Chapter 1-A war of attrition (Part 5)

“This is a mistake, Jules. He’s not just out for coin. To him, it’s fun to kill. It’s on his scent and in his eyes. He needs to die here, or his blade will run one of us or our friends through, I promise you. If you do this…this is a mistake.”
Ark looks at Caithas, “No time to argue half-elf. Just wrap his face in a cloth and be done with it. He won’t say anything then. Especially if he knows there’s an arrow waiting to finish the job.”

Ark grabbed a rusty set of armor, “Fates… the armor might just dissolve as we march.” he begins to don his own set of armor as he listens to Jules speak.
Elana gave Jules a quick smile when she learned of his conclusion. It was not for Zaracas’ sake; she cared little enough about him, but she thought it was important that they did the right thing. She was careful not to look at Caithas. He was upset, and she understood why. The last thing he’d want to see is her gloating, and Elana had enough courtesy not to do that. They would be fine, she knew. They were each doing right by their own standards, so who could really fault one another in that aspect?

Her helmet slid forward, covering her vision. Elana sighed and removed the damn thing so that she could tie her hair up. The helmet sat a little better on her head afterwards, though the armor was incredibly heavy. How soldiers managed to march in them all day and fight was beyond her.
Jules makes sure that whatever gag is used on Zaracas is firmly in place, keeping him from speaking. When Caithas voices his concern he tries to put his friend’s concerns at rest. “Caithas, Ah know why you believe zat he needs to die, and Ah agree zat he enjoys what he does, and zat is why Ah want him alive. He may not beg like a dog, but he does not want to die, and he is not stupid. He is a weapon, and one zat may some day prove useful. But until zen, Ah intend to keep him contained.”

When Elana smiles at him, Jules feels as though her smile is undeserved. His decision wasn’t made out of a desire to protect their rebellion’s ideals. Jules had planned to finance their rebellion through drug dealers, sabotage the existing political order, kill off government officials, and side with every shady character who offered their aid. Helping protect Elana’s ideals were only an afterthought. Keeping Zaracas alive was a risk, but one that Jules was willing to take.
Caithas shook his head and said, “One of us will die because of this choice. Mark my words.”

When all are gathered, Grunur grunts, “Let’s hope you’re wrong, old friend. But let’s get this over with and be done with this farce. Once we’re on the other side of the bridge, we’ll worry about the little things in life, like that bastard.”

The ranger says nothing. He’s no longer truly mad…he’s just horrified. Jules and Elana, a noble couple, the new face of this rebellion…and this is how they act? Leaving enemies to fight again? Waiting for future betrayals and blades to the back? The half-elf, for the first time, seriously questioned whether he could stand alongside these people if this was how they would deal with obvious threats.

But Grunur was right. First, they get across the bridge. After that? After that…he would have to decide whether to remain loyal to Jules and his wife, or to do what he knew must be done…
With a decision having been reached, Jules and Ark stuff a rag into Zaracas’ mouth, tie a gag around it and finally place a sack over the thug’s head. The restrains around the man’s wrists and ankles are checked for one last time, to make sure that the prisoner is not going anywhere. Zaracas passively endures the ordeal, following his captors’ commands to the letter. Eventually, Jules, Ark, and a very disconcerted Caithas escort the prisoner outside, where Langbard and the rest of the group await them all.
Seeing the extra prisoner, Langbard shakes his head in disapproval, but does not say anything. “In the wagon, with the rest of them”, he instructs, as Ark guides Zaracas to the vehicle, where the thug is placed next to Grunur and Eva. Jules makes sure that the dwarf and the gnome can pass off as criminals, working on their appearance and outfit for a few minutes. When he is done, the newcomers look filthy and miserable; Jules prays that the disguise is sufficient.

While working on Grunur and Eva, Jules also converses briefly with Langbard. He asks him of Malcom’s fate; the soldier replies stoically: “Nothing from Malcom, so far. Even if he made it, it’d be best for him to lay low for a while. One can always hope. But I know him well: The rebellion is all that ever mattered to him. Had he been alive, he would certainly seek me out as soon as he could. No, we must move on without him. That is what he would have wanted.”

As soon as all preparations are made, Langbard takes a couple of minutes to remind everyone of their task. “We will be moving through the patrolled routes, until we reach the gate of the Knight’s bridge. Both gates, at entrance and exit, are heavily guarded. Legion XI guards the West Gate and the Andelian Guardsmen watch over the entrance to Upper Andelia through the East gate. The Guardsmen have been displaced to their new barracks, close to the entrance to Upper Andelia. If we make it past that point, we are safe. Leave the talking to me. Do not speak unless spoken to. If you are addressed, give a brief answer and direct all questions to your superior, who would be me. Get it?”

With everyone ready, the assembly starts its slow, perilous journey through the city. Langbard takes the lead, as Jules, Elana, Caithas and Ark, all wearing chainmail, escort the small wagon through the city streets. Eva, Grunur and Zaracas sit on the wagon, observing the changing setting as the vehicle moves through the city.

The journey proceeds uneventfully until the group reaches the entrance to the Knight’s bridge. Barred by a closed gate and guarded by at least thirty soldiers, the entrance looks unsurpassable by anything other than subterfuge. Langbard is stopped by a group of pikemen and asked to state his business. “Corporal Domitius Lepidus, of the Andelian guardsmen, sir. I am escorting a group of prisoners to Upper Andelia for public execution.” He hands in his papers, which are thoroughly checked by the officer, before being allowed to continue. As soon as he makes it past the gate, Langbard breathes a sigh of relief, before looking at every member of the group to see if they are doing alright. His eyes fix upon lady Savain for a bit longer than the others, but he seems reassured that she is managing quite well.

The bridge is empty, save for the wagon and its escorts. It doesn’t take long to cross it, but it feels like an eternity. Eventually, the group reaches the East gate, which is as heavily guarded as the entrance to the Bridge was. Archers stand atop the walls, ready to take a shot against anyone unauthorized to enter. A similar exchange as the one that took place a while ago occurs, and the guards seem satisfied with Langbard’s answers. A few of them, bored and unmotivated, make their way towards the wagon, checking its cargo. The inspection does not last long, although the guards do remove the sack covering Zaracas’ head. They see his face and replace the sack almost immediately. “That’s an ugly fucker”, you hear one of the guards exclaim, as the portcullises are raised and the wagon is allowed to proceed.

Langbard does not signal the procession to stop until the wagon has put a good few hundred yards between himself and the gate. When he feels it’s safe to drop the charade, he instructs the group that they have made it. “I need to wait for my men. They should join by noon. Until then, you should find a place to hide and contact whatever allies you may have. Let us meet again when you have done so. Do you have a safe house?”

[OOC: Disguise and Stealth checks-Successes!]

[OOC: You are free to do as you wish and choose where to go to. Suggestions include the Vinici estate, the guild of the Crimson Irregulars, the Watering Hole etc. You should also decide what to do with Zaracas (cut his restrains, arm him, carry him while bound, let him loose, trust him, etc. If there is conflict between party members, a democratic decision would be the best way to go.]
Grunur sighs, shivering in his rags.

“I need to don my armor,” he says matter-of-factly to Caithas as the half-elf retrieves his blades and other equipment.

“Anywhere to go, half-breed?”

The ranger nods, indicating the Vinici estate would be a secluded spot.

With that, the two unlikely and odd-looking friends inform the group that that’s where they’ll be.

“Will anyone be joining us?”
Jules breathes a sigh of relief on the other side of the bridge, Zaracas had made no move to betray them. It would be stupid if he had tried, but at least it showed that he was capable of seeing his situation objectively. “Ah want to make sure ze estate hasn’t been compromised in our absence, but after zat Ah want to keep Zaracas zer. From zer we can meet with ze rest of our allies and plan our next move.”

The nobleman turns to Zaracas, removing the gag, but keeping him bound. “When we get to ze safe house, your bonds will be removed and more suitable accommodations will be made. Don’t think for a second you will ever be completely free without at least one trusted guard fully armed at your back.”
Caithas went with Grunur as Jules led Zaracas to the same place. He wondered if the other strangers would come as well. Elana, he assumed, but the others…
Ark smiled devilishly, “That old place?” He’d been there once or twice to practice picking a few locks. Its a wonder the estate was still standing in Ark’s eyes. “We still have much to discuss. So I’ll tag along for now.”

Though the armor is stuffy, Ark keeps the disguise intact for now, no clue who was watching. Plus the helmet might prove useful later.
Grunur turns to the other dwarf when he sees Ark following.

“So what of you, Eva? Coming too?”
Elana agreed to go with the others to the estate. There, they would be able to change out of the disguises in safety. She was anxious to get back into her normal clothes; the armor was chafing at her skin and pinched uncomfortably.
Eva muses, torn between wanting to keep track of Grunur and wishing to visit the Keepers for more information and to see some old friends. Eventually she makes a decision, one dwarf drew some attention, ‘two’ wandering about together was worse. She replies with a smile, “I think I can trust you enough not to run off, I’ll be with the Keepers if anyone wishes to find me.” She figured her face wasn’t notorious enough yet for guards to arrest her on sight, what with the disguise and rags she was in previously, she’d better get to her knowledge before she lost the chance. ((OOC: I may be a little sketchy on where exactly the Keepers are, if they’re on another continent or basically unreachable without detection by the guards, she follows Grunur instead.))
“If it was the Keepers you sought, little one, you were better off on the other side of the city,” Caithas calls to Eva over his shoulder, on his way to the ramshackle estate.

Grunur, in a far politer tone, says, “Thank you for your healing hands, Eva. Indeed, I will likely not run off…not now…not after…after all this. Be safe.”
Langbard bids farewell to Jules and the rest of the party, after taking a mental note of the safe house’s location. “I shall meet you at the Vinici estate then, as soon as I assemble my men. Wait for me there.”

The party starts moving towards the old mansion, with most party members disguised, still cautious of any military presence. Such caution seems less justified here than in Lower Andelia, where the presence of soldiers was prevalent. Indeed, Elana, Caithas and Jules notice that there are far fewer soldiers than there used to be when they departed a few days ago, on their mission to break the unbreakable code. The streets also seem in a worse state, with many houses abandoned or demolished for wood. There were several beggars in the streets before the group left for Lower Andelia, but now, they seem to be even more of them, if that was possible.

The estate has also been transformed over that brief period of time. Although most of it still remains in ruins, there are several men, armed and armored, guarding the perimeter around it. Atop the crumble buildings, archers keep watch, their bows and quivers placed behind their backs. Makeshift watchtowers have been constructed hastily, with planks and other building materials from surrounding houses. A trench around the estate remains incomplete, although there are diggers working on it as the party passes by.
The party approaches cautiously, but despite their demeanor, these are no loyalist soldiers. Those who witnessed the events as they had been unfolding recognize Markus’ men, along with a few of Malcom’s friends, the rebels who spearheaded the uprising. Several strangers can also be seen; most of them working on the constructions. Having recognized Jules, Elana and Caithas, the rebels allow the party to enter the premises, before resuming their duties.

Once inside, the trio recognizes many familiar faces. Most of the veterans of Legion XIII are here; they greet their friends and observe at the newcomers with curiosity. Still, there are many unfamiliar faces within the building as well. They greet the group, seeing that the party’s members are respected by the veterans. Veor, Ovidius, Decius and Erik are also there. “Thank the gods, you have returned!” exclaims Veor, as he guides you towards a large table at the end of the hall. Upon it lies a large, rough map of the city. Markus stands behind it, strategizing with his veterans. “By the fates, you are still alive!” he says, surprised by your arrival. “Where is your leader? What news do you bring from Lower Andelia? And who are these strangers accompanying you? Friends to the cause, or captured enemies?”

[OOC: @ Stridar: I cannot really afford to split the party right now; following parallel storylines would require additional posting time that I do not have. Feel free to brief your allies as briefly or as extensively as you want, before the next steps are planned.]
Caithas feels near to collapsing upon returning…gods…home?

He smiles at Erik, shakes Veor’s forearm and looks Markus in the eye.

“Malcom…Malcom is gone. Fallen. But where he fell, others have joined our cause. This here is Grunur, House Rooinnir, an armiger of The Crags come from The Iron Domes. A good man, a strong fighter and a better friend. And these two are Ark and Eva…though I don’t know them nearly as well as this scruffy bastard here,” he says, smiling slightly. Then his face becomes somber again. “But Malcom…and the mission itself…hell, let Mr. and Mrs. Amour here explain.”

Grunur listens and nods his introduction to the gathered rebels, though he makes no move to proclaim the loyalty that Caithas indicated. He also makes no move to leave though.
Jules answers Marcus, “Yes, we live for now at least. Malcom was captured when we entered ze city and he hasn’t been heard from since. He could still be alive, but if so Ah have no idea why he hasn’t made contact. Ze mission was a failure. We came close to getting what we needed, but ze man we needed escaped us. As for our new companions, Ah’m not sure yet, you’ll have to ask zem yourself, but zey haven’t betrayed us yet, which might say something. As for zis man,” he says gesturing to Zaracas, “He will need to be put in a secure room, preferably under ze observation of one of your men. He should never be unrestrained if zer isn’t an armed guard present, and he needs to be kept away from anything zat could be used as a weapon. He’s our prisoner, and possibly a fighter if ze need arises.”

Jules braces himself for the inevitable scolding the old soldier is about to send his way. Langbard may have been in too much of a hurry to care, and Caithas might have been too loyal, but Markus had no reason to be reasonable about Zaracas.
Elana removed her helmet and shook out her long red hair, relishing the freedom. She smiled at the familiar faces, greeting the others politely. It was impressive what they had done to the estate. Sure it was still a hollow shell of what it once was, but Elana expected to find it empty. Now it was turning into a command post for the rebellion.

She undid the sword belt at her side and tossed off the rest of the legion armor, stacking it precariously in a corner. The mail had left rust stains on her shirt and stole a number of her hairs as she pulled it off. She was glad to be rid of the wretched thing.

Jules and Caithas were speaking to Marcus, who didn’t seem interested in Elana much; she suspected he assumed she was just a girl in over her head, which she was to an extent. Right now, she found that his lack of attention gave her some breathing room. She took a seat by an old wooden table the rebels and brought. There were maps of Andelia sprawled on it, with key locations and troop information marked. Elana didn’t pay it any mind, and dumped her pack beside her.

She pulled two books from the leather sack that Harald had supplied her. She set aside the one on magic and enchanted devices, and instead held the book on her family’s history. The cover was worn with age more than use, but it was good leather and the pages were bound well. Elana knew she didn’t have the time to pore through the book as she would have liked. She glanced up to see what the others were up to before tucking both books away into her satchel.
Ark follows Elana’s suit and strips away the armor, stacking it with hers. He keeps the longsword and shield since they seem to be in decent shape. He waves cheekily as he is mentioned. After the talking dies down for a bit he chips in what he can.

“Well… I can’t say I know what exactly you’re talking about… But I don’t believe your mission was a total failure. Though Zaracas was pretty adamant about us not standing up to this man without an army.”

Ark takes a quick look around, “But… I did manage to pick up a peculiar item outside of the temple. I believe the man that got away dropped it. It certainly looks about as interesting as any information you could have gained by capturing him.”
Grunur armors himself with a relish unlike most. He drapes each piece of metal on his skin once more, glad that the long journey was done. He also made himself – and, truth be told, his armor – a promise: Never again would he be parted from it. No matter the mission, no matter how dire, he would find another way or he would die. But death would have been welcome compared to being parted again. A regular man, even a seasoned warrior, might have found this all quite silly, but Grunur was no normal fighter.

He was an armiger. And he was, once more, made whole.

Caithas, sensing his friend’s euphoria, was glad to see the dwarf back to his old self again. And while the half-elf was no fanatic about anything except Life, he was exceptionally pleased to retrieve his own two blades back and to turn in the beaten sword and armor included for the city-long march.

“Perhaps we can outfit other rebels with the better of the weapons and armor here…or at least sell them,” the ranger said to Veor and Erik as he returned his proper blades to their scabbards.

It was then that he heard Ark speak. It was more than he’d heard the man say since he’d met him, in fact.

“I don’t know what it is that Ark here found,” Caithas said, joining in the conversation with Markus once more, “and I cannot say I know the man well. But I know this: I’d be dead if it were not for him. That’s a fact. I’d be dead in a fucking sand pit somewhere if it weren’t for him paying for my life. The same is true for Grunur, to be fair and true. Both of these men are directly responsible for me standing here, speaking to you right now…so while I know Grunur better than Ark, they are, in my humble estimation, good men both, and the rebellion would be lucky to count either or both amongst its ranks.”
The Vinici estate

Most of the rebels take the news stoically, remaining silent when hearing of Malcom’s disappearance. Not Erik, though. When the news are silently received by Markus’ men, he cannot constrain his frustration. “No!” he shouts, hurling his fist against the wall. A cloud of dust forms around the struck area, but the wall remains intact, stubborn as the fact that Malcom is nowhere to be found. “This was not meant to happen! Why did you allow this?” he asks Markus, his knuckles now dripping with blood.

“Calm down, Erik”, says the seasoned veteran. “He knew what he was getting into. This is war; men will go missing or die. My soldiers understand this. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any of them to return. But now that they have, we have more of a chance of actually succeeding in our mission. Neither shouts nor prayers will bring Malcom back. Let us spare a moment of silence before continuing with the preparations. We need to maintain our focus, despite the news.”

Markus’ men obey their leader; so do Malcom’s friends. Decius, Veor, Ovidius and even Erik respect the veteran’s wishes, although Erik does so reluctantly. Markus then invites the members of the party to speak in Malcom’s memory, hoping to pacify Erik.
[OOC: Anyone from the party can do so, if he wishes.]
When all is done, Erik decides to leave. He is stopped by his friend, Veor, who attempts to comfort him: “He could be hiding somewhere, for all we know. Maybe he is waiting for us to start the rebellion. Maybe he is with his family. There is still hope, Erik…”

Erik abruptly interrupts him: “Don’t patronize me, Demerian. You think you can lull me into serenity with false hope? I thought you knew Malcom as good as I did. Maybe I was wrong.” He exits the main hall, leaving Veor behind him in a perplexed state of mind.

Markus nods to the group, signaling them to leave Erik alone for now, before addressing the entire party in general. “So, with Malcom missing, who is acting as the spokesman for this group? And, more importantly, what have you seen in Lower Andelia that can be of use to us here? I need every man I can get…” (he pauses, looking at Elana’s direction) “…and woman, for that matter. There are many tasks that need to be carried out before we are ready to take on the Demerian army. But first, I need to hear if you have discovered anything of use during your expedition to Lower Andelia.”

[OOC: Matt, you can fill in your character sheet with the additional equipment (longsword + small wooden shield). The issue of Zaracas will be dealt with after Markus gets an answer. The same is true for donating the equipment to the rebels.]
“I learned I’m a shitty gladiator,” Caithas says with a smile, though his humor is a bit forced after the somber words about Malcom.

“I also learned that Sir Jules Amour is as much of a spokesman as this little band can muster. With Malcom gone, the nobility aligned with this cause are worth their weight in gold. Lord and Lady Amour here have history to their names that few of us can claim. They can be a beacon for rich and poor alike, if we roll our dice right. But let me know what tasks you have in mind, Markus; my swords are here when you need ’em.”

Grunur, dressed again in full armor and looking more like himself, speaks for the first time since gathering in the make-shift stronghold of rebellion and says, “I know I am new to you all, but if you’ve got Caithas, then you’ve got me. I’ve no love for The Empire; most dwarves don’t as ye likely know. I canna…can’t say I was itching to join a rebellion, but now that one’s fallen in me – dammit, my – lap, I won’t say no. You seem a good man and capable commander. I’ll do what I can to help.”

Caithas slaps his friend on the back and whispers, “You make me smile, old friend. I’m damn sorry you got sucked into this mess, but there are worse ways to spend one’s life, I bet. I’ll feel a hell of a lot better about this whole thing in general with you at my side. Let’s hope we get a few days to breathe, relax and catch our wind here, yeah? Maybe a game or three of Craagoon?”

The dwarf’s eyes widen and he grins broadly. Whispering back, he says “Don’t tell me you still have our old board?”

The half-elf’s eyes and schoolboy grin give the dwarf his answer.
When Markus asks for anyone to say words on Malcom’s behalf, Jules steps up. “Ah don’t think Malcom ever fully trusted me. When we first met he believed Ah was nothing more zan a spoiled noble, and rightly so. But Ah have ze greatest respect for zat man because of zat very thing. It is easy to be decent to a person you like, but Malcom was able to be decent to those he didn’t. He stayed behind on ze wall, ensuring zat we could get away safely. Knowing what it could cost him, he stayed honorable. He stayed behind for people he barely knew. And in my eyes, zat makes him a great man.”

Jules listens to Caithas throw his and his wife’s names in for leadership, saying nothing, him being their spokesperson would change nothing about his goals. "We almost had a member of ze chamber, but he escaped, and now ze legions are more active in Lower Andelia. At least two legions, nine and eleven, and zey likely have descriptions for at least myself and potentially others. It will only be a matter of time before zey recognize Lionel Pitch and Jules Amour as being ze same person. Ah do not know ze purpose of ze trinket our friend has, but it is likely important to ze code.

“And as for Zaracas here, question him as much as you like. He was a thug of ze Black Chamber member, and a trained killer. Legality, morality, and pay all seem to be secondary to him. He enjoys killing, and has offered himself as a soldier to be used however is needed.”
The Vinici estate

The entire gathering turns to Jules as the lording speaks of Malcom. His words are well-heeded by all, including Erik, who was about to exit the hall in frustration and disappointment. The tall warrior pauses for a minute, listening to what Jules has to say about his friend, despite the fact that he never showed any signs of respect for the noble. When Jules concludes, he leaves, but his pace is less decisive than before.

“At least you made it out of Lower Andelia alive. That’s got to count for something.” says Markus, after Jules summarizes the party’s failed attempt to capture Raynald, the Black Chamber official. He examines the disk as Jules hands it to him, trying to figure out if the mechanism could be of any help. “During your absence, I have allied our forces with the Crimson Irregulars. The Guild of Guilds fights for the same cause as we do, so joining our forces seemed like the reasonable thing to do. Many workers are affiliated with the guild: blacksmiths, bowyers, alchemists, carpenters and masons, to name just a few. We will need their help to prepare before launching a full-scale assault. Many are currently working to forge weapons and fortify our base, but if any of you have skills in those areas, I encourage you to help. Being well-prepared before the battle will determine its outcome. You can also visit the Irregulars for information on this device,” he suggests, while handing the contraption back to Jules. “It looks like some sort of encryption apparatus, but that is all I can tell about it. Perhaps the leaders of the Guild of Guilds are more knowledgeable in such matters.”

[OOC: Mission-any party member with ranks in certain crafts, professions or Knowledges (e.g. engineering) can contribute to the preparation. If interest is expressed, I will explain the rules, which will most likely involve worker supervision, a skill check and at least 8 hours of labor.]

[OOC: Mission-Show the deciphering disk to the Irregulars.]

Changing the subject, Markus focuses on Jules, after he mentions Zaracas for the second time. “We do not have the resources to guard anyone right now. Unless any of your men wish to guard your prisoner, I shall not waste neither men nor food on guarding and sustaining a potential traitor. Arm him if you trust him, or find some other way to deal with him if you do not.” Zaracas, still gagged and tied up, is unable to speak for himself.

[OOC: Mission-Guard Zaracas.]

The commander then shifts his attention to Caithas, who hauls the rusty suits of chainmail, along with the swords and shields, to a corner. “I’ll see to it that the equipment is repaired and put to good use. These suits of armor may save someone’s life sooner than you might think.” He then whispers in the half-elf’s ear as he approaches: “I understand your respect towards your leader, but I wouldn’t go around advertising his nobility. I and my men may be open-minded, but for many, overthrowing the old power structure is everything that this rebellion is about. The nobles have associated their name with Demeria; they may have to pay with their lives for that. So proclaiming Jules and his wife as natural leaders due to to their nobility might harm their safety.”

The general then turns to Grunur, who has reluctantly pledged his hammer for the cause. “I am in no position to turn down new recruits, much less one as capable as you. Perhaps you would be interested in knowing that another dwarf has recently joined our ranks, thanks to Jules here. His name is Olaf; you should be able to find him somewhere within the estate.”

[OOC: Grunur does not know Olaf; he can find him swapping stories with a couple of veterans just outside the main hall, close to a guard post.]

When all of the issues raised by the group have been addressed, Markus commands his soldiers to continue with their duties, before briefing the party about what has occurred during its absence: “While you have been away, I have been preparing our forces for the rebellion. You have probably noticed the fortifications we have started erecting. I believe I have also mentioned that we are now operating in coordination with the Crimson Irregulars. In addition, we have been harassing the Imperial forces to the extent that the Andelian guardsmen have now almost abandoned Upper Andelia. The guard is barely half of what it was; the Legions pose the biggest threats now. They have mostly avoided entering Upper Andelia. Gods now what they are planning…”

Elana Remains in the background, absorbed by her books. She pays little attention to what Markus has to say, but she does notice a nearby conversation. It is an argument between Veor, the spell-casting warrior, and a strange woman with auburn hair. She seems to be in her early thirties. Besides herself and Eva, she is the only woman within the hall, or the entire estate, as far as Elana can tell. Nevertheless, she is much louder than Elana and Eva combined.

[OOC: I will stop here for today, hopefully more of you can post by tomorrow and Markus can inform you of the missions.]
Caithas knew he was no craftsman or skilled professional. But he was strong, and if building was what the rebellion needed, he would offer his untrained muscles to the arduous task. Of course, he’d much rather use his blades than a shovel or hoe, which he told Markus after the man whispered his advice. Whether through dull labor or violence, the ranger was ready to help, he assured the rebel leader.

Speaking of violence, as Markus talked on, Caithad got to thinking…

The ranger had listened to Markus’s words, and while he was unsure what good he might be in this planning phase, he did know what he could do with his blades. The choice seemed so clear, and though Elana would be troubled, the half-elf didn’t much care. He did not, however, want to trample on Jules’s plan, if he indeed had one.

“Jules, you heard the man. There is no manpower available to guard Zaracas. We cannot trust him, we cannot waste time watching him…let me do what must be done.”

While the half-elf discusses the prisoner’s fate, Grunur seeks out Olaf. He finds him not far from the hub of rebel activity, just outside the compound.

“Ahhh…excuse me,” Grunur says, clanking along, “I wanted to introduce myself. I am Grunur Rooinnir and you must be Olaf. Markus mentioned you were a recent addition as well, and I figure we might just have something in common, by the looks of us. Ha! Care to share a drink with me and tell me how you ended up with these crazy humans too?”
When Markus tells him that Zaracas will not be guarded by the soldiers, Jules feels his options shrinking. He could arm the man, and trust that he wouldn’t turn around and kill them. He could set him loose and hope that nobody dies from his decision. Or he could listen to his friend. Jules had been as reasonable and rational as possible when it came to Zaracas. He had wanted to take advantage of the chance to do the right thing and still be practical, but that option had just closed itself to him.

He turns to his friend and says, “Follow me, we have a prisoner to find quarters for.” He then turns and faces Zaracas, “It seems you and Ah are going to be spending more time together. Move, zat way,” he says nodding towards some of the empty rooms. Looking around for a abandoned room in the estate.
Caithas nods at Jules’s words. He grabs Zaracas by the shoulder and helps him to his feet. “You heard the man,” the half-elf says coldly. “Let’s go find you a nice quiet spot…”

With that, the ranger, with a blade at Zaracas’s back, lets Jules lead them to an empty room in the ramshackle estate.
Elana, oblivious to the rest of the group’s discussion, was intrigued by the other woman in the estate. Veor was arguing with her, and though Elana tried to avoid the man because of his knowledge of magic, her curiosity got the better of her.

She glanced about the room. Jules and Caithas were gone, probably off planning the next step in the rebellion. Grunur was talking it up with the other dwarf, Olaf, while Ark and Eva were still loitering around the main area.

Since nothing pressing was occuring, Elana leaned towards Veor’s argument, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation.
The Vinici estate

Jules lays out his plan in the presence of both Markus and Caithas. While Caithas seems all too eager to put an end to Jules’ dilemma, Markus is not particularly encouraging of the plan. Not that he has any qualms about executing an enemy, but he does not agree with the way Jules intends to carry this out. “If you have something in mind, do it in front of all of us. We are all brothers now, after all. I can’t have some of my men doing things behind their brothers’ backs. From the looks of it, this man deserves execution for his crimes. Why not make him pay for them in public? It would certainly teach a valuable lesson to our young recruits.”

[OOC: You can execute Zaracas in front of all, with or without explaining his crime. You can also ignore Markus, but this will most likely piss him off.]

Zaracas, still gagged and with the sack over his head, seems somewhat aware of the direction this is taking. Jules is not sure how much of the conversation he has overheard, but he is growing increasingly anxious. This seems plain enough for anyone paying attention to see it.

[OOC: If you wish to allow the man any last words, you should remove his gag.]

Just outside the hall, Grunur finds Olaf. The dwarf is not hard to find, laughing loudly whilst swapping stories with two of Markus’ men. When he sees Grunur, he pauses, acknowledging the armiger’s presence. He extends his arm in a friendly manner, before speaking. “Olaf, son of Uthred. Born and raised at the Iron Domes. It’s good to see another one of my kind at last. Although I don’t think I’ve ever met you before. But I’m not one to turn down a drink, especially if you are buying. Perhaps later, when I’ve finished with the constructions here?” he asks, pointing at the trench surrounding the estate.

As for Elana, she tries to approach Veor and the woman without being too indiscreet. Although she does not hear the conversation from the beginning, she manages to catch some words:
(Veor) “…And what of your people? Don’t you want to see them free again?”
(Woman) “How many times must I say this? They are not my people. And even if they were, that was a long time ago.”
(Veor) “You say that, but I don’t think you mean it.”
(Woman) (Sigh) “I don’t think I can change your mind. Look, I’ve seen your friends, I’ve healed their wounds and I have agreed to carry your letters. What else do you want from me?”
(Veor) “Nothing more than to see you understand what we are fighting for here.”
(Woman) “I know what you think you are fighting for. As for what that really may be, I have no clue. But I doubt you know either.”
(Veor) “Can you honestly think of anyone better suited than Markus to lead this rebellion? I do not understand your skepticism.”
(Woman) “This has nothing to do with Markus. Listen, Veor: you are an old friend, a good friend also. Do you think you or Markus will be able to control the events that you are about to unleash?”
(Veor) “Haven’t we discussed this several times already? If you do not believe in our cause, fine. But the city is sealed. It’s not like you can simply march past the gate. You are stuck with us, whether you like it or not.”
(Woman) “I know it. But tell me this: are Decius’ stories true? He muttered all sorts of rumors during his delirium, before I healed him. Do you know anything about that?”
Veor is about to reply, when he notices Elana. “Lady Savain”, he says, “is everything alright? I understand these last days have been arduous, to say the least. Is there anything I can do to help?” The woman eyes Elana impatiently, eager to return to her conversation.
Jules sighs, he had hoped to get away quietly, having Caithas kill the man and claim he attempted to escape. But apparently that was no longer an option either. Something about using Zaracas to set an example does strike a nerve within the nobleman. “Alright, Caithas, make it clean.” The nobleman doesn’t give what he knows to be the real reason for Zaracas’ death. Zaracas was a threat, and he needed to be removed. The law might soothe Markus and his men, make them see their cause as more noble, but the truth of the act was clear to Jules and likely Caithas as well. It wasn’t pretty or right, but it was necessary.

Jules doesn’t bother giving him any last words, anything Zaracas could say would only make the now inevitable decision harder, something Jules wants to avoid as much as possible. He distances himself from Zaracas, not wanting to be attacked if he lashes out in his last moments.
Caithas nods, his smile gone. He wanted the man dead; he took no pleasure in killing him, though.

Instead, he drew his blade as he stood Zaracas up in front of the gathered men in the estate’s main meeting area.

“He will remain gagged. He had his chance to be a decent man, before he decided to work for a corrupt bastard who wanted to see blood spilled…and killed for hire, no matter the cause. A man like that…,” the half-elf shook his head, his voice growing, through still clearly unused to eyes upon him like this.

His wrist flips.

His blade flashes.

Zaracas’s throat opens in a flush of red…

“…does not deserve to live. He has no values…far too dangerous for turning your back on.”
Grunur, outside and missing this brash display, looks into the trench.

“I know little of the machinations of it…but if you need a strong back and a steady hand, I’ll do what I can to help ye finish it up.”
“Oh, yes, I’m quite alright, thank you,” Elana said politely, taking a step back. Clearly they were engrossed in some rather pressing conversation, and Elana felt it would be rude of her to interrupt them. “Actually, I was just-” Her voice trailed off as she spotted Jules and Caithas with Zaracas. “Excuse me,” she said absently to Veor as she moved to get closer to what was happening.

Caithas had Zaracas in front of the men, with a blade in hand. Elana didn’t need to hear him to know what was going to happen next. She pushed her way through the crowd with some urgency until she got to the front. And that was when Caithas slit the man’s throat.

She turned away as the blood gushed out, but forced herself to look back. Zaracas was still twitching, but the cut was clean and he would be dead in a moment. She looked up at Caithas, Jules, and Markus. Even if they weren’t looking back at her, she fixed them with a disapproving look then pushed her way back through the crowd. She was angry enough that she was on the verge of tears, but she checked her emotions before they got the better of her. She needed air.

Elana marched up the stairwell until she reached the top floor. There were a few soldiers there, most of them looked like archers, but it was a large enough space that she could pace and fume without disturbing them. She was clenching her fists and breathing hard to fight the urge to start cursing or just getting even more worked up.
“Fuck,” he swore under his breath when he noticed Elana walking away out of the corner of his eye. “Ah will go to ze Irregulars tomorrow to see about zis cypher device. Ah was foolish to think to use him for our own ends. He was a risk to us all. Thank you, Markus, for helping me come to ze conclusion Ah should have already seen.”

Every word was said honestly, but with obvious sadness in his voice; for what reason not even Jules fully understood. For a moment he wanted to go after Elana and make her understand why they needed Zaracas dead, why he was a threat, why he was unstable and unreliable, and any number of other things. But even as he wanted to explain it he sees the futility of trying, all it would do was make her hate him more. Maybe he could explain it later, and maybe some part of her would be able to agree with him, but for now the only words that could possibly help her would be lies, and that was something he couldn’t bring himself to do.
Ark watches quietly as they determine the mans fate, his attempts to spare the man’s life go unheeded by both Jules and Caithas.

He notices the noble woman ascend the stair case and he contemplates following her. She looked very upset over a thug’s life. But he also understood why she was so emotional. Killing begets killing, it’s a never ending cycle of blood, death, and suffering. Zaracas may have deserved it for some of the things he did in his life time. But with the chance for him to start over with out him interfering with the plans. The man wanted out and he couldn’t get it… I guess really… get got what he wanted.

An opportunity is arising to make a better friend here… it was time to get to know people. Ark climbed the stairs a small while after the lady had disappeared up them. He brushes past the same guards and looks for her in each of the rooms.
Caithas took the dead body by the shoulders and dragged him towards the door and the outside world. Loudly enough to be heard, he says, “The man deserved to die. Now he deserves to be buried. I’ll do it myself, if anyone’s got a spare to spare.”
Elana was still pacing when Ark found her. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t notice him. One second she was alone and then he was there. She went from startled, to angry, then to her best attempt at civil in her current mood, in a moment. “Ark,” she greeted politely. “Is there um, something I can help you with?” she didn’t realize it, but her hands were still clenched into fists. Elana wasn’t expecting anyone, let alone this near stranger, to walk in on her.
The Vinici estate

The crowd of like-minded rebels stops what it’s doing to witness the execution. Everyone falls silent, as an air of gloom fills the large hall. It takes several minutes for even the most hardened of veterans to regain their composure and return to their tasks.

(Jules and Caithas)

“It had to be done”, says Markus, trying to reassure Jules of his option. “It’s been a difficult last few days for all of us, especially for you and your group. Let’s meet tomorrow to discuss our plan of action; you can spend the rest of this day as you please.” Turning to Caithas, he explains: “You can find a spade outside. Take what you need for burying him.”

[OOC: 3 points subtracted from Caithas’ ethics score.]

(Grunur and Olaf)

“Go ahead, grab yourself a shovel. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to dig a fuckin’ hole.” Grunur does as he is told, while Olaf explains that they are working to put up a palisade. Grunur has not toiled for more than twenty minutes, when he observes a group of approximately ten men, led by Langbard, walk down the path leading to the estate. He notices the rebel guards stir: the archers on the roof and the two watchtowers arm their bows and draw their bowstrings in anticipation of Langbard’s arrival.

[OOC: Grunur-Perception check-Success! As soon as this is dealt with, Grunur can meet up with Caithas, who will be carrying Zaracas’ dead body, looking for a place to bury it, or simply looking for a shovel.]


Veor is about to introduce the woman to Elana, when Elana notices that Caithas and Jules seem to be up to something. “This is Alexan…” Suddenly, everyone in the room, including Veor and the woman, shift their attention to Caithas and what he is about to do. The ranger utters the verdict and executes the man. Veor and the woman stare in disbelief, before noticing Elana make her way towards the roof. Elana sees that Veor is about to follow her, but the woman grabs his forearm, discouraging him from doing so. “Leave her be”, is the last thing Elana hears from the pair as she runs up the stairs.

[OOC: You can role-play as you wish; it seems to be in order as there might be some conflict within the party right now. You are also free to pursue your own goals, but if you split up extensively, I may not be able to follow up all PCs to the same extend. Let’s leave this in-game day for RPing and other issues (e.g. dealing with Langbard) before going into the missions.]
“Maybe, but certainly nothing you can help me with now. That’s not why I’m here.” He pauses and looks at her hands, “Elana, is there anything I can do for you?”
Elana noticed that she was clenching her fists. She forced herself to look relax and calm. "Oh, um . . . " She took a moment to consider the man before her. Ark was a stranger still, but he was on their side at least. Still, it wasn’t Ark she wanted to shout at, nor was it him that she felt comfortable confiding in, but he seemed concerned and that at least was worth not shutting him out completely. “I’m just upset about . . . you know.” She cleared her throat and gave him a quick smile. “I’ll be fine. I just need a few minutes.” She may not have voiced any thanks, but her tone was appreciative.
Grunur’s digging leaves him sweaty and huffing, but then, working in armor like a madman will do that. He is regretting his offer to help his fellow dwarf when he sees who’s coming. He realizes that, though he might know Langbard, these boys with bows don’t seem to.

“Oy! Wait! Weapons down! He’s on your side, lads,” the armiger puffs, winded. He sets his shovel down and points to the approaching man.

“He saved my life and more’n a few others.”

It’s at this point that Caithas breeches the doorway, dragging the corpse behind. He’s just about to grab a shovel when he hears Grunur…and then sees who he’s greeting.

Then, wiping sweat from his brow, the half-elf looked for a place to dig.

(OOC: Not sure if you want to wait for this, Vlad, but if not, Caithas will indeed dig a grave and bury the body of Zaracas, and if Grunur isn’t otherwise occupied, he’ll lend his friend a hand.)
Jules lets Ark chase down Elana, he wasn’t involved in the execution and if Zaracas was to be believed, he was decent to the man Jules had just ordered killed. Maybe Ark could do what he couldn’t. Instead Jules heads to one of the rooms and pulls out his makeup kit. As he puts on a new disguise he mentally crosses out Lionel Pitch and Brother Percy as disguises that he can safely assume. Percy might have been credited with saving those priests, but soon enough someone would put together that Percy and Lionel were the same, and that they were both also Jules Amour. If the official had half a brain and any time dedicated to the issue he would figure it out.

The thought of Raynald realizing he had a wanted criminal in his hands only to let him escape does bring a small grin to Jules face. When Jules finishes his work he can hardly tell who it is. He has fake scars and wrinkles, as well as skin that appears tanned by years of labor. A small goatee covers his chin as he ruffles his hair with black dust, darkening his hair slightly. With his disguise finished he leaves the estate to try and find his own type of forgiveness. Caithas can bury the body, Elana and Ark can comfort each other, but Jules would be looking for a woman. He returns to the lower city streets and begins to walk towards Mara’s house, dressed in the ragged clothes of a peasant.

[OOC: If something with Langbard would happen that Jules would notice, feel free to postpone this action.]
(OOC: About time someone tried to have some sex in this game )
“Alright well, if you need anything let me know.” He’s about to leave before he quips one more thing, “It’s never gets easier. You just get numb to the feeling. Hopefully we can avoid unnecessary loses in the future.” The rouge steps out into the hall. He didn’t really know what to do. He’d have to wait for the group to reconvene to try and suggest them murder his target.
[OOC: Continued from The Tangled Web Forum.]

The Vinici estate-outside

The archers lower their weapons as Grunur explains that Langbard is not a foe. The watchman atop the tower asks the dwarf: “Do you know this man?” While the dwarf tries to make everything clear, Caithas exits through the main entrance, with the body of Zaracas slung over his shoulder. The ranger does not intervene, knowing to himself that his friend can handle the situation. Instead, he looks for a place to bury the corpse.

When all is said and done, the rebels allow Langbard to enter the compound on two terms. First, the guardsman has to be accompanied by the armiger and two of Markus’ men. Secondly, Langbard’s men have to remain outside, under the watchful eyes of the archers. Grunur is instructed to take the man to Markus, to whom he should explain the situation. Langbard’s men are not at all happy with the idea, but Langbard orders them to do as they are told, as he waits for Grunur to lead on.

In the meantime, Caithas has no difficulty finding a shovel, but finding a place to bury the thug proves more challenging. The soldiers do not want the half-elf to turn their headquarters into a graveyard. Many explain that burying a man close to the estate is ill-advised, as the spirits of men who suffer violent deaths come back to haunt the living. True or not, Caithas eventually manages to find a patch of soft soil far from the estate, where a hole can be dug. As he prepares the man for burial, he notices that the assassin is still in possession of several of his belongings. The most notable of those are several sovereigns and a chain shirt worn under the man’s clothes.

[OOC: For the gold, you can roll 3d10 to determine the amount. If you decide to take any of these, update your character sheet.]

The Vinici estate-inside

Inside the estate, Jules is contemplating taking Markus’ offer to try to spend the day as best he can. As he is about to exit the estate, Langbard enters the hall, accompanied by Grunur and two of the rebels. He watches silently from a corner, as the guardsman is taken towards Markus. The rebels appear to be treating Langbard like a prisoner, and not a guest.

[OOC: If you still want to leave, give me a stealth check. Grunur should also give me a Perception check just in case.]

The Vinici estate-Rooftop

The discussion between Elana and Ark did not seem to be going anywhere, so neither of them returns to it when the sight of Langbard and his men interrupt them. From the top of the estate, neither of them can clearly discern the features of the ten men or so that are allowed to enter the estate’s yard. What is clear, however, is that all of them are wearing the outfits of Andelian guardsmen.

[OOC: Perception checks vs. DC 5 to recognize Langbard amongst the soldiers. If you succeed vs. a DC of 15, you can also hear what is being said.]

The noblewoman and the assassin can easily see what is happening, although it is almost impossible to make out the words. Eventually one of the guardsmen, evidently the leader of the band, gets taken in, accompanied by none other than Grunur.
(OOC: Vlad, does the chain shirt appear to be of Masterwork quality or unique in some other way?)

Caithas strips the dead Zaracas of his 19 sovereigns and his chain shirt. He searches the body for anything else useful before rolling the dead man into the grave.

Rolling the coins in his hand, the half-elf feels slightly guilty when the thought, ‘not a bad day’s work’ crosses his mind. Soon, though, the hard work of piling dirt on the dead takes over his thoughts and by the end, the ranger is exhausted. He taps the dirt, salutes the grave and walks back to the estate to see what Langbard’s arrival indicated.

While Caithas finished the job on Zaracas, Grunur led Langbard inside, straight to Markus.

“Markus, sir…a fellow rebel leader to see you. Langbard here smuggled me and the rest out of the Lower city. Langbard, Markus. Markus, Langbard.”
[OOC Pfft. Crap rolls haunt me on this site too.]
Elana looked out the window at the soldiers below. They were imperial guards and one of them was being led by Grunur inside the estate. This was an odd event, she thought. Eager to learn what was happening, Elana skipped down the steps to see that it was Langbard that was being introduced to Markus. The others waiting outside must also be his men.

Elana made her way to the three men, and bowed her head in greeting. “Langbard, good to see you made it out safe. Grunur speaks true,” she said to Markus. “If it weren’t for Langbard we wouldn’t have made it out of lower Andelia.”
When he sees Langbard being led into the compound, Jules considers sneaking away to do, well anything really. The rebellion and everything associated with it was beginning to wear him down. Up until a week ago the worst thing Jules had ever done was some small scale smuggling. And today he had eulogized a friend who they had abandoned and ordered the death of a man who collected severed heads. He wanted, no, he needed a break, but it would have to wait, at least until he was sure Langbard and Markus weren’t going to be at odds.

“Is everything alright here?” he says, knowing that some of the guards and Langbard himself might not recognize him right away.
The Vinici estate

As Grunur leads Langbard towards Markus, several heads turn to look at the pair; whispers fill the hall, but none dares to voice his opinions. Langbard remains silent; so does Markus for a minute of two after seeing the man. As Grunur introduces the guardsman, he (and everyone else in the crowded room) notices that the soldier remains still, respectful of the rebel leader. Nevertheless, he neither stands in attention nor offers a military salute, as is accustomed in all ranks of the Demerian army. Instead, when the dwarf concludes, he extends his right hand, speaking but a few words: “I’ve heard much about you, sir. It is an honor to finally meet you in the flesh.”

Markus does not return the greeting, turning instead to the side. Without facing the man, he finally replies: ”I’ve heard much about you as well. It seems that both our fames precede us. So you’ve finally switched sides?” Without waiting for a reply, Markus turns to the members of the group: ”This man, Domitius Lepidus, fights for the Imperials. He still wears the colors of the Andelian guardsmen. Thus, I cannot trust him. Can any of you vouch for him?”

[OOC: Jules, Elana, Eva and Grunur can voice their opinions.]

Lady Savain is the first to speak in Langbard’s defence. Markus listens to her words carefully, before Veor also swears of the man’s devotion to the cause: ”Malcom spoke highly of the man; even though they both were guardsmen, they have been supporters of the cause ever since the Storm of Slaughter. You can trust Domitius, Markus; you have my word.”

Markus takes the words into consideration, but still he does not seem fully convinced. ”Even if it is as you say, what of his men? None of you know them, and with Malcom missing, none can ascertain their loyalty. Can you promise me that they are all willing to see this through to the end?”

Jules, disguised beyond recognition, interrupts the rebel leader. All turn towards the nobleman, who has assumed the guise of an old, frail man who seems to have materialized out of nowhere. Surprised by the stranger, even the rebel commander has no reply to Jules’ question. He remains speechless for a few moments, allowing Jules to explain himself.

Outside the Vinici estate

Caithas removes the chain shirt from the body and examines it closely. The armor is of fine craftsmanship; although plain and functional, with no ornamentation, it seems to be extremely sturdy and well-made. He folds the chain coat as best he can and places it into his backpack, before proceeding to bury the man.

[OOC: Caithas can return to the estate, but since burying Zaracas will take him some time, he will miss the scene with Langbard.]
Grunur pipes up, “I know I am no more than a stranger here, but know that this Langbard here was, to my mind, the face of your rebellion until I met you, Commander Markus. The man, along with his men, could have turned eveyone of us into the authorities at any time; they had wanted rebels and criminals and yet they helped us to you. I cannot say why any man loyal to the Crown would do such a thing. If I am to be counted a rebel now, surely Langbard and his fellows should be as well.”

Caithas misses all of this, but for a handful of coins and a damn fine chain shirt, he isn’t too broken up about it. Once the dirt is packed down and the grave is done, the half-elf leaves it unmarked and heads back to the estate.
“Ah yes, zis, new disguise, Ah assure you it is still me. As for zis man, Ah have no reason not to trust him, and his fellow soldiers have had their chance to betray us already. If you still have concerns, Ah cannot say what zey want, but Ah do not believe zem to be treacherous.”

Jules answers honestly, but Markus’ suspicion does worry Jules. It is possible Langbard or one of his men only helped them escape in order to reach the more powerful members of the rebellion.
Ark silently watched from the second story window. There wasn’t much to do at the moment. His mind wandered to his companion, where ever she was he missed her.
Eva is content to keep silence, she was after all new to the group and her word meant little. Interesting though that the rebellion seems to be leaking information to new people like a sinking ship leaked water, the Empire was bureaucratic, true, so while this might take time to percolate to their ears, they were almost certain to hear about this sooner or later… An unpleasant thought for a member of said rebellion indeed.
The Vinici estate

Markus carefully heeds the words of the companions, as they speak in Langbard’s defense. “As I said, I am in no position to turn down any new recruits. We have been recruiting peasants who have never wielded a weapon in their life. Langbard, if your heart is set on it, you will make a good addition to my soldiers. As for your men, they are free to help with the fortifications and training of the new recruits, but I will not have them risking their lives in missions until they have proven that they are up to the task. Can we reach an agreement?”

Langbard, feeling a bit awkward with the situation, offers some protest, but eventually he caves in to the general’s demends. ”Sir, you have no reason to mistrust my men… but if that is your will, I shall have them serving as unskilled workers of trainers, until you see fit to use them for other purposes. Since I am their leader and representative, however, I must request a position in your council, along with Jules and his companions. I trust this is not asking too much of you, seeing that I, like your comrades, will be risking the lives of my men in this upcoming rebellion.”

Markus pauses to consider the guardsman’s offer, before finally agreeing to what the man has proposed. “Very well, then. The council convenes tomorrow morning; you are welcome to join, as is Jules and any of his companions with the inclination to do so. Langbard, I trust you will honor your word: ask your men to leave their weapons and armor with my veterans; there is much work to be done still, if we are to turn these ruins into a stronghold.”

Langbard indicates his agreement by giving Markus a military salute, before exiting the main hall, eager to announce what has been decided to his men. When he is gone, Markus addresses Jules in a low tone, sharing information that is intended only for the nobleman’s ears: ”Keep an eye on him, will you? If you say he is trustworthy, I’ll take your word for it, but as for his men… I say we tread with caution, for without secrecy, our entire plan may fail before we even start implementing it.” Then, he speaks in a louder voice, so that anyone in the room can hear: ”Jules, you and your companions are free to spend the day as you wish. I would suggest you to meet with the Irregulars; they are also represented in the council. In any case, I expect you to be fit tomorrow. We shall meet before the cock’s first shrill.”

[OOC: Jules is free to go to Mara, if he so desires. If you want Tumult to be the one who opens the door for him, feel free to role-play the scene yourself, since Tumult is your character. Otherwise, I will have an NPC do so.]

As the group disperses, Veor catches up with Elana. ”My lady, a brief word with you, if I may?” he says politely, hoping that Lady Savain will grant him a moment of her time.

Ark is also approached by one of Markus’ men. Although Ark has never seen him before, he looks like a seasoned veteran. He addresses the assassin in an unfriendly tone: ”Jules, Elana and Caithas I know. They’ve been with us since the beginning. The dwarf I have not met before, but if Caithas says that the stout warrior is his friend, I have no reason to doubt him. You on the other hand… you have remained silent since you entered this hall. Why should we trust you? I don’t even know your name. You look like a mercenary to me. But there is no coin to be had here, mercenary. So why are you here?”

While Markus speaks, Eva notices Alexandra, Harald’s friend. She met the woman not many days ago at the Keepers’ headquarters, although they did not have the chance to converse extensively during the lively discussion that ensued between the Keepers. Alexandra seems oblivious to Eva’s presence, however. Something not entirely surprising, considering the gnome’s small stature.

[OOC: You can do as you wish, more or less. Although Ark and Elana will have to-at least-give some sort of excuse to escape the veteran’s and Veor’s attention, respectively. Caithas can also join in now.]
“I’m here from a common goal. I noticed Caithas in the arena while conducting some business and paid to spare his life. I despise the Imperials as much as you do, even if I was a soldier of fortune I’d never take their side. Its their damn fault I’m even in his hellish situation.” It was true, but he didn’t necessarily plan on falling under their wing as a rebel. He was still part of the denizens and he’d probably serve them til he died. “Any more questions to comfort your mistrust?”
Elana tensed when Veor approached. It wasn’t because she had anything against the man, but he was a wizard and her identity as a spellflare was most at risk of being discovered by wizards. She forced herself to be calm and friendly. “Of course, Veor,” she replied. “What is it you’d like to speak of?”
Jules nods in resignation. He would meet with the Irregulars, but not alone, and certainly not before at least some time relaxing. He heads out of the estate, and finds himself walking back towards Mara’s house, passing the alleyway where Caithas had “mugged” him, and wondering if something like that on a large scale might give them a chance to hurt the Legions.

When he finally reaches the house, he knocks twice, and after a moment’s wait a stranger opens the door. Different from the people he had seen before, the young man looks a bit older than Jules, or he would were Jules not disguised as an old man. His skin is the same strange tone as Mara’s and he holds himself with the same dignity, as though he is commanding respect from some intangible source.

“Mind if I ask who you are?” He says the words with respect, but the caution is obvious in them. If Jules didn’t know any better he would have suspected the man of being a guard.

“Brother Percy, Ah’m here to see Mara.”

Tumult, stares at the old man before him for a moment before saying, “And what ‘business’ exactly do you have with my wife, brother.”

Jules can only stare at the man, a look of bewilderment on his face. It lasts for only a moment before the man starts speaking again, his tone suddenly much more casual and friendly. “Yea, she told me about, you. I couldn’t resist. Forgive me, it was too good a chance to pass up. Truly though, sorry to hear about the incident before, hope you’re feeling better.”

When the man opens the door wider and welcomes Jules in, the nobleman simply nods, wondering what other surprises he is going to be dealing with today.

[OOC: Tumult has his obsidian page up now, and if possible, I’d like to make a perception check to see if he can see through Jules disguise, unlikely, but still.]
(OOC: I love that you’re role-playing a new character who thwarts the cuckolding attempts of your old character, RC…er, Fracture, I suppose. Whoever the hell you are, Ross, that’s a stroke of brilliance )

Caithas re-enters the estate and finds things not all that different than he left, though everyone seems far more involved in private conversation. Not wanted to intrude, but also not wanting to miss an order, Caithas approaches Markus.

“Commander, do you have anything you need from me this afternoon? If not, I have some business to attend to at a shop not far off, but it can wait if there’s something a little more pressing here.”

(OOC: Caithas would like to go sell her Masterwork Chain Shirt. Would you like that to be role-played, Vlad, or just take the 125 gold and call it square?)

After the interaction between Markus and Langbard, the dwarf heads back outside to Olaf and his digging crew.

“Still need a hand?”

Grunur can’t honestly say he wants to keep digging ditches, but he was a man of his word, and he’d told Olaf he’d help. Besides, the man was a fellow dwarf and he’d given his word. That sort of thing may not matter to humans, those back-biting bastards, but to dwarves, by the gods, it still meant something.
Eva approaches Alexandra with a cautious smile, “Miss… Stotch I believe? How coincident that we meet again, though this is hardly the place of knowledge we’ve met at before.”

She gestures around the planning of a rebellion, her words loaded with curiosity and just the hint of suspicion. In her experience, you only saw someone twice because you were after the same things or you were followed.
(Ark and Carrinas)

The veteran does not reply. Instead, he extends his hand as he introduces himself. ”I am Carrinas, second to Markus and in charge of training the new recruits. I don’t think I got your name, stranger.” Ark shakes the man’s hand. His grip is firm, but not painful. The handshake extends, as the soldier keeps holding the assassin’s hand, refusing to let go. Leaning closer to Ark, he whispers: ”This is not a game. You’re either with us, or against us. No turning back now. So which one is it going to be?”

(Elana and Veor)

Veor leads Elana to a remote corner of the estate. While still far from silent, the room is not as crowded as the main hall, and although there are still soldiers around, they seem to be ignoring the pair, focusing on their tasks instead. Veor looks around carefully, making sure not to attract anyone’s attention, before addressing Elana in a conspiratorial tone. ”I wanted to speak to you about the battle at the Golden Eagle. The loyalists there nearly claimed my life, and I would not have made it if it weren’t for a friend of mine, a healer and shaman of sorts. But after recovering, I heard that you were also with us, waiting outside with Markus’ men. I heard that, at a critical moment, you used some kind of power to neutralize the men seeking to alert the soldiers to our presence. Is this true?” He looks at Elana expectantly, waiting for her answer.


Instead of returning to the estate, Caithas wanders around the city, hoping to find a place to exchange the chain shirt with a few more coins. Remembering that the thieves’ guild offers such services, with no questions asked about the goods in question, he heads to the Watering hole. The tavern, which acts as a front for the guild, is closed, but there are a few men standing outside. Eventually, Caithas attracts a guildsman’s attention. ”What do you want? he asks. The ranger explains the situation, showing the chain shirt to the man, who quickly rushes inside, bringing with him another man minutes thereafter. The man and Caithas reach an agreement; the half-elf leaves, a few coins richer, but without the chain shirt of the assassin he executed.

[OOC: Add 125 gp to your character sheet.]

(Grunur and Olaf)

”Sure”, replies Olaf, throwing a shovel to Grunur. This time, no one interrupts the two dwarves, who spend several hours digging. The mindless, back-breaking work is no fun at all, and Olaf attempts to engage Grunur in conversation, so that the time will at least go by a bit faster. He speaks in the tongue of his people: ”So, where did you say you are from again?”

(Jules and Tumult)

[OOC: Tumult (Perception) vs. Jules (Disguise)-Failure. Tumult does not see through Jules’ disguise, although even if he did, he wouldn’t have recognized him, since this is the first time the two of them meet.]

Alerted to the commotion outside, Mara shouts to her brother from inside: ”Just give me a moment! I will be there in a minute!” However, Jules and Tumult have already entered the house’s one and only room, after going through a short corridor.

The common room is crowded with several bunk beds, which take up most of the available space. Some clothes are piled up on some of the beds; others are hanging from the beds’ footboards. Many of them are unmade, even at this late hour. The room has a strange smell to it; not overpoweringly unpleasant, but definitely a bit stale. The beds are carefully placed to create several narrow corridors between them. A small, circular table sits in the middle of the room. Upon it rests a heap of mundane, everyday items. Four chairs are placed around the table; Mara can be found sitting on one of them, trying to put on an earring in a hurry, while looking at her face in a small, hand-held mirror.

[OOC: Is Jules wearing his “brother Percy” disguise? Because I thought that brother Percy was younger; not an old man like you described.]

(Eva and Alexandra)

Alexandra is just as surprised to see Eva again: ”Eva, isn’t it? She does not wait for a reply, getting to the point immediately: ”What are you doing here, of all places? Just being here could get you killed!”
Grunur heaves an especially heavy lump of rock and dirt aside with a grunt and looks at Olaf.

“For the last few years, The Domes. Before that, Crags…born and raised. The Rooinnir clan is an old name over there; not that that matters a damn on this side of the sea. It’s been years since I saw those spires rise into the sky…but staying there wasn’t for me. That damned half-elf…I swear he infected me with bloody wanderlust. Undwarvenlike, I know, but there it is. Me mother was right…Caithas is nothing but trouble.”

But even as he says it, a smile creeps across his face.

(OOC: I’ve made my OOC begging plain, throwing myself on the good graces of Mr. Vlad, but assuming Caithas is stuck selling his very valuable item for next to nothing like the idiot he is, he’ll head back to the estate at this point.)
Elana’s heart leapt into her throat. Veor may just want to know what she did exactly, but if she didn’t persuade him now, his suspicion could be the end of her. “I’m trained in the use of wands,” she explained. “I’m no wizard, but it has certainly come in handy.” She gave Veor a confident smile, hoping he’d leave it at that. Of course, she didn’t have a wand that could put people to sleep. If he asked to see it she could just claim that she lost it or that she’d used all of its charges.
[OOC: You are right, Percy is younger. He is wearing a new disguise, dressed as an old peasant. He’s only using the Percy name because its how Mara would remember him.]

“Dear, Ah can’t say Ah approve of zis. Two husbands, adultery, betrayal, not painting a pretty picture here,” he says with fake judgement in his voice, “Ah just hope Ah don’t need to examine zis one.”

Tumult let’s out a sharp snort of laughter at the old man’s comment. It was strange though, he was led to believe Percy was a younger man. “Rara, you mind explaining. He claims to be Brother Percy, but I had expected someone different.”

“Someone younger perhaps? Certain events have made disguising myself necessary. No good deed goes unpunished, as zey say.”

[OOC: I hope you don’t mind Tumult giving Mara a pet name. I can’t think of any siblings I know who don’t have something like that.]
“The name is Ark.” he returns the man’s handshake, “Life, is a game. One full of money, deceit, betrayal, fortune or misfortune among many other things. I’m against the Imperials to the bitter end, but I don’t expect to be ordered around like a dog.”
The Vinici estate

(Grunur and Olaf)

”I’ve lived all of my life within and around the Domes, myself. It’s strange we haven’t met there, but then again, the city is almost as big as Andelia. says Olaf, before explaining the circumstances that conspired to bring him here. He does not mention the reasons for his departure from the Domes, however, thus ending his narration with the events at the Golden Eagle. He concludes: ”So I owe these rebels my life, especially to Jules. Until I pay my dept, my axe is theirs to direct. Tell me, Grunur, dwarf to dwarf: what do you think about these rebels?”


Caithas returns to the estate; he is allowed to enter without any questions from the rebel guards. His friend, Grunur, working frantically on the constructions, is the first of his companions that he encounters. Another dwarf is also helping him, and the two of them are chatting in a very friendly manner.

(Elana and Veor)

[OOC: Elana-Bluff check-success!]

”That’s really something special,” Veor remarks, ”I had always thought that only those trained in the Arts could use wands reliably…” Despite his comment, Veor does not seem suspicious of the noblewoman. Instead of questioning Elana further, he goes on: ”Verginious told me what happened at the Golden Eagle. He explained that you are not particularly good in using that crossbow of yours. But if your talents lie in the use of magical items, I may be of help yet. We are all in this together now, and I’d be a liar if I claimed that your life will not be put in danger. You’ll need to defend yourself, and I should be able to procure some wands for you, if that is your desire. Such items are rare, but I have a few contacts in the city that may be able to get hold of them.”

[OOC: Feel free to ask for one or more wands from Veor; you can even specify the spell. He may be able to get them for you, but you’ll still need to pay the gold.]

[OOC: I’ll get around to posting the Jules & Tumult part, but I have to leave home now.]
Grunur pauses, thinking.

Finally, he replies slowly, in dwarven.

“I think…I think they will fail. History is littered with failed rebellions against the crown and the ruling power. That is why we dwarves rarely participate; why die in the wars of humans and elves and the like? That is why I was taught and it’s sound…yet here I am. Why? Bah, foolish things like friendship, instinct…no facts, no logic. Me mother would be aghast, she would. A good education, a good family name, down the bloody hole. So I think it is madness…but I also think they’re right. I think they’re just. And I think I’ll die along side ’em.”

Caithas returned soon after, looking particularly pleased with himself, and called out in dwarven, “I see you’ve met my old friend, Olaf! The humans better be wary; us undesirables are taking over the damned place!”

“Tell me, gentlemen, what’d I miss?”

With Olaf listening on, all conversation remaining in Dwarven, Grunur fills Caithas in on Langbard’s arrival, Markus’s reaction, etc.
Ark and Carrinas

The soldier seems satisfied with Ark’s answer, although not entirely. He releases the assassin’s hand from his grasp, but goes on to challenge his words: ”So we are all dogs to you? Is this what you are saying?” The veteran looks at Ark threateningly, carefully scanning for any evidence that would suggest that the newcomer is not trustworthy.

The Osari house (Jules and Tumult)

[OOC: Sure, a nickname is acceptable, but that one sounds straight out of a lady Gaga song :-). Still, I guess she doesn’t have to like it.]

”Don’t call me that,” says Mara, still distracted, looking at her image in the mirror. ”We’re not children any more, how many times must I remind you?” Her tone is playful, indicating affection towards her sibling, rather than annoyance or bitterness. She only looks up at the two men when she finishes wearing the remaining earring. She has a hard time recognizing Jules, or rather Brother Percy, under the new disguise, but eventually she sees the faint resemblance. ”What’s wrong? You’re in some sort of trouble again, so you come running to me again?” She smiles with self-satisfaction, before expressing another possibility: ”…or is this some kind of elaborate prank that priests of Lineen like to play on poor, defenseless young women?”
“Well, Ah might be in trouble, but it has nothing to do with you. But to be on ze safe side, you might not want to use my name where any guards can hear. Zey may think Ah’m connected to some criminal activity in ze lower city.” The nobleman takes another glance at Mara’s mirror, “Ah’m sorry, did you have plans today?”
Tumult doesn’t bother talking to the priest, instead going about his business, still anxious about working with the Irregulars. However the mention of him being wanted for crimes in the lower city, does raise Tumult’s suspicions about the man. What sort of priest would be wanted by the city guards, and moreover, what sort of priest could get through the security between the upper and lower city?

[OOC: I’m working on Tumult’s intro, and in it I have him being approached by a member of the Irregulars. I know this was your idea for his connection to the group, so I think it’ll work. At this point he hasn’t actually done anything for them, but is still nervous about joining.]
“Nonsense. You’re twisting my words. I will not be used for meaningless things because I’m an outsider, or because you do not trust me. Not because I believe all of you are dogs following orders, we are men with a common goal. If anything, they, are dogs. Its just unfortunate that even dogs can have families.” Ark sighed, “If you feel like making an issue of this then I’ll be happy to return home and be done with this. If you don’t want my help you don’t need to have it.” Ark turned to leave, “Well then? I have business to attend to.”
Eva raises an eyebrow at the question to her question, “Just visiting another old friend, and indeed I’m aware that rebels are treated less than politely by the Empire. Which is why it’s interesting you’re in the same situation.”

((Also, holy wow this Pbp moves fast, once a day seems hardly enough! ))
(OOC: Really? I don’t consider this a “fast-moving” game. Vlad usually posts once a day; maybe twice at most. That seems to be true for everyone. It is a game that demands more than just a simple battle roll or one-or-two word answer, but a paragraph a day or so doesn’t seem like particularly fast to me. Some PbP games, including one I currently play in, moves much, much faster than this. I think of a post-a-day here as just about right )
[OOC: I try to keep a post rate of 1/day and stick to it. Unfortunately, I am unable to make more due to my schedule. Still, I’d love to get feedback on my approach to posting (pace, length of posts, style etc), but I think the general discussion thread is better suited for that.]

The Vinici estate

Olaf, Grunur and Caithas
Olaf grows grim as Grunur shares his pessimistic views. His silence indicates that, much like the armiger, he has also entertained such a bleak outlook, at least at times. But even if that is the case, he quickly tries to shift the discussion, suggesting that he does not want to consider such an outcome. ”Our kith and kin live under the mountains, thinking that if they stick their heads into their caves, history will pass by without affecting them. They are fools to believe so. Sooner or later, this shitstorm will hit everyone in Svorinn. I have already had the honor of witnessing Demerian hospitality from first hand.” He pauses to acknowledge that such opinions are not widely held amongst dwarves: “I know that I may sound like a traitor to our people, but I am simply speaking the truth here. Aye, we may all die here, that’s a possibility. But I’d rather die with an axe in my hand, than starve to death in some dungeon.”

When Caithas arrives, the dwarf quickly falls silent, letting Grunur do all the talking. When the two friends finish talking, it is already dusk, and Olaf states that whatever work there is to be done will have to wait for tomorrow. He enters the estate hall, leaving the half-elf and the dwarf free to do as they wish.

Ark and Carrinas
Carrinas attempts to push the assassin. ”You’re not going anywhere, lad.” he says, as he prepares to force Ark into a corner. At the same time, another veteran, who has been quietly listening to the conversation, interferes. ”Calm down, Sir.” he says, ”and please explain me what is going on.” Carrinas, clearly annoyed, nevertheless tries to comply, before explaining the situation to his brother-in-arms.

After a few minutes of intense arguing, the veteran eventually manages to calm down Carrinas. Markus’ right-hand man addresses Ark again, this time in a composed voice: ”Listen here, Ark. I really want to believe you, but try to look at things from my perspective. You march into the rebels’ headquarters, without knowing anyone, and with none of your friends vouching for you. And now you want to simply walk away, without providing any evidence that you are with us, only claims and assertions. You haven’t even given me your word of honor. What do you expect me to do? Just let you walk? Knowing that I might be compromising everything we have worked for? No. You are staying with us until I am convinced that you are to be trusted. Does this sound unfair to you?”

[OOC: You can try to role-play your way out of this; other PCs not engaged in conversations and currently in the estate are free to come and help Ark out.]

Eva and Alexandra
”…less than politely… Ha! That’s an understatement if I ever heard one. I am sure they will be moderately gentle when they are decorating their spikes with our heads.” Alexandra pauses, feeling that she has gone a bit too far with her morbid humor, before offering some excuse about her being here. ”Not that it’s any of your business, but I am here trying to prevent an imbecile from getting himself killed. Although that is proving to be a far more difficult task than I had anticipated. Maybe in the end he will have his way, the stubborn idiot, and also get ME killed in the process. And what of your friend? Is he also suicidal, or just plain old stupid?”

The Osari House (Jules, Tumult, Mara)

”No, you silly boy”, says Mara sarcastically, ”I went through all this trouble just for you. Alas, had I known that you are into wrinkles and grey hair, I might have chosen something different. So you are wanted by the law now? I guess it’s true what they say: no good deed stays unpunished. What did you do?” she asks, with curiosity evident in her big eyes.

[OOC: The Tumult idea looks great; feel free to go on with that story whenever you can.]
“Mara, if you’re alright with him, I’ve got to get to work.” The young man quickly strings a bow and throws on a chainmail shirt, covered by a tunic. A quiver full of arrows strapped to his back. He passes Jules and says his farewell in a single nod, never breaking eye contact, and strumming his bowstring once. The nobleman can’t tell if it was an honest warning or another part of this family’s twisted sense of humor.

“Ah’m not sure if word has reached ze upper city yet, but Ah was in ze lower city, staying in one of ze…” The sound of the door shutting causes Jules to pause and think for a moment. He hadn’t come here to lie to her. He was here so he could finally give being a decent person a shot. He scans the room before saying anything.

“Alright, Ah was in ze lower city, because Ah was helping some friends with something very important. We met up with some people, priests of some goddess or another, and zey helped us. And when Ah found out zat zem helping us might get zem killed, Ah convinced zem to leave ze temple and save zemselves. And zen zey went and gave my face to ze Legions.

“And now Ah’m back, and miserable, and Ah wanted to make sure you didn’t end up in danger because of me. Also having someone to talk to would be very nice right now.”
Caithas watches Olaf go inside, clearly distracted.

“Something I said?”

Grunur watched too and shook his head.

“No…something I did.”

Caithas leans against the estate wall, shovels set aside apparently.

“Really? Do tell. Seemed like a nice guy to me.”

Grunur nods.

“Good man. Optimistic. Shame I can’t see what he does.”

The dwarf turns to Caithas.

“Half-elf…friend, be honest. This fool’s errand you’ve got yourself, and now me, on…you cannot expect to win, can you? This rebellion? I don’t take it back, Caithas, but you know this is suicide for us both, don’t you? If my mother could see me now…good gods…”

The ranger nodded, but his eyes glassed over. He seemed to nod more at the wall than the dwarf.

“But she can’t. Look…will they – hells, we – win? Who knows? Probably not. Most folks don’t win, do they? But they’re on the right side, and that’s good enough for me. It’s too damn easy to pick the wrong side in this world…better to take the right path when you can, I say, even if it kills you.”

Grunur barked an unexpected laugh, rueful but honest.

“Gods…I wonder if all half-elves are like you, old friend…that Bastard of yours would get along just fine with The Hornbreaker, I’d say.”

Caithas smiled.

“One of a kind, sir. One of a kind. Come on, let’s go inside…I’d say we’ve earned a drink,” he says, pulling out a flask.

Grinning, Grunur follows…

(OOC: I’m hoping they enter as Ark and Carrinas talk, but I don’t want to assume too much. Let me know Vlad. If they do, Caithas and Grunur both will intervene if there’s trouble.)
The Vinici estate

Caithas and Grunur enter the main hall, under the ever-vigilant gazes of the veterans. Before having the opportunity to retire in one of the more secluded rooms, Caithas observes that Ark is caught up in some sort of argument with two of Markus’ men. He approaches, followed by his ever-faithful dwarf companion, interested to hear what this fuss is all about.

[OOC: Feel free to interfere on Ark’s behalf.]

The Osari house

As soon as her brother departs, Mara takes the opportunity to complain about his strange behavior: ”He’s been acting like that for almost a fortnight now. He offers no explanation, no nothing. He just leaves, always taking his bow and armor with him. Gods know what sort of trouble he’s gotten himself into. I just hope he didn’t turn criminal…”

[OOC: If Tumult already told Mara that he is working for the Irregulars, and explained his behavior, I am happy to edit accordingly. Let me know!]

When Jules finishes telling Mara his half-lie, she puts aside her sauciness, adopting a serious tone for the first time since Jules met her: ”Thanks for your concern, but I am fine. I don’t understand, though. What happened? How do you go from being beaten up by the guardsmen to being a wanted man in just a few days? What did you do? And how can I help? Other than the talking, I and my brother have neither wealth nor power, something I’m sure you have seen for yourself already.” she says, looking meaningfully at the messy room that she’s in.
Caithas eyes the argument between the two men, and by the looks of it, things were getting heated. He couldn’t remember the man’s name…Car…Car…well, Car something or other. Whatever it was, he looked ready to strike Ark if it came to that. Ark, for his part, looked more than willing to do the same.

“Hey now, hang on here. What’s happening here? I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding. This man here,” the half-elf says, jerking his thumb at Ark, “saved my life. I’d be worm-food right now instead of standing here if it weren’t for him. He’s fought on the side of the rebellion, bled for us and nearly died in the process. Whatever disagreement you boys are having, trust me, it’s not worth it. This little rebellion’s fragile enough as it is; if we start killing each other, we might as well call in the Guard and call it a day.”

Grunur, always a bit more tactful than his friend, adds in, “’Tis true. This man saved Caithas here and has fought against the Imperials since the moment I met him. I am sure an agreement can be reached here.”
The Vinici estate (Ark, Carrinas, Caithas and Grunur)

Carrinas pauses to eye the half-elf, who has impolitely barged into his conversation with Ark. He seems to trust the ranger more than Ark, although the same should not be said about the dwarf. Ignoring Ark altogether, he addresses Caithas, making his request-spoken in the tone of an order, perhaps?-plain for all who can hear it: “I want this friend of yours” (bending his neck at Ark’s direction) “to take an oath. I want to hear him promise, to everything he holds dear, to any gods he might believe in, to his ancestors and his family, that he will not betray us. Then, and only then, can he walk. I want to hear the words coming out of his mouth, or I’ll cut his tongue and feed it to the dogs. That will keep him silent.”

[OOC: Please forgive Carrinas’ behavior; he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder :-)]
[OOC: Tumult has not told Mara about working with the irregulars, since he still isn’t fully aware of what it is they want him to do.]

“Ah don’t want anything of yours, like Ah said, Ah just need someone to talk to.” Jules waits for a moment, starring at the ground before raising his head to meet Mara’s eyes again. “One of my friends died when we were getting into ze lower city. Not right away, but if we had acted faster or smarter he might still be alive. But ze problem isn’t zat he’s gone. He had his faith and he died for what he believed in, and Ah have plans to make sure his family is taken care of when zis whole thing is over.”

The nobleman thinks about Zaracas and his pale, lifeless body. He thinks about the official, and what he had planned for the man if he had been caught. “Ah don’t care zat zey are dead. Ah know Ah should feel guilt or sadness or something, but all Ah can say is zat it was necessary or zat it was only a minor setback. And Ah don’t want to think like zat anymore, but ever since Ah came to zis city zat is all Ah can think of.”
Eva gives a genuine chuckle, more levity than she’s had in days, “Aye, and perhaps my head will be unused to the heights at which it’ll be placed.”

She takes a moment to consider before deciding to trust the woman, “My friend’s the dwarf, and he’s doubtfully stupid, loyal to the point of suicide perhaps… Also a trait of yours? You seem to be intent on staying with your friend till the very end.”
“Cut his tongue out or no…the man deserves our respect. He helped us; likely, we’d all be dead, the whole lot of us. Me, everyone else on that miserable side of this cursed city. Dead. He saved us, with his blade and wits. Leave the man be, sir.”

Caithas swallowed. Few men had saved his life. Ark was one. Grunur was another. Beyond that? None since childhood…

“That said…ahhh…Mal – no, Ark – Ark there…I speak for him. Please, I’ve shed enough blood for this rebellion. I deserve this much for throwing my life into your cause like a maniac. Please, sir.”

Turning sideways to the man, he adds, “Though, Ark, if you want to swear an oath…it would make this much easier!”

Grunur is…speechless.
Elana heaved a sigh of relief after Veor had left with her order for a wand and the gold needed to buy it. For now, it seemed that he didn’t suspect her of being a spellflare.

She picked up on the argument brewing in the estate and approached to find her companions in a heated discussion with Carrinas. Elana eased in slowly to hear what was going on.

“Carrinas,” Elana said as she joined the discussion. “Ark here is a friend of ours and a firm opponent of the Imperials.” She used a calm, diffusing tone rather than a confrontational or admonishing one. “I’m sure this is all a misunderstanding. Ark was just stepping out for some air,” she said pointedly at Ark’s direction.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t leave the estate without a trusted escort, since Ark understands that he is still very new here.” She finished the last part looking at Ark again, delivering a none-too-subtle message.

[Diplomacy +9]
The Vinici estate

(Carrinas et al.)

[OOC: Elana-Diplomacy check-success!]

With Elana also rushing to Ark’s side, the argument is starting to become one-sided. Still, Carrinas, the stubborn old veteran, insists to hear Ark swear the oath for several minutes, before the combined efforts of Caithas, Elana, Grunur and his brother-in-arms manage to talk some sense into him. Clearly displeased, he nevertheless manages to control his aggression, helped by his fellow legionnaire, who reassures him that Ark is not a traitor.

[OOC: I still want to give Ark the chance to choose. Whether he decides to swear or not, he is free to go, but if he doesn’t swear the oath, Carrinas will always mistrust him. After Ark goes, Caithas and Elana will be close to each other for the first time after the execution; they are free to fight, if they want. I will move to chapter 2 (or interlude) as soon as Jules is back.]

(Eva and Alexandra)

Alexandra smiles at the “head to heights unused” comment, but she deflects the question immediately. ”Dying here is not part of my plan, but even the best plans are often known to go awry.” She does not say any more, switching the subject of the conversation to something entirely different. ”See that man over there? she says, shifting her eyes towards Carrinas direction, who seems to be having a very aggressive conversation with the rest of the group (that everyone in the hall can hear). ”Friendly piece of advice: Don’t piss him off. He is Markus’ bulldog; he wants to have everything related to the rebellion under his control. He is paranoid about everyone and everything, and you will confirm this for yourself sooner or later. I know I did. It’s best to agree with him and do whatever he says; it’ll save you a lot of trouble.”

”…Anyway, I am in charge of the so far inexistent healing facilities here at our glorious headquarters. When the war starts, there will be thousands of arrows flying and hundreds of blades cutting, and I will have the honor of treating the brave soldiers’ wounds, like any good housewife should. From lowly caltrop wounds to open bellies, I will have the pleasure of treating them all. Until I can convince Veor to return with me, that is. Or until he dies. Or I die. Or both. Or everyone here. Or… well, you get the point.”

The Osari house

Jules’ unexpected honesty both intrigues and confuses Mara. The lording hadn’t been entirely honest with the poor lass, but now his story was becoming less and less plausible. Nonetheless, Mara sees that the young man is in genuine distress. She asks to be excused briefly; she returns minutes thereafter, holding a bottle of wine and two glasses.

”Me and my brothers were saving this for a special occasion, but it looks like you need it more than any of us right now.” She looks at Jules inquisitively before pouring two glasses of the red wine. The liquid has a strong fruity taste and smell. ”Do you like it? she asks, ”it’s made from pomegranates. An ancient tradition amongst my people.” As both of them take a sip, Mara shifts the discussion back to Jules’ woes, trying to understand how he got in this mess to begin with: ”So, if I recall, you are a priest of sorts. Why would a priest want to overthrow the Demerians to begin with?”
(OOC: Oh good…Caithas gets a kick out of arguing with Elana )
“Zis is good wine,” the nobleman says, seeming to ignore her other questions for a moment. When he finally returns to the conversation he says, “Mara, Ah am not a priest. Ah haven’t shown my real face in public in nearly a week. Ah wear more makeup zan any three women Ah know, change voices like clothing, and at ze moment Ah’m making a list of all ze people Ah need to warn about mentioning brother Percy, which is becoming difficult, since Ah can’t quite remember everyone who knows me as brother Percy.”

He downs the glass of wine in a single gulp and exhales, “Zat is very good wine. My name is not Percy. My name is Jules, and if you’ve heard about ze incident during ze execution a few days ago, zen you know why Ah need to hide my face.” Whether from the wine or the sudden rush of honesty, Jules feels lightheaded. But as that feeling passes it is replaced by an internal sigh of pleasure, as if he has just unloaded a huge burden.

Elana thanked Carrinas for his understanding as the veteran growled and left. The polite and diplomatic Elana withered in an instant when she turned and faced Caithas. She fixed the half-elf with a stubborn look as she folded her arms across her chest. She didn’t say anything to Caithas, but took a moment to see if he would say anything to her.

[If Caithas chooses not to say anything, Elana will leave to some other corner of the estate, or will stay and talk to Ark if Caithas does the leaving.]
Ark shrugged, “If it’d make you comfortable, I swear against all that I cherish and own…” He pauses and looks at Carrinas, “Which isn’t much.” he continues while looking around at the rest of the group, “That I will do whatever I must against the Imperials, and that I D’ark Niece, am no traitor. To anyone.”

“I appreciate the two of you speaking on my behalf, and I’d be happy if either one of you were to accommodate Elana’s suggestion of an trusted escort while I attend to my business.”
Grunur walked away once the incident was resolved. He was sure that Ark wouldn’t be murdered. At least, not here and not today. That was something anyway.

The dwarf noticed the odd woman Eva then, still talking to another woman, a stranger, in the gathering area of the estate. He walks over to them.

“Ahh, I hope I’m not interrupting…I just wanted to say, finally and properly, thank you to you, Eva. You helped all of us back there when you didn’t need to. It showed true decency and honor.”

Caithas, though, stays right where he is and certainly doesn’t miss Elana’s withering look.

“Glad to do it, Ark. One good turn deserves another, and all that. And while I’d be happy to accompany you, I’ll give the noble lady here a chance to say yay or nay first. I figure it’s the least I can do. You see, she’s wildly upset with me, aren’t you Miss Savain?”

The half-elf’s voice is tinged with…well, it’s hard to tell. Sadness? Mockery? Simple honesty? Whatever it was, Caithas seemed to be keeping his dice uncharacteristically close to shadows, so to speak.

“You can hate me all you want, Elana. It’s your right and hells, maybe I deserve it. But just know that, when I opened that man’s throat onto your family’s floor here, I did it not for fun. Not for pleasure. Not even for petty revenge. I did it because he would have killed one or more of us eventually. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and likely one sooner rather than later. You are, without question, a wiser, kinder and better bred person than I’ll ever be, Miss Savain, but you are not, as of yet, a warrior or a soldier. You hate me for doing what you could not bring yourself to do. Someday, I hope you’ll forgive me for doing what was necessary.”
“I don’t hate you.” She said “hate” as though it were a minor overreaction. “I just think you’re an inconsiderate, patronizing narcissist that has confused mercy with weakness, and ideals with naivety.” Elana glanced over at Ark, and it seemed that her proprieties had stopped her from launching into a full diatribe.

“You two have fun in the city,” she concluded. “And try not to get stabbed,” she said looking at Caithas. “Gods know that people seem to gravitate towards that notion when you’re around them.”
Caithas bows low as Elana finishes.

“Fair enough, my lady. But someday your mercy will be sorely tested…and we shall see if your ideals hold.”

Turning to Ark, he muses,

“Inconsiderate, patronizing narcissist…hells, it could have been worse, I suppose. Ark, I’m all yours; as the highborn lady here suggested, let’s do our best not to get killed, yeah? So, where to?”
“My mercy is being tested,” Elana muttered as Caithas and Ark wandered off to do gods know what. She walked back into the estate. Jules had left in one of his elaborate disguises to do something, which left only Gruunur and Eva from their party that left lower Andelia.

Elana sighed, realizing that she was still stressed. She unpacked the book on magic that she had and flipped through the pages idly.
Ark shrugged and smirked, “I was hoping for more… nicer company. But I think you’ll do.” the assassin walked out of the estate with Caithas in tow. He wasn’t heading any place in particular, it was nice to know that the streets had been abandoned by the imperials, at least mostly. Ark was looking for Subaru, but where she was he couldn’t be certain. They were supposed to meet outside of the city, and with the gate being guarded… he could only hope she had made it in.

“So Caithas. Tell me, what were you doing in that arena in the first place?”
Caithas walked along with the man, who – to be fair – was still more stranger than friend, and peered up into the sky. Somehow, the half-elf didn’t think he’d ever get used to the view from this side of the world…

“I was there to try to gain information, or rather, to ingratiate myself to a corrupt noble family involved in the games. As you know, the leader of that little failed experiment on the other side of the city, Malcom…when he was captured and, I assume, killed, our whole plan was shot. Jules, Elana and I…the three of us were just there to do what we were told, but with Malcom’s loss, we were stuck. Of the three, I’m really the only one who’s decent in a fight, so when it came time to gain noble allies, I volunteered to be the one to try to get in good with the arena’s owners and operators. Of course, as you saw,” the ranger chuckled without mirth, “I wasn’t decent enough, it seems. But hell, that was just one more failure in a series of ‘em on that side of the river. If it hadn’t been for Grunur and you…even that little Eva, I suppose, along with Langbard and his men…Jules, Elana and I would have joined Malcom pretty fast, I’d wager.”

He walks on another moment before continuing.

“Ok then, how about you answer one? I’m out here running errands with you, and damned if I know what errand we’re running. What’re we looking for Ark?”


Eva takes the advice seriously, giving the man a thorough once-over with experienced eyes, “Always good to know the predators in a habitat. Either to avoid them or shoot them first…”

Finding that the topic has shifted yet again, she caught up and replied with cautious interest, “I suspect you’ll be kept impossibly busy, perhaps I can be of some use to you? I have reasonable experience with healing and certainly the men are too hungry for glory to assist in medicine. My commitments with the group might keep me busy but I won’t mind dropping by to help when I am able, if you will have me of course.”
Grunur waited a moment…cleared his throat…and then left Eva’s side. Clearly, she was terribly involved in her current conversation but still…well, she had been the one to seek him out, after all, Grunur thought somewhat with some affront. A simple ’you’re welcome’ would have sufficed, he huffed, but what can you do?

After being snubbed by the small woman, Grunur went back to see what Olaf was up to. Caithas was no where to be found; he seemed to have headed off with Ark somewhere. And since the dwarf certainly didn’t know many people in this place, Olaf was a natural gravitation point.
The Osari House
Mara carefully listens to Jules’ explanation. She recalls immediately that Timon, the man with the infection Jules had checked during his previous visit, might remember the lording as Brother Percy. She quickly reassures Jules: ”I am sure he has forgotten Brother Percy already. Timon may have a good heart, but I often think he is depriving some village of its idiot.”

As soon as Jules downs his glass, she refills it. Feeling that the alcohol is making the young man a bit more honest about himself and his intentions, she makes sure that his glass is always full, while at the same time bombarding him with questions. ”So, Jules,” she says, looking at the young lord meaningfully, ”what are you? You are no priest, and you are wanted by the law. What other lies have you told me?”

[OOC: Just to speed things up-Mara will ask the following questions if Jules answers truthfully. Let me know if I have to edit.]
”So why would a young noble willfully ally himself with rebels seeking to overthrow the colonists?
[OOC: And when a convincing explanation of Jules’ predicament is given…]
”Your secrets are safe with me. Thank you for sharing the truth with me. You can always count on me if you are ever in need of a safe haven… But my brother may return any minute now. He would not be happy to see you drunk here.”

The Vinici Estate

Ark and Caithas
[OOC: Backtracking…]
Carrinas’ concerns are almost instantaneously quelled as Ark takes the oath. While his behavior does not become friendly, he does not behave as an enemy either, which is a major improvement, considering that just minutes ago he was threatening to cut the assassin’s tongue. When Caithas agrees to act as the man’s escort, he nods in agreement. Before taking his leave, he offers a few words to Ark. He is too proud to issue an apology, so instead of that he says: ”You might not be a traitor, but you are not one of us either. Not yet, anyway. I will be watching you, Ark.” As he walks away, he stops by the entrance, which is guarded by two of the veterans. He quickly exchanges a few words with them, before retiring to the common room.

When Caithas and Ark exit the estate, the guards do not stop them. They find themselves in Upper Andelia, at least a couple of hours after the sun has gone down. There is no presence of Imperial Military in the streets; the two men are free to go almost wherever they wish.

[OOC: Matt, you can introduce Subaru if you want to; otherwise, let’s move on to the next day.]

Alexandra and Eva

”I wouldn’t try shooting Carrinas, even if I had the chance. I don’t want to end up like that poor sod who was decapitated earlier…"

Alexandra is about to reply to Eva’s request, when Grunur stops by to express his gratitude to the gnome. Perplexed by Eva’s lack of response, she nevertheless glosses over her reaction and returns to the issue at hand: ”Help is always welcome. I’ve had a few recruits assisting in preparing the inventory, but they are young, inexperienced and clumsy. If you are better than any of them, your help would be appreciated. Still, we are completely lacking even the most basic of supplies. Without bandages, disinfectants, tools and alcohol for the pain, I can only do that much.” She then switches back to Grunur’s brief visit, her curiosity getting the better of her: ”That was your “old friend” I presume? Are you holding a grudge against him?”

[OOC: If Eva has no more questions, and the rest of the PCs agree, I would suggest moving on to the next day.]
[OOC: I’m fine with those reveals the only thing Jules won’t mention is his marriage to Elana.]

“Of course, thank you for taking ze time to listen to me. Ah will show myself out. Please keep safe, Mara. Zis is going to get worse before it gets better, and good people will get caught in ze middle, Ah don’t want you to be one of zem.”

He downs the rest of his glass before leaving, and returns to the estate. [OOC: I’m not sure about the time he’ll be returning or what will being going on.] The lordling looks around for Caithas, hoping to have his friends accompany him to the meeting with the Irregulars. His own abilities being impaired at the moment.
[OOC: We can skip the meeting for tomorrow, I think it’s better that way.]
(OOC: I’m fine with moving on. Caithas will talk to Ark if he wants, though.)
[OOC: Having the meeting tomorrow is fine with me. It does seem like a lot has happened to our characters today.]
Moving the meeting til tomorrow is fine, I’ll introduce Subaru sometime ‘tomorrow,’ probably while ark isnt invited to the meeting

“I’d tell you what we’re looking for, but you wouldn’t believe me.” Ark laughed and kept moving.

[[If Caithas pushes the subject, Ark will tell him that they are looking for a wolf in armor.]]
“Fair enough,” he replies.

Caithas doesn’t push it. He just nods and keeps walking, enjoying the relative freedom of Upper Andelia.

(OOC: As a reminder, Jeff said he’d be away this weekend, so I imagine he wouldn’t mind moving on either, since Elana’s just reading a book at the moment. And Stridar, don’t think Grunur will forget Eva’s cruel cold shoulder! Haha.)
The Vinici Estate

[OOC: I think I missed the part where Grunur wanted to go find Olaf, but it’s too late for that now. Let’s assume he couldn’t find him.]

Failing to find what he seeks, Ark returns after a couple of hours at the estate, accompanied by Caithas. The two men find six guards on duty, all strategically dispersed along the two watchtowers and the mansion’s roof, with bows on the ready. They allow Caithas and Ark in, remaining watchful as the two companions enter the estate.

Inside, the two men quickly discover that the main hall has been turned into a common room during their absence. The soldiers and rebels are sleeping on bedrolls that have been laid on the floor. A pair of men remains awake, quietly discussing under the faint light of a few candles. They direct Ark and Caithas towards their companions. Much like the soldiers, Eva and Grunur are asleep, but Elana has chosen a remote corner, where she remains awake, reading her book under the dim light. She pays no attention to Caithas as he enters, and the half-elf decides to let the woman undisturbed.

Jules arrives even later, long past midnight, after having several glasses of wine with Mara. The exotic vintage wine proves more powerful than Jules had anticipated; although not entirely drunk, the young lord feels extremely light-headed, and often haves trouble remembering his way through the alleys of Upper Andelia. When he finally arrives at the estate, safe and without any mishaps, one of the rebels stares at him with obvious disapproval, but Jules is allowed in without any comments. He enters to find all of his companions sleeping amidst the rebels. Drunk and exhausted, he does not bother to prepare a bedroll or even remove his shoes. He collapses into a dreamless, blissful slumber within minutes.

End of Chapter One

Chapter 1-A war of attrition (Part 5)

The road not taken Svorinn