Chapter 14: Visionaries (IC)

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Talanall
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Chapter 14: Visionaries (IC)

Dawn, 6 Verdil 973 IR
The Copper Crosier
Port Hope, Mereflow Valley

You can tell that the Crosier is a high-class establishment because you are wakened by the silvery peals of a bell, and a cultured voice calling through your bedroom door, "Good morning! This is your call to waken, honored guest. Breakfast will be available in the dining room for approximately the next two hours." This is comparatively genteel; the staff at the Pickled Troll back in Golden Sheaves would just walk down the hall clanging an old cowbell and shouting that it's daylight and time to get up.

Once you're up and have had the time to eat, head around the corner to the bathhouse to get clean, and otherwise prepare for the day, it's basically time for you to get over to the Temple of Derena, since that's where the interests of the Bastards, the survivors of Morville, and possibly the city-state of Port Hope all seem to draw to a shared locus.

The temple is already well awake by the time you arrive, and its huge bronze-plated doors stand open. Once you step inside, a junior priestess steps over to see what you need; the majority of your party recognizes her, vaguely, from your previous visits to the temple; Garren actually remembers her name; she's Sister Ioana, and he doesn't really know her well because she's considerably junior to him, and likely to advance up their faith's administrative track instead of becoming a militant priest like him. In any case, she looks unsurprised by your request to speak to the Temple-Warden at his earliest convenience, so it's likely that she also remembers you. Inviting you to wait for a moment, she bustles off to see if the head priest's schedule permits you to see him.

When she returns, there's a young male acolyte, whom Chuul remembers from his last trip to Port Hope. Viencent. Ioana announces that the Temple-Warden will see you immediately, and the youth leads you deeper into the penetralia of the Moon's House.

The chief priest of the local Church of Derena is elderly, but still compactly muscular and tough-looking for his apparent age—probably somewhere in his early sixties. He's had the good fortune to keep a full head of hair, which is a dark grey color that is starting to be shot with silver. He's no beauty, but between his physical fitness, weathered face, and age, he manages to pull of "distinguished" pretty well. Once you arrive, he stands up to greet your party with a reedy tenor voice, "This is an unexpected pleasure, Master Chuul! And Moonguard Baur is with you? Most excellent to see you again, Garren. Sit down, by all means, sit—" He pauses as the full size of your group becomes evident, but recovers smoothly, "Viencent, please fetch some extra seating. I think Vigilant Cors probably can spare some of his for awhile."

deadDMwalking
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"Your eminence, Temple Warden Burke, it is with a heavy heart that I must report the complete destruction of Morville. It is, as they say, a long story. Most urgently, I need to report that the young children of Arkady were assaulted by Berger Cole with the intention of infecting them with his curse. Arkady is a good man and has lost everything to Berger Cole's malicious evil. I ask most humbly that you will treat his children without charge. They have shown courage and strength through dark times. And there are more dark times coming." Garren pauses here, knowing there is much more to tell.

Board Rider
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Avar stands quiet towards the back of the group. At Garrens opening statement the aasimars eyes widen slightly but he says nothing.

Talanall
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Burke turns pale at Garren's announcement, and his face loses its smile of welcome as he sits down, heavily, in the chair behind his desk. He doesn't reply until he's taken a couple of deep breaths. "You'd all better sit down. Tell me everything."

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

deadDMwalking
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"The story must begin after you last met Chuul and he returned to Golden Sheaves armed with information about the appearance and location of Berger Cole. We set out with all due haste North to Morville. While traveling we encountered a fiendish ettercap that had crossed from another dimension. It didn't seem significant at the time, but it foreshadowed Cole's monstrous plan. When we reached Morville the following day we learned that several shepherds had been killed in the past few days. After a few hours we set out with the hope of luring Cole into a trap motivated by revenge. Ryster stayed behind in the town as several new members joined our band. We failed to find him the first night and took shelter during a raging storm. In the morning we saw a pillar of smoke that led us to Arkady's farmstead. It took further time to locate his children and we realized we must bring them to Port Hope with all possible haste. We rode through the night to return to Morville. Except it wasn't there. It didn't take us long to surmise that Cole had sacrificed Ryster in order to draw a dragon across the veil. The dragon attacked the town and destroyed every building. A handful of survivors escaped with the help of the playwrights Jonas and Rennit. We suspected that they might have been involved but the survivors attested to their heroic efforts to save lives. Since that day we have been riding hard to return to Port Hope. Several times on the road we were attacked by goblins and kobolds in large number. War is coming to the valley." Garren stops again, reviewing if there is anything of significance that he has left out. Garren's tone is hollow as he recites the atrocities as simply as possible. No amount of additional commentary could capture the evil Cole had perpetrated, nor Garren's sense of failure and responsibility from being outsmarted by Cole.

Talanall
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"Sacrificed how?" probes Burke. "I don't doubt your veracity, Garren. Not at all. But I need detail." The older human hastily reverses his question, "No, wait. Answer that later." He looks at Arkady, his children, and Elimendreda, and unexpectedly apologizes, "I should have asked something else first. Are the four of you," he gestures to underscore that he's speaking to them in particular, "In need of assistance, beyond lifting the curse of lycanthropy from the children? This temple can assist you in obtaining shelter, food and clothing to meet your immediate needs, and our lay community should be able to help you find employment. I know that you've lost your homes and livelihoods, and I should have directed my attention to that matter first. Please forgive my lapse."

Elimendreda is the first to reply. "I'm Elimendreda Lorethian, Your Eminence. I'm well enough for the moment, although if one of your people can direct me to an honest goldsmith or the like, I should be glad of a chance to deposit my savings with him. I don't like to carry so much cash with me, when a pickpocket or street tough could take everything I have left. And I'd be glad of help finding work. I used to run my own inn. The Stone Goblin."

Arkady is less forthcoming, perhaps hampered by his pride, but he manages an awkward, "We'll take any help you can give us, sir. I, uh, was a farmer. Rancher, really. Mostly sheep. And before that, a cavalryman in the Legion auxiliaries. I'm not afraid of hard work, nor my children neither." He sets a hand on each youngster's shoulder, and says, "Yana is my daughter. Rodion's my boy."

Burke takes this in, nodding slowly, and replies, "I think all of that sounds like it's within our capabilities. Let's talk about the curse for a moment. I'd imagine that Moonguard Baur has already discussed it with you in some detail. He may be considered an expert." The older priest continues slowly, "Rodion. Yana. The first change will come upon you exactly one week from now. You probably will not remember anything that happens after moonrise; you'll merely wake up the next morning. That will continue for the entire time that the moon is full. Four nights in all. You'll have to sleep here in the temple during that time; we have special rooms for you, with bars on the windows and other restraints to keep you from harming anyone else during your change. On the first night, you'll spend the night alone. If I had been present in the three days immediately after you were bitten, we might have removed the curse before it established itself. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait and allow you to change instead. It's alright to be frightened. But I shan't allow anything bad to happen."

He continues, "The morning after your first change, we will begin our efforts to lift the curse. I'll say a prayer over each of you, and you will also pray to Derena to free you from the curse. If the Lady Moon grants our prayer, I'll know. If not, we try again until the moon's no longer full. Then we wait a month, and try again at the next full moon, until the curse is lifted."

Rodion pipes up, "You mean that we might be cursed for a long time, huh?"

"Possibly," agrees Burke. "Lycanthropy is very difficult to cure. But I've done it before. Never failed, in fact. One of my patients went on to become a warrior priest of Derena himself, in fact. Fully recovered."

Rodion seems to accept this statement at face value, and questions, "Can I apprentice to a glazier? I want to learn to make windows."

Burke seems rather at a loss at this statement, and blurts, "Windows?"

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

deadDMwalking
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"Rodion hadn't seen glass windows before we approached close to Port Hope - he was quite taken with them. Master Oskav," Garren indicates the dwarf, "was planning on helping arrange an apprenticeship. We are desperate for your counsel and I'm not sure how long we plan to stay in town, but if you could assist with an apprenticeship I'm sure he would take to it well. He is particularly fond of stained glass."

MinusInnocence
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Oskav offers, "I know a bit about architecture, but he would hear none of it. It's all stained glass with this one."

"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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Burke regards the youngster with some compassion, "It would be best if we arranged an apprenticeship after you've been cured, young man. Once the curse takes effect, it may be a little dangerous for you to be around other youngsters."

He explains, as gently as one can about a topic like this, "The change can come over you at other times than the full moon. Sometime another boy might try to bully you. If you get into a scuffle and are hurt—maybe he punches you in the nose, or you fall and hurt yourself when he pushes you—the wolf will take you over. The other fellow might be hurt badly, even killed. And worse, if you change into a wolf, other people may be hurt if you aren't on the temple grounds. People won't know it's you, anymore, and they'll try to hunt you down and kill you instead of trying to stop you without hurting you. It wouldn't be your fault, but it would still be really terrible."

Rodion looks crestfallen at this news, and Burke clearly isn't happy about stomping on the kid's ambition. The old man adds, "Once you're cured, I think we can help you find a suitable apprenticeship. And while you're waiting, if you'd like, we can have you join the lessons for our novices. You'll learn to cipher, and some history. Languages, too, if you like. It may help you get a better position once you're ready."

"Lessons? Like a nobleman's son?" Yana asks, sounding surprised.

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

MinusInnocence
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"Indeed, Yana. The Temple Warden surely has many resources at his disposal. Does education interest you?"

"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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"Yes, of course," Yana replies, before telling her brother, excitedly, "This is a great opportunity! Much better than merely becoming an apprentice. You can do that after we're cured, Rodi. Tell him, Papa!"

Arkady is looking a bit poleaxed by this whole exchange, but manages, "Listen to your sister, malijik. She's right." He clearly doesn't know whether to laugh, cry, or shit his pants. This all must be rather a lot to deal with, if you're a father hearing about the possible fate of his children.

Rodion's taking the news better, although with a certain degree of resignation that's probably inevitable in a ten-year-old who's just received news that he's going to have to sit still for an extended period of time every day. He sighs, and answers, "Yes, Papa."

Burke looks pleased, and adds, "Yana shall have the opportunity to take lessons as well, of course." As he's saying this, Viencent arrives with a chair in each hand, and Burke directs him, "Belay that, lad. I'd like you to take Master Arkady and his children to Moonguard Lods. They'll be guests of the temple for an indeterminate period of time. Make them comfortable, and then take Mistress Lorethian to a goldsmith to arrange deposits. Lods will know who to use."

As the refugees depart, the office feels less crowded, and between the new chairs and the existing seating there, you can all get settled. As the door closes, Burke continues, "Now. How was Templar-Errant Wyther sacrificed? I'm sorry to ask all of you to repeat what must be a painful time, but it's not a matter of idle interest."

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

Board Rider
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After Burke's request Avar leans forward in his chair intently. It is clear he is interested in hearing the answer.

Fixxxer
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"Badly," comments Chuul. He's clearly not pleased about having to think about it, judging by the tightness of his jaw. "I have seen many people die, but Ryster...." A slight pause. "It could have been little worse. He was lashed to a boulder by the river. Disemboweled. All while a fire was stoked on his bare chest." The popping of Chuul's knuckles from him tightening his hands is audible. "It could not have been quick."

Chuul sniffs deeply and seems to blink away most of his immediate anger. "I am told that his death was probably the cause for Morville's destruction. That it was part of a profane magic used to pull a dragon from some other where. A dragon that burned everything flammable before moving on."

"Bad enough to kill him. Worse to use him for such abomination. But that is Berger Cole's way."

Talanall
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Burke presses, sounding a little tense, "On a boulder next to the river? Was his body in contact with the water?"

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

Fixxxer
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"It was," confirms Chuul.

Darker

Alannah, having held back so far, explodes from the effort of trying to exercise some kind of decorum. "It was a votive sacrificial offering to Welerus and also used elements to distort the local planar topology. At least that's what he says," Alannah all but shoves Oskav to the front of the group, figuratively speaking.

Talanall
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"Good morning, sir," Burke greets Oskav. "I'm afraid you have the advantage of me, both for knowing my name when I don't know yours, and for having managed to impress Miss Zaidah, here. How are you called?"

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

MinusInnocence
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Oskav bows as low as his leg permits. "Oskav Hruthsson. Lady Alannah is too kind. I do not know as much as we need to in order to identify the planar irregularities involved. That question would be better asked of Master Gallielle."

Having paused for a moment, Baldr takes the opportunity to interject. "Doesn't matter where it came from. Where's the dragon NOW?"

Oskav nods. "This is Baldr. He has been my companion for many winters."

"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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Burke inclines his head to Baldr, and replies to both the bird and his master, "A pleasure, I'm sure. Gallielle and I will speak at some length about the topological details, but the discussion is likely to become technical. For the moment, let's talk about the practical consequences of the Templar-Errant's demise." He smiles wanly at the gnome, whom he seems to know, and goes on, "Other than this dragon that has already been mentioned, did you see any evidence of a breach? Odd creatures, persistent fog where none should be, strange sounds or smells? Hot or cold spots? Anything of that nature?"

As a planar scholar in her own right, Alannah immediately recognizes that Burke is running down some kind of checklist in his head, probably trying to deduce whether the planar breach is ongoing or limited to only one 'transaction,' for lack of a better word. Fog and unusual fauna would be a clear indicator of an ongoing breach; the lack thereof suggests that the breach closed almost immediately. She's not sure what answer Burke is hoping to receive. She thinks his follow-up questions probably are directed toward the possibility of figuring out where the breach led in the first place.

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

Darker

Alannah dismisses his questions and jumps to the point, "We didn't stick around long enough to find much evidence of the effects of a long-term breach, but it didn't appear the breach was still open. But again, we didn't remain in the area to study it. And if you are trying to figure out where it went, we didn't gather enough clues to discover where it might have led... other than it was a dragon or dragon like creature that came out."

She pauses, "Cole disappeared after the attack. We haven't seen or felt his presence since. He may have entered the breach or he may have been slain by one of his own summons."

Talanall
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Burke folds his hands on his desk, and regards Alannah in silence for a moment, before querying, "You didn't gather enough clues, as in 'you gathered some clues but don't know what they mean' or 'you gathered no clues because no anomalies were evident?'"

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

Darker

"As in, we placed the lives of the refugees above any investigation and spent no extra time in the area other than what was necessary to take them to safety." Alannah adds begrudgingly, "But we saw no clues from our limited time in the area -- nothing out of the ordinary that would lead us to believe the breach was still present. But the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Talanall
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The head priest takes a slow, deep breath, managing to fight down his temper, and then prods, "So am I to understand that the slain villagers still need to be buried and given funeral rites? From the way Garren put it, I'm under the impression that this was a massacre."

Chuul, Oskav and Garren immediately recognize that Burke's concerned that the dead may still need to be properly buried, and that he's concerned that if they don't they'll get up and walk, or turn into incorporeal spirits, or both. He's needlessly concerned, since you did bury the dead and pray over them in an appropriate fashion, but probably Alannah's remarks have misled him into thinking that you took the survivors and got the hell out of town as soon as you could.

Alannah certainly has heard enough about the dead walking or suffering as unquiet spirits if they aren't treated properly. She doesn't know how often that actually happens, or exactly how dangerous such creatures might be.

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

deadDMwalking
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"We left with all possible haste, but that required the proper rites for those that can never leave Morville. With the scale of the tragedy we had concern that we ought to have done more but with other pressing concerns we did the best we could with the time we could allot. We were there long enough that I'm certain we would have seen evidence of further contamination if the breach was still open. Part of the horror was how otherwise ordinary everything was after the disaster."

Talanall
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Garren's clarification seems to relieve some of the Temple-Warden's tension. "That's better, then. Lord Hope's court will need to be informed of this, and sooner is better. Morville's destruction will raise havoc with mercantile traffic out to Emerald Hollow, and it's properly the court's role to notify the Teamsters' Guild and other interested parties. I'm sure that you've already spread the news to Golden Sheaves, so I think there's really no great concern that someone will blunder farther north in ignorance of what has happened. But I doubt that the route north can still be considered passable, and livelihoods are at stake." A thought occurs to him, and he adds, "Does Emerald Hollow know they're cut off?"

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

Fixxxer
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"Not from our mouths," says Chuul. "We passed travelers and overnighted in Winterhome, but I doubt any of them could have gotten to Emerald Hollow that quickly."

Talanall
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"Master Grandlekeen said he was going to try to warn the outlying farms. He mentioned that he'd try for Emerald Hollow after that," Jalen offers helpfully. "He's a tough fellow, and he knows the wilderness, but he was alone."

Burke makes an unhappy noise, and decides, "I shall try to contact the head of the most important jewel cartel there. He's not the best choice, but he's the only person I know well enough to reach by magic." He rubs at his forehead, and moves on, "What else has happened? Did you at least have a quiet trip south?"

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

Fixxxer
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"There seems to be little quiet about the valley these days," observes Chuul. "In the days it took us to reach here, there were kobolds, goblins, a caravan we suspect belongs to the Velvet Purse, orcs and a fey hunt." He ticks each off on a finger as he speaks. "As if murdering werewolf scum bringing dragons into the world were not enough, this land seems a kettle ready to boil over."

Talanall
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"It always has been," says Gallielle, sounding regretful. "Even before Port Hope was founded. Sometimes it feels as if warring upon our neighbors is practically the only thing we have in common here."

Burke lets Gallielle's remark pass him by without comment, instead choosing to address the orc, "I think you ought to tell me about all of these as well. None of those things are usual for the route you would have taken to get here. Except for the Velvet Purse, anyway."

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

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"Banditry is pretty usual when one gets away from the populated areas," says Chuul. "The kobolds attacked us first. Ambushed us at night while riding giant rodents. None survived, but there is little to suggest they had motives other than attacking us... or the caravan we had attached ourselves to. The goblins came the same night. I considered that multiple attacks might have been the result of Berger Cole paying local tribes to harass us specifically, but a lone goblin survivor claimed it was simple happenstance. We let him limp away."

"Oh... I forgot to mention the elves," says Chuul. "They had a druid throw lightning at us. Most of the fire went out of them when he died. Also simple banditry. As were the orcs we met later. Looking to rob a farmhouse, I would wager. The resident took exception and called forth a hunter from the fey world." Chuul's tone combined with his raised eyebrows says that the result of that should be obvious.

"Tension, everywhere. The goblins are harping about their leaders returning and I have seen them in the company of vampires. I spoke with a scout from an orc tribe that crossed the Moorwash to see Golden Sheaves, and left that conversation wondering if the orcs might finally come in force. Golden Sheaves has practically had to become an armed encampment after being terrorized by a pack of werewolves."

Chuul runs his fingers through his sideburns. "I do not see peace and happiness in the Valley's immediate future."

Talanall
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"Elves? On the road from Golden Sheaves to Port Hope?" Burke looks puzzled, "That's a long way from home for them. And I can't remember the last time I ever heard of a druid turning bandit."

Sounding miserable, Jalen says, "They weren't bandits. More likely, they were Ceretheliaul's people, and just claiming to be bandits because they've been ordered not to give the game away too soon." He somewhat more depressed as he goes on to say, "That they were attacking settled folk on that route is evidence that the Cleansing Flame has picked the goblinoids' side. I think there's some reason to think that the druid, in particular, was one of the best in the Cleansing Flame. I don't really want to say anything about this at court, because if I'm mistaken it could touch off open hostilities. And, well." He taps his fingertip against his own pointy ear.

Burke doesn't reply to this, seeming nearly as depressed as Jalen.

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

Talanall
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Shaking himself out of his funk, Burke muses, "I suppose that you'll want to check in on Cole. See if he's still alive, and so forth. I'm not prepared at the moment, but if you return this evening or in the morning, I think I should be able to help you. If you're in a hurry and wish to have the blood sample you left with me, then of course I understand, but I think I should be able to give you better results than you are likely to obtain elsewhere."

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

Darker

Alannah grimaces, biting her tongue figuratively (and quite possibly literally) at Burke's last comment. "Yes." She forces out, "We would like you to try. If you can find him, we will take a portion of the blood and I will track him as he moves by scrying daily as we travel. Hopefully, that will avoid another trap like Moreville."

Fixxxer
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"I would know where he is, if you could help," confirms Chuul on top of Alannah's affirmation. "We have tried locating him, but I am told he is either dead or has gone to some other plane."

Talanall
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"Let us say that we'll see each other again this evening, then. After sunset prayers," replies Burke, pleasantly. If he notices that Alannah is on the verge of biting through her own tongue, the older man doesn't show it.

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

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

"I would thank you for that, your eminence," says Chuul with a polite nod of his head.

Talanall
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Chuul stays behind to speak privately to the Temple-Warden as the rest of you leave his office. By this time, Arkady and his children have been shown to their new quarters, and subsequently gone to wait for you in the public parts of the temple complex, where Rodion is engrossed in the spectacle of early morning light through the peristyle's huge stained glass windows. His father and sister are chatting quietly with Elimendreda; other than Rodion, who has a youngster's resilience, the refugees are looking understandably numb from the upheaval that has disturbed their formerly simple lives. But this morning they also look somewhat more hopeful; in all honesty the day has been going extremely well for them so far.

Once you're close enough for them to speak to you without disturbing the tranquility of the sacred space, Arkady greets you and says, "We weren't sure what you're planning for the rest of the day, so we thought to wait here before returning to the inn. We'll be getting our possessions, such as they are, and coming back here to the temple."

"I'm going to find rooms to rent first," Elimendreda adds, "so I don't know if we'll meet again after this. I wanted to stop and say my goodbyes to you, since I think your business probably won't involve staying in the city for long and I don't know when you'll next have time to visit with me. Arkady and the children probably will see you again sooner than I will, since they're staying in the temple for the foreseeable future."

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

deadDMwalking
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"Port Hope can be a good place to build a nee life. I wish you luck. More than that, I believe you will be successful. If you need funds to get started, I'll happily loan you what I can." Garren in serious and has quite a bit of coin by most measures.

Board Rider
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Avar nods at Gardens offer, "I, too, am willing to help as well."

Talanall
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"That's kind, Moonguard. Sir Avar. But you've done enough for us already, and we aren't afraid of hard work," replies Arkady. It's clear that he's touched by the offer, despite his refusal, but his tones are quite firm.

"Arkady speaks for me, as well," agrees the elf woman. "Besides, I can afford to be a little patient. My inn still stands, mostly, and elves live for a very long time."

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