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Songs of Alvaris 
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Helle disliked the idea of leaving the village when bandits still remained, but she could hardly refuse the captain's request. At the moment, the safety of the prince and princess took precedence over everything else. "I would be glad to accompany the prince and princess, sir," she assured the captain. Being caught in the middle of this political intrigue was disorienting, but the relative familiarity of being tasked with protecting someone grounded Helle. "Your... highnesses," Helle faltered, not entirely sure how to address royalty. "I am Helle Ahlberg, a soldier in the Torbican military. I freely offer you my support on your journey." She inclined her head respectfully, then stepped back as the captain bid farewell to the prince and princess.

As Boris ushered the party out the back entrance of the inn, Helle did her best to push her concern for the village from her mind. Given the skill with which the captain had dispatched the assassin leading the bandits, with his aid the villagers should be able to fend off their attackers.

Without the captain, though, Helle worried for what might befall their little group. She was beginning to feel the effects of her own injuries, and her companions were similarly battered, though the Qulmari woman looked much improved from before. A healer would have been greatly appreciated.

Instead of a healer, it was none other than the grappling hook boy who came running after their party, speaking in a remarkably casual way to the princess with his mouth full of bread. Helle assessed him with a critical eye. He really was just a boy, about sixteen or seventeen, she guessed. His inexperience had been glaringly obvious during the fight against the bandits. While having an archer in their group for ranged combat may prove useful, Helle couldn't help but feel this particular archer would only end up a liability.

Helle entirely forgot that she wasn't the leader of their group as she addressed the boy. "Those bandits came to this village searching for the prince. It would be safer for you to travel on your own than with us, if you're not prepared to defend yourself."

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Sun Apr 07, 2019 3:43 am
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Mitra felt the corners of her mouth perk up in a mutinous attempt at a smile as Amelia and her brother embraced. While her actions as the princess's retainer were performed out of loyalty rather than any promise of reward, it wasn't entirely unpleasant to occasionally be reminded just what it was that she was fighting for. Nevertheless, the reunion was bittersweet. Not only because it had come on the heels of such death and destruction, but also because of what was going to happen next.

Tobias's outburst was evidence enough that the news had been broken. When the young prince looked toward her, Mitra could scarcely stand to meet his gaze, much less offer any sort of reassurance. She wanted to go up to him, wrap her arm around his neck, and run her knuckles over his scalp like she always had before. To rekindle some of the comforting sense of familiarity that had been ripped away from them. To tell him that she knew everything was going to be all right. But she was a terrible liar.

Mitra observed the exchange between prince and princess in silence, as well as Alborz's speech, and when the time came to leave, she followed her liege without a word.


Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:59 am
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As if on cue, as the last bandit fell, what could only be their leader emerged from the house Mitra had scouted. She stood out from the rabble she led, her face as she scanned the scene before her proved it, she was a killer and nothing more. And it was with murderous glee she spotted Princess Amelia and addressed her. It wasn't even a conscious action this time as the knight stood as a guardian in front of the princess with Mitra while Alborz confronted the assassin.

He'd seen the captain fight before in the war, and today he was no less awe inspiring. Man and beast where as one and he dispatched the cruel woman as though she was a training dummy that had no stuffing left. Free of threat for the first time since they arrived in town Jax finally placed his axe on his belt and let his hand, and the rest of his body finally relax, if just a bit as the returned to the inn.

Jax was grateful for the heavy mass of metal that grounded him as the news was told to the young prince. It wouldn't do to have everyone see how he shook inside of it; it was the job of a Guardian Knight to be a rock, the stable ground for others that needed it. And they would need it as another of the town folk returned, speaking of more bandits, if not actually warriors on the horizon. Jax had already began to reach once again for his axe but the captain was faster in his response. One by one he spoke to all who would fight and told them not to. Not in those words but Jax understood.

"Yes sir captain! I will stand by them until I the light deems to take me. And if I fall I will fall towards their enemies, if but to delay them even 1 step after I've gone."

As he followed along with the group as he departed he noticed the keen silence of the group. They probably knew what he did. You don't give someone else a gift for your beloved if you plan on returning from a battle.

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When my eyes be rollin'
The haters get goin'
The seeds I'm sowin'
With a smile I'm flowin'
And if I be trollin'
Ya never be knowin'
'Cause when the haters get goin'
My eyes just start a-rollin'


Sun Apr 07, 2019 1:03 pm
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Amelia smiled, appreciative of Helle stepping in to speak to the young archer who had followed their group. Surely, he had heard the Captain’s warning; this would be no easy walk in the park. It was when she gazed into his eyes that she realized his nonchalance belied the true intent of his joining.

“I have to agree with Helle,” said Amelia stepping in front of the assembled group “Every moment you spend with us places you at risk, for this journey – our journey” she waved to herself and her brother “will be fraught with danger. So, if you come with us, take these things into consideration.” Finally, her face softened “I am always pleased to welcome another friendly face”

Her two cents given, Amelia turned back to leading the group, and their journey to Imdalor began.

*****


Another sunset painted the sky a magnificent red and gold, as the first stars twinkled out from the night sky. It had been two days of journeying from the village, and to their fortune, not a single bandit was encountered. More troubling, was the lack of appearance by Captain Alborz, but the princess and the prince did their best to put such thoughts from their minds. There was a bit of a scare as Mitra came to realize that they were being followed – only to discover that the lump of a cleric, Barrett, had been trailing them for days. His presence proved to be a minor annoyance, but like a leech, he was not one to be easily removed. Nevertheless, in the time they all spent travelling together, they had gotten to know each other a little – even if it was a still all a bit superficial.

Finding a clearing amongst the trees, the troupe had set up camp. A small fire burned in the night with dried meats roasting over the open flames– fat dripping into the fire deliciously as they cooked. The packs that had been prepared by Mistress Joyce had come well supplied, and they found they could almost enjoy the journey.

Amelia examined a map by the light of the fire as she estimated their path for the next leg of their journey to Imdalor. It looked to be about two more days of travel and then they would be safe. At least, that was what she hoped. She was not entirely sure how far this treachery spread. They would have to enter the city with discretion, so as to not draw too much attention to themselves and then gain an audience with the Sage-King. She turned to spy her brother as he sat alone on a boulder looking up at the night sky with a wistful expression.

Tobias had kept to himself for most of their journey. There was so much running through his mind. What had started out as a simple trip to learn the art of magic, now seemed quite insignificant in the face of political intrigue and the assassination of his older brother. He struggled to wrap his head around this fact; his brother was dead. He could still recall so many fond memories with his eldest sibling and how he took on a father-like role when their own father had neglected them for years. Tobias truly admired Mathias – even if he became a bit bossy as they grew older. If only he could go back in time, back to when life was so much simpler; back to when he could feel the loving embrace of his mother and father. With a sigh, Tobias hugged his knees to his chest and rested his hooded head on his knees. Hopefully things would make more sense when they got to Imdalor.


GM: Barrett +100 imperials

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Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:57 pm
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The rest of the journey was no more eventful than their days of travelling before, though the group was now feeling invigorated at the thought of meeting their first major milestone. The day seemed brighter and the prospect of sleeping indoors for the first time in days was a welcoming hope for them all. The road they now walked was filled with travellers and caravans heading towards the city, as they had joined the main roads as they approached the city. The prince and the princess remained incognito, their hoods up for the majority of the time as they travelled along this major route. They could hear from nearby travellers the murmurings and rumours of a crisis at the imperial castle and how all the imperial children had vanished overnight. The news seemed to have taken a more sensational romanticised form, almost making light of the issue. It bothered Amelia, and it annoyed Toby.

By the midafternoon, the group finally neared the entrance to the city of Imdalor. Even from a distance, the majestic Mage Towers could be seen as they loomed above the walls of the city. Orbs of concentrated magic hovered above each of the towers at their zenith, both a defining landmark of the capital of Emeldia and a powerful defence mechanism. As one of the larger cities in the Alvarisian Empire, the noise from behind the walls could be heard before they reached the gate.

Mage Knights, wearing light armour atop impressive steeds, watched with little interest as travellers passed before them through the gate. The crest of Emeldia, a black bird with outstretched wings over an open tome embossed upon a violet background, was artfully etched into the apex of the main gate as they entered the city. The crest could also be seen on flags and banners hung throughout the town. It was clear that these were a people who loved their king. A palpable sense of magical energy seemed to course about, mirrored by the throngs of city dwellers who passed them as they stood in the main square of the city – The Plaza of the Sun.

The Plaza of the Sun was the largest of the plazas in Imdalor, where a sea of stalls were set up by locals and travellers from across Emeldia and even beyond to sell their wares. The majority of the wares being sold were tomes, concoctions, songbooks, staves, scrolls, and a myriad of potions. At the far end of the plaza they could see the inner wall of the city where the “Inner Forest” and the palace were located.

Stepping forward, Amelia turned to address the group.

“Alright, Toby, Mitra and I are going to see about meeting with the King,” she said while nodding in the direction of the inner walls “In the meantime, the rest of you can look around the city, maybe get some more supplies before we head out again?” She faltered, not really sure of what to expect after their meeting with the King. “We will return by nightfall to this exact location, if we are not back, assume the worst.” Amelia locked eyes with Mitra for a moment, signalling to her silently that Tobias was the utmost priority of protection. She was willing to sacrifice herself.

GM: A map of the city will be posted either with this post later this weekend or the new post on the Monday.

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Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:44 pm
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Featuring Shrap from the Grenade May Explode series!

"...and the axe-throwing wench especially, my friends. The stench of that woman, ye would not believe. Many a pig I've seen wit' cleanlier habits."

...

"'Tis true, I assure ye! And they wonder that I sleep away from the camp. You lot are much better company."

The sudden snap of a breaking twig rattled the still air, scattering the group of squirrels, birds, and a lone hare that had been Barrett's captive audience. He glanced over his shoulder at the source of the noise, if only to confirm what the crushing weight in his chest had already told him: it was the reaver. Doubtless present to vent her pent-up rage, intent on repurposing the light's gift to their sorry troupe as a punching bag – or worse, a target board. He had foreseen this eventuality; the woman was clearly a bloodthirsty savage, and it had been several days since she had killed something. Escaping this fate would require some tactful verbiage.

"Hello, gorgeous." He turned completely, revealing a face stuck somewhere between a grin and a sneer. "I don't recall inviting you to my chambers."

Mitra tossed the two halves of the twig she had broken to the ground, their purpose served, and regarded Barrett with barely restrained contempt. She was already too exhausted to muster even a facade of revulsion as the man faced her down. What did he expect to achieve by antagonizing her?

"And I don't remember inviting you into my life, but fate saw fit to drop you on my path anyway. Like a mule leaving a surprise for an inattentive pedestrian." The woman answered, placing one hand on her hip and waving the other dismissively. Then she met his gaze directly. "We need to talk."

"Truly, the beauty of your radiant visage is matched only by the cultivated elegance of your tongue." He spat. "What do you want?"

"What I want is to know why you're still here." Mitra offered without missing a beat. "Aren't there injured homeless people for you to be extorting? Unwitting children to hornswoggle out of their bread money, perhaps?"

Barrett let go a wry chuckle. "I'm offended, reaver. By yer blasphemous insinuations and yer dull brain. Even the birds are whisperin' 'bout the wealthiest troupe o' homeless scats they ever seen pass through these trees. And just because they're healthy now doesn't mean they'll be so lucky on the morrow. They that question boons from the light are soon cast into shadow."

Mitra shook her head. "That's not what I meant. Whatever it is you think you know about us, and the hypothetical depth of our pockets, is irrelevant. Whether it seems like it or not, this is a military outfit. Death follows on our heels, and the threat of war lingers just over the horizon. If you continue to trail us, you will be expected to contribute. Whatever payday you think is coming, if it exists at all, lies across a sea of corpses, some of them likely our own. There are safer ways to make your fortune, grifter."

"And few as interesting. But knowing that ye would cry yourself to sleep were I to fall, I will reassure ye. I have no intention of putting myself in any danger."

This earned the man a sigh and a shrug from his newfound travelling companion. "I'm afraid it's not that simple. Now that you're officially partying with us, I'm going to explain to you how this works. Amelia, light bless her, saw fit to compensate you for your - I hesitate to say - assistance during the last encounter. I'm sure you appreciate the extra weight that afforded your purse. However, if you plan on being paid in the future, playing it safe won't be an option."

Barret plucked a branch from his mane on which to chew, placed his hands against the trunk of the tree by which he was sitting and leaned back. It was clear, at least for the time being, that the woman meant him no immediate harm. He could afford to relax.

"Yer ladybird recognizes my tactical brilliance, an' rightfully so. Shame what it took a brush with death for her to learn the lesson, but the light showed 'er wisdom in the end. I don't expect yer kind to understand the finer points of warfare, but ye should recognize at least that I am the only one who can pick yer sorry carcasses off the ground after ye've been beaten to a bloody pulp. Ya ken?"

Mitra lowered her head and massaged her eyes with her thumb and forefinger. "All I ken is that I came here to give you a warning. The others have limits to their patience as well, you know. If you run and hide every time we get into a fight, if you don't get used to obeying orders, and light's sake, if you ever try to charge anybody for healing, you're going to find that your allowance won't carry you very far. Whether or not you understand that is none of my concern."

"Yer kind heart overflows, reaver. But realize that while ye and yer lady need me, a guardian of the forest such as myself doesn't much need you. T'weren't for me, precious ladybird would be lyin' in a pool of 'er own blood back in that hamlet. I'll be off when I'm finished with ye, not a moment afore or after, and you'll be singin' my praises every moment in between."

"Hold whatever delusions you like. I've done my part." Mitra said, spinning on her heel and slowly beginning to walk away. She didn't want him to see her brow furrow as he purposely invoked the memory of the previous battle. He knew full well that it was his own interference that had lead to Amelia's injury. He was trying to provoke her. Again.

Suddenly, the woman stopped moving and stood rigidly, as a statue. "Oh, just one more thing."

Barrett winced, unsure of what to make of the reaver's sudden change in demeanour. "Well, spit it out. I don't beg."

"If only one thing I've said makes it past your skull today, let it be this." The reaver continued once she was sure she had the nomad's attention, then turned to fix her eyes on him once more. They were no different from before, but perhaps that made what came next even worse. "The next time you do anything to jeopardize the safety of this group, I will kill you." Delivered without a trace of irony or malice, with the nonchalance and assurance of a person saying that the sun would rise tomorrow. It was painfully clear that this wasn't a threat, but a statement of fact.

"Well," came the answer after an tenuous pause. "I'm glad we understand each other."

With that, the man plucked the twig on which he had been gnawing from his teeth, returned it to its place amongst the chaos that passed for hair, and turned to scale the tree behind him. "As much as I revel in our parlay, your only hope of success requires some rest before morning. Dawn keep your dreams this night, reaver."

Mitra gave a single, subtle nod before leaving.

As he climbed, it occurred to Barrett that this was the first conversation in... years, yes, years, from which he was not convinced he had emerged the victor.

And he hated it.

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Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:27 pm
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At Amelia’s invitation, Herlewin quietly shuffled in among the others, a meek addition to the ensemble of hardened warriors. It was difficult company for the archer; intimidating presences on every side, with at least one of them thinking him too useless to have around. Helle - as the Torbican was called - hadn’t really been all that incorrect in her assessment, either: Herlewin fancied himself a rather good shot in general, but there wasn’t any getting around the fact that he’d made a fool of himself today. First his rashness in running out without a quiver, then the ordeal with the grappling hook, then his battlefield incompetence as a whole. If the acrobat was honest with himself, a single bandit would have likely proved too great a challenge for him, “good shot” or not.

And yet, vexed as he felt, that was all the more reason to stay with the group. The lot of them were the most talented fighters Herlewin had ever seen, akin to the daring heroes from any grand ballad. If there was danger about, he much preferred them as traveling companions over the wind and sun that had been his sole entourage for the past year or so. After all, the bandits weren’t likely to leave him be, should he chance upon any: he was the same age as this boondock “prince” everyone seemed to go on and on about wanting to assassinate. Walking alone in the woods when being slain on sight was a very real possibility just didn’t sit very well with him.

Thankfully, their travels were swift and uneventful, by the light’s grace. Amelia was kind enough to share the group’s provisions, and despite the circumstances, they were the best meals Herlewin had enjoyed in years. Outside of mealtimes, however, the archer kept mostly to himself throughout the trip, content to learn the names of his companions and bating his curiosity in regards to anything else. In fact, he spent nearly the entirety of any downtime the group had by himself, at a distance from the others, rhythmically lobbing pinecones and acorns into the woods and shooting them down before they touched the forest floor. Imdalor was but a few short days away, and they would soon be parted: his routine had to be in top shape, ready for the city’s large crowds.

That, and he couldn’t let himself get used to having friends again.

---

“‘Spose that’s goodbye, ‘en, eh? Safe travels to ye, good luck with this King ‘o yers.”

There would have been a twinge of melancholy to Herlewin’s voice as he responded to Amelia, had it not been such a beautiful day, and were he not standing in the Plaza of the Sun, with so many people around just waiting to be entertained. The place was practically designed to keep him in a permanent state of giddy anticipation.

“And my thanks to the whole lot of ‘ye, for havin’ me and keeping us all safe.”
He gave a deep, grandiloquent bow as he addressed the group.
“Light’speed to ye.”

And with that, he was off to find the tallest nearby tree. Preferably one with very thick, very sturdy branches.

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Mon Apr 15, 2019 4:30 pm
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As much as he was relieved to have more companions to keep the royal children safe, the old knight found himself keeping an even harder watch with more heads to keep track of, especially since one was not all too trust worthy. But the tree man somehow managed to travel with them in relative peace against all odds. Still, a stray dog won't bite the hand until there's no more food to be had from it.

Jax had never been to capital of another kingdom but found himself on familiar ground anyways. The gossip of busybodies, the play of children, and the shill of merchants dulled his senses, but was far more comfortable than the dreadful near silence of long journeys. Here he felt stable, not the least because the stone brick ways didn't threaten to sink under his weight. Though he wondered if the same could be said of Amelia. While Jax had only left one post for another, she had to leave her home, and perhaps not to another one by the way she spoke. Still he only nodded with what she said.

The archer boy however did deign to speak. It seemed that as the party split he would leave for good. Of course, it was only for safety he traveled with the group, and he had other business in Imdalor. Still.

"Actually." the knight turned to address the boy, "If you would give us one more moment of your time young lad. I must admit, I'm not very good at bartering, or even finding the places to do so. It would help greatly to have someone more street savvy like yourself in our group for one more day, if you'd be willing. I still have some of my wages on me and I'd be glad to pay your expenses as well."

He omitted that there were other reasons to have the boy travel with them today. Although on close inspection they were a far cry from the royal posse, a Guardian Knight of Alvaris, a Torbician woman, and a young boy were a perfect decoy to seed among the gossip, and to be dismissed as wholly unremarkable.

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When my eyes be rollin'
The haters get goin'
The seeds I'm sowin'
With a smile I'm flowin'
And if I be trollin'
Ya never be knowin'
'Cause when the haters get goin'
My eyes just start a-rollin'


Tue Apr 16, 2019 10:56 am
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Surprised, but not entirely put off by Jax’s proposal, Herlewin slowly turned around to face the man. The boy scanned the armored mass suspiciously for a few moments (quickly realizing the futility of the gesture, what with the hard-to-read nature of fullplate), then looked wistfully back to the plaza’s crowd, then resolutely back to the group. They’d done him a favor, after all. Herlewin supposed it was only fair he return it.

“...Aye. Reckon’ I could spare a day.”
At this, he promptly held out his right hand, knowing far better than to be swindled by “well meaning” officials.

“Payment up front.”

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Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:03 pm
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Jax was taken aback by the brazenness of the boy demanding payment upfront. It was the kind of tactic scammers usually played at, an honest person asking for half and half. Though he was there when Herlewin asked about another lad he didn't know to give him a healing elixir despite badly needing it himself. The boy must have just been conned himself once before and was scarred by the encounter.

"A shrewd negotiator," Jax responded with a level tone. Opening his coin purse he clumsily fiddled with the small things until he was satisfied and poured the coinage from his gauntlet into the waiting hand. "50 imperials. Even if you spend the day in luxury it should last you."

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When my eyes be rollin'
The haters get goin'
The seeds I'm sowin'
With a smile I'm flowin'
And if I be trollin'
Ya never be knowin'
'Cause when the haters get goin'
My eyes just start a-rollin'


Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:04 pm
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Never one to miss the chance at a slight, Barrett chimed in. “Tchehe, if the boy is as skilled a trader as he is an acrobat, yer coin is in capable hands indeed, anvil.”

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Wed Apr 17, 2019 6:27 pm
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By the Light, this bloke wasn’t kidding about his bartering expertise: Herlewin nearly dropped the sum at the unexpected weight. He’d anticipated 20, perhaps 30 imperials for his trouble, but at 50 Jax had unwaveringly earned and, somehow simultaneously, completely lost the archer’s respect. An odd fellow, but the boy didn’t mind interesting company.

“...We’ll getcha into barterin’ shape yet, ya loon.” The acrobat said, shaking his head while unstringing his sack to deposit the coin.
“First order, we march yer soldier’s boots North. Best deals’r always furth’st from th’ main gates.”

It was as the boy motioned his now-patron to follow him out of the plaza that uninteresting company saw fit to place a snide remark, apparently dissatisfied with the exchange. If it was a reaction the tree man was looking for, however, he’d find none in Herlewin. As if not spoken to at all, with not even a moment’s foul glance spared in Barrett’s direction, the archer merely continued on his path, beginning a grand lecture on the art of trade as he went. Or at least, an improvised lecture on what he knew of it.

“...most ‘mportant thing is, nev’r give yer price first. Folks’s only haggle yer up from there, means you’re stuck an’ can ne’er go back down. Wait ‘till they off’r, then…”

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"Do not weep, willow." The knight replied to the cleric. "You'll see how we've done come sundown. Good luck to you my lord. My lady. Mitra." What he could manage for a bow to each one.

He was glad that by default really the healer would need to go with the royal children to heal them in case the unthinkable happened, and was already attach to their coin purse like a leech so he'd had gone anyways. He was also sorry for that too.

Relaying the boy's orders to Helle he added, "Do you require a particular type of smith to care for your sword or armor?" Keeping an ear out for what Harlewin was saying in case something important came up.

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When my eyes be rollin'
The haters get goin'
The seeds I'm sowin'
With a smile I'm flowin'
And if I be trollin'
Ya never be knowin'
'Cause when the haters get goin'
My eyes just start a-rollin'


Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:51 pm
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Despite Helle's misgivings, the journey to Imdalor was peaceful and her worries about grappling hook boy were for nothing, it seemed. And Herlewin was nothing compared to the disheveled cleric who joined them a few days into the journey. Apparently the princess and her companions were familiar with him, but Helle hadn't seen him at all during the battle, which didn't speak much for his character. It was not her place to question the princess's decisions--a cleric was always useful--but surely once they were in Imdalor, they could find the services of a cleric who was not so... unsavory.

During the trip, Helle was content to keep to herself. She had never been much for socializing, and her thoughts were mostly occupied by concern for the political situation she'd found herself in. Her original reason for coming to Emeldia had been simple; something like this was completely unexpected, and left her feeling wrong-footed.

Arriving at Imdalor did little to make her feel more secure. Helle had spent all her life in Torbica, and she'd stayed out of large cities for the most part. The hustle and bustle of Imdalor was nigh overwhelming. At least grappling hook boy was taking his leave, so she wouldn't have to worry about what potential danger he could land himself or the party in.

...Or, apparently not. Much to Helle's surprise, Jax hired the boy's services on for a day, to act as a 'street savvy' guide. There was sense in the decision. Helle didn't know her way around large cities, but Herlewin clearly did. Well, at least Helle doubted they'd run into too much trouble in this large city. An attempted mugging was more likely than anything, and between her and Jax that would be little trouble.

Though the cleric was accompanying them, it seemed. Wonderful. Helle avoided looking directly at him, not wanting to acknowledge his presence, instead considering the question Jax had just asked her. "My equipment is standard for the Torbican military. Any competent smith should be able to handle it." She paused. "I... would like to see what healing supplies we can find. That cleric... doesn't seem very trustworthy."

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The Torbican’s remark felt rather like it was meant to sting, but all it elicited from the tree man was a snicker. She wasn’t wrong. And, as recompense for her keen observation, he would be glad to prove her right. In time.

Still, he couldn’t let the comment go completely unanswered, so instead he leaned close to Mitra and whispered: “Ay, this Torbican is a much better judge of character than yer ladybird. Perhaps ye should be her dog instead.”

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