Campaign of the Month: April 2019

First Blight

22.10.840 TE
Elia, Revas, Sargis, Valeria

Mother Brianna Image Source

Expecting someone or something to come at her, Elia opens the door next to them in one quick motion and steps to the side. When she peeks inside, she finds the room to be mostly empty. A red carpet covers the wooden floor, and a small table stands in its middle. On top of it lies a small crystal.

“Oooh, shiny!” Excited, Sargis steps forward.

“I dare you to pick up that crystal.” Elia elbows him.

“I’m just gonna go over here now…” Valeria walks backwards until she bumps into a wall.

Sargis walks into the room and decides to gently poke the crystal with his sword. Before he can do that, however, he trips over the edge of the carpet and slams his sword into the crystal as he tries to catch himself. The crystal, in turn, flies to one end of the room, bounces against the wall near the corner, hits the other wall and then jumps a few times before it comes to rest on the carpet near Sargis.

Seeing that nothing bad happened, Elia steps forward and carefully lifts a corner of the carpet. The others look at her a bit confused, not sure what she’s doing. “Looking for a trap door,” she explains when she notices them staring. “This room is boring.” She leaves the small room and goes back into the entry, where she throws an odd look at Valeria before she goes through the open archway and into the next room. “Oh yay, blood.”

The room veers off to the right, where it widens into a rather large open space. The floor is entirely covered in blood, and around the corner Elia can just make out what looks like the bodies of three cultists all piled up. She walks up closer, trying to keep her feet dry as much as possible. The room expands further than she expected, and she spots more blood and thrown over furniture. It looks like this is a common room that the cultists used to sit, talk and eat.

Elia takes this in for a moment, notes the stairs leading up further in the room, and decides to first inspect the doors she just passed. Deciding to use the same quick move she used for the previous door, Elia grabs the door handle and quickly steps back. She feels her feet slip on the bloody floor and just manages to catch herself before she falls into the mess. Then she steps into the room.

This filthy room, lousy with insects and encrusted with glop, seems to be used as a communal kitchen. The smell coming from whatever dead thing is hanging over the hearth makes Elia nauseous, so she quickly leaves the room through the other door.

She waves for the others to follow her.

In the meantime Sargis was busy cutting off one of the cultists’ hoods, and used it to wrap the crystal in before he put it in his pocket.

Going first, Elia leads the others to the set of stairs which lead upwards. Like the cowardly dog she is, she then steps aside and motions for the others to go up the stairs first.

All heads turn to Sargis, and he emits a resigned sigh before he slowly walks up the stairs, followed by Valeria and the others. He enters a large room, bare of furniture. The walls of this room are lined with dozens, or maybe more, hundreds of mirrors of every shape and size.

In the middle of the room stands a slim and rather beautiful woman. She’s slowly rotating in place, moving back and forth, and it seems like she’s in a trance of some kind. Maybe even admiring her own reflection.

On the floor near her lie two Baranti guards. They seem to be unconscious. Or worse, dead.

In front of the strange lady herself lies a familiar figure. It is Captain Braedon. Also seemingly unconscious or dead, face down on the floor.

Sargis walks up the stairs without hesitation now. He admires himself in the many mirrors for a second. He’s still busy looking at his pretty face when a voice rings out:

“Welcome to a place where Dumat’s chants are sung and every blasphemy is rooted out. Have you stilled the tongues of the wicked? Have you brought me my children?”

Sargis turns around with a flourish. “Ehm, we’re actually looking for some pies? Is this not the pie vendor?”

She looks at him, confused for a moment, and then her eyes go hard. “Where is your offering?”

“Before you get your offering, what happens to the children once you’re done with the whole tongue thing?” Sargis crosses his arms in front of his chest.

“It is not for you to know,” the Mother Brianna says mysteriously.

“Okay.” Sargis then walks over to one of the larger mirrors and smashes it with his sword.

“How dare you! I demand my offering!” Screeching, the woman extends her claws towards him when he smashes another mirror.

Revas rushes up the stairs when he hears Sargis smashing the first mirror. He’s just in time to see the woman lose her patience. “I assume we’re killing this person,” he asks, without waiting for a reply. He looses an arrow at her and smiles when it sinks into her thigh. It seems like she is not wearing any armor, as the dress around the arrow turns deep red.

“I don’t like this at all,” Valeria mutters. This lady is obviously out of her mind. Valeria inches up the stairs, staying as far away from the middle of the room as possible.

“Listen, you don’t want to fight me. You want to help me,” Mother Brianna says to Sargis. He immediately feels compelled to not only protect her, but to also attack his companions.

Elia sees the switch in his attitude and calls: “Don’t listen to anything she’s saying! She’s crazy, and we’re your friends, remember?” When she gets no reaction, she catches up to Sargis, gives him an exasperated look and then sends an arrow flying at the woman in the middle of the room. It strikes her arm, and her turquoise-blue dress turns purple as blood starts pooling out of the wound.

Sargis looks at Elia, shrugs and says: “But she has pies.” He then tries to stab Revas, but the elf sees the blows coming, dodging just in time. Another blow follows, but again Revas evades it, and then Sargis feels the floor coming closer, as he loses half his shoe and trips mid-strike. This was my plan all along, a part of Sargis thinks.

Revas looks down at Sargis for a moment, wonders what the hell humans are, and then his arrow flies towards the irritating woman. Having put his entire strength into drawing the string back, Revas isn’t surprised when his arrow strikes Mother Brianna in the shoulder and causes her to lose her balance. She falls to the ground, and her dress fills with more and more blood.

Valeria decides that now is her time, and so she charges towards Mother Brianna, swinging her sword like an executioner’s axe, aiming for the woman’s neck. At the last moment, the prone woman tries to block the blow with her arm, and Valeria’s sword takes her hand right off. Still alive, Mother Brianna tries to crawl away while holding her bleeding stump.

“You can’t let that stand! You have to help me!” As her plea reaches Sargis’ ears, he gets the feeling that she is as innocent as can be, and he wants to protect her.

That just after her words, Mother Brianna gets up and sinks her claws into Valeria seems to escape his notice. Valeria blocks the first vicious scratch with her arm, but then the woman finds an opening on her left side and sinks her claw-like fingernails deep into Valeria’s armor, ripping it open in some places.

“Hey moon boy,” Elia calls, “mind like, snapping out of it and actually helping us, instead of stabbing your friends?”

“You will do no such thing, my dear! Remember who your true master is!”

Sargis’ head turns to the beautiful Mother Brianna, and Elia can tell she’s lost him again. Sargis you damn dog, she thinks, for some reason way more irritated with him than with Mother Brianna.

Somewhat deflated and annoyed that she can’t even get his attention for a few moments, Elia nocks an arrow stumbles for a moment before she catches herself. The arrow just left her bow, and already she’s nocked another one and sent it flying. One of them strikes Mother Brianna’s shoulder, and the other comes to a halt deeply lodged in her arm. “Take this, bitch!” Elia spits on the floor. “You can attack us, but don’t mess with our minds!”

Revas, ready to follow up Elia’s words with an arrow, sends one flying into the wall, flinching just at the last time as Sargis stepped right into the path of his arrow.

In the center of the room, Valeria strikes Mother Brianna in the back, her sword separating fabric and flesh alike, and causes Mother Brianna to yell at Sargis: “Protect me you insolent child!”

Attacking Valeria with one arm, she continues. “You must protect me, don’t let these infidels kill me.” Her one arm rips through Valeria’s armour, ripping off fabric and clasps alike.

Elia shoots arrow at Mother Brianna, making sure not to hit Valeria, and Sargis stands by, shrugging at Elia and sriking at Mother Brianna, cutting the strap holding up her dress. It starts to come down on one side, its turquoise fabric sliding over the floor. This confuses Sargis even more. “What’s going oooooon?!”

Mother Brianna, bleeding from several rather deep wounds, calls out to all of them. “Please stop, stop! I don’t mean anyone harm, you don’t understand! Don’t kill me!” She gasps for breath. “Please, you don’t understand, I’m only trying to help this city!”

Suddenly, the heroes find themselves entranced by the beautiful woman, and unable to do her harm.

Sargis hands Valeria a healing potion, as the avvar has taken quite a bit of damage. He then asks Mother Brianna where the children are, and only gets a cryptic answer in return. “They’re safe for now. We mean no one harm.”

WHERE are they,” Sargis insists.

“Well….. I cannot tell you that,” Mother Brianna stalls.

While Sargis is busy questioning the cult leader, Elia checks the guards for life signs, kicking them a little with her boot. Nothing happens, and she concludes that they are dead.

Roll straight cunning. Gay cunning. Bisexual cunning.

A little more gently, Elia kicks Captain Braedon’s shoulder, not sure whether he’s dead or alive. “Anybody else know anything about healing? Cause I have no idea.”

In the corner, Revas shrugs, knowing full well that he knows more than these stupid humans. Meanwhile, Valeria drinks the health potion and subsequently slaps Captain Braedon, feeling that his cheeks are kind of warm.

Mother Brianna distances herself somewhat, as she sees the group move about the room. “Please, I… I… You need to understand, I’m only trying to help, not trying to hurt anyone. I’m trying to do good in Dumat’s name. Try to understand.”

Sargis stands still, really confused. “Am I supposed to do something? She did something… we’re here for the kids, but she doesn’t wanna tell us where the kids are… everyone’s like yelling at me… I don’t know what’s going on. She started bleeding, but she’s also undressing, we’re kicking people on the ground… what’s going on?”

Elia wants to persuade Mother Brianna to hurt herself, but the cult leader is not impressed. “My dear, if it only were that simple.” Behind her, Revas keeps staying back, and in front of her, Valeria asks: “Why do you choose the people you choose?”

“I think that’s too hard to explain for someone like you? I can see it. I can feel it. I can feel the energy surrounding them. I can see them bring shame to Dumat’s name. And I cannot let that happen.”

Valeria ponders this. “I see.”

“You humans are so confusing. I’m only trying to help,” Mother Brianna adds.

Trying to reason with her, Valeria continues. “I mean if you wanted to help, you could have asked for help, and knowing what to call you might help.”

“I tried to get your help, but I was always refused. But in this cult I have found unity and faith.”

“Apparently your unity and faith only goes so far, because your people still bleed. I hope you know. as you can clearly see. They still bleed.” Valeria laughs dryly.

“Of course they do, they are merely human,” Mother Brianna says like it’s utterly obvious.

“Human, imperfect, and yet you keep picking… well.. not the best people, it seems. I’m sure you could get a lot of regular people, but…”

“I choose those that willingly follow.” Holding her cut hand, Mother Brianna’s eyes drift into the distance.

Valeria clearly doesn’t think that’s the truth. “Willingly follow…?”

“I choose those that willingly follow me in Dumat’s name. I offer them the knowledge that Dumat will always be with them, in life and in death.”

“Maybe you could explain Dumat to me, I’m sorry, I don’t know him very well.”

Mother Brianna smiles, almost trance-like. “Dumat is all-powerful. The strongest of the seven gods. He is the embodiment of power and strength among our deities. And in his name we silence those who would speak heresy.”

“And what do you get out of this, then?”

Mother Brianna wavers, looks like she’s going to tell Valeria something.
Then her face freezes over, turns into this beautiful mask, unreadable.

Valeria presses on. “If you want people to serve, you might as well tell them the reward, but okay…”

“Please try to understand. Please let me go alive. I promise, I will flee this place and I will never come back to this city. I promise, just please don’t kill me. I beg of you.”

At this point, Sargis decides to help. “Why don’t you just tell us where the kids are, we can sort that out and then you go.”

Getting impatient, Mother Brianna shrugs. “I don’t have any kids at the moment. They were meant to be brought to me tonight.”

Sargis however, won’t give up so easily. “Where are the other ones, the ones you had before?”

“Oh… Well, as you may know, the Bann took them. And put them in her orphanages.”

“Huh. So they’re still alive,” Sargis mutters, surprised.

Mother Brianna nods, clearly pleased with herself. “They are. They are mutes, of course, so they may not speak heresy. But they are alive.”

“Kids do some weird shit,” Sargis agrees, “but I don’t think they speak heresy. What is this heresy you’re talking about?”

Talking as if explaining this to a child, Mother Brianna says: “When you speak against Dumat, it is heresy. You do not speak about him in any negative way.”

Valeria tries to whisper something to Elia, but fails to do so, a ringing in her ears causing her to yell. “You notice how we keep fighting people in cloaks this whole time? People that are covered up… People we don’t see until we kill them? And for the most part they’re quiet.”

Elia thinks about this. “Yeah but some of them have talked.”

“Several of them have talked, but maybe they decided to switch sides and they didn’t have it taken from them.”

Valeria having underestimated the sound of her voice, watches in horror as an echo of her voice rings out and as a result, Captain Braedon stirs.

Mother Brianna feels insulted. “I don’t know what you’re insinuating. They all follow Dumat willingly, of course they do, I would never force them.”

“So then you’re not denying what I believe to be the case,” Valeria asks.

“If I understood you correctly, you believe I used those children. What good are children to me? Children are useless.”

Valeria tries to explain: “They could kill people when they—”

Mother Brianna waves her words away. “Yes, they grow up. Which is why we silence them before they do.”

Sargis interjects again. “I know kids are annoying, but isn’t cutting out their tongues a bit far?”

Mother Brianna raises her arms, seemingly looking far beyond the ceiling. “In faith, nothing is too far. I would never kill them. But you must understand. I do this for Dumat, I do this in his will.”

Angry, Sargis yells at her. “But what did the kids do?! They only eat dirt and stuff!”

And Elia questions her more calmly. “Are you talking to Dumat?”

Mother Brianna ignores Sargis and instead turns to Elia. “Of course I have not spoken to him in person. But Dumat’s teachings—”

“Then how do you know,” Elia demands to know.

“Because I can see. You don’t understand, child. You are merely a child in my eyes as well. You must understand, I’m doing this for your good, for humanity’s good.” She smiles benevolently.

Elia, sick of this conversation, drinks a lesser healing potion, and also gives one to Captain Braedon, who stirs, somewhere between conscious and unconscious, some of his wounds closing up.

Revas in the meantime tries to suss out whether the lady is a human person, and straight up asks her: “You talk about humans, but you are human, right?”

Mother Brianna looks like she’s about to say yes, but then says: “My body is.”

Revas takes a step back.

Valeria also tries to see whether she can detect anything not-human about Mother Brianna, but all she sees is a very gorgeous woman. But she does ask: “What’s with all the mirrors?”

“I simply like looking at this rather extraordinary body. And face.”

“Good to know, very good to know… I mean I understand. I understand that very well,” Valeria replies. “So we’re just gonna… you obviously don’t need this guy, and we can throw the other ones down the stairs, if you want, cause they’re blocking your view, obviously. So we’ll just take these and get out of your hair.”

“I… does this mean you’re letting me go?”

“Well, I mean what else can I do? I’m here to make money. This is wasting my time and I can’t make money.”

“Take them, then,” Mother Brianna says, and with those words she releases all of the heroes from her mental grasp.

Valeria drags the two bodies to the stairs and then chucks them down the stairs. While she’s doing this, Sargis speaks up: “Ehm guys, I had an aunt who was like this, she started talking to pots and believed that cows came at night and stole her dreams… maybe we should take her to the bann so she can get locked up for her own safety.”

“You dare betray me?!” Mother Brianna, voice rising in pitch, yelps as one of Elia’s arrows flies right past her face, followed by one of Revas’ arrows, which also goes wide. She turns towards Elia, and just barely manages to evade yet another arrow flying towards her.

Sargis is a bit confused because he thought it was over, but when he sees everyone attacking her again, he just shrugs and runs at her, calling: “Sorry, nothing personal!”

Surprised, Mother Brianna steps back, tripping over her dress, and Sargis’ swings manage to take a hefty piece of flesh out of her arm, sending it flying through the room.

Further back in the room, Revas nocks another arrow and sends it flying into her thigh, right next to another one. Mother Brianna reacts to this by pleading with the group again. “Stop attacking me, in Dumat’s name! You promised to leave me alive!”

Prepared for it this time, Revas is unaffected, resisting her magic by sheer force of will. Elia however, has decided to put her fingers in her ears and talk to herself to resist Mother Brianna’s voice.

Valeria and Sargis however, fall for her magic and feel compelled to leave her alone.

Incapable of attacking the cult leader, Valeria instead grabs Captain Braedon and starts taking him down the stairs. I’ll take your hand eventually…_, she thinks.

Elia, trying to get a better angle, tells Revas to move to the side, but the elf is determined to stay where he is, as far away from Mother Brianna and her nasty claws as possible.

Elia pulls the string so far back she worries it might rip, but then her arrow flies past Sargis and lodges into Mother Brianna’s shoulder. The arrow effectively traps her dress in her skin as the arrow sinks deep into the flesh. Crying in pain, Mother Brianna holds onto her shoulder. Standing right in front of her, Sargis shrugs and says “I’m really sorry about this, they can get a bit worked up sometimes” as he takes a step back.

“Stop shouting,” Revas calls, sending his arrow flying right into the woman’s mouth.

It strikes her, and her body goes limp as it sinks to the ground, whispering: “Dumat’s will be done.” As her body falls, a shining, nebulous being leaves her body, zooming through the room in confusing patterns, only to vanish through the ceiling.

“That’s gonna be a problem later. That’s gonna come back to haunt us,” Elia mutters.
“Huh, you don’t see that every day.” Sargis scratches his head.

Coming back up the stairs, Valeria walks up to Mother Brianna and chops off her one hand with her axe. “Maybe we should go through her things,” Valeria says, looking at the one who always checks.

Elia laughs awkwardly and looks around the room, spotting a tiny wooden chest, just about the size of a music box. Walking up to it carefully, she tries to pry it open with her throwing knife, but finds it locked. Using her lockpicks, she forces it open and finds a few small items inside. Spotting money inside, Elia glances at the others and tries to pocket the money without them noticing.

Sargis, all the way in the back, has a keen eye for money. He can tell Elia pockets exactly 1gp 55sp and 113cp. He shakes his head. Not because she’s stealing, but because he caught her stealing. I expected better from her. In the corner, Elia pockets three flasks of lesser healing potions as well as two flasks of lesser lyrium potions.

Revas and Valeria simply see Elia open the box and pocket something, with no idea as to what it might be.

Shortly after, the group starts discussing the fact that they need to show the bann proof of having killed the leader of the cult, and so Sargis decides to chop off her head. Valeria, ever helpful, attaches it to her belt and carries Captain Braedon downstairs, with just a smidgen of help from Sargis.

“Is anybody else a better healer than me? No? Okay,” Elia laughs. Seeing Revas fidget, she walks up to him, grabs him by the collar and shoves a health pack in his hands. “Fix him.”

Revas, under pressure, takes some bandages and other things, trying to do as Elia commanded him. After a while, Captain Braedon stirs, mumbling something under his breath. “His tongue better not be cut out.” Elia leans down, parting his lips with her fingers, and finds an intact tongue. When Braedon mumbles, Elia apologizes profusely. “Sorry, sorry, I just wanted to make sure.”

Clearly coming to, Captain Braedon tries to sit up, just as Revas pokes his cheek and asks: “Are you awake?”

“Where are my men?”

Elia says: “We’re still in the cultists… I guess you could say—”

“Slaughterhouse,” Valeria provides.

“I would tell you that we’re in a pie shop, if that would comfort you, but ehm…” Elia “that would be a lie”

Still drowsy and uncoordinated, Braedon gets to his feet, mumbling something about his men. He staggers around, falling onto his knees as he spots his two dead men. Kneeling next to the one closest to him, he calls out.

“Thomas? Thomas, wake up!”

Elia, in the background, talking to herself: “I never know what to do in these situations… like do you comfort the person… do you slap them to snap them out of it…?”

Just to make sure Thomas is actually dead, Elia nudges him with her boot. To make really sure, she asks for Revas’ help, who checks out the bodies lying on the floor and gets distracted for a moment. Thomas apparently used to be rather pretty in life. Blue eyes, black hair and a finely chiseled face attract Revas’ attention.

The others watch him stand there, mesmerized.

In the meantime, Valeria walks up to Captain Braedon and slaps him in the face. “You need to go back and report on this. We don’t have time for this.”

Instantly, Braedon stiffens and gets up, a mask slipping over his face. Captain Braedon in full effect. He straightens his armor, checks for his sword. “You’re right. I shall report this to Bann Nicola. In detail. And I shall accept whatever punishment comes my way.”

Elia, feeling somewhat bad for him, steps forward and reaches out towards him. “This wasn’t your fault. That lady could literally control people’s minds.” Pointing at Sargis, she adds: “He almost murdered us.”

Braedon, not convinced, replies matter-of-fact. “You’re all still alive, however.” And he walks out the door. Following him is Valeria. “Simply because he’s a fool, but yes.”

Piping up from the background, Sargis calls “I’m a professional!” before following the Captain.

Elia waits for them to leave and then goes through the guards’ pockets. Among Thomas’ belongings she finds a measly 15cp, a steel dagger, and a steel short sword. On the other body she finds 35cp, 1sp, a steel longsword, and a steel axe. Elia then rushes out of the building, pretending to simply have come last.

As the group traverses the city, Sargis is busy thinking on what happened, but the other three hear a whistle somewhere in the distance. Catching up to Braedon, Elia gently pulls on his arm, hoping to make him slow down or even come to a halt. She points to her ear, indicating that she heard something. His only response is “You have not been in this city long, have you,” before he continues on his way. Valeria in the meantime, having recognized the whistle, is slightly concerned.

When no one follows him, Braedon turns around after a few metres, lifting his arms in defeat and confusion.

“You’ll have to forgive her, she’s a little paranoid sometimes,” Valeria says, pointing at Elia.

Braedon simply shrugs. “It is rather common for my guard to communicate in this way.” He sees her hesitate and turns around. “Either follow me or don’t, I do not care.”

Overly dramatic, Elia sighs and follows him, muttering under her breath. “How was I supposed to know this was a thing…” And next to her, Revas puts a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. “It’s fine, you couldn’t know,” he says. “I didn’t know, either.”

Captain Braedon leads them through the city, and they follow a rather wide and clean street sometimes lined with greenery. The sky is grey, and in the distance it looks like it’s going to rain soon.

They walk for quite some time, and Captain Braedon marches past the Temple of Dumat, a circular structure decorated with plenty of dragon statues, that the group had walked past before. Going west, the heroes and Captain Braedon then get to a gate that looks familiar to the heroes.

Two guards are in front of it, and they seem overjoyed to have their Captain back. Shoulder-claps and exclamations of “He’s alive!” are all they hear for a while. One of the guards behind the gate is being sent towards the mansion, most likely to announce Captain Braedon’s arrival.

While Braedon is busy talking to the guards, Elia and Revas straighten up as they hear another whistle. It seems to be a bit further away than it was before.

Unsettled by Revas’ and Elia’s reaction, Valeria mutters: “We should really think about getting a certain someone out, honestly.”

“Make a certain someone—cough, cough—the Bann—cough, cough—happy before we ask for any favours…,” Elia says like it’s not directed at Valeria at all. “We’re gonna give her that head, we’re gonna give her her captain back, and then, when she’s—”

Valeria interrupts her. “They’re already gonna be, one: happy, and two: you already know what’s gonna happen as soon as they get out. Might as well get it done now, before there’s like explosions over in the jail.”

An argument ensues, in which Valeria and Elia flirt more than they actually argue. Elia ends the entire thing by walking away towards Captain Braedon, but Valeria is hot on her heels, holding up Mother Brianna’s severed head. “So what do you want me to do with this?” She grins. “Should I like turn this in… can I like get paid for this? You know I kind of helped out here.”

Braedon looks down at her and at the severed head, and he gulps for a moment. “May I take hold of this?” He holds out his hand.

Valeria huffs. “Well. As long as I get what’s owed me. Maybe cash, maybe favours. Who knows, we’ll see, shall we.”

Gruff and seemingly still somewhat out of sorts, Captain Braedon promises her to tell Bann Nicola what has transpired, and also that Valeria and her group are the reason he’s even still alive. “Whatever she may do to me, I doubt she will do the same to you. I think she will be rather grateful and gracious.”

Looking back at the others, Valeria makes a gesture, as if to say “what now” or “are we gonna get an audience” or something of the sort. Revas immediately speaks up. “I know nothing of human customs.”

Elia doesn’t seem to be listening, either. She’s leaning against the gate itself, flirting with one of the guards. To get her attention, Valeria takes her bag of coins and starts jingling it in an obvious way. Elia’s head shoots up for a moment, but her focus is still on the guards.

Valeria decides that all of her companions are useless, and lets out a massive sigh. Addressing Elia, who is still busy flirting and wagging her eyelashes at people, she says:

“Let’s let bygones be bygones, I’m sorry, I’m just having a very, very bad day. As you can see, I’m currently covered in blood, I have been scratched by an insane woman, who then talked me into not killing her. It’s been a very bad day.” She pauses for effect. “And I just want to make sure that we get a certain someone out. That’s all I’m saying.”

She notices Braedon watching her and listening to their conversation, and so she adds: “You know, that woman was crazy after all. And fighting for Dumat. Supposedly.”

Giving the two guards a friendly “Byyyyyye”, Elia joins Captain Braedon and Valeria and gives him especially her personable people smile. “Would you mind telling me how we could get an audience with the bann? I’m sure she wants to meet the team who took care of the cult in person.”

Braedon agrees that should be the case, and he promises to let them know of the bann’s decision, regardless of the outcome. “May I send a messenger somewhere?”

Elia has no time for such complicated procedures, and so she convinces Captain Braedon that the group want an audience with the bann right now. Convinces that she is right, Braedon makes his way towards the mansion.

In the meantime, Valeria has an ear out for more whistles. She hears nothing interesting, only wind rushing through the trees nearby, and the hinges of the gate clanging slightly. The two guards nearby are talking to each other, and Revas also seems to be muttering something.

“You think I need a bath, you guys?” Valeria asks the group. “Maybe the red looks good on me. I don’t know, what do you think?”

Elia, the total bisexual that she is: “Actually I think red really suits you. You look really, really good in the blood of your enemies. Good for you.”

And Valeria’s hair is red now. She’s not a blonde anymore, so that’s an improvement.

“Redheads. 10/10”, Elia adds.
“Oooooh?” Valeria asks.
Elia winks. “We don’t have any redheads in Antiva. Just saying.”

While literally flirting with Valeria, Elia steps between the guards on the outside of the gate, winking and shaking her hips in an unmistakable manner.

Revas, standing nearby, watches this all unfold with fascination. Humans.

Standing a bit further away, Valeria tries to keep a certain distance between her and the guards, while watching Elia flirt with them in the usual way (talking about Antivan courtesans, apparently). As she is watching, she hears a small thwack next to her and sees an arrow lodged into the space between two cobblestones. She turns around to see where it came from and sees something move on top of a building nearby, but she’s unable to make out what it is.

When she picks up the arrow, she finds a paper attached to its shaft. Unrolling it, she finds it filled with… words? Letters? Or are those simply symbols? Valeria’s not sure.

Valeria, quietly muttering to herself: “Now this is a problem.” She glares at the paper for a while, swirling the arrow in her hand. “Whhyyyyyyy?!”

Revas asks “Are you okay?”, actually looking a bit concerned.

Valeria makes dying animal noises. “Yeah I’m fine…. I’m just enjoying this….evening.”
“Okay…,” Revas replies, clearly confused.

It’s barely noon.

Valeria puts the note away, but keeps the arrow out, lost in thought: “Why does someone send me words?”

The fletching of the arrow is deep red, one of the feathers is white, and Valeria feels like that should tell her something. A couple of rocks rattle around in her skull as she tries to put together what this arrow means, but no fire lights in her head.

Annoyed now, she throws the arrow to the ground, where it breaks. She stomps off towards where she saw the shadowy figure retreating.

For a moment Elia is like “free arrow!” but then sees Valeria break it and adds “why would you break a free arrow…” and goes back to flirting with the male and female guards next to her.

Revas, addressing Sargis and Elia, says: “Should we…should we go after her?”

In the meantime, Valeria is running towards the building, easily scaling up to the first floor, which is the roof. Sargis runs after her, because Valeria is usually pretty level-headed, and so he wants to know what’s going on.

Valeria is up on the building in no time, rushing towards its back, as she hears Sargis behind her, huffing as he climbs up as well. At the back of the building, Valeria hears a whisper, as a hooded figure rushes away. Valeria looks around, spotting a few boxes and barrels in the alley.

She kicks one of the boxes open, and finds toy soldiers, mages, animals, chairs, etc made of wood inside. Nooooooooo, children hate me already and now I kicked the toys…

Valeria closes the box again and looks at Sargis. “You know what, today’s been a hard day. I’m apparently just…I’m seeing things, I’m feeling bad. You can handle this, I know you can.” And thus she walks off.

Sargis, curious, topples over the box Valeria looked into. He finds the wooden shavings and wooden carvings and toys. He picks up a few and shakes them, but finds that they sound solid. He takes three of the toys and then circles back to the others, catching up with Valeria.

Noting that Elia is still busy, and Revas is still akwardly standing there, Valeria says: “Well, I’m done with this, I’ve had a hard day. I’m done. I’m going to go take a bath. Goodbye.” She turns around and walks off.

Revas, still utterly confused, looking from one human to the other: “Ooooookay…”
Elia looks at Revas: “You know, if anyone was gonna leave, I was expecting it to be you, but okay.”
The elf simply raises an eyebrow and tilts his head, watches Valeria walk away, followed by Sargis.

Ignoring the others leaving, Elia flirts harder with a guard, wants to get him to let her inside. “There are so many bars between us, it’s such a shame.”

The guard on the inside of the gate seems tempted. He looks at what seems to be his superior, at least in age. “Well she is pretty,” but instead of agreeing, the older guard next to him gives him a smack on the back of his head.

The female guard next to Elia doesn’t seem too pleased with this display, so Elia says: “I’ll do you one better,” and kisses her. The guard just stands there motionlessly as Elia plants her lips on her, before she gently but firmly pushes her away, her cheeks bright red. Stammering, the female guard can’t make a lot of sense of words.

The guard behind the gate who whacked the younger one asks: “What are you playing at, huh?” In response, Elia gives him suggestive looks, flirting with both him and the female guard at the same time. The woman seems to be enjoying the attention, but the older man behind the gate simply looks at Elia suspiciously. A moment later, he steps closer, and tries to look down Elia’s breastplate. He gives Elia a seductive smile back, which looks a bit creepy. The Antivan is incapable of telling whether that’s on purpose or not. Behind her, the female guard, cheeks still flushed, needs to hold onto gate, so her wobbly legs don’t let her fall.

Further southeast in Jader, Valeria and Sargis march towards the inn. Sargis mutters to himself “What is this day…”

Arriving after an efficiently fast walk, Valeria enters The Wanderer confidently, and pushes the door open like she owns the room. It’s rather empty at this time of day. There’s a few priests sitting together, a qunari in a corner by himself, and an elf playing cards with a human. Arna walks through the room, and looks like she just wants to keep busy. She’s wiping clean glasses, fidgeting around with her rag and making faces to herself.

When she sees Valeria and Sargis, she stops what she’s doing and freezes.

Valeria walks up to the bar: “Hey um, can I get that drink now?”

Arna looks at the avvar’s hips, her chest, her face, her hair. Down again. And up. Blinks several times.

“I get that a lot,” Valeria smirks humourlessly.
Arna, blinking rapidly, asks: “I’m sorry what?”
“Can I get a drink,” Valeria asks slowly.
“You… of course, of course, you can get a drink…sure…did you run into any trouble?” Arna’s voice rises in pitch as she speaks. “Is ale fine?” When she gets a nod as a reply, she pours two ales and then looks at Valeria, and then at Sargis. “So…did you get into any tro—is that brain matter,” she asks, aghast, making loud gagging noises while putting her hand over her mouth and nose.

Valeria is looking proud. “Yes it is. Doesn’t it look nice. I think it looks nice.”
“It’s been one of those days,” Sargis adds.
Arna tries her best to stay calm. “Do-do you need a bath?”
Smiling, Valeria says: “Yeah that would be nice, that would be very nice, if that could be arranged”
“Yes, you, I think…you smell rather bad,” Arna stutters, still covering mouth and nose.
“Yeah I understand.”

Arna pours herself a drink and downs the entire pitcher in one try.
Valeria grins at Sargis. “She’ll be ready for later, won’t she.”
Unintentional wingman powers activated.

Arna slams the pitcher down, but still looks a bit nauseated. She tries to be subtle in her disgust, but is failing horribly.
“Well um aaaah…”

Val, deciding that she doesn’t want everyone in this bar to understand, switches to Alamarri: “We handled some business and it’s been a very rough day. We had to try and take care of a little problem this city seems to have every once in a while. With children…”

Arna looks surprised. “Yes, from what your companions said I figured you’re after the Cult of the Stilled Tongue. But I thought that was over yesterday.”

“Oh its definitely over now,” Sargis smiles.

Valeria continues. “We found an individual, and with a lot of trouble, mind you, handled it. But whether it’s all over, I’m not sure. I won’t claim that it is.”

“You found their leader?” Arna asks, while wiping the counter.

Valeria nods. “And we killed her. And we beheaded her. And we handed her head over to the guard captain.”

For a moment Arna looks very happy, but then Valeria says beheaded, she goes pale. Valeria nudges her drink towards Arna, and the barmaid downs it. A shiver goes through her. “Was a bit much. Will fill it back up for you.”

While Arna is pouring another drink, Sargis asks: “Are you working all day or do you get a break at some point?”

Sargis is moving in.

Valeria, quietly: “I am innocent of this crime, do not shoot me in my sleep…”

“I get off in about an hour for a bit. I can take a break, I think. I need to…as you can see I’m a bit filthy at the moment.”

“Tell me about it,” Sargis mumbles. Aloud, he says: “Oh good, because apparently once the childrens’ tongues were cut out, the bann put them in orphanages, so maybe your sister is in one of those. You might want to visit them and have a look around.”

Arna stumbles over her words. “Oh that’s ehm. That’s very kind of you. But sadly my sister is dead. They uhm…”

Valeria nudges the drink back towards her. Gosh darnit.

Arna doesn’t drink immediately, but holds onto the handle really tightly. She looks like she’s gonna break the glass. “When they came to take my sister…you know they kill the parents, right. And the siblings. And anyone who could be a witness. They tried to take her and she fought back and they killed her.”

Sargis holds up his ale. “Well at least she fought.”

“Yes, she was a fighter,” Arna agrees.

From what both Valeria and Sargis have heard about the cult and how they operate, as well as from their convos with Braedon, they gather that that kind of m.o. is highly irregular and suspicious.

“Do you remember what they look like? I know this is very difficult to think about but do you remember what they looked like?” Valeria looks at the barmaid intently.

Arna shrugs. “Well I was really small back then. This was some 20 years ago. I was just a tiny little muffin back then. I was very small. I remember they wore robes. It was dark you know. It was night. I remember there was fighting going on and—”

“Do you remember if the said anything? This is important,” Valeria interrupts her.

“I don’t remember what they said or if they even said anything. It all blends together with all the nightmares I had afterwards. I’m not sure I can discern—”

Clearly impatient, Valeria interrupts her again: “Was your father there?”

“He was, yes, he—” Is all Arna can say before Valeria cuts her off again.

“Is he in the back by the way?”

Arna looks at Sargis and Valeria quizzically. “Yes, he’s in the kitchen, why?”

Valeria hops over the counter, and Arna is too startled to react. “You could’ve just walked around it…” She drinks her ale and tries to hold Val back halfheartedly, who only says “I could’ve.” but keeps pushing against her anyway.

As Valeria jumps over, the elf who was playing cards nearby stands up, ready to fight, but when Arna waves him away, he sits back down.

Valeria laughs. “You wanna try me?!”

“What are you doing, where are you going,” Arna asks, sounding just a tad more drunk than before.

“I’m just gonna talk to him. And then I’m gonna go upstairs and wash all this off.” Valeria tries to get past Arna’s surprisingly strong arms.

“Please don’t go into the kitchen like that? Please. Please.” Arna makes gagging noises. “I’m gonna bring him out but please don’t step so close, you smell really bad.” Arna disappears in the kitchen, her face a lot greener than it should be.

From inside the kitchen, murmues can be heard before Bert Forrester steps out, following Arna. He’s a rather short, stocky man, and he wipes his hands on an apron. Late 50s, early 60s. Looks like a friendly guy, who gives Sargis and Valeria a confused smile, noting their current state of bloodiness.

“I have a question for you,” Valeria opens without a greeting. He nods. She continues. “You had a run-in, and I know this might be difficult to try and remember, but you had a run-in with the cultists I heard.”

Bert answers in a whisper: “What cultists. Run-in. When?”

“You lost a child, sir?” Valeria says bluntly.

“Oh yes many years ago. Um I…that was many years ago. I was still a rather strapping young man, my wife always used to say…anyway…what was your question?”

Valeria sighs. “My question was do you remember if the cultists said anything?”

“Whether they said anything…I think so? I’m not sure. Back then it was all such a blur, it all happened so fast.”

“Then let me tell you my suspicions, and I might be wrong, and it might not matter in the grand scheme of things, but maybe, just maybe, it will give you a little bit to think about. Maybe those weren’t cultists.”

Bert looks at Valeria with big eyes. “I’m fairly sure they were. They were wearing robes and—”

“Yeeees, and a lot of people can get robes anywhere,” Valeria says, clearly questioning his sanity. From behind her, Sargis says: “I mean cultists wear them all the time.”

Valeria’s patience is clearly running thing. “It’s not like we wear cloaks when it rains…”

“But you and your family survived the attack,” Sargis changes the subject.

Looking at him, Bert plays with a rag in his hands. “I don’t know when my…I have to admit, I drank a lot after that day. And my memory is not the same as it was before. My wife always used to say I’m not the smartest anyway, but I remember it was five people entering our home, and it was night and I was just about to go to sleep.”

Valeria has no time for his memory problems. “Here’s a weird question, what color were the cloaks?”

Bert shifts, unsure. “I think they were maybe brown…dark red? Maybe white? No, I think it was a dark color. Dark red? Dark blue?”

Sargis is getting suspicious. Something isn’t right here. He’s not sure exactly why. Bert seems eccentric, but genuine. Sargis feels the old man is being truthful.

“What does your wife like to do in her spare time, by the way. I just…” Valeria tries another approach.

“Spare time.” Bert laughs. “You’re very curious folk.”

“I am. I’m very much curious. It’s good to have a conversation after…well.” Valeria stops talking when she sees Arna and Bert exchange a look, and notices how Arna motions for him to answer.

Bert nods and continues. “My wife has been dead for 20 years.”

“Yes but what did she do when she was alive? During her spare time.”

“There was no spare time…we spent all our time in the inn in Denerim, until my wife died…spare time…hm. Well…she used to carve wood figures, I guess,” Bert scratches his head.

Sargis takes one of the wood figures from his bag and shows it to Bert. “Like this?”

“Like that, yeah,” Bert nods. “I mean it’s a pretty common hobby…at least in Denerim. People here will look at you a little funny. Mostly because most of the inhabitants here are Tevinter, and they don’t think woodcarving is a hobby of note, I guess.” He pauses. “But yes my wife liked to do that. And of course she took care of our daughters.”

Valeria asks: “So there’s no reason someone would be upset with you? Want to harm you?”

“I wouldn’t know if there was…back in Denerim our inn was burned down to the ground…I say it was burned down, but I mean it happened. We still don’t know how. We just assumed someone left something flammable next to the stove and so….that happened.”

Val gives Sargis a look.

Bert continues: “We barely got out alive, my wife didn’t make it. She got out with us… and I don’t know what happened, but she was coughing, and couldn’t breathe anymore, and so she died. That same night.”

Sargis feels like something’s not right here, but he can’t place his finger on it. Something doesn’t add up.

“Would you like another ale,” Bert offers, trying to change the subject.

Valeria accepts it and ignores his obvious attempt at distraction: “Would you have any more information about the attack that happened?”

“The attack… yes yes, my dear wife… she would say I was a fool. There were five of them I think? Four or five. Like I said, I was a drunken idiot for years afterwards, I don’t know how my daughter… anyway… there were five or so of them, I woke in the middle of the night, they were already in the house and I don’t know how they got in, cause the inn was closed and there’s only one staircase. But they were in. I remember them taking her. And I tried to fight them off. I could see her fighting amongst them. And then I saw her body drop to the ground. And then they left. They just left me there. With her.”

Valeria is intrigued: “They left? She died and they left?”

Bert nods. “I was pretty badly wounded, I couldn’t follow them.”

“Did they run from the room?” Valeria sips from her ale.

“They didn’t seem to be in a hurry,” Bert replies. “They were yelling at each other. I didn’t understand anything they said. I’m not even sure it was words. If it was, I couldn’t understand them.”

“I see,” Valeria says. “And could you—before I go to take my obviously needed bath—could you tell me about your daughter please.” She shoves her drink towards him.

“About Arna?” Bert seems confused.

Valeria shakes her head. “No.”

“About Joana? Well she was a girl of nine years. She was a good girl and well behaved. She did a lot of work around the inn. Cause, as you know, it was just me and the girls. And she did a lot of work and the customers loved her. And she was a happy young child. Strong, too.”

Valeria looks over at Sargis, who’s just quietly listening. “Was Arna the same back then?”

Bert: “No.”

“No?”

“No, she was the shy one,” Bert says. “She was the quiet one. Then her sister died and it got worse. She barely spoke and I… basically led the inn by myself. Also Arna was barely six or seven by then. I did everything by myself. I don’t know how I did that, but then she grew older and… I don’t know how she changed, but she became more like her sister.”

“I see. Well thank you for the time to answer my questions, though.” Valeria gets up, preparing to leave.

Speaking in a hushed voice, Bert gives both her and Sargis a slight smile. “Of course, my dear. Did you want another ale?”

Valeria gives him two gold pieces.

Bert’s eyes go wide. “Oh thank you!” Turning around: “Arna, did you see that?!” And back to Valeria, he gives her a weird, awkward bow. “I will readily answer any questions you have in the future!”

“Thank you for your cooperation.” Valeria places her hand on Sargis’ shoulder, about to leave.

Arna watches them, leaning against the doorway. Clearly she had listened to the entire conversation, and seems unsure what to make of Valeria. Her arms are crossed and she looks a bit put off.

Valeria approaches her. “So you think I still need that bath, now?”

“Yes, I mean, of course I do,” Arna stutters. “Yes, yes you do, you do need a bath.” She looks at Sargis. “You also need a bath.” She walks past them, her eyes brighter than they usually are, water collecting at the bottom, marches towards the front entrance, motioning for them to go outside.

Valeria raises a brow at her.

Sargis grabs one bottle of wine before he leaves. Arna sees that, but clearly thinks oh well, they just got 2 gold pieces, so whatever.

Arna explains where the two of them can find a bathhouse called The Siren, where the two of them can get a free bath if they mention they’re from The Wanderer. She adds: “You really should get that armor cleaned.”

“Yes I should.” Valeria says as she leaves. “And think a few things over, apparently.”

Sargis follows her.


Further north, Elia is still semi-successfully flirting with guards. Revas watches that whole display. Humans are so weird. … And am I even gonna be let into the Bann’s house?

Down the pathway comes a male dwarf, who looks rather tall. Muscular, but clearly no warrior. Not wearing armor, but fancy clothes, and he clearly does no physical labor. He carries his head high. As he arrives, he motions for two guards to make space for him and then looks Elia and Revas over.

Elia and Revas are being stared at and they find it rather awkward.

“What can you do,” Elia shrugs. She stares back. The dwarf looks clean-shaven, which seems kind of odd for a dwarf.

“I’m Bando,” he finally introduces himself. “Social secretary and advisor of Bann Nicola Baranti.”

“Nice to meet you,” Elia says.

“I would say likewise, but I’m not sure yet. We would like to thank you in a certain manner. The Bann has decided to have you over for dinner tomorrow night. We will send over one of our servants tomorrow morning. She will have a proper invitation.” He looks them over again. “I was told your group was larger than this.”

“Some of our companions decided to go back to the inn. This has taken a little longer than Captain Braedon told us to expect,” Elia lies.

Bando nods, but doesn’t seem convinced. “I’m sure Braedon meant well. As I said, we will send you one of our servants tomorrow morning. We would like you to confirm how many guests we should be expecting.”

Elia starts counting on her fingers. Loudly. “Meeeee, other rogue, warrior, warrior, mage, no wait… yeah one mage…”

The social secretary doesn’t seem pleased. “There is no need to give me a number right away. As I said, we will send someone over. Please tell me where to send them.”

Interrupting her counting, Elia says: “We’re staying at The Wanderer.”

Bando: “Oh you do? Alright. We will definitely send someone over. I recommend being available tomorrow morning. I’d hate for our servant to encounter an empty room. I also expect you to behave yourselves accordingly in Bann Nicola’s presence.” He glances at the guards, who seem to be embarrassed.

Elia smiles. “You know, in Antiva City it’s rude for women to have less than four lovers?”

“I mean in general, your behavior should be… well. Maybe I shouldn’t expect too much. As I said, I will let you know. We would be glad to have you as our guests. I will also tell our servant that you may need the services of a tailor. As for your reward, I have been told that Bann Nicola has something specific in mind, that she will tell you about or give to you tomorrow. I do not know what it is, do not even ask, I can only tell you what she told me. She has something planned, and she would be honored to have you as her guests. She has already heard that you have been quite active in this city.”

Ela beams: “Damn straight, we took down a whole cult pretty much singlehandedly! I mean come on!”

“So I’ve heard.” Bando looks unimpressed. “You also rescued her one and only Captain of the Guard.”

“He was pretty heavy to carry,” Elia admits, pretending she did all the work by herself.

Bando: “I’m sure he was. He is a rather statuesque human. I will take my leave now. I expect you to leave the guards to. Their. Business.” He looks at the guards. Raises his eyebrows.

Elia of course, can’t resist: “Do you know when they get off?”

“I’m sure you will find out. As for me, I have other things to attend to. I shall leave you be.” Bando leaves, ignoring the chatter that continues the moment he turns his back.

“Remember, I’m staying at The Wanderer,” she winks at the guards. “You know where to find me.” I wasn’t leading Arna on or anything…

(Somewhere in Jader, Valeria thinks _I’m covered in blood, but you, you committed the crime—yes, yes you did.)

Revas shrugs and follows Elia, going back to the inn…

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