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    Default IC V Against the Current

    The letter is composed of a rich, thick parchment. Like the last one it bears the faintest whiff of magic, and is marked with a simple designation, Shiny.

    Our intelligence confirms your version of events, and that the giant's stone was not within the hoard upon your infiltration. While our previously agreed-upon payment has been rendered forfeit, and we allow no responsibility for your danger, we will provide some compensation for your effort, as a gesture of good will.

    It is our understanding that your party seeks to learn more about the orc-giant alliance, but that your attempts to glean information from the government have been unfruitful. Our influence within the Hulburg authorities is not as modest as yours. We have arranged an introduction with Asdyr, Hulburg Minister of Intelligence. If anyone can shed light on these mysteries, it is he.

    Welcome to the game.
    -R


    Shiny finishes reading the letter aloud one more time, before snapping his fingers. "I got it. I think R is an anagram- the letters in the the sender's real name rearranged. But what could it be..."

    Soon after reading the letter at breakfast, the party had agreed to meet with the Minister and see if he had information that could help plan their next move. All had agreed, that is, except Valen, who had acquired a distant look in his eye since his heroics at the outpost. As the party left the inn, he announced that he was heading to the barracks to register in the Hulburg army. The smile on his face told the party at the thought of all they needed to know, and they said their goodbyes for now.

    The party approaches City Hall, a tall, well-fortified structure that housed the core of the Hulburg government. The city's mood had improved since the victory at the outpost, but it had made no difference in the military presence within the city. Guards and archers peered suspiciously at them from every window and rampart, and only the letter of introduction in Shiny's satchel gives the party the confidence to continue in.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

    IC V Against the Current IC VI Stormy Seas.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "Shiny are you sure we can trust this R?" Mithril looked around nervously. She had spent most of the time since coming back locked in an study room in the Temple of Boccob.

    She had been researching spells and designing new wands and had only eaten because one of the priestess threatened to take her spellbook away if she didn't. Whiskers had stayed mostly silent, and Mithril was starting to wonder if he didn't miss Natalia as much as she did. She tried to distract herself from the thoughts by throwing herself into her studies, but as she carved symbols into wood she couldn't help but stroke the wrist sheath that had been gifted to her.
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    Quote Originally Posted by athedia View Post
    "Shiny are you sure we can trust this R?" Mithril looked around nervously. She had spent most of the time since coming back locked in an study room in the Temple of Boccob.
    Shiny claps Mithril on the back cheerfully. "Why, I would trust R as far as I could throw him! (That is, going under my working assumption that R is a round, aerodynamic pebble)."

    "In any case, I've heard rumors of this Minister from others in the city. It sounds like he's just the person to have the answers to our queries. However we got the introduction, meeting him can't hurt. (Unless, that is, this is a trap set by R, and the letter is a deliberate forgery, in which case we'll be locked up as spies and probably executed. I mean, that's what I would do in R's position)."
    Shiny doesn't seem to mind the possibility much, as he's mostly meditating on the solidarity he feels with this shadowy figure.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Mithril glanced down at her hands, stained with ink from the new spells she had learned. Whiskers lounged on her shoulder examining the sights. "Shiny, has anyone ever told you that you aren't the best at offering comfort?"
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    Quote Originally Posted by athedia View Post
    Mithril glanced down at her hands, stained with ink from the new spells she had learned. Whiskers lounged on her shoulder examining the sights. "Shiny, has anyone ever told you that you aren't the best at offering comfort?"
    Shiny looks back at her with a hurt expression. "Well, yes, actually. I was running a bed and breakfast outside of a large mining town, where a band of troubadors were staying the night. But the accommodations proved less than satisfactory for the musicians, and as they left I heard their jeering criticisms of the bumpy beds and the outdated outhouse. I specifically recall one murmuring, 'We should have stayed at the Sunset Tavern down the street, it's much more comfortable.' So I have been told I was not the best at providing comfort before, though it hardly seems worth it for you to rub it in. Anyway, I threw down my apron and feather duster right then, and that was the end of Shiny Goodhost, innkeeper and potionmaster."
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    The party approaches the entrance to City Hall, where the guards greet them with a cold stare. Shiny brandishes their invitation, and after a few minutes of inspection they're allowed to pass. R's favor seems to have granted them some substantial consideration- they're even allowed to keep their weapons on them, though one guard gives a long, suspicious look at Kurt's axe.

    The group is led down dry, sandstone steps. The grim architecture and atmosphere make it clear that this building's purpose is anything but ceremonial- they are approaching the nerve center of the city's government and of the Hulburg war machine.

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    Welcome back! I'd like to make sure achinca and Cavelcade have a chance to post in the new campaign before we meet the Minister.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Miriam returns to Hulburg with a heavy heart. Natalia is lost or gone and now Valen enlisted. The city was doing its business as usual and that chagrined Miriam as she thought about the soldiers who died defending the outpost.

    She spends the time helping the orphans and offering her healing services. She now knew the story about the mysterious R and did not trust the person. She was still mad at Shiny for accepting the mission and tricking her into believing he changes and then disappearing before the battle.

    Mithril has been busy with her study at the temple of Boccob and totally anti-social. May be she believed that Miriam was responsible for Natalia's fate.

    Kurt was doing his warrior stuff and she gave him space.

    The monk at Mary's had left and since digesting that young Calric had join old Calric, Mary had been distant.

    So Miriam felts very lonely. She missed her friends, the departed ones and the busy ones and was starting to worry she would be doing something stupid just not to be alone.

    Finally, when the word came that Shiny had arranged a meeting with the Minister of Intelligence, she jumped on the occasion to be reunited with her friends.
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    The group finally reaches the office of Asdyr, Hulburg Minister of Intelligence. The guard leans in for a moment, then turns and opens the heavy, gnarled door wider. "He will see you now."

    The Minister's office is small, almost cozy. From all that the travelers had heard of this master of secrets, they might have expected walls covered in maps and correspondence, a veritable hub of espionage and intrigue. But not a single scrap of paper or decoration hangs on the mahogany walls, save a single plain map of the Hulburg territory hanging without adornment in the back. Along the sides of the room, however, are a few large cabinets almost overflowing with parchment, and shelves filled with well-worn tomes. The paucity of visible plans in the room seems carefully calculated: it doesn't let visitors capture a single stray piece of information.

    At a desk sits Asdyr, a slender human in his sixties or seventies, with thin white hair. His hands and neck are thin and bony, giving the appearance of frailty, but his eyes are alert and piercing. He waits for the entire the party come in and close the door behind him, and does not say anything to welcome them. When he does speak, he gives the distinct impression of someone choosing his words very carefully.

    "I hear that you have some information, and I am told that I should listen, and I hear that you have some questions, and I am told that I should answer them." He stops speaking, and it slowly becomes clear he is waiting for a response.

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    In character terms, Shiny would normally be the first to speak, but as DM I'm going to rein back his involvement in conversations a bit so as not to overwhelm the group. I'd like to give anyone else a chance (except Natalia, who isn't in the room) a chance to start the conversation. (As a reminder, we're here to learn about the Orc-Giant alliance, the hooded one, his master, etc so we can decide where to go next).
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

    IC V Against the Current IC VI Stormy Seas.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "We recently have been involved in fighting the orcs and their new allies. Our only problem is, we haven't found any information about the leader, the Hooded One except that he may only be one step on a large chain of masterminds."
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    "Why do you refer to the leader of the orcs as 'The Hooded One'?"The Minister's face is blank, revealing neither surprise nor familiarity with the phrase.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "The only time we saw him, for the little time we did, he wore a hood. We could not get a reading of his face, even Na... even the person with the best eyes in the group never saw what he really looked like."
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    "So you've seen this figure that you call the Hooded One? How do you know he is the leader?" Asdyr's voice and manner gives every indication that he is cross-examining the party, as though looking for some reason they should be worth his time. But his eyes don't show contempt or skepticism- they show hunger. The party realizes he's seeking information from them in just the way that they are looking to learn from him.

    Shiny steps forward. "We have seen him. We first heard of him from orc prisoners we had captured in Linwood..." He proceeds to give a history of the party's journey so far- surprisingly, he keeps the story both truthful and concise.

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    I unfortunately don't have time for a long Shiny speech today- hope you'll accept the shortened summary!


    The Minister listens intently to Shiny's story. The account of the orc prisoners in Linwood elicits no visible reaction, nor do the story of giant encounters around Hulburg, nor even Shiny's recollection of the lieutenant rejecting Linwood's plea for help. Shiny continues to describe their dangerous encounter outside the caves, where the hooded figure had appeared mysteriously along with several giants, and still the minster's face seems impassive. Shiny, for his part, doesn't seem discouraged in the slightest- he's had tougher audiences.

    The Minister's reaction comes when Shiny starts describing their invasion of the the orc caves (having omitted the details of Alabaster's chambers). The moment Shiny mentions his idea to cast detect thoughts, the Minister's eyes widen- slightly, but unmistakably. When Shiny mentions what he heard- a second voice in Undercommon- the Minster's mouth curls into a satisfied smile. Shiny finishes his tale, but it seems like the Minister has heard what he needed to.

    Asdyr leans back in his chair. Despite his gaunt appearance, he now somehow gives the impression of a well-fed gourmet after a heavy meal. He takes a moment to peer at the party, as though deciding how to respond. When he does speak, he still seems to choose his words carefully, but towards a different purpose than before.

    "Your suspicion of a connection between the orcs and the giants is perceptive. Few in the Hulburg military have such wisdom- as is typical of soldiers, they see only the threat immediately in front of them. But the pattern is clear for those who look, and it extends well beyond orcs and giants. The threat, to Hulburg and to the continent, could not be greater."

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    Getting on a train- to be continued later.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

    IC V Against the Current IC VI Stormy Seas.

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    "We've been hearing reports of the one you call the Hooded One for some time- from the reports of soldiers and mercenaries who came across him in battle, to the confessions of prisoners. Where he goes, death and destruction follow. But the danger he poses individually is nothing next to that of the army he is building. Giants, orcs and ogres are the start, but we've learned of others he is bringing to his side." Asdyr stops, and it is apparent there are some secrets he does not intend to share.

    "My duty is to Hulburg, but this struggle extends far beyond its borders. We are not facing a band of angry giants- we are facing a coordinated invasion in a world war." He turns to Mithril. "You described the Hooded One as one step on a chain of masterminds. We don't know how long that chain is, we do think we know where the next link is."

    "Are you familiar with the continent of Eldgar?"

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    Whether your character has heard of Eldgar, and what they think of it, is up to you- they could easily know everything in the summary I previously posted, or have never heard of it.
    Last edited by Admiral; 2013-04-29 at 10:36 PM.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "I have, a little. The texts I have read only mentioned it in passing, they mostly focused on our lands. But isn't that across the ocean?" Mithril looked worried, she did hope to see her family again one day, whenever that may be and a journey so far away would make it hard to return or Boccob prevent, but if I die I will be buried there without my mother's knowledge.
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Kurt blinks a little at the name, a memory stirring of a spy who had been found in the mines of his home back when he was still learning how to hold his axe. He remembered being part of a group that had been planning to 'rough him up' - before their parents had found them and dragged them off, giving them a good talking to, explaining the...complications that might arise if they were to do so.

    Their trade was their lifeblood, nowadays, and Eldgar was a good trading party. He'd never been sure, but the way their eyes had shifted slightly when they at last mentioned the word 'spy', their hesitancy, he'd gotten the feeling that this was all...normal. Expected, everyday events. He'd gotten the impression that they might have had some of their own 'agents' over in Eldgar, though he'd never quite dared to raise the question. Honour was everything - but the spy was quietly put on a ship, perfectly unharmed.

    "Yes. Their ways are...very different to ours. They've been using it for, uh, years now, though, and they're very rich." He takes a deep breath before asking the question that's niggling at his mind. "Are we going to have to take a guild, ah, that is, if we're going there?"
    Avatar courtesy of CoffeeIncluded - of Kurt, from the Toes in the Water Knee Deep Against the current Stormy Seas campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    The irony comes in when we use "Orcs are a metaphor for human savagery" to rationalize human savagery.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Miriam is glad Mithril then Shiny take the lead in the discussion with the minister. She had realized over the last few days that she was preaching to much. She was judging her friends and criticizing their choices, as if having a vow of poverty made her superior.

    No the time for a more tolerant Miriam had come. She still could taste the bitterness of her loneliness over the last few days.

    So she listened in silence, taking it all in. When the minister asks her about Eldgar, she blanks. "I have never heard of it Sir."

    As Mithril indicates they have to cross an ocean, she freaks a little "This will mean I will never solve the Calric situation. And will never see Valen again. Or Mary. Or her cute monk friend."

    She forces herself to smile, putting her trust into St. Cuthbert.
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    Asdyr looks first to Mithril. "It's across an ocean. If you do choose to travel there, the journey can take as long as four weeks or as short as the blink of an eye." He turns to Kurt. "And yes, all who travel there for longer than a night would have to join a guild. I imagine you can explain to your companion." He gives a nod towards Miriam.

    "We don't know much about the Hooded One, but we know he comes from Eldgar, and we believe his master to be there. We don't know who in Eldgar is behind this invasion, though we suspect that one of the guilds may be involved, or protecting those who are. This information came at much cost and I do not part with it lightly, but your own reports have confirmed it more than you could know."

    "The war in our homeland will be long and difficult, and Hulburg has thousands of brave men to fight it. But it will not end unless it is cut off at the source. This is not a task for armies- an invasion of the Land of Guilds is not remotely an option. It may be a task for travelers like you."
    The Minister pauses for a moment, sizing up the party in front of him.

    "You should know, if you do travel to Eldgar, that you would not be our only agents there. We sent a party, merely a few days ago, to begin an investigation. If you commit to this path, I can tell you more."

    As the Minister lays out his information, it would be easy to miss the reaction of the gnome to the first mention of Eldgar. The blood drains from Shiny's face, and his hands tighten into fists- his eyes, normally so present, seem to be staring at a point many miles away. By the end of the Minister's speech, he has regained his composure, but stays silent.
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "Sir, with the guilds... are there still temples there? I do wish to keep Boccob happy if I am able, without joining as a priestess."
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "The Threadmyr Church is one of the most intricate and elaborate system of temples in the world. And those who join the guild are not considered priests or priestesses." Asdyr seems hardly interested in the matter.

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    Im interested to see which guild Mithril joins!
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    "Hm." That is Kurt's only response to the suggestion he explain things to his companions. He's pretty hazy on the details himself and explaining well has never been his strong suit.
    Avatar courtesy of CoffeeIncluded - of Kurt, from the Toes in the Water Knee Deep Against the current Stormy Seas campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    The irony comes in when we use "Orcs are a metaphor for human savagery" to rationalize human savagery.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Miriam looks very surprised. "A guild? I cannot join a guild? I am a servant of St. Cuthbert. I canot join a guild. How can I do that?"

    Miriam looks bewildered at the idea.
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    Asdyr sighs a bit wearily. While serving as travel agent is not in his job description, he appears resigned to cooperating with the party's requests. Whatever favor granted them this meeting seems to have some true power behind it.

    "Let me explain the details of Eldgar..."

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    He gives you an explanation that can be paraphrased as below- it's the same as on the earlier thread.

    Eldgar was once a democracy, the only one in a world dominated by monarchy, theocracy and feudalism. The continent thrived under this rule, especially the enormous city at its center, Providencia. However, factions within it soon accumulated great political and economic power, so great that its democratic government had little relevance to the continent's defense, to the rule of law, or indeed to the residents' lives.

    In the Collapse of 929, almost fifty years ago, the Eldgarian government finally dissolved. Shockingly, the collapse of the government was not followed by war, by anarchy, or by conquest. Instead, the same powerful factions that had usurped the government's power now absorbed its responsibilities. This has led to a society unlike any that this world or any other has ever seen before.

    Eldgar is now ruled equally by four Guilds, each a broad allegiance formed through a common interest. They have their names, but everyone knows them as The Church, The Firm, The Institute, and The Syndicate.

    The Church is a religious hierarchy that unifies the worshippers of every known deity into a single hierarchy. Its ranks of paladins, clerics and monks make up a network of soldiers and healers who promote The Church and its mission.

    The Firm developed from a continual accumulation of mergers and acquisitions between merchants and mercenaries alike, and now oversees a thousand services once provided by independent businessmen. It is responsible for most imports and exports from the continent, controls a system of farms and manufacturers, and even runs an efficient messenger system to anywhere in the continent. It also maintains a vast network of bounty hunters and mercenaries, and few who cross it can ever escape its reach. It an enormous, amoral bureaucracy devoted to one goal: profit.

    The Institute considers itself a university- it is devoted to education and the expansion of knowledge. It would be just as accurate, however, to call it a factory of Arcane magic. Its ranks are composed mostly of sorcerers, wizards and bards, devoted to mastering spellcasting and expanding the power and influence of the Institute. It is also devoted to crafting and selling powerful magical items, which are its main source of income.

    The Syndicate, also known as the Thieves' Guild, grew from a petty criminal organization to a ruthless cartel with a monopoly on theft, extortion, and assassination within the continent. It takes its monopoly very seriously- unauthorized criminals are likely to be hunted down by its most brutal enforcers. Despite its criminal origins, it holds a position equally legitimate to that of the other Guilds.

    These four Guilds share power in a most unusual way. Any resident of the continent must become a citizen of one of the four Guilds, and by swearing his allegiance he gets taken into that Guild's protection. Guild citizenship is denoted through a magically branded insignia on the back of the right hand. Each Guild's citizenship confers its own set of benefits and responsibilities, including its own taxes and rules. (Citizens of the Church can receive healing from any of their clerics posted across the continent. Syndicate citizens are protected against theft, but are required to give up a percentage of loot from anything they steal).

    Of course, nothing about this arrangement is simple. The Guilds often trade, deal and make contracts with each other, but they are also constantly scheming, sabotaging and vying for a greater share of power. Furthermore, the Guilds are far from omnipotent- the continent is large, and the farther from the city one goes the weaker their grasp becomes. Guilds thus often hire their own citizens for quests and oddjobs in the country, which range from recovery of stolen items to enforcement of Guild law.

    Think carefully on this matter, and then choose your allegiance.


    "So," the Minister finishes, "these organizations resemble our governments far more than our guilds. Membership in them is more akin to citizenship than to employment. And while their ways may seem unusual to you, cleric of St. Cuthbert, you would be more than able to following in the path of your deity were you to join the Church. Their clerics are said to be among the most devoted in the world."

    "If you have more questions about the guilds before you leave, you'd be better off asking a native. There's a tavern in the adventurer's quarter, the Crossroads: the owner, Sanderson, is an immigrant from the Land of Guilds. But I'll need your commitment now if I am to start the wheels turning."

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    It so happens that giving your commitment now moves things along a little faster. I'll generally go for pseudosandbox but this is one time I think you'll see why I deviated.
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "I hate to leave the continent of home and risk my life across the seas, but I give my service. I wish to know more about this Hooded One and his masters and get justice for a fallen friend."
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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Miriam looks totally unsure but nods "I guess it will be OK to join the Church."

    She looks at Mithril, Shiny and Kurt and thinks "Remember. Nothing really matters anymore to keep your friends alive. Well, they might not be real friends but they are good people. After all the mistakes you made, it is time for you to stay silent and follow."

    She repeats to the Minister "Yes Sir. I will go to where ever you think we need to go and will do what it takes to bring justice and order"
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    Asdyr nods at their agreement. "You won't be traveling by ship," he says, "as time is of the essence. We'll arrange for you to travel through magical means- you'll travel to the port city of Cardonne, and the journey will take you no more than the blink of an eye. You'll depart at dawn tomorrow- come to City Hall and you'll be brought to the mage's chambers."

    "We know little of the Hooded One's master, but we do have a suggestion of where on the continent to start your search. The southern plains of Eldgar, far from the capital city, are home to barbarian tribes: orcs and ogres who have sworn no allegiance to any guild. Given the Hooded One's allegiances on this continent, we believe that his master has formed an alliance with them."

    Asdyr stands up and steps over to a cabinet behind him. After a moment of ruffling through paper, he returns with an envelope. "You'll want to rendezvous with the previous party, to see what they have learned so far and to coordinate your efforts. You'll find their descriptions, along with the codes you'll need to earn their trust, in this envelope- they arrived in Eldgar two days ago, and are on their way to the frontier town of Marvell to begin their search of the southern plains. Their leader is a lieutenant by the name of Brander, and he is accompanied by Lucius, a skilled spy, Ezra, a powerful sorceress, and Calric, a cleric of St. Cuthbert."
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

    IC V Against the Current IC VI Stormy Seas.

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  26. - Top - End - #26
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    Athedia's Avatar

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Mithril had started to hold out her hand to take the envelope as he started talking, freezing as he reached Calric's name. Lowering her hand she turned to look at Miriam and try to gauge her reaction. How could this Calric be here again, and they think him good?
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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Miriam holds on to her quartestaff as she hears Calric name. She takes a deep breath and does not panic too much "Last time you freak about him and Shiny and Kurt died. Learn from your lessons."

    She swallows hard and asks the Minister "Sir, would you know by chance who this Calric is and what he looks like? Grey hair, about 60, blue eyes to get lost in, a priest of St. Cuthbert too?"

    She is visibly uncomfortable but her calm reaction is nicely welcome from her prior obsessive behavior.
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    I am playing Axara a Level 6 Cleric in FR-Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave
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    The Minister shakes his head. "You're thinking of someone else. He's a young man, 18 years old, with black hair, though he does have blue eyes." He takes a quick look in the envelope before handing it over. "That's right- Calric Jr. of the Cudgel."
    Thanks to CoffeeIncluded for the avatar of Shiny, from the Eldgar campaign:

    IC V Against the Current IC VI Stormy Seas.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    "I...yes, of course." Kurt shakes his head at the sudden departure. When the name Calric is mentioned, his eyes widen and go to Miriam; when it turns out to be Calric Jr. he relaxes a little, but puts a calloused hand on hers for a second.
    Avatar courtesy of CoffeeIncluded - of Kurt, from the Toes in the Water Knee Deep Against the current Stormy Seas campaign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Craft (Cheese) View Post
    The irony comes in when we use "Orcs are a metaphor for human savagery" to rationalize human savagery.

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    Default Re: IC V Against the Current

    Once again, Miriam's emotions are in a whirlwind as Calric is identified as the young one. "Of Course ..... Sir ...." is all she can say to the Minister until she feels Kurt's hand on her.

    She feels a lillte more grounded as she smiles, bows and takes two steps back. "I need to tell Mary but she is still so mad with me ...."
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