them while they are under my roof. With that in mind, you may consider yourselves my guests, although I cannot offer much hospitality tonight."

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

Arkenian
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Jalen says calmly, but firmly, "Forgive them, Mistress Elimindreda. My companions are angry at our . . . abject failure, their anger makes them foolish, but they will not harm or disrespect guests under your roof, or any who have aided Morville while I live." His voice is pure steel, and its clear this is said to the party as much as to the innkeeper, and perhaps a venting of the anger that is otherwise tightly under control. It is, to the innkeep that he proffers a formal bow. "We will, indeed, need to rest here, as we have pressed hard -- and this hardly presages a restful future. But what succor we can offer is yours to command."

Talanall
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Elimindreda gives a wave of assent in response to Jalen's little speech, and sinks out of view beneath her windowsill.

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

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Chuul doesn't speak for a moment, instead just staring ahead with a calmness that is almost certainly feigned while his mind digests what's been said. After a moment, he turns and says to Jalen, just a bit too calmly, "Find out what they know. I will speak to the blacksmith." He turns and walks toward the smithy without waiting for a response.

As Chuul approaches the smithy, he stabs the butt of his guisarme into the earth and leaves it behind and in plain view while he steps forward with his palms facing upwards and obviously empty. The kukri the smith made for him, he leaves in its customary -and obvious- place in his belt over his groin. "Master Gunther!" he calls. "Come outside or remain within. But I would know what you know. Tell me who did this, that I might kill him."

Talanall
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Last time Chuul was here, the smith's combined residence and workplace had wooden shutters to block its few windows, and the door was likewise of heavy oak. In the light of this morning's dawn, iron gleams in their places. But at his voice, a hatch opens in the door, about chest high to the orc, and he can glimpse a bearded face on the other side.

Once Gunther has studied him, the dwarf calls out, "I did not go abroad to see the truth of things, master orc. But it seemed to me that a dragon took flight above this town, belching fire upon the roofs of these surfacers. When all was set to flames, then did the beast alight and begin to crush what did not burn." He spits, fastidiously directing it out of the hatch and onto his own doorstep, before finishing, "Bitterly did he give them to regret their trust in sod, straw and wood. And bitter was my heart to see them brought low, for they were a brave folk after their own fashion. Some yet lived, flying lest they be burned or buried, but monsters had taken yonder inn, one a foul abomination of rat and man, the other scaled and slimed as if a worm of the earth and a man had coupled and given rise to misshapen spawn. They dragged the living into their lair, and I heard no more until the serpent-man came to my doorstep. I sent him packing with bolts of gleaming steel; lurks he still abroad?"

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

Arkenian
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Jalen nods once to Chuul, and then turns to Garren, gesturing to Grandlekeen, "Help me carry him inside. And will you need anything to conduct the funerary rites?"

Fixxxer
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"That I doubt, sir" replies Chuul, giving an additional quick glance around for good measure. "So it is true then... a dragon. Did you perchance hear a howling during the sack, as though wolves were about?"

Talanall
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Gunther scowls thoughtfully, then answers slowly, "No, good orc. Only screams and the roar of flames. But now that you bring it to mind, howling there was indeed earlier in the night. Belike it was an hour or two ere the dragon came upon the town. Such noise is common enough, in this wild country, so I paid it no mind." Inside his house there's a sudden, loud clank, followed by a loud rattle that reminds Chuul of the sound of a portcullis being lowered. Whatever it is, the iron door and shutters retract, and the dwarf is visible from head to toe. He's wearing a lace-collared nightshirt that hangs to his ankles and a nightcap with a tassel on it. They clash substantially with his heavy boots, as well as with the heavy crossbow he clutches in both hands, but sartorial advice to this effect probably would not be well received.

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

Fixxxer
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If Chuul finds the dwarf's taste in clothing odd or humorous, he does not show it. "I do not imagine it would be an uncommon sound," comments Chuul with a small nod. "But you have heard of the recent killings, the bodies at the gates? I lay that at the feet of a werewolf named Berger Cole. And I suspect his hands in this foulness as well." He looks around as he speaks the last, a deep frown being the first real emotion he has shown since riding into the burning wreck of a town.

"Others are at the inn. Will you join us there, help organize things?"

Talanall
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Gunther shrugs. "Aye, very well. I'll be along in a few moments, after I've put on some trousers and locked up the house."

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

drumandfight
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Georgie stayed outdoors while the others went into the inn or elsewhere. He moved off toward the river to see if any other clues about this attack were to be found. The revelation by the jester that a dragon had caused the havoc interested him very much. He pushed Dante forward, gently patting the horses neck.

"Apparently we picked a good day to leave town, Dante." He whispered to the creature.

deadDMwalking
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Once the story has been corroborated, Garren apologizes to Jonas and Rennit. "Your appearance in town seemed unusually coincidental. It was wrong of me to blame you solely based on your poor timing. Thank you for the assistance you have rendered."

Pulling the group to the side, Garren makes an observation. "A rampaging dragon will deal more harm in short order than Cole ever could. But if we drop from his trail to pursue the dragon, he will rebuild his forces. And considering his feud with Chuul, he'll look for opportunities to harass us. I don't know the right course of action. I will work to bury the dead. Perhaps the right course will come to me in time."

Talanall
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Rennit can't really accept apologies right now; he's unconscious in the form of a rat-human hybrid, with half the fur charred off of his body. It looks like Jonas was not joking even a little bit when he said that his friend would be dead if Jonas had not dodged in time; from the looks of things Jonas has already applied healing of some kind, but Rennit is still blistered in a way that suggests he's lucky he's still unconscious. Seeing the wererat's condition, Garren probably feels all the worse for his interaction with Jonas.

Aside from Rennit, Jonas, and Elimindreda, there are ten people inside the inn, most of them awake and bearing only superficial injuries of the sort that people pick up when they are moving around in a big hurry, or when things are being thrown around or falling on them. All of them are understandably in a state of shock. A couple of them look like they are conscious, but they seem incapable of moving; these are propped up, sitting against a wall. With Grandlekeen, that makes a dozen survivors among the village's residents so far. Unless someone is buried alive under rubble in a sod house or has hidden elsewhere in the ruins of the village, it's likely that the other four-fifths of Morville's population is now dead.

Jalen recognizes all of them by sight; they're all townspeople, mostly farmers and shepherds. One is the shopkeeper at the town's little general store, and another is what passes for a barroom tough out here. Jalen strongly suspects that that the latter is a petty thief as well, but he's never caught him at it.

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

MinusInnocence
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Oskav mulls over what has been said thus far and hobbles back over to Garren. He nods in agreement. "Indeed. The best course of action is to help clear the rubble and prepare the dead for burial. It is the surest way to prevent any more mischief from the Other Side from occurring here."

The dwarf looks around at everyone else gathered there. "I think we have established with fair certainty the wyrm was not of this world; or at least, if it does hail from this realm, it ventured here today from another. It likely had help doing so: if Cole is cunning enough to manipulate the veil between worlds in such a way, he is a far more dangerous opponent than you have given him credit for, Master Chuul. I do not believe we have much of a chance of finding the dragon even if it did not venture back through the looking glass; and, if we did find it, I do not know what we could hope to accomplish by confronting it. To confront Death on Wings calls for more hubris than I care to muster."

The gnarled old wizard shrugs. "So. That leaves us with mending what destruction it has wrought in this world as best we can, and perhaps work to bolster the defenses these people will rely on in the weeks and months ahead while we're at it. Both efforts will pay dividends if our true objective is to mitigate the damage our enemy has caused, for multiple reasons: not the least of which is that it dampens his victory over us this day."

"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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Georgie carefully moved forward to retrieve the pendant, making sure not to disturb any tracks or anything else he may have missed. The scene is one of absolute horror. It had taken him a moment of standing and staring before his dark eyes could even comprehend what was before him.

He recognized the pieces of skin immediately; Ryster had not deserved this. Not at all. He could scarcely think of anyone who deserved this save for the one who performed the act, ironically.

Having seen enough, he made his way back to the inn to speak with Gallielle. "I don't believe the dragon is from this realm," he said when he got the gnome's attention. The jovial spark from the tiefling's eyes were gone for the moment, replaced by a so far unseen seriousness.

"At first I had thought it simply not from the region - obviously - these people would have known about it long before hand. But after inspecting the town, the river..." he trailed off. He got Garren's attention. "The beast came out of nowhere and seems to have just burned and crushed what it could. The tracks are and buildings are clear enough about that. But what would it take to summon a dragon from another plane of existence?"

He waits for Gallielle to answer before continuing, much more reservedly.

"...There was a scene down by the river." His voice wavers a bit at the word "scene." "More of a ritual. I found this on the remains of the victim." He held the pendant to Garren, having seen a similar one on him before.

"If this Cole is as horrible, inventive, and evil as you have said he is, then I believe the dragon that laid waste to this town was his doing."

Talanall
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Other than to Gallielle and Georgie himself, the pendant is readily identifiable as the one Ryster used to wear around his neck.

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

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Gallielle looks somber, and answers, "I don't really know for certain. The principles are clear enough; there's a veil between the mortal realm and the Spirit World, but they're linked. Inextricably and intimately linked, in a way that isn't true for the mortal world and, say, the Heart of Light, where angels live. Certain . . ." he swallows nervously, "certain events in the mortal world can change the nature of the Spirit World. Good things push the Spirit World closer to the angels. Bad things send it towards the planes where demons and devils live. Something wonderful or terrible can open a portal between worlds. A devil might pass out of the Bleak Vista and into the Spirit World. An angel might pass out of the Heart of Light. That's normal. Maybe a man beats his wife, or maybe he surprises her with loving praise." He twitches a little, and finishes, "It's possible that something truly extraordinary could do more, and create a direct portal. It would take great heroism or villainy. Something inhuman."

The gnome looks at the bloodstained pendant, and ventures, "I—I take it that you found a bad thing. A very bad thing. Something . . . something very upsetting."

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

drumandfight
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"Inhuman hardly begins to describe what I found, mate. I warn everyone to take caution before taking a jaunt down to the riverside. I call it as a 'ritual,' as it can't readily be anything else, but it is a scene of pure carnage. I ain't never seen its like."

He gestured to the pendant. "Ryster's," he said quietly. "Aasimar," he said without need as though thinking on the implications of what Galliele had said given Ryster's race.

Darker

Alannah, having finished her search, stumbles into the inn. Shes back to her normal form, but looks glassy eyed and paler than normal. She walks to Chuul and says quietly, almost meekly, "I found Ryster."

Her face is only kept composed for a moment longer before she collapses onto the floor, sobbing. "He's.... he's... he's.... DEAD!" She wails the last word. She continues with an explanation, but most of her words are lost. Between sobs, you can make out the words "horrible," "tortured alive," and "tear open rifts."

Fixxxer
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Chuul, having slipped back inside the inn fairly quietly only a moment before, absorbs both Georgie and Alannah's reports. His face, already ugly and usually a mask of irritation and anger at the best of times, does not change. His left hand slowly reaches out and he hesitates only a brief moment before laying it on Alannah's shoulder, an awkward gesture for him, but one obviously meant to offer some degree of comfort. A moment later, his right hand reaches out toward Georgie, the palm facing upward. "Give it to me," he says without an emotion. Though he doesn't gesture and doesn't even look Georgie's way, it's obvious he means Ryster's holy symbol.

drumandfight
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Georgie tosses Chuul the trinket without care toward Chuul and brushes past him toward Alannah. Whether the orc caught it or not was his business. He should have been looking. He had had less interaction with Chuul than the others and didn't care for him much. He was a one trick pony, driven and all consumed with finding Berger Cole.

But Alannah... Georgie had known her the longest of anyone in the group, including Jalen who he had hunted trolls with in Moreville for a bit. While she drove him up the wall, something inside of him hated seeing her like this. Perhaps it was a need to show her that he wasn't as horrible as his exterior showed. Perhaps it was because he wanted to believe she wasn't as horrible as he made herself out. Most likely it was simply the shared trauma of both having witnessed the horror at the river.

Without preamble he kneeled down and scooped her up in his arm.

"Quiet now, Alannah. I've got you. You are safe now. You're in a safe place now." He held he tight, fully expecting to be rebuked, calming her with as much empathy as one could muster.

Darker

Alannah stiffens at Georgie's touch, instantly resisting the embrace... but quickly melts and resumes crying softly.

Fixxxer
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Chuul spares enough of a glance to catch the holy symbol. He looks at it for a moment, rubbing his thumb over it as though polishing it, and then walks out of the inn without a word.

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

Oskav considers where Ryster met his end quietly, letting the burbling of the river preserve the tranquility of the scene. The horrific, grisly nature of the aasimar's murder notwithstanding, to the dwarf death and its revelation immediately after was like a long, welcome exhalation after an interminable period of holding one's breath.

He removes a glove and runs his index finger through the pooled blood atop the rock his once-companion's corpse was shackled over and considers the tacky, clotted substance passively. Raising his finger to Baldr to allow him to sniff the blood, he murmurs to Ryster, "You know, now, what I had the misfortune to learn while I yet live: that it would always end thus. It could not have happened any other way. Rest now, friend. Your toil is at its end."

Wiping his hand on his pants, he replaces the glove and trudges back up the path to what is left of Morville. Nodding to Arkady and his children, Oskav manages a smile, though it feels unfamiliar and likely brings them no comfort. "All is as it was meant to be. Take heart, little ones. While you yet live, savor the world's treasures; and do not mourn those whose time has passed. We will guide them to their final rest so their suffering may end." Without waiting to hear their response, he continues on, hobbling through the street until he finds the orc.

"Master Chuul, forgive me. Our time to grieve has passed; it is a luxury we cannot afford. I need your help planning the restoration of the inn, posthaste. Master Gunther's services are required if we are to make this place safe against further spiritual incursion. What Cole set in motion here can be halted, but only if we act 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

drumandfight
drumandfight's picture

Georgie held Alannah for as long as she needed, only leaving her side when she gave him some sign that the grief had momentarily passed. When the time had come, he gave her a gentle nod and slowly stood. His eyes lingered on her for a moment longer than he intended. Seeing her so vulnerable and in pain had changed his perception of her in an instant. Her exterior, the angry, petty, and insulting displays were an armor to keep the world at arm's length. Underneath that armor was a person who felt very deeply.

Georgie didn't right know why he was dwelling on that.

It's a fucking trap. Maybe.

He moved over to the other members, catching the end of Oskav's interaction with Chuul. "I will do whatever I can to help speed this up, chaps. Just tell me what you need of me." His eyes were determined now. This had become personal for the tiefling.

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"Talk to Gunther, then," says Chuul, not stopping or slowing his stride as he walks away from the inn.

drumandfight
drumandfight's picture

"Hey strong and silent, you got a plan forming?" Georgie said as Chuul walked away strong and silently.

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