Campaign of the Month: April 2019

First Blight

21.10.840 TE – 22.10.840 TE
Elia, Revas, Sargis, Senna, Valeria

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Just after bandaging what wounds she had, Valeria instructs Sargis to go ahead and bring all the bodies to her so she can hide them all in the alley.

“Why? They’re gonna see the pools of blood anyway.” Sargis shrugs.

“Yeah, but seeing pools of blood is one thing. Seeing broken bodies is another,” Valeria argues. A short discussion ensues and then Sargis relents and carries one cultist after the other to the rear window. Valeria takes them from him and makes a pile in the middle of the alleyway.

In the meantime, Elia knocks on the door which seems to lead into the family’s bedroom. Her knocks get no reply, but when she listens in she can hear voices and whimpering from inside. She tries the door handle, and can tell that the door has a little give, but won’t open. Assuming it is barred from the inside, she calls: “I just wanna make sure you’re okay. So move away from the door!” She gestures for Sargis to break it open.

“I could just stonefist it…,” Senna mutters.
“Please no,” Valeria rolls her eyes.

Looking to see whether there’s another way in, Valeria checks on the second window, which is closed and the view inside blocked by old curtains. Spotting movement behind, Valeria determines that whoever is in the room is close to the rear wall. She joins the others by climbing through the open window and asks “Do you want me to take it down?” while pointing at the door.

“Well, just….” Sargis knocks on the door. “Look, we’re not wearing robes. We’re not cultists. Everyone knows that cultists wear the robes, so please open up!”

From inside the room, movement can be heard. Then a voice calls out: “I won’t open the door, but you can talk to us.”

Again, Sargis simply confirms that the cultists are dead and adds that he simply doesn’t wanna destroy the door, as there’s no need. “Just open the door a bit or look underneath the door. Or look out the window, there’s a pile of dead bodies outside with robes, so…”

“You heard the man! Just go check,” a woman, clearly exasperated, says to someone in the room. And then, just after, a child’s voice:
“I’m checking!”

Please no! Noooo. My plan!, Valeria thinks as her eyes go wide in shock.
“Too late,” Revas mutters.

A loud gasp fills the suddenly eerily quiet house. “Mom!”

“I tried so hard to prevent this.” Tight-lipped, Valeria holds onto a nearby beam.

What comes next, surprises everyone. The child’s voice, cheerful as can be:
“Hehehe. They’re all dead!”

Valeria’s face darkens. “Oh gods. It’s one of those.”

Behind the door, wood scrapes over wood and for a while loud rustling and grunting are the only sounds heard in the small house. Then the door opens just a bit and a woman’s head peeks out.
“Hello?”

Sargis walks towards the main entrance. “Hello. So they’re alive, everyone happy? Can we go now and get paid?”
“You’re talking about pay. These people were hunted and we don’t know why. I’m just going to suggest that you, behind the door, maybe find someplace safe to go for a little while… because if they found you here, they can find you again. Here. At your home.”

The woman, in her mid-thirties has short, curled brown hair and pretty rough, white skin. She looks scared, but opens the door a little wider to reveal a man standing behind her. He’s a lot taller than his wife, has brown skin and a bald head. As he leans against the wall to get a better look, the heroes can see that one of his arms is missing from the elbow down. The smell of fish seems to emanate from the two of them.

“We don’t know why these people attacked us. And anyway, we’ve got nowhere to go!” The man is silent, but places his hand on his wife’s shoulder as she speaks.

“Well, an inn, I would suggest,” Valeria says.
“Or they could go to Bann Nicola,” Elia throws in.
Valeria doesn’t seem convinced. “We don’t really know who that is, but… sure?”
“I mean she sent her Captain of the Guard out to kill these guys,” the Antivan throws back.

“The only thing I know,” the woman says, “is that they were after my daughter.”
“They wanted meeeeee,” the kid pipes up. Her head appears in the doorway. She has dark brown hair and bronze skin. “I don’t know why.”
Elia leans forward. “You don’t wanna know why, kiddo.”

While the mother looks fairly traumatized, the child looks surprisingly calm. “So… should we just stay here,” the woman asks.

“No. I’m not suggesting you stay here. I’m suggesting you find someplace safe to go to, if you can. But just keep an eye out. I’m saying an inn. Anywhere.”
“I don’t think we can afford an inn,” the man finally speaks up. “Can we afford an inn?” And he looks at his wife.

Sargis has clearly had enough of this conversation, and so he digs through his purse, finds a gold coin and flips it towards the family. Out of reflex, the man catches it and only realizes what he received when he opens his hand. His eyes go wide and he looks from Sargis to the coin and back. Nervous laughter fills the room. “This is more than I make… this is… ehm… this… thank you…” The man vanishes behind the door and then squeaky noises can be heard as he presumably sits down on the bed. “Honey, they gave us a gold coin.”

Revas gives Sargis a slightly disapproving look. “I think you broke him.”

The woman seems to regain her composure a bit quicker than her husband. “Thank you,” she says. And, to her husband: “You watch that, honey. Don’t lose it, please!” She then proceeds to offer the heroes medical help, food, drink and anything else they could wish for. Valeria declines and walks towards the door. “You just keep your family safe. That’s all I ask for.”

That’s when Elia realizes she didn’t search the mage Valeria slew and so she climbs out the window and digs through a pile of bodies to get to the cultist whose legs Valeria chopped off.
On his hand, she finds a wooden ring which looks well-worn and seems to have an interesting carving, so she takes it. She also takes a lyrium potion from his belt and finds a familiar looking piece of paper among his things. “To bribe Senna with later,” Elia whispers to herself as she takes the flask.

Stilled Tongues speak no Heresy! Bring to Mother Brianna. End of Cooper Lane.

Although she takes the ring, Elia doesn’t put it on. Superstitious as she is, she is worried about a curse.

Inside the house, the kid has become more courageous and come out from behind the door to join the heroes in the living room. “Are you leaviiiing?!”

“Well yeah, we don’t live here,” Elia replies while climbing in through the window and over the kitchen top.

“Huh.” The girl looks around. “That one has a nice sword.” She points at Sargis and his pretty scabbard. He, of course, turns so she may better admire his prized possession.
“Yes, yes I do. Very nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeees,” the girl says. “It’s super pretty! Can I touch it?”
“Of course.” He poses, hand on his hip, presenting the scabbard to her.

The child walks up and pokes the sword with one pointy finger. “It’s pretty. I like it. I wanna be a warrior when I grow up!”

“NO YOU WON’T!”

“It’s an excellent way to make a living,” Sargis says, while Elia and Valeria just laugh awkwardly. “Oh boy,” Valeria mutters.

“I want pretty armor! And that. I want a sword! MOM! I WANT A SWORD!”

The child’s mother, however, is more than just a little opposed to that idea. “No you won’t! You won’t get a sword, and you certainly won’t become a warrior! You’ll become a fisherwoman! Like your dad and I!”
“Neh. I don’t wanna smell like fish every day,” the girl pouts.

Sargis smiles and sneakily flicks a silver coin the girl’s way. “Make sure this goes towards some weapons and training.” He’s interrupted by the excited child:
“Mom, I’m rich!”

Grinning, Sargis continues: “Why smell like fish and work all day for a few coppers when you can fight and earn lots of gold?”
“And kill people!” The girl adds.
“Exactly.” Sargis clearly resists the urge to pet the girl’s head.
“I’m Tessa.”
“Nice to meet you Tessa, I’m Sargis.
“You’re my hero,” she says.
“Of course I am.” If possible, Sargis grows even taller as he says that.

In the meantime, Valeria has left the house and is pacing in front of it, fighting an oncoming headache. So this is my day.

Tessa however, is having a great day: “I’m rich. I’m gonna be a warrior. I’m gonna be like you! No beard, though.”
“I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being a rogue, either,” Elia chimes in. The child gives her a quick once-over.
“Eh. I wanna be like him, though. He’s prettier! And he has a pretty sword!”
“Yes I am, and yes I do,” Sargis says and sends a shit-eating grin in Elia’s direction.

Elia, deciding this kid is a lost cause, follows Valeria outside. Senna in the meantime is oddly quiet, and Revas simply watches the entire interaction from a corner of the room.

“You have to take care of them. They don’t look very strong,” Tessa, suddenly all concerned about the others, instructs Sargis.
“They’re not very smart, either. They wanted to break down the door instead of just talking to you guys.”
“That’s not nice,” the girl pouts, and sends some dirty looks at the door.
“No.” An awkward pause follows and then he adds: “Well, see you later.”

When everyone has left the house, they can hear the girl still talking to her parents all excitedly, while in front of them, Valeria curses in Alamarri.

Collecting their thoughts, the heroes walk a few paces until Senna speaks up. “Well. I don’t know about you, but I’m beat. I’m gonna go back to the inn.”

They have a short discussion about what to next. While some are exhausted and wanna tend to their wounds, others are more inclined to go and seek out Bann Nicola right away, to collect their reward.
“Before there’s any misunderstandings or we have to go through more cultists, I mean… And I would maybe like to sleep in a warm bed with a cute lady,” Elia says, drifting off towards the end of the sentence.
Immediately, Valeria speaks up. “Well, you’re gonna have your own room tonight.” And, after a pause, adds: “Unless you wanna go check out these other houses, I probably think it’d be best to go to sleep?”

Eventually, all of them agree to go back to the inn and get some rest. They make their way through the still misty streets of the Dregs, lanterns lighting their way only here and there, and on time they actually come upon a dead end and have to turn around. But after they come across Slaver’s Boulevard, they find their way just fine.

Senna makes her way to the stables, Valeria hot on her heels. The mage clearly can’t wait to see her dracolisk again. Quite aware of the fact that she is being followed, Senna gives Valeria a look and then speaks. “Thanks… for… you know.”
“It’s just another good deed to add on the list that needs to grow,” Valeria says mysteriously. She watches Senna enter the dracolisk’s box and pet it, and mentions that she’s quite relieved that the creature is still here. And that no guards have come for it. Yet. “And that nothing has happened.”

“What could happen?! She’s well-trained!” Senna clearly has had enough of this line of thinking and adds: “Why would guards even come here. They have other priorities.”

“But if guards ever come here, they will find two things in this place. And those two things are very costly.”

“We don’t have to keep the wyvern,” Senna mutters. Valeria smiles and then disagrees. “We’d be hard pressed not to keep it at this point. Especially because we just brought a dracolisk back. And because of the trouble we’ve caused while getting it.”

“Yeah well. I know I agreed to let her keep the stupid wyvern.” Senna rolls her eyes.

“I just hope it doesn’t get too big, too fast,” Valeria says mostly to herself. “Besides, maybe it doesn’t want to eat what we’re offering it.”
“Well, I don’t know what wyverns like, but this one wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Senna pets the dracolisk’s neck, completely oblivious to the horses’ discomfort. Valeria however is keenly aware of their fear and hopes that it won’t cause an issue in the future.

She yawns loudly and tells Senna that they should probably turn in and get some rest, but Senna says she’d like a few minutes alone with her mount, and so Valeria heads towards the heroes’ quarters on her own.

As she enters the usually rather quiet inn, she finds it filled with laughter and music. Three of her companions are sitting at the bar, drinking what looks like ale, and plenty of people seem to have come here to enjoy their dinner in the company of friends. She decides that crowds like this one are not for her, and so she heads up to the room, and finds Limbes and Maevin kneeling on the floor, hovering over a book they’ve placed on the bed.

When they hear Valeria’s heavy footsteps behind them, they shoot up, and Limbes’ face goes scarlet red. Way too loudly and enthusiastically she greets Valeria. “Hi! Hello! Hi!”
“You should go talk to Senna,” is all the answer she gets in return.

“What do you mean?” Suddenly concerned, Limbes walks up closer to Valeria, who has by now sat down next to the wyvern and started humming to it.
“We ran into some cultists today. It didn’t go so well for her. She’s downstairs in the stables, but she’ll be in the common room soon enough.”

Grabbing something from her backpack, Limbes walks towards the door and turns around. “Ehm… Nice idea you had there, Maevin. I—” and she points left, right, and left again, before she wordlessly leaves the room.

“Awkward,” Maevin says. He closes the book they were looking at and places it on the small pile next to his bed before he sits down. “So… cultists, huh.”
“Cultists, children with cut out tongues and apparently money to be had.”

“Aha. Sounds all very… adventurous,” he says as he stresses the last word. “I’ll stick to my books, thank you.” Valeria can tell he’s only pretending to read, as she watches him watch her. His eyes shooting from the page of his book to her, to the book, to her and back again.

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Downstairs, the other three are sitting at the bar, enjoying their drinks. Or well. Two of them are, anyway. Elia is rather busy staring at Arna. Who, by this point, seems rather inebriated. Her skill with the tray having deteriorated to the extent that while she carried it one-handed before, she now places both hands on the rim, making sure none of the drinks on it spill.

“Can I get you anything else?” She smiles disarmingly. “Are you hungry? Do you wanna eat anything? Or anyone?” Arna winks at Revas.

“I’ll wait!” Elia pipes up.
Confused, the redhead turns to her. “What do you mean? Wait for what?”
“Oh you know. I’ll wait here. Until you… get off.” Wink wink.

Startled, Arna takes a step back. Gulps. Gives the space behind Elia’s head a nod and smile. “Well, I’ll be able to leave once they’re all gone.” And she points at the room, still filled with people.

Elia looks around the room. “Well. I’ll wait.” She places her feet on the table and gives Arna a suggestive smile.

The innkeep raises an eyebrow and pushes Elia’s feet off the table. “We don’t do that here.”

Elia laughs awkwardly and almost chokes on her ale when Arna says: “If you’re really nice, I might sit in your lap later.” Then Arna walks off, clearly proud of herself.

“Well. That went well,” Revas whispers to Elia, smirking into his pint. Next to him, the Antivan mutters: “I’m bad at flirting, okay…”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

They drink in quiet for a while, as Sargis next to them is gulping down his ale. During all that, Arna rushes through the room, trying to satisfy her customers. Beer, ale, and stout leave the barrels on the bar and find a purpose on sticky tables. Arna balances several plates at once, making sure everyone gets what they ordered. She seems to be ignoring the heroes for a while, but eventually she comes back to the bar, where she starts washing the empty glasses she brought along.

“So… you’re the quiet one, huh?” Her hands still wet from cleaning the dishes, she wipes them on her skirt and leans across the bar towards Revas.
“Ehm. Sure…” Arna’s proximity does nothing but make the elf uncomfortable, and so he leans further and further back, threatening to fall off his stool.

Although Arna’s face is right across from his, he can tell she’s not actually looking at him. No. Her eyes seem to be focused on Elia, who can’t help but stare. Trying to keep the facade intact, Elia pokes Revas’ chest and asks: “So. What do you like?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do I like in what regard?” Utterly confused, Revas looks from Elia to Arna and back. Is she proposing…?
“In general… You quiet ones. You’re always the ones to look out for.” She winks at him, completely ignorant of his disinterest.
“I don’t… think so?”

And here I thought she’s trying to make me jealous, Elia pouts. Trying to detect any signs that Arna is in fact leading Revas on, Elia stares at her intently, but gets nothing but a headache for her troubles.

Arna in the meantime seems to have lost interest in Revas and instead pulls up a stool and sits down across from Sargis, a beer in her hands. “So. Tell me about yourself.”
“Well. I am Sargis. You know me. Best warrior in town!” He gives Elia a dirty grin. “Just this evening we saved a poor little girl from murderous cultists who wanted to cut out her tongue!”
“You did?” The innkeep gets off her stool and holds her beer close, while Elia elbows Sargis in the ribs and mutters: “Hey. That was my line!”

“Wow. I didn’t know the Cult was back.” In front of the heroes, Arna seems to sober up in the span of seconds.
“They’ve been here before?” Sargis questions her.
“Yes, they have.” She seems to be getting rather sombre.
“Well, don’t worry about them,” Sargis tries to assure her. “We’ve killed a bunch. I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson.”
“They’ve been around for a long time. They took my sister way back when.”

Elia’s eyes widen and she resists the urge to tell Sargis to shut up. He, of course, has no intention of stopping: “Let’s hope the Bann hires us to kill the bunch!”
Arna gives him a smile. “Yeah. Let’s hope so.” She then wipes her eyes and vanishes in the kitchen.

“Sargis! You ran off my date!” Elia plants her face on the bar—crushed. Sigh.
“I’ll next time try harder,” he promises with a grin, clearly not sorry at all.
Elia, flabbergasted: “What do you mean try harder?”

A voice behind them speaks up. “You scared her off, huh?” Limbes, her face still red, stands a few feet away, arms behind her back.

“Yes someone did,” Elia glares at Sargis.
He of course isn’t worried at all. “She probably just went to check on the food or something. Don’t worry about it, she’ll be back.”
“She went to go cry in the kitchen, I’m so not getting laid tonight!”
“Go comfort her then, and see how quickly you can get the food out.”

“Where would you get laid anyway,” Limbes whispers, clearly hoping not to be heard.
“In the kitchen?” Revas helpfully supplies.
Elia shakes her head. “She lives here. In her room, obviously!”
Limbes looks around, looking for the innkeep they’re all speaking about. “So… where is she? Where do I get something to drink?”

Elia points towards the kitchen. “You saw that barmaid that Sargis just scared off? That’s our only source of food and drink.”
“Oh.” Somewhat disappointed, Limbes is about to take her leave when Sargis jumps behind the counter and starts pouring drinks. The men to his left are already calling him his saviour, and gulp down the stouts he places in front of them.

“So what do you want, Limbes?” He gives her one of his toothy grins. She asks for an ale and as he hands it to her, he adds that he’s sure Arna will be back soon so she can get some food in her stomach.

Having noticed that Sargis hopped the bar without an issue, Elia attempts the same. Scrambling over, she makes her way to the open doorway leading to the kitchen. She enters the kitchen and is barely two steps in when a man yells at her. The man, who is clearly Arna’s father, seems rather unhappy. “Oy! What are you doing in here?! Out, out, out!” A heavy-set man in his fifties, he seems friendly enough, but at the moment looks less than pleased.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to check on Arna, she looked really upset.”
“She’s fine. She’ll be right out,” he waves at Elia to leave the room. “Kids these days.”
As she leaves the steaming kitchen, Elia can still hear him yell: “Arna, your friend’s here!”
Back behind the bar, Elia shoulder bumps Sargis and gives him a rueful smile.

Limbes has had some of her ale in the meantime and burps loudly. “Well, I’m gonna go check on Senna, I think. I heard things today didn’t go so well for you guys.”

“No, she cast a fist at me,” Revas points out.
“She what? Ma nuvenin.” Limbes mutters.

Elia of course, corrects Revas’ statement: “No, what Valeria was probably talking about is that Senna was almost murdered by the cultists cause she didn’t wanna stay at a distance…”
“Oh,” Limbes drinks more of her ale, “didn’t she cast rock armour on herself?”
“Well, she did. But at that point we were already in battle, so…”

“In any case, I’m gonna check on her.” Limbes looks around the bar. “Is there any food around here? I’m starving.” She finds sth that looks like dry meat and takes a handful with her as she leaves the three of them to their own devides.

Upstairs, Valeria is introverting, completely happy not to engage anyone in conversation.

With Sargis busy pouring drinks, Elia decides to be of use as well, and starts collecting orders from nearby tables, dutifully delivering them to Sargis. After a few rounds serving tables, Elia joins Sargis behind the bar and is about to complain when Arna comes up from behind her.

The innkeep looks better than before, but surprisingly sober. She gives Elia a weak smile and then looks at Sargis and takes in the scene before her. She then turns to Elia:
“What are you doing?”
“We helped out a little bit while you were in the back.”
“You what?”
Sargis laughs.

“I… ehm… thank you. You obviously didn’t have to do that. I’ll compensate you! I feel bad now,” Arna rambles. “Drinks are on me! Food is on me! What would you like?”
“Oh thank you, I don’t need anything, I’m good,” Elia smiles.
Arna shakes her head. “I wasn’t talking to you, Sargis is the one pouring drinks!” She gives him her best I am a barmaid-smile and waits for his order.
“I’ll take something with meat,” he says, while Arna is pushing him towards a stool.
“And I’ll take full advantage of that offer.” Revas happily comments.

“I’ll be right back!”

After a while, Arna comes back and presents the three of them with three plates filled with food, clearly ignoring Elia’s “I don’t need anything.”
She’s about to walk off, when she stops dead in her tracks. Sargis in the meantime doesn’t realize that something is up and tells her to sit down and have a drink, to just relax for a moment.

“You… didn’t charge anyone, did you?”
Elia groans, but Sargis keeps talking merrily. “Don’t you worry about that. It’s all fine. Have a nice ale and a moment of rest!”

Arna’s usually rosy complexion goes rather pale, and she holds onto the bar for support before she sits down on a chair hidden behind the bar. Sargis, trying to save the moment, asks how much a drink costs and then flicks Arna 20sp, which immediately quiets her.
“It’s not just for us, it’s for everyone in here. Including you. So just enjoy the evening,” Sargis says, while slurping on his ale.
Wingman goals, Elia thinks.

“Alright, alright.” Arna gets up and takes a bottle from a nearby shelf, pouring the four of them some of the purple liquid. It smells strongly of alcohol, but there is also a sweet note penetrating their noses. Arna lifts her glass towards them. “You guys are the best customers I’ve ever had,” she says before she downs her drink. The three heroes follow in kind.

Sargis and Elia feel a burning heat rush through their bodies, invigorating them and making them oddly happy.

Revas, however, turns tomato red. His face heats up and his body starts feeling heavy. His head drops heavily on the counter with a loud thud. He makes odd murmuring noises and people around him suddenly turn purple and pink.
Looking at the semi-conscious elf next to her, Elia turns to her right. “So… has he never had alcohol before? Do we know? Do those elven villages not have alcohol?”
Sargis leans over and grins. “I don’t know. Maybe we should give him more so he gets used to it!”

Arna steps closer and pats Revas’ head. “Poor thing,” she says, as she pours him another one anyway. She tops up Elia’s and Sargis’ drinks as well before she fills her own. She holds up her glass, hand a little unsteady, and together they down it, while Revas tries to lift his head off the bar.
After downing her glass, Elia goes limp and slowly slides down her stool before she lands on the dirty floor of the inn. “I’m fine!”

That looks fun, Revas thinks, and downs his drink in one go. Placing his hands on the bar to his left and right, he makes sure not to faceplant onto the bar again. Everything is still eerily pink and purple, and people are odd colourful shapes.

“This is great, guys!” Elia, on the floor, is staring up at the ceiling. “You should join me!” Clearly Revas’ decision making is impaired, because he immediately gets off his stool and slides down towards Elia, almost landing on top of her.
Sargis smiles down at the two and focuses on the feeling of fire running through his veins. Feeling stronger than ever, he flexes for himself, utterly impressed by his strength.

From down on the floor, Elia and Revas can see Arna’s head pop up over the bar. “What are you doing? Are you okay?”
“We’re doing great,” Elia says. “It’s nice and firm, good for your back… Also you can see the ceiling. People never look at the ceiling. Why do people never look at the ceiling? Ceilings are nice, okay?”

For a moment, Arna just stares at them, but then she leans back and gives Sargis a once-over. He seems alright, but even so, she checks the label on the bottle. A quiet “Oh.” is what follows. “You stay there, don’t get up!” And, quieter: “You’ll be fine eventually…”
“It’s cool, I like the floor,” Elia calls up.
Arna shakes her head and passes the bottle to Sargis. “You can have it.”
“Well, maybe while I’m having this, you should take those two outside for some fresh air!”

Sargis promises to have a look at the bar while she’s gone and urges Arna to take Revas and Elia outside so she can take proper care of them (and also so they don’t set anything on fire…).
When Arna rounds the bar, Sargis takes a look at the label of the bottle and sees that it says “Dumat’s Breath” on purple ground. “Huh.”

Standing above the two drunkards, Arna says: “Don’t even try to look up my skirt!”
Elia giggles. “But you’re preeeeetty.”
Flushing red, Arna ignores Elia’s comment. “Can you give me your hand?”
“Can you see that, Sargis? I’m doing it!”
Sargis turns around and gives Elia a thumbs-up.
Arna simply rolls her eyes. “Unbelievable,” she mutters, as she drags Elia to the door and out of the inn.

“Wait here, okay,” she instructs Elia, before she goes back inside and helps Revas up with ease. She throws his arm over her shoulder and hugs him tight, pressing him against her hips, before she dumps him outside next to the Antivan.

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For a moment, Arna debates whether she should let the two of them enjoy their high a little longer, but when Elia talks about walking off, she decides now is the time to sober the girl up. She presses her foot onto Elia’s chest. “You’ll stay right where you are.”
Elia is suddenly scared but also somewhat aroused. Asking Revas, Elia whispers: “She’s strong, though, right?”

Arna walks to a nearby barrel and comes back with a bucket full of water. “I’m so sorry. Well, not really,” she says as she thrusts the bucket’s contents at the two useless drunks on the floor. Despite her drunkenness, Elia manages to roll away, and so Revas gets the brunt of it.

“Oh this is worse than dealing with kids.” Arna is clearly getting frustrated. She walks up to Elia, who’s happily giggling on the floor. “Not like that, young lady,” as she puts her foot onto Elia’s hip and starts pushing, effectively rolling her back towards the building. The Antivan comes to rest on her back, and Arna firmly holds her in place with her foot.

Then, grinning, she turns over the bucket, letting the remaining water trickle all over Elia’s face. “How are you doing?”
Elia looks up innocently. “Well, I’m wet now.”
Judging by Arna’s flushing cheeks, the double meaning isn’t lost on her. She tries to cover it up as she leans down and starts gently slapping Elia’s cheeks.

“So how are you? Any better now?” She looks over to Revas. “And you? How are you feeling?”
The elf lies limply on the floor. “I’m fiiiiine.”
“Sure you are.” Arna places her hands on her hips and blows a few loose strands of hair out of her face. She looks down at Elia, who’s looking rather pathetic.

“I hope your armor doesn’t mind the water.”
“If you wanted to get me out of my armor, all you had to do was ask,” Elia smirks.
Arna gives her a blank look, but her cheeks are the color of tomatoes and it’s clear that she heard what the rogue said.

Changing the topic, Arna walks over to Revas. “You seem better, wanna get back inside?”
“Yes please,” he mutters, getting up surprisingly fast considering his condition. He throws an intense look at Elia, who just shrugs and smiles. Shaking his head, Revas wobbles towards the inn’s entrance. Or what he thinks is the door, anyway. It’s a large rectangle, what else could it be. And who is this purple person, anyway, to tell him what to do? He’s a strong, independent elf, he can take care of himself!

Elia in the meantime is happily staring up at Arna, who’s standing right in front of her. A sight to behold, indeed. She’s barely listening, when she hears Arna say:

“You know, if you weren’t so terrible at flirting, I might flirt back.”

Elia has barely registered the words when she’s being hoisted up, coming to lean rather comfortably against the soft barmaid.

“Can you stand?”

“Can I stand,” Elia says indignantly. “Of course I can stand!” She’s about to push herself off Arna, when she decides that maybe staying so close to this woman isn’t so bad after all. Her mouth, however, is quick to point out that she doesn’t actually need Arna to stay balanced. “I’m a rogue! I can walk!”

“Sure you can.” Arna slips out of Elia’s semi-embrace and places her hands on strong shoulders. “Back in we go! Sit with your friend,” Arna says as she pushes Elia onto the stool next to Sargis.

She’s barely sat down when she starts complaining. “I mean that’s material! The armor thing! You know what she said about the armor? And I was all smooth and was like Hey if you wanted me to take my armor off… and then she just…”
Behind Elia, Arna coughs. “I’m standing right here.”

Elia looks at Arna. Looks at Sargis. “I knew she was there, honestly.”

Sargis and Arna trade a few looks, and then Arna leaves the two alone and vanishes in the kitchen.

Sargis, ever the helpful wingman, offers Elia another beer and adds that maybe she should ask for a private room tonight. “Because you’re tired.”
“Good idea.”
“And then ask her to help you upstairs, you don’t wanna fall down the stairs, do you.”
Elia giggles and then tries to ineffectually push him off his stool. “But if you’re here she’s not gonna bring me upstairs. You gotta goooooo.”

He just laughs at her and tells her that he’ll keep the bar busy. That way Arna doesn’t have to worry about the bar and can focus on Elia.
“Alright, I’ll try it. But if it doesn’t work, I’m gonna poison you in your sleep.”
“So now I’m getting fucked trying to help you,” Sargis asks, and instantly realizes that Elia is too drunk to have noticed that she said it out loud.

On the other side of the room, pretty close to the door, sits Revas. He’s surrounded by four more or less drunk people, and they are busy talking to that lithe little thing about their life, their wife and their kids.

Upstairs, the door opens while Valeria is watching the wyvern, and Maevin is seemingly asleep. Limbes enters the room. Alone. Once inside, she leans against the door, before she sits down on the bed, trying not to meet Valeria’s eyes.
Valeria instantly suspects that something is up. “Did something happen?”

“Yeah, kind of,” Limbes mutters, her hands fidgeting, playing with the blanket. “I think Senna’s in trouble.”

“Okay, that seems to be something common. What kind of trouble?”

Limbes wrings her hands. “Well, there were some guards who took her. And I… did nothing.”

“Did you see in which direction they went?” Valeria’s voice sounds pressed.

“I think north? When I came into the stables, there were like four guards talking to them and she was stonefisting them all of a sudden… and then I hid. I was scared. I can’t take on four guards!”

“Did you see the others downstairs?”

“Yeah, but I snuck upstairs. They seemed really drunk, so…”

“Yeah… Well, we need to get Senna out before she starts to panic and cause even more trouble. I think that will have to wait until morning, though, cause our more social companions are all drunk. We need to come up with a plan. Hopefully we can get the Bann to work with us. Maybe we can use that as leverage.”

“Well, they also took her dracolisk.”

“What. Did they split off? Did they go into another direction with the dracolisk, did you see?”

“No, I mean… I dunno.”

“Well in any case, we’re going to have to deal with that as well. Number one: We’re going to have to get her out somehow. That will be something to deal with in the morning. Two: We’re going to have to find the middleman.”

“What middleman?”

“The one that illegally sold her dracolisk.”

“Huh. Well, all I know is that you stole her dracolisk from someone? I mean I wasn’t there…”

“She wouldn’t agree with that terminology.”

“Maybe not. Should I tell the others?”

Valeria tells her not to, and watches as Limbes tries to hide the fact that she has been crying. After a moment she decides that the young elf is not going to talk about anything else, and so she goes back to humming to the wyvern. It seems rather calm around her, and pushes its head into her palm.

Down in the bar, Elia talks to Sargis, drunkenly slapping his shoulder to get him to agree with her musings. Sargis is very amused by her behavior, and goes so far as to think to himself that if this doesn’t work, maybe he should buy her a cute prostitute. Of course without telling her that she is in fact a prostitute. Yes, that sounds like something he could do for this lady who is clearly in need of a shag.

Next to Sargis, Elia is still in danger of falling off her stool, while further back in the bar, Revas is trying to signal the others to save him from these humans. They don’t respect his personal space, and the one in front of him spits when he talks. Utterly unhappy, Revas tries to get Arna’s attention when she leaves the kitchen.

Arna however is busy staring Sargis down. Before she left, she made sure to give the bottle of Dumat’s Breath to him, and him only, wanting to make sure that Elia doesn’t drink even more. But now that she’s back, she sees Elia sitting there, her head hovering dangerously close to the glass in her hand, which is filled with a purple liquid.

“Oh no.” That’s all she says for a moment, before her limbs seem to remember how to make her body move. She walks up to Sargis, her red hair bouncing as she goes. “What are you doing?!” Slapping him on the shoulder—hard—she takes the bottle from him.

“She was thirsty!” Throwing his hands in the air, Sargis points at Elia, who’s barely awake.

“You don’t drink alcohol for thirst! Barbarian!”

“You should try it, it’s good for you,” Sargis chuckles.

Arna rolls her eyes, but gives Sargis a slight smile. “By Urzara, you’re a lost cause.” She’s about to leave, when Sargis gets her attention.

“Well, she does look a bit tired.” He points at Elia, who just smiles, her face devoid of any intelligence.

“Yes. I’m very tired,” she suddenly pipes up, looking a lot more awake than moments before. “I would like… I’d like a private room, please!”

“You have a perfectly… fine… bed…,” Arna trails off. “Oh.”

Sargis jumps in, trying to help: “Well, Revas snores a lot!”

“Yes, of course he does.”

Elia however is determined to help herself. “Also, Sargis talks in his sleep!”

“Mh-hm,” Arna replies, a smile on her face. “I’ll be right back.” She leaves Sargis and Elia to their own devices as she starts making the rounds, while Revas is still in the back, half-heartedly trying to get someone’s attention.

The moment Arna’s back is turned, Sargis gives Elia a thumbs-up.

While making her rounds, Arna comes upon Revas, who’s almost entirely hidden in the armpit of the man next thim, who’s using him as a crutch. She stands there for a moment, taking in the scene, looking from Revas to the people surrounding him and back. Then she leans down, her lips almost touching his ear when she asks: “Are you enjoying this? … No? I thought so.”

She grabs his arm and throws it over her shoulder again, lifting the lithe elf with little effort. “Oh great, your legs are still pudding.” Her hand comes to land on Revas’ hip when she pulls him close. “Hey Bern, the booth is free,” she says, while pushing the large man who had halfway been sitting on Revas into the now free space.

Then Arna walks off towards the others, and Revas barely feels his feet touch the ground. He is placed on a stool next to Sargis, and is utterly grateful for the fact that it actually has a backrest.

“Stay, please?” She pulls his hood down and makes sure he’s seated properly before she lets go of him. “You should eat something.” Reaching over the counter, she grabs some of what Limbes earlier called ‘dried meat’ and places it in his hands. “Eat,” she commands.

Walking back behind the counter, she pours Revas an ale and then focuses on Elia. “So. A private room, huh?” Elia’s resulting fake yawn is pathetic, but Arna acts as if she doesn’t notice.

“Yeah, I just need a good night’s sleep.”

“Do you now. Well. You have a perfectly good bed upstairs, but of course I understand if you can’t sleep under those circumstances.” Arna gives Sargis a wink. “Let me think. I mean we’re pretty booked at the moment,” she says, while pretending to go through the ledger. She seems to think about it for a moment, her brows furrowing. “But, I mean I do have a spare bed in my room…”

“That sounds… so great,” Elia grins. Her cheeks are of a deep, healthy red, and she is trying hard to resist the urge to elbow Sargis in his side to get his attention.

Arna offers to show Elia the room once all the customers have cleared out, and so the rest of the night Elia continues drinking with Sargis, despite actively trying to hold herself back. A headache is starting to form, and Elia’s not sure it’s normal for people to look so blurry.

Next to Sargis, Revas is a bit slumped over, still nibbling on the dried meat in his hands. Sargis looks at him and decides that maybe it’s time to take this little stinker upstairs. He looks around for a moment, grabs a bucket from the corner and carries more than leads the elf upstairs into their room.

The inn itself has become a lot more quiet now, and Arna is shooing the last of the customers outside before she listlessly starts cleaning tables. Elia is watching her rather intently, and the resulting blush on Arna’s cheeks makes her smile into her hands.

After a while, Arna walks up to Elia and prods her, having noticed that the brunette’s head has sunken firmly onto her crossed arms. “Hey, you awake?”

“I’m awake! I’m, uh… I’m… Hi! Pretty girl. Hey! Hello. Hi.”

Arna laughs and helps her off the chair. “Does that work on other girls?”

“I mean… sometimes,” Elia mumbles, while trying to force her feet to steady. “You’re really pretty.”

“You’ve been talking to the wrong girls. But thanks,” Arna laughs. After a pause, she adds: “Can you walk?”

Confident, Elia lets go of Arna and stands on her own. “Totally!” She’s about to fall when Arna catches her.

“Riiiight. I can see how that’s gonna work out for you. Let me help you before you break both your legs.”

She throws Elia’s arm over her shoulder and holds tightly onto her hand and wrist, while her other hand reaches around Elia’s hips to hold her steady. They walk up several sets of stairs, and Elia feels herself sinking deeper and deeper into Arna’s grasp. Thankfully the barmaid seems to be stronger than she looks.

Halfway up towards the private floor of the Forresters, Arna pauses for a moment. “Why. Are. You. Making. Yourself. So. Heavy.”

“It’s all this armor. You can take off the armor. But then the armor would be gone…”

Arna almost trips over the next step, and Elia looks up to see her face flush a satisfying pink. The look Arna gives her, however, is less enjoyable. Her blue, almost purple eyes lock with Elia’s, and for a moment Elia feels utterly exposed. Then, however, Arna keeps pulling her up the last few steps and waits for her to find her footing.

Once Elia looks somewhat steady, Arna takes her by the hand and leads her through the rather dark floor. Too distracted by the freckled hand holding hers, Elia doesn’t take in anything, until Arna pushes her onto a soft surface. Welcomed by the soft material of the fabric, Elia is tempted to simply close her eyes and fall asleep. But she forces her eyes to stay open and locked onto the redhead standing at the foot of the bed.

Looking around the rather dark room only lit by the moon, Arna takes a step closer to Elia, who’s motioning at her chest. “Right. Armor. Armor it is. Mh-hm. Yup. Armor,” but instead of helping, Arna just stands in front of her helplessly, watching as Elia loosens strap after strap after strap, with armor pieces falling onto the bed and ground.

Elia kicks off her boots, and one of her knives falls out of the holster, hitting the wooden floor with a clang. Trying to get it out of the way, Elia starts kicking at it, completely ignorant of the fact that she could very well cut herself on it. Her boots both fly off, and her padding follows soon after.

Arna, clearly unsure about what to do, starts collecting all the armor pieces, padding and clothes that are soon flying towards her, and places them all neatly in a corner of the room. When the clothes stop coming, Arna slowly turns around to find Elia almost completely naked, and for a moment she feels like she’s going to faint.

Collecting herself, she squeaks out that she needs a glass of water and rushes out of the room. Once the door is closed, a rather loud thud indicates that she is leaning against the door, and quiet muttering can be heard.

Elia decides to be patient and scoots towards one side of the bed, opening the covers in what she believes is an inviting way.

When Arna finally returns, she looks at Elia a little self-consciously, and inches closer to the bed. She’s wearing a white nightgown which has clearly seen better days, and her hands are fidgeting. When Elia invites her to stay in the same bed, she throws a look at the smaller bed in the corner and then decides to join the Antivan in the bigger one. “But only because this is more comfortable.”

They start out relatively far apart, but after a while Arna scoots closer and closer, her back towards Elia. When she bumps into her, Elia finally decides that this behavior can’t be a coincidence, and so she reaches over to hold Arna close and kiss her neck.

One thing leads to another, and before Elia falls asleep, she thinks: 10/10 wings, would wing again.


Image Source

In the morning some people wake up more relaxed than others.

While Revas felt a massive headache developing last night, he wakes up rather refreshed. He stares at the bucket next to his bed, wondering how it got there. Opposite him, Sargis gives him a wink and starts dressing himself. Sargis is feeling fantastic. He doesn’t know what exactly that drink was, as he’s never heard of it, but it must be something special, cause he feels invigorated.

Valeria in the meantime gets up and makes sure the wyvern is alright, and starts humming to it while absentmindedly noting that Elia hasn’t returned. She decides to wait for her to come back, as no one has said anything about her whereabouts yet.

Upstairs, Elia wakes up to an empty bed. She gets up, makes the bed and finds a note on top of her clothes when she starts getting dressed.

Until next time ♥, the note says.

Elia smiles and folds it into a heart shape, leaving it on top of the bed before she leaves to join the others in their room. She finds them all to be very quiet, and some of them (cough Revas cough) very pale. Senna doesn’t seem to be around, and Sigune and Salem still haven’t returned.

Elia rubs her eyes sleepily. “Man, did those three take off already?!”

“Well it’s good to see that you’re here and alright,” Valeria says by way of greeting the Antivan.

“Didn’t… they… tell you?” Elia points at Sargis and Revas, who give her innocent looks.

And before anyone can answer, Maevin interjects. “I’m going to the library today.” He rummages through his books and swings his backpack onto his shoulders when he’s done. “Don’t kill anyone. I mean… don’t get killed. I don’t even know what to say to you guys…” He quickly leaves the room.

“So. How are you feeling today,” Valeria asks Elia. “You in a good mood?”

Elia laughs. “I’m pretty fantastic. I’m surprised no one told you—”

“That is great. I need a favor,” Valeria interrupts her.

Sargis cackles in the background.

Valeria ignores him. “It’s kind of a favor for me and kind of for someone else. You noticed that Senna’s not here?”

“Huh,” Elia says. “I guess that’s why I don’t have a headache.”

At this, Sargis bursts out laughing, barely able to close the clasp to attach his breastplate.

Elia tries to hide her smile and says: “So yeah, what’s up?”

“It seems that something happened last night while you were drinking,” Valeria continues.

Laughing, Sargis throws in a “Yeah it did” and the whole room erupts in laughter. Even Limbes giggles quietly.

Valeria however stays serious. “How good are you at talking someone out of a problem?”

“I got us into this city carrying a friggin wyvern egg, so I’d say pretty great.”

“Oh good, let’s talk to the guard then, cause that’s where Senna is.” Valeria seems to slowly be losing her patience.

“She what?!” Elia’s eyes widen comically.

For the first time, Revas speaks up. “She got arrested?”

“Sadly, yes. She got caught, she started using stonefist… it became a mess,” Valeria explains. “The dracolisk is gone now. Again. They took it back. So that’s another thing to handle.”

Elia, all smug, sits down on her bed and starts picking at her fingernails. “That’s generally what happens to stolen goods.”

“Well, if we wanna break her out, we have to go talk to the Bann. Which I’m actually hoping we could do first.”

Sargis also offers a solution: “Well the longer we leave Senna with them, the more she’ll annoy them. By the time we get there, they’ll be begging us to take her.”

“Honestly, I think if we just wait a whole day, I’m sure they will just kick her out,” Elia agrees with his assessment.

Sighing heavily, Valeria is trying her best to stay calm. “Or she attempts to break out and it becomes worse and worse as time goes on… and who knows, word might slip about this particular little crew here.”

“We didn’t steal a dracolisk,” Elia mutters.

“Well to be fair, every time Senna opens her mouth, things tend to get worse for us.” Sargis scratches his head. “So perhaps we should get her out.”

“Maybe we can use the Bann,” Valeria offers. “We might have some pull, help some people. We get coin, we get her out, and then we go have a little fun with a middle man. We find him and see how much he believes that dracolisk is worth.”

Elia sighs deeply.

“There’s a large chance that this guy is completely innocent and that it’s a coincidence that it looks like her dracolisk,” Sargis points out.

Elia adds: “Also it’s a long way from where she supposedly lost it.”

The discussion continues for a little while longer, until the Sargis ends it with:
“Maybe when we get a harness and muzzle for the wyvern, we should get one for Senna as well.”

“I’ll chip in,” Elia laughs.

Once the laughter has died down, Elia notices that Limbes is unusually quiet. “Do you actually think that was her dracolisk?”

“I don’t know? I’ve never met it…,” Limbes admits.

“But aren’t you her best friend or whatever?!” Elia asks incredulously.

Limbes is quiet when she answers. “I’m not. I’m just the only one in our group she could stand.”

Sargis laughs. “That she could stand.”

They all laugh for a moment before Limbes explains what happened last night.

“I went to the stables last night to talk to her. But when I got there, there were guards talking to her. And then she hurled a stonefist at them. And they took her. And her dracolisk. And I told Valeria when I came back. Cause I was pretty drunk. And I didn’t do anything to help her cause… I suck.”

“Well, you did the right thing by not taking on the guards,” Sargis says protectively. “That’s never a good idea. Especially in the middle of town.”

“Well, if you need any more convincing,” Valeria says to Elia, “just imagine how big of a favor this is going to be. Breaking her out of jail?”

Elia sighs deeply. “I’m gonna take every coin she has.” She starts packing and getting ready.

Sargis is already out the door, heading downstairs, while muttering something about the kitchen. Not missing a beat, Elia jumps up and follows him.

They find the tavern to be pretty empty at this time of day, and Arna’s voice rings out from the kitchen. She’s clearly talking to her father and seemingly didn’t hear them come down the stairs.

The smell of freshly baked bread, fried eggs and bacon penetrates their senses as they sit down at the bar. Just then Arna comes out of the kitchen and greets them with a smile, her entire face turning beet red. “Breakfast? Yeah. Breakfast. Breakfast, I thought so. Yeah, okay! I’ll get you something!” She vanishes back in the kitchen in a hurry.

After a while she comes back and serves them their food, and just as awkwardly asks whether any of them want ale. Before even waiting for a reply—which only Sargis gives, anyway—she starts pouring the drinks, hyper focused on the task at hand. She’s clearly unwilling to meet anyone’s eyes, and Elia finds that so amusing that all she does is stare and try to catch Arna’s eyes.

Ale poured, Arna places it in front of them and then stands there awkwardly for a moment, watching Valeria hand her ale to Sargis. “Right. Enjoy. Yes.”

“Oh I will,” Elia says with a wink. What she gets in return is a string of nonsensical sounds and words before Arna starts backing away.

She calls “I heard you, I’m coming!” and walks up to an empty table, and starts wiping it.

Despite the distance, Sargis and the others can hear her mutter to herself: “You’re such an idiot, really, was that necessary. Idiot, idiot,” she says, as she slaps her own cheek. “Oh gods what am I doing? It’s fine, it’s all fine. Great, yes! Wonderful! This would all be less awkward if dad hadn’t heard us. Great!”

Arna’s father comes out of the kitchen, his sheer presence demanding their attention. He slowly looks at every single one of them. Slooowly.

Revas gulps slightly, but focuses on nonchalantly eating away.

Elia however gives Bert a big grin, hoping it comes across as friendly, even though she’s just shagged his daughter.

“Friend, huh?” He crosses his arms. “Mh-hm.”

Feeling the need to defend herself, Elia pipes up. “I never said friend, you said friend!”

“I don’t wanna hear it, I’ve heard enough!” His ears go red and his mustache starts shaking as he rushes back into the kitchen. “Kids these days!”

Elia laughs and decides that now is the time for a drink. She eyes her ale momentarily, but then looks at Sargis who’s already downed his and is working on doing the same with Valeria’s. Eh, can’t hurt, she thinks, as she starts pouring the ale down her throat.

Once they’re all done with breakfast, Elia decides to ask Arna for directions. She walks up to her from behind, and the barmaid jumps in surprise when Elia places a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Oh no worries, you didn’t! I was just lost in thought. Nevermind, it’s all good. We’re fine! We’re fine.” And, more quietly, she adds: “He’ll forgive me someday. Anyway…”

“Forgive? Who?” Elia is more than just a little confused.

“Nothing! Continue!”

Elia’s voice reaches a new high. “He’ll forgive you someday?”

“Yeah! It’s all good! Nevermind. Anyway. We should… Yes.”

“Who now?”

Arna looks at Elia like she’s a bit slow. “Well, I told you he’s a light sleeper! Remember?”

“He’ll get over it.”

“So what can I help you with?” Arna stars wiping the table more vigorously.

Elia watches her wipe the rather clean table for a moment and then asks for directions to the Bann’s estate. Arna gives them to her and tries to act like everything is fine.

Before she leaves, Elia leans over and gives Arna a kiss on the cheek. Arna in turn goes completely stiff, turns red and looks at the others.

Did they see?! They saw
“Great! Wonderful! Yes! Wonderful day! Yes. Enjoy! Go! Eat your food. I mean. Leave! Bye now!” And, almost too quiet to hear: “I can never look at anyone ever again.”

The heroes make their way to the gate where they asked for directions the other day. Four guards are present, two behind and two in front of the gate.

“We’re here to see the Captain on urgent business,” Elia says by way of introducing herself.

“The Captain? Have you seen him?!” One of the guards steps forward, and looks at Elia intently.

“Yeah, Captain Braedon. We saw him last night.” Completely unfazed, Elia calmly answers his questions, while the guard in turns seems to be getting more and more anxious.

“Yes, but when did you see him last night?”

“It must have been around six?”

“So… so you are the people who…” He interrupts himself and turns to a female guard behind the gate. “Where’s Stefaan? Is he anywhere? Can you check?” He then turns back to Elia and the others. “You were the ones who defeated some of the cultists. You met Captain Braedon. Stefaan is the only one who came back from that group. He was the one who took the child. You saved the child.”

“What do you mean they didn’t come back?”

“Well they didn’t return. They were hunting cultists and Stefaan said they were going to another address, you were going to another address and then Captain Braedon and the other two never came back. They never returned. We’ve been looking for them—”

Impatient, Elia interrupts him. “You know what address they went to?”

The guard replies in the negative, but he’s fairly certain that Stefaan would know.

“So you didn’t see him after that? No?” Elia gives her companions a look of helplessness, but she gets no reply, so she continues. “We were supposed to come here in the morning.” Then, as if suddenly remembering something, she pulls a note out of one of her pockets. “Oh wait!”

Just then the other guard from behind the fence comes a little closer. “Remember, they said he went to Dogget Lane. But when they searched it today, only the family was there. They said that our people were there, saved them from some cultists and then went to another address. But they didn’t know where.”

Elia thinks out loud. “Maybe it was Cooper Lane?”

“Cooper Lane? What makes you say that,” the guard in front of Elia speaks up again.

Elia holds out the small piece of paper in her hand. “I was gonna show this to the Captain today. But now he’s not here…”

“Where did you find this paper?”

“On cultists? That I had murdered to death?” Elia laughs awkwardly.

The guard seems to be mere moments away from a mental breakdown. His hands fly up to cup his cheeks. “By Dumat. What if he found the same paper? We need to send men there right now.” He looks around a little lost, yelling in the general direction of the guard he sent away. “Have you found Stefaan yet?” He then turns back to Elia. “Do you think you could go? I can’t leave my post. Please. Do you need anything? Just, please help us. If you can save our Captain, that would mean so much to all of us. And to Bann Baranti. If you can do anything to help, I’m sure she’ll reward you handsomely!”

Sargis steps up and says: “Well, we might as well save the man, I’m sure it will prove useful in the future.”

After asking for directions, Valeria pulls the group aside. “We may have a problem. The time table may be a bit shorter than we believed. Did you, by any chance, hand Senna the tongue?”

Elia looks at her a bit bewildered, not sure why this is relevant. “Yeah, why?”

“Because she’s in custody, and she has a tongue.”

A short discussion breaks out about whether they should get Senna out of jail right now, or whether they should head to Cooper Lane immediately. Valeria urges the group to go and help Senna, while the others are largely more interested in coming to Captain Braedon’s help.

Valeria and Sargis start a rapid-fire discussion.

“You know, she could help. Maybe that way she may not end up thrown in the stocks.”

“Maybe being in the stocks will teach her some humility for a bit.”

“Does that sound like her to you? it just sounds like it’ll just make her angrier.”

“Everything makes her angrier.”

“The dracolisk made her happy.”

“Sort of.”

“She smiled when she saw Limbes.”

“Alright, fine.” Sargis suggests asking the guards whether she’s nearby or whether they know where she is, at least. He walks up to them again and asks whether someone was brought in for stealing a dracolisk.

The guard laughs. “I’m sure the whole city knows by now. Did you know that dracolisk was for Bann Nicola? Who would steal that? Come on!” The guard keeps laughing.

The group awkwardly joins in, and then Valeria sarcastically says that they should find the Captain. She walks off, following the way they came, until she isn’t sure where to go anymore, so she slows down and lets Sargis take the lead.

Once they arrive at Cooper Lane, they look around, but can’t spot anything out of the ordinary. The building that the note refers to—at the end of Cooper Lane—looks just like any other. It’s made of stone, stands two stories tall and seems to only have one entrance.

They stand in front of the building, unsure how to proceed, until Elia holds up the note she mentioned earlier.
“This mentioned Mother Brianna. I don’t know how important that is. But she’s probably the head cultist or something. Hopefully an old lady that we can easily overpower.”

“Overpower or kill, you gotta be specific here,” Valeria says.

“I mean if she’s an old lady, we can’t just—”

“—then she’s an old lady cultist, specifically.” Valeria adds without pause. But Elia is having none of that:

“You just throw her in jail, and she gets cold and dies of the flu in two weeks.”

“Well, here’s hoping. But let’s also hope that nobody breaks her out…”

“Fine, if you wanna kill old ladies, no one’s stopping you.”

“She hurt children, that’s enough for me. And can I just mention, that if she tries anything…”

Sargis interjects. “She might just be a nice old lady who sells the cult their pies.”

“Oh yes, yes, yes, that’s exactly what this area is known for.” Valeria rolls her eyes. “Pies made by old granny cultists.”

Elia strokes her chin. “So you’re saying that sarcastically. Is that the case?” When she gets no reply, Elia ducks and goes into stealth mode, pulling out one of her throwing knives, but concealing it with her hand. She slowly opens the door, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Peeking trough the slit in the door, Elia spots a cultist to her right. He’s talking to someone, and so she assumes there is more than one. He looks a lot tougher than the ones they fought the previous day, and in his hand he holds a large, two-handed axe.

The room itself is barely furnished. The filthy floor is covered by nearly two dozen straw pallets and dirty mattresses.

Elia is quick to react, before the cultist(s) can notice her presence. With a flick of her wrist, she sends a throwing knife his way, immediately sending out a second one in one fluid motion. Before her knives strike him, she closes the door, hoping the cultist will be stupid enough not to follow. She motions for the others to quickly do something before the idiots inside can act.

Valeria and Sargis ready for battle, but Revas stays where he is.

Elia whispers: “What are you doing around the corner, Revas?”

The elf just shrugs and gets his longbow out.

Valeria in the meantime has opened the door and is rushing at the first visible person. Swinging her sword in a great arc, a loud scraping noise fills the room as her sword slashes over the cultists mail armor. Frustrated, she kicks the cultist in the shin, catching him by surprise.

Coming into the room just behind her, Sargis sighs and follows her lead. Slashy, slashy, he thinks, and his sword slides over the cultist’s exposed skin in several places.

“Heathens!” The cultist calls, as he pulls a throwing knife out of his shoulder.

Partially hiding in the doorway, Elia nocks an arrow and aims at the cultist fighting with Valeria and Sargis. The narrow space makes it hard to find a good way to hold her longbow, however, and so her arrow flies wide, striking the wall behind the cultist and her companions.

Revas gives Elia a slightly condescending look as he nocks his arrow almost without looking. It flies across the room, lodging into the cultist’s side, blood starting to trickle down the shaft.

“You’ll pay for that,” the cultist cries, close to tears. In pain, he swings his axe at Valeria, who blocks his first few blows, but then his massive weapon finds her armor and sinks deep into the leather of her breastplate.

The other cultist joins him in his endeavor to bring Valeria down, and his two-handed axe comes crushing down on Valeria from above. Valeria manages to sidestep that hefty swing, but the cultist’s fist finds her face, and then his axe is upon her. “I’m gonna chop you down!” Angry, the burly man thrusts his axe into Valeria’s shoulder. She just barely manages to block it with her own sword, keeping him from taking her arm off.

Sargis sees the cultists beat the crap out of Valeria and decides it is high time for her to use a healing potion. He passes her one before he starts slashing at the cultist who almost took Valeria’s arm off. Infuriated, Sargis strikes at the man, determined to take these cultists down before any of his friends fall victim to them.

Still near the door, Elia also notices that Valeria is in trouble. Trying to lighten the load, she decides to trick the cultist in front of her companion into looking the other way. “Look behind you!” When the moron actually turns away, Elia sends her arrow into his shoulder with practiced ease.

Sneaking just a little closer, Revas hopes the cultist won’t notice him, and so his arrow flies out of the shadows to strike the man in the neck. The cultist is now bleeding profusely, and Valeria strikes him with the hilt of her sword before she slashes across his abdomen and uses her momentum to do the same to the cultist’s friend. She then quickly downs the lesser healing potion Sargis gave her, before preparing for another attack.

The cultist who’s still in front of Sargis gives him a weird smile and then crashes his axe into Sargis’ shield. The axe gets stuck for a moment, but the brute follows his strike up with a punch to Sargis’ chest, which almost causes Sargis to fall over. Pulling the axe free of the shield, the cultist deals a crushing blow to Sargis’ chest.

A few steps by his side, his friend strikes at Valeria with all his might, and she just barely manages to block some of his blows with her sword. Wounds appear all over her body, and she’s really starting to feel the strain.

Wiping some blood off his mouth, Sargis pushes the man in front of him back with his shield, striking at him with the butt of his sword, leaving a nasty bruise on the man’s face.

Elia again tries her patented distraction: “No, no, really, look behind you!”

The cultist, having learned nothing, turns around again, looking for anything that might be out of the ordinary. While he does, Elia’s arrow strikes him in the back, right in the middle near his spine. Crying in pain, he whirls around as fast as his wounded body allows. Glowering at Elia, he curses: “You’ll pay for that! Mother Brianna! They’re here…”

“And you were saying we won’t kill the old lady,” Valeria mutters.

Elia counters: “Maybe she’s not an old lady!”

Valeria gives Elia the look™ and proceeds to sink her sword into the guy in front of her, crushing his mail in the process.

Behind her, Revas rounds the lot of them stealthily and rapidly fires an arrow in the the closest cultist’s leg. The man cries in pain. “Mamaaaa!” He retaliates immediately, striking at Revas with his axe, who’s trying to block the incoming blows with his bow. Without breaking the frail thing.

Near him, Sargis fends off several clumsy attempts by the other cultist, keeping him at bay rather successfully. Although the man has downed a healing potion, he is not capable of inflicting any damage.

Sargis reels back, ducking a slash, and then swings his sword in a diagonal arc towards the cultist’s face, missing it only by inches.

“Hahaha I’m still alive! I’m still alive! We got this, man!” Invigorated from drinking the potion, the cultist becomes a bit over-excited.

Trying to trick the other cultist a third time, Elia calls out: “Here comes Mother Brianna!” She waits a beat, but this time the tall man doesn’t turn around. He glares at Elia angrily. Just then her arrow strikes him in the chest, piercing a hole in his mail armor. Blood starts trickling down his front.

Valeria, just next to the cultist, tries to use this moment to attack him. But even distracted the man manages to evade her blows, and blocking what he can’t evade with his massive axe.

Crouching and hiding behind Valeria, Revas calls “Don’t touch me!” as he sends one of his arrows flying into the cultist’s face. The arrowhead digs into the man’s eye, and as he sinks to the floor, only the shaft ends up visible from his eyes.

In front of Sargis, the huge cultist tries hitting him, but Sargis swiftly blocks each of the man’s blows with his shield. At the same time, Sargis’ sword is busy cutting into the man’s soft parts, deepening the wounds he inflicted upon the man earlier. A massive shield pummel slams the man back, staggering him for a moment.

Elia jumps over one of the mattresses on the floor and sends an arrow flying at the remaining cultist. The arrow strikes him in the chest, and a cough rattles the man. It is clear that he’s coming to an end, but he has not yet accepted it.

Staring at the still standing figure, Elia calls out “What?”, accusingly looking at Sargis. He gives her a shrug. Next to him, Valeria steps up and connects her fist with the man’s jaw. Her knuckles crack and so does the man’s chin. His eyes go into the back of his head, and he keels over, unconscious.

The moment the man hits the ground, Elia starts collecting her arrows, and Revas follows her, doing the same. Then Elia starts searching the bodies for any valuables. On one of the cultists, the one who downed a healing potion, she finds a black ring with a red ruby decorating it. The ruby is in the shape of a skull. Elia picks it up and places it in her bag.

Valeria walks up behind her and grabs the man’s axe. It is a two-handed axe made of steel.

Eventually I’ll find out what these are good for, Elia thinks as she looks down at the two rings in her bag. But what if they are magically cursed?

Valeria pushes her aside and picks up the two cultist bodies, one after the other, and dumps them in the corner of the room…

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