The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Crimson Throne's Curse [IC]

    It's a fine day, if you like the sun and don't mind the wind. It's coming in from the west, today, strengthening the already ever-present smell of the sea and keeping the weather mild despite the sun's warmth. The days have begun to shorten again, but are still long. Summer may be in retreat, but it's not beaten yet. Korvosa is busy as always this afternoon, as workers return to their tasks after lunch, nobles take the time to relax in their gardens and the market criers turn from proclaiming the "Best deals of the morning!" to "Best deals of the day!", as reliable as any clock for telling the time.

    From almost everywhere in the city, Castle Korvosa rises into visibility, elevated both by the hill upon which it and the rest of the city's powerful make their homes as well as by the Grand Mastaba upon which it itself was built. Clearly visible against the older backdrop is the most recent addition to the castle: a massive wooden platform, itself surrounded by a nest of scaffolding and dominated by a mechanism that rumors say will hold a gargantuan cannon, so large it had to be split into ten pieces for its voyage over the sea - lest it tear through the bottoms of the wooden ships carrying it, and sink forever. The buzz around the cannon is largely intertwined with that around the mercenaries arriving just around the time its construction began, the Powder Girls.

    But, despite how visible the construction project is, it remains an addition to the castle all see but only a handful will enter. A mark on the seat of power that surrounds the Crimson Throne of Korvosa, upon which the aging Eodred Arabasti sits. And, if the rumors are true, may soon hold another. After all, the whispers say, if the King were healthy, why has he not been appearing beside the Queen at public events? Why is Ileosa the one who presided over the most recent induction of recruits into the Sable Company - a ceremony that the monarch is meant to attend?

    Still, despite the various rumors that circulate the city, life remains stubbornly normal. The ships come in, the market stands are busy, and the people of Korvosa go about their days as they have for so long already. But perhaps this normalcy isn't as firm as it seems.

    Xen'vael

    The thug didn't know anything. As he dashes off, clearly worried about the threatening words of the past minute becoming reality, it seems like this has just been another dead end. It's as she turns that Xen sees it - sticking up between two cobblestones. A single Harrow card, it's clearly not been there for long; it's pristine, and sticking up in a way that either means it was jammed there purposefully or fell in an exceptionally lucky manner. Yet no others are nearby, and the roof above doesn't seem like it could be the source of such a fallen card either.

    On the side facing Xen is a description - The Big Sky - and a picture of a shining sun, rays falling down on a number of figures who reach up towards it, emerging from a pile of broken shackles and rusting chains. On the other side is a handwritten message in fluid writing. I know what Gaedren has done to you. He has wronged me as well. I have a lead on where he might dwell, yet I cannot strike at him. Come to my home at 3 Lancet Street this afternoon. Others like you will be there. Gaedren Lamm must face his fate, and justice must be done.

    A quick investigation into the address reveals that it's known to be the home of one Zellara, a Varisian fortune teller who does Harrow readings.

    Astaria

    A look, and she's gone. But as Astaria shifts, she can see the child stick her head out again, emerging from behind the barrel, in her peripheral vision. A bite, a moment to chew, and she seems to grow more confident in her stealth, stepping forwards...only for a renewed glance to send her back behind cover. It's unclear whether she really thinks she can sneak by Astaria, or is merely enjoying the bit of cat-and-mouse that's been going on for about as long as Astaria has been eating. As Astaria finishes, it catches her eye.

    A card, resting between two arrows in her quiver. A closer look reveals it to be a Harrow card, specifically The Cricket, depicting a finely-dressed cricket relaxing with a deck of cards, surrounded by fruits and treasures. On the other side is a handwritten message, the writing both artful and easily read. I know what Gaedren has done to you. He has wronged me as well. I have a lead on where he might dwell, yet I cannot strike at him. Come to my home at 3 Lancet Street this afternoon. Others like you will be there. Gaedren Lamm must face his fate, and justice must be done.

    Astaria recognizes the address: it's the home of a Varisian woman named Zellara. She's a fortune teller, specializing in Harrow readings and with various quirks that she and others attribute to her divination - rumors had said she often left notes for people who she shouldn't really know are coming, back before Astaria left.

    Katell

    Almost half an hour after she arrived, the matter seems settled. For real this time. Katell had turned the corner to find a brawl about to start, and through her intervention, not a single punch had been thrown. Though the explanations for the almost-fight were almost more confusing than one could think a simple street fight could be. Apparently, three - no, four, but one was married to the other's...brother? - families were involved in a lengthy, intertwined drama that sounded more like some hack's cheap story than a real series of events. If anything, the former explanation would allow for the holes in the story to make more sense.

    Despite everything, Katell seems to have finally brought the group to a calm, and it only takes one last stern, arms-crossed look from her for the ringleaders to shake hands.

    "Sorry 'fer callin' yer sister a Chel," one grumbles.

    "An' I'm sorry 'fer sayin' I'd dunk you into a fish barrel, leave ya in the sun for a week, and that you'd come out smelling better than before," the other replies. A few of the others snicker, but luckily no one takes enough offense to re-start the shouting and threatening, like they had the last two times.

    With a last look at one another, the two men nod, and turn away, leading their groups in opposite directions; while the leaders seem grumpy, several of the others thank the half-orc as they pass. It's as the last of them turns the corner that it happens. A card falls out from her armor, as if it had been lodged between the metal scales and just now come loose. It lands in front of Katell, face up, revealing that it's a Harrow card - The Paladin, as the text says, showing an armored figure raising a sword surrounded by blue light, face devoid of detail but surrounded by a halo. On the other side is a message, written in the kind of handwriting Katell generally sees reserved for the fancy reports, the ones that end up on Field Marshal Kroft's desk.

    I know what Gaedren has done to you. He has wronged me as well. I have a lead on where he might dwell, yet I cannot strike at him. Come to my home at 3 Lancet Street this afternoon. Others like you will be there. Gaedren Lamm must face his fate, and justice must be done.

    A quick investigation into the address reveals that it's known to be the home of one Zellara, a Varisian fortune teller who does Harrow readings.

    Kamorkas

    The woman nods at last. "Sounds good to me," she says. A few coins change hands, and it's done - in a few days' time, Kamorkas' mother will have a proper bed to sleep on. The entire thing had been lucky; he had caught wind of a local craftswoman eager for more work, who was reliable without being too expensive, from an overheard conversation somewhere in the crowd crossing one of the many bridges from Old Korvosa. And the wind had been helpful, letting him conduct the entire conversation downwind of the woman, avoiding any of the nose-wrinkling or rude comments that the smell on him would sometimes result in.

    Instead, as Kamorkas leaves, the woman calls out to him. "Hey! Something's stuck in your hair!" She says. And that's where it is - stuck in his hair like an arrow trapped in a plank of wood. A Harrow card, The Joke. The pristine card depicts a massive beast, covered in spines and easily three times the size of the men and women huddled in its shadow, rearing back in laughter before a grinning figure. On the other side is a finely-written message. I know what Gaedren has done to you. He has wronged me as well. I have a lead on where he might dwell, yet I cannot strike at him. Come to my home at 3 Lancet Street this afternoon. Others like you will be there. Gaedren Lamm must face his fate, and justice must be done.






    The sun hasn't moved much, staying high overhead. A singular cloud has moved in, just large enough to strafe the sun and provide a bit of shade to those hoping for a reprieve from the sunshine. The wind has died down, only to pick up again, carrying the city's various smells and conversations through the streets. This street, however, is largely free of both. Nestled in the diverse neighborhood of Pillar Hill in the Midlands, Lancet Street is quiet at this time of day, its inhabitants generally off working or inside, quietly working there. The noise of the markets is a distant murmur, and only the occasional hammering of what must be renovations nearby disturbs the quiet.

    The house belonging to the address is humble, but respectable - as far from the shacks upon the roofs of the Shingles as it is from the grandiose manors of the great noble houses. Thick curtains, adorned with Varisian art and made to resemble a number of scarves stitched together, block the windows, denying a look into the interior. The door, however, bears a secret that reveals itself to a closer look. Sticking out from the space between the door and the doorway is a folded-up piece of paper; withdrawing it reveals another note, written in the same hand as the message you received.

    Hello; thank you for coming. I shall return shortly, please feel free to step inside, have a seat, and refresh yourselves.

    The door, while not ajar, seems almost eager to open, silently sliding inwards if the handle is tested, clearly neither locked nor barred.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Crimson Throne's Curse [IC]

    Xen's reaction to the harrow card was a simple one.

    What?

    The thoughts that followed weren't much more complicated. She wanted to get to Lamm, she hadn't been having much luck, and somebody was offering a hint. Whether it was in good faith or not, she couldn't know. It was just as likely that this was a trap set by somebody who'd heard about her snooping around, but... She hadn't achieved anything yet. What would be the point? And could they contain her if they tried?

    Xen arrived at the location clad in a relatively discrete outfit for the Midlands. A simple pair of breeches and a tunic covered by a yellow cloak, one that helpfully hides her tail. She paces by the door a couple of times, shrugs to herself and goes to open it.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Katell "Kat" Blackwillow

    "Hey, hey, wait! Gah, never mind..."

    For a moment, Kat took the Harrow card as a parting jibe from one of the members of the exhausting feud, a pointed reminder not to get too puffed up, and her hands dropped to make sure all of her valuables were still where they should be.

    That is, until she flipped it over and read the small, elegant words, eyes going wide at what seemed to be the first real lead she'd had since she learned the rotten bastard's name in the first place.

    It could be a trick or a trap, of course. Only natural for her mind to jump that way. Too good to be true. Kat dismissed the negative thoughts. If someone meant her harm, the card tucked into her armor could just as easily have been a knife in the ribs. If it were a trap, they wouldn't point her to a nice little neighborhood in the Midlands.

    A quick consult of the big map on the wall at the barracks confirmed Lancet Street to be where she thought it was, and a fellow guard filled in part of the mystery. Zellara, a fortune-teller. A real one, apparently. Most of Kat's brushes with Harrowers were running off street-corner hucksters and the pickpockets that prowled their audiences. The Varisians seemed to hold the genuine article in much higher regard. Perhaps there was more than chance at work here. She set out for a long walk.

    --------------------------

    "Scuse me. Behind ye, ma'm! Sorry. Could you... I'm... MOVE!"

    That did it.

    Kat waded through the last of the market crowds and into the quiet of Lancet Street with a sigh of relief, leaning against a wall and wondering why in the nine hells she'd dragged armor, polearm and overstuffed pack halfway across town. Being large and clanking certainly hadn't cleared a path.

    She stood in the street and took a moment to look around the neighborhood. Pretty, but not stuck up. Sort of place she'd like to live one day. So used to Bridgefront and Old Dock, Kat's mark of quality was flowers in the windows. Luxury, that was.

    Seeing someone enter the shop down the street, Kat decided to follow suit. Brought up short by the note, she peered curiously through the door, offering what she hoped was a disarming smile, though it didn't fully mask her surprise. The person inside didn't look Varisian. "Well met? Don't mean to poke my nose where it don't belong, but are you Zellara? Or are, um, are you here for..." She held up the Harrow card questioningly.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Astaria looks at the card for a short while, surprised, her thoughts somewhere between amusement and concern. Initially she was suspicious, but after seeing the address, it clicks into place and she recognizes the calling card (or cards, as it were) of the old Harrower.

    The Cricket? Is this... Old Zellara's handiwork? Wow, this takes me back... Didn't she have a shop over on Eodred's Walk? Or was that someone else...? Ah, well, if she wanted me to visit a shop, that's where she'd have told me to go.

    Astaria tilts her head back into the sunlight and smiles at its warmth. As she stands and gathers her things, she slides a couple of copper pinches under the uneaten bit of her bread, and leaves the apple untouched, saying a silent prayer to Sarenrae as she begins to move, asking a blessing for the child as she makes her way to Lancet Street.

    ~

    Upon arriving at Number 3, Astaria takes a moment to dust off her traveling clothes and wipe off her boots before entering. After reading the note posted to the door, she enters quietly and blinks in surprise at the presence of the other two guests, noting the card in the hand of the still standing half-orc. However Astaria's expression quickly softens into a warm smile. "Ah, unexpected. I've been gone a while⁠—and I could very well be mistaken⁠—but I am reasonably certain neither of you are the resident, celebrated Varisian mystic." she says with a soft chuckle. She takes a seat, but rather than sitting in a chair or on a sofa, she kneels on a rug by a small table, leaning her bow, pack and quivers against the wall. "So what brings you to Zellara's? Me, I was brought by... The Cricket!" she cries dramatically as she throws her card down upon the table, quickly drawn from an inner pocket. Her manner is perhaps oddly playful and carefree, but as she finishes her expression shows that her interest in her fellow guests is genuine, her eyes curious and her smile is hopeful.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Today has been a good day. Buoyed by his fortuitous find of a willing worker, Kamorkas feels like the warmth and energy of the windy summer day that suffuse the city are his own to share with the world. Mam will be so happy. Gods know, she deserves it. He thanks the craftswoman with a sincere smile and makes to depart. Then...

    What's this? Hm... A card. The Joke. An enemy, a danger, which can only be overcome with guile and fast thinking. Nothing is just luck, ever... His other hand plunges into his pouch for a soft stroke of his furry companion's back, while he turns the card around. His eyes widen. Gaedren Lamm. The name sends a shiver down his spine. He had hoped to forget him, but the nightmares always came back. There is no question in his mind about answering this strange summons.

    Of course, nothing to do with luck. An interesting way to convey a message, rather. One last nod at the woman, and he's on his way. Lancet street, all right. His steps take him to the place, even as he pays no attention at all to the path he takes, like the streets just lined up in front of him in precisely the right order to bring him to his destination. On his way, the name of the person who lives there just pops in his mind. Zellara, yes, he's heard of her, she's a minor celebrity among the city's poor. Advice and predictions for all, especially the desperate. He'd never visited, though. Anytime he'd wished he could, he hadn't had anything to pay for her services.

    A note. He pauses in front of the door, looks at the house for a good long while. Enters. Looks like he's not first.

    "Good afternoon. I guess we're all here for a reason, the same one?" He takes the Harrow card out of his pocket, presents it openly. "Mind showing me yours?"

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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Going inside reveals what looks like a living room, stocked with furniture that is humble by the standards of the Midlands but still well above that which the poorer districts of the city will be accustomed to. A couch with room for three to sit comfortably rests on one side of a small round table which is surrounded by three chairs on the other side; the table itself is mostly covered. A cloth-covered basket, bottle of wine and four glasses rest on the table; the incense filling the room is held in what looks like a modified candleholder rising from the floor to about a human's shoulder. The way further into the home is blocked only by a curtain, similar to those at the windows; the wooden floor is partially covered by a faded rug, stars and various figures still visible despite its age.

    Pulling back the cloth on the basket reveals a number of bread rolls, still warm to the touch and exuding the typical smell of fresh baked goods, competing with the incense.
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    When Xen first entered the room, her first instinct was to find some way to cover the incense. The stink offended her nostrils, but there wasn't anything she could do about it without seriously infringing on her rights as a guest. So she finished her cursory look and took a seat on one of the chairs closest to, and with a good view of, the door, and put her feet up on the table.

    Then the first face she saw was that of the Korvosan Watch. Wonderful. The fact that she was huge doesn't help, although Xen has to admit that she was the most handsome half-orc Xen had ever seen.

    "I was invited," Xen said. And that's all she got the chance to say as the room suddenly became much more full. A woman who seemed to have silver in her veins making a drama of herself at the table and a man who looked like she did on her worst days. And all of them with a Harrow card, just like she had. She was just about to share hers when the man requested she do it, and her hand paused before she'd even started. "What for?" She'd be damned if she was sharing a reading of her fate with any old jack.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Katell quickly evacuates the doorframe when it's clear she's not alone, and settles in on a corner of the couch. The chairs looked a little spindly, and she didn't want Zellara to return to matchwood.

    Immediately grabbing a roll when they were revealed, she gnawed on it while trying to take the measure of her fellow invitees. One wary, one playful, and one direct. One bright, one ragged, and one trying and failing to be inconspicuous in a way Kat was sympathetically familiar with. All, if looks and a handful of words were anything to go on, cut from a rather different cloth than most. So what in the world was she doing here?

    She couldn't help but laugh at the silver woman's exuberance, though, and laid her card on the table, both literally and metaphorically. "The Paladin brought me, then! Appeared from thin air, he did." She announced between mouthfuls. Never turn down free food. A lesson practically burned into her brain. She wasn't normally one to turn down free wine, either, but this seemed a time to be clear-eyed if ever there was one. "Name's Katell. Kat, if you like! Pleasure. Wish the reason was happier."

    Misunderstanding Xen's words, Kat sobered quickly, and elected to breach the painful reason behind the cards. "Gaedren Lamm kidnapped someone very dear to me, my little girl. I'm going to get her back." A flat statement of fact, as though she were talking about the weather, doing a very poor job of disguising the emotion coiled up taut behind it. "I'm no investigator, though. All this, you, is the first proper lead I've gotten, and someone else dropped it in my lap like magic. Hope it's the real thing."

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    Kamorkas's brown, shifty eyes survey the room quickly, noting the closest way out, more out of habit than real concern. He takes a step towards the table, lays down his Harrow card next to the others, and proceeds to pour himself a glass of wine. It's freely offered, and he isn't one to let that kind of gift pass without enjoying it for all it's worth. Even more so, the fresh bread, he takes a bite of that right away. The strong smell of incense spoils the earthy, pleasant taste of the food and drink, but he barely notices. He can remember having meals in much worse conditions. But when Katell mentions Lamm, he winces. He had tried to forget the man. Failed. Now... This. This needs to come to a head, no use denying it.

    Glass in hand, he turns to the ashen-faced woman. "Because they tell us things. "Others like you will be there", is one of them things. On mine, at least. If you're like me, then I'm interested to see what the card tells you." He looks at the Paladin, face up on the table. "This one here. A warrior of virtue, valor, strength." He looks up, to the massively built half-orc woman. "Looks like you got one of those. The card tells me to trust that you have the others. So that's good to know, see? Name's Kamorkas, by the way. Well met, like they say in the fancy dinners." His bite tears a large chunk of bread off, and maybe Katell can get a whiff of a slightly musky smell? It's hard to be sure in this fragrant atmosphere.

    He fingers the other card, and considers its owner, this one a smiling woman with striking features. "And now we have the Cricket. Speedy as the grig, a traveler, with a reward at the end? Looks like a promise of success?"
    Last edited by Gwynfrid; 2019-06-21 at 03:22 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Astaria smiles and nods politely in welcome to the newest guest, who she notes is, clearly, also not their hostess. She listens patiently, considering, before responding in a more serious manner than before.
    "I would hazard a guess that our hostess is saying something different with our cards. For instance, though I am not especially familiar with the meaning of each individual card, I think she may simply be identifying us using their relation to the deck as a whole. My card for example is a Key, indicating swiftness and agility, which is accurate. The Key is also in the upper middle portion of the card, indicating a penchant for Good, which as a servant of Sarenrae, is also accurate." She pauses for a moment, and she grows more serious still "But regardless of what the cards faces may represent to each of us individually, I am inclined to believe that the more important message lies on the back." She flips her card on the table so that the script is plainly visible, having noticed similar writing on the backs of the other presented cards. She glances at the others, seeming to hesitate for a moment before she slides her left sleeve back, revealing faint but unmistakable scarring along her forearm, and she seems to gaze off into the distance.

    "I grew up an Empty. Resisted becoming one of Lamm's Lambs as long as I could... but it was inevitable. My gang was too small. Then one night, he found I'd been hiding something, and beat me so bad that it took me hours to crawl out of that alley. So I smuggled myself away. Into the countryside and to the mountains. It's been... almost a decade since I left. Apparently Gaedren is still doing his horrible, wretched thing." She pauses and gives a small, pained but understanding smile to the ashen guest in the yellow cloak. "I grew up on these streets. Well, not these streets. Old Korvosa, Bridgefront mostly. I know what it means to trust strangers. You don't have to trust us until we've earned it."

    She reaches into her cloak and touches something, for comfort maybe, before shaking her head and laughing again. "Oh, dear. Where are my manners? It's lovely to meet you Kat, Kamorkas. My name is Astaria. You all can call me Ari. Or Aria. Or Stari. Or whatever, I've heard pretty much all of them and I'll respond to most of them."

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    Colossus in the Playground
     
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    At Kat's words, two rival emotions rise in Xen's gut. On the one hand, this woman has apparently lost her child, and a little girl, no less.Just like she had been. The kind of fear she must be going through, the terrors that little girl must be facing... But then, the woman is a member of a district's watch. And that's what heads the other emotion, the fact that she's wearing that uniform, that she's tall and strong and attractive, and that brings back fresher memories. The ones that bring the rage that drown the pain.

    So Xen purses her lips and says nothing.

    Kam's words get through to her. She doesn't want to share her card, still, but if these people were going to ambush her, they'd have done it already. And who was to say the cards were assigned to them individually? They could just be a vessel for the notes. There are people who practice throwing cards, especially Varisians, or so she's heard, and they're cheaper than throwing daggers on a whim.

    Her first instinct is to toss the card onto the table, but it is someone's property, and it is a Harrow card. So Xen leans forward and gently places The Big Sky on the food-covered table.

    Aria's story is another anchor to the past, but one she doesn't know what to make of. Of course there were other Lambs, she already knew that, but could she really trust someone who shared something so tragic so easily? She knows that she wouldn't, not within ten seconds of meeting these strangers. But that's most of them with a connection to Lamm, and that has to mean something.

    "My name ix Xen'vael," Xen says softly.

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    A few moments after the last card is revealed, and Xen'vael introduces herself, footsteps come from outside, and the door opens again. This time, a middle-aged Varisian woman appears, smiling as she sees the group. "I see you have all arrived," she says. "Welcome to my home. I am Zellara - the one who contacted you."


    She steps inside, drawing a deck from her side; even as she steps over to one of the empty chairs, the cards are already in motion, moving between her hands with an ease that must have taken years to reach. Zellara sits down, nodding to any still standing and the remaining empty seats; the basket and glasses she begins to set aside, clearing a space on the table. "I hope the unusual method I chose did not cause trouble. I would have reached out more conventionally, but..." she frowns. "I have already had a taste of what Gaedren can do to those who are not careful. My son Eran was murdered, after he returned this to me from his thieves."

    Zellara sets the deck on the table. "The deck is my livelihood. An heirloom, passed down for generations," she stares at it intensely, before looking up again. "It wasn't worth it. But at the very least, it can help us do what the Korvosan Guard and the Little Watch can't, and ensure he will no longer escape justice. With our connection to the deck and Gaedren's crimes, I can perform a Harrow reading that will lead us to his lair," she explains, a hand on the deck, ready to pull a card from the top. "Tell me your names, and we can begin."
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Kat gently passes her message-card back to Zellara, looking pained at her story. "Confusion, but no trouble. I'm sorry to hear about your son."

    "My name's Katell, or Kat. Blackwillow, if that matters?" The big guard can't hide her curiosity, leaning in closer with wide eyes. She'd never had her fortune told by a genuine seer, and certainly never brushed up against anyone who could divine where someone was by reading the cards. "How did you contact us without already knowing our names?"

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    "Xen'vael. Are Harrows capable of that?" Xen asks. She's more than familiar with Harrows and those who use them, and not once has she heard of them being used to guide people anywhere but spiritually.

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    Astaria nods as she listens to Kellara tell of Eran, her expression dark and subdued.
    The harrow deck itself must be important, possibly even powerful if Gaedren orchestrated its theft. Or perhaps it was a lucky, coincidental steal by a pickpocket. Perhaps the power lay in the Harrower, rather than the cards. Whatever the case, the deck clearly has immense personal value, and it would likely be rude to pry.
    "I am deeply sorry for your loss, Lady Kellara. My name is Astaria Lightsong, and I offer what aid I can, to prevent others from further suffering at Gaedren's hand."

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    As he sips his wine, Kamorkas responds to Astaria. "Both sides of the card matter, but in different ways. On one side, we all got the same message. On the other, something that fits each one of us. Here, see? The Big Sky, freedom, getting rid of chains..." He looks at Xen, intently. "Lamm enslaved many..."

    Then, Zellara enters, and is immediately all business. Kamorkas likes that. Of course, she too has a reason to want vengeance against Lamm. He looks at her. "I had tried to forget what he did to me. I thought his stench couldn't be cleaned off this city, that he's always win. But then, I got help now, I can fight back, no longer just a victim. And your cards... they're an instrument of hope. If it can be done without what they call law, order, king, justice and all those names, all the better.

    My name is Kamorakas Demoren. I'm with you.. Losing a son is a terrible thing, and all of us here have lost a lot at Gaedren's hands...

    Thanks for the food, by the way. Delicious."
    He helps himself to a second roll.
    Last edited by Gwynfrid; 2019-06-23 at 05:59 PM.

  17. - Top - End - #17
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    Zellara smiles at Kat and Xen's questions. "To be honest, it would be inaccurate to say I contacted you specifically," she says. "I found the connection we have due to our mutual antagonism towards Gaedren, and let the cards do the rest. Similarly," the Varisian woman nods at Xen, "I can use this same connection to draw more from a Harrow reading than would normally be possible. It will also be an opportunity for the traditional benefits of a prophetic glimpse of the future, and advantage I believe we would best utilize."

    As she speaks, Zellara picks up the deck again, shuffling it almost absentmindedly before taking it in one hand, holding the deck out. "This is the Choosing - each of you, please draw one card from the deck, then lay it out on the table face up," she says. Once the cards are chosen and revealed, she looks at each in turn, nodding before she sits back.

    "All of these are of the Keys suite, an omen in of itself," she comments. "Keep your wits about you. We must be flexible to overcome the challenges before us..." she looks to the cards on the table one-by-one. "Xen'vael and the Avalance - unrelenting disaster. As a first draw, particularly ominous. A danger greater than we expect, perhaps." Zellara pauses a moment before moving onto the next card. "Astaria, the Crows. Traditionally, the loss of a loved one...or a treasured possession. Remain watchful," she looks her in the eye for a moment before nodding, moving on. "Kamorkas, with the Rabbit Prince. The capricious nature of combat. Were it not already certain, this would be an omen of coming violence, fate in the balance of a single miss-step or fortunate strike." Zellara nods, then continues. "Ah, Katell - the Dance. Far less grim. A promise of good fortune, as long as one remains in harmony."

    Zellara collects the cards again, shuffling them into the deck. With one hand she draws nine cards, setting each on the table face-down, in a three-by-three grid. "This is what is often called 'the Spread'," she explains as she places the cards."Typically, each column represents a time - past, present, and future," she says, slowly passing her hand over the three cards of the first column. "However, I will be using these to guide us to Gaedren and his demise. For the moment, the present."

    With a shift of her hand, Zellara turns over the first card of the second column, uncovering each in turn. "The Betrayal - selfishness will lead to ruin. The Tangled Briar, the return of old triumphs - and the Juggler, favored by fate. Fortuitous opportunity presents itself, a chance to regain what was lost or could have been...but only if we remain together," Zellara smiles, and nods towards Kat. "In harmony."

    Without more than a brief pause, Zellara moves to the third column. "The Liar; love at its most treacherous. The Rakshasa, domination both mundane and magical...and the Lost, the stripping away of identity itself. A dark trio," she frowns. "Before us lies a great treachery, deceit that threatens to lure us into prisons mental and physical, only to wipe away that which makes us who we are."

    Zellara uncovers the first column, though she names each card before turning it over. "The Uprising. A tide of support from the many. The Theater, and the Marriage. Gaedren hides behind a union of falsehoods, roles on a stage - an act to draw up the support of the people," she looks up again. "Perhaps this is the deception the future holds. To pull aside the curtain and pass behind the stage, we must uproot the production and the shielding falsehood it bears. The first step to his end will be taken in the old fishery at the western edge of Old Korvosa, in the shadow of the old wall."
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  18. - Top - End - #18
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    Astaria tried to take in Zellara's explanation; she'd heard the basics before, but this seemed... more. Much more, and in ways she didn't understand.

    She wonders about the other guests, and the portents revealed in their cards, but her own is by far the strangest to her. She closes her eyes for a moment in contemplation. The loss of a loved one? Or a treasured possession? I don't think I understand, as I believe I have neither. Without thinking she places a hand on her holy symbol. Well, I suppose there is this, but even its value to me is mostly symbolic — lost and found, broken and restored. I don't know why, but this Choosing... it fills me with dread. Perhaps even yet I do not know the value of what I stand to lose...

    Enough. Gaedren has darkened your heart enough. The prospect of his influence being cleansed from this city should be no cause for further darkness. Look towards the Light.


    Her eyes open and a smile begins to form at the corners of her mouth. "The old fishery? The old wall. Old Korvosa. Sounds like the perfect start for a new beginning, out from under Gaedren's shadow." She turns and politely inclines her head towards Kat, and gestures at her uniform "I feel it may prudent to inquire, Lady Kat, for as from what you have said you have more than enough reason to seek Gaedren. If you don't mind, I am curious though as to what extent would you be participating as a private citizen, and to what extent as a member of your guard?" She reaches out for a small roll of bread as she speaks, her eyes oddly mischievous.

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    Well, clear as anything that I've never arrested a proper seer in all those market raids. That was something else. Zellara's explanations made Kat's head swim, but she let out an audible sigh of relief when her own card came up. What she'd consider good fortune in this adventure was obvious. The Spread's mix of warnings and dark tidings was more confusing, not least the final reveal of where the next step took them, a building she could hit from her roof with a rock if the Shingles weren't in the way.

    Kat considers Astaria's question with a grimace. "Just Kat. I ain't Lady of anything." She rubs the back of her head. "Ah well, until this moment, I hadn't thought Lamm or anything tied to him was in Old Korvosa. I'm just here as me. Wearin' the uniform because that's what I had on when the card found me. If the rules and regs and 'justice' can help us-" Kamorakas earns a curious glance. How had something so pure and vital to Sarenae ended up on his list of bad things with the rest of Korvosa's grinding teeth? "-Then I'll use 'em, but this is personal."

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    Xen sits through Zellara's harrow-reading with a mixture of awe and utter bafflement. This is nothing like the Harrow readings she used to get, in that it's long-winded and filled with apparent non-sequiturs and a whole lot of stuff she's just not able to parse. It's not that she doubts the woman's prowess, necessarily... But she certainly lacks in the communication department.

    "I'm ready to leave whenever," Xen offers. Of course they'll need a plan, they'll need to know if they can even work together, they'll need... An objective? They were meant to do something, but surely Zellara would have mentioned something if she knew what it was.

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    Zellara nods at the responses. "I will be awaiting you," she says. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to assist you there - I lack the abilities to be of aid in the sort of confrontation I imagine will take place."

    If there are no further questions, Zellara rises, bringing you to the door which swings open with the same ease as before and a final offer to take any last bread rolls remaining. "You will need your strength," the Varisian woman says.

    Back on the streets, Korvosa is much as it was. Perhaps a touch more lively, but that's to be expected as the final stragglers finish their lunch and return to work. The way from the Midlands to Old Korvosa is simple; a single street brings you all most of the way without a need to turn or curve or do any other maneuvers. The street is even a bit clearer than normal, with none of the usual slowdowns resulting from a merchant cart needing to turn unexpectedly or any of the various events that cause the Korvosan Guard to either march a troop through the street or corridor off an area. The sun dips behind one of the few visible clouds as you cross onto the island of Old Korvosa; it emerges as you turn to head towards the fishery, but shadow dominates the street as the Shingles block much of the sun's light - the primary culprit being not the ramshackle homes themselves, but the laundry hung up to dry between them, a series of simple blouses and shirts and pants fluttering above, too high up to worry about the wandering hands of the pedestrians below.

    The final approach to the old fishery leads into the light again; a pair of single-floor, stout buildings rest at the edge of the water, hunched over the drop (roughly 15 feet) from the land down to the Jeggare below. Each is in disrepair and bearing weather-worn notices from the Korvosan Guard and Old Korvosan Watch declaring that they are to be kept clear.The closest is in the worst condition, its roof collapsed and walls blackened by fire, but the one further along seems to be in a better state, if one didn't mind the occasional leak during rain. It's clearly the building referred to with 'old fishery'.

    The old fishery is marked by a rather dangerous-looking pier leading to the decaying remnants of a ship, though calling it that may be insulting to any owners of actual ships in earshot. On the side closer to you, it also has a loading ramp that extends to the street, seemingly where barrels would be rolled into and out of the building during its time as a fishery. In fact, some barrels remain, resting near the double doors to the building, marked with a symbol that could be called a fish, if one were to lower their standards to a level normally reserved for children. The windows are boarded up, but with gaps between the boards that imply a desire to save on a board or two where one could.

    Spoiler: Kat, Kamorkas
    Show
    You know that the second building was a fishery until its owner died - a successful fisherman-turned-merchant who owned the other building as well, using it for storage and as a home for some years. After the owner's death, a legal dispute began between the Church of Pharasma and a young woman living in Magnimar. Apparently, the young woman was the daughter of the owner's heir (who had died shortly before the owner), entitling her to the property. The Church of Pharasma contested the inheritance, and since then both buildings have been in a strange sort of limbo.

    Roughly half a year ago, the storage/residence building caught fire; while the flames were put out quickly, it was decided that leaving them unattended for an unknown period of time (the longest legal battle of this nature is 78 years and counting) was too much of a risk. A two-person "joint custodianship" was established, and the building has since been home to a series of renters of dubious character, including one who seems to have brought the fishery back into business about three months back.


    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    I'm assuming you're keeping distance from the old fishery and observing for the moment, so don't worry about being in the open right next to it - but also keep in mind that you'll be going through empty street and such to get there.
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  22. - Top - End - #22
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    Without further prompting, Kat gathers the offered rolls, and offers them in turn to her new companions. Any untaken are devoured on the walk to the fishery. "Thank you for everything, Zellara. I hope we come back with good news." She offers the fortune-teller an uncertain bow, gathers her gear, and follows the others down the familiar road to Old Korvosa.

    On arrival, Kat shakes her head at the rotting state of things. Only gotten worse since she'd been out this way last. She wasn't sure what was keeping the ship afloat at this point. Magic? Spite? "Place used to be proper and legitimate. Fella who owned it died. Lass from Magnimar, if I'm rememberin' right, claimed it was hers, heir of his heir, who was already dead. Pharasmins didn't buy that. Got all tied up the courts 'till that happened." She points a thumb at the fishery's charred neighbor. "I hate fire-fightin' duty. Breaks your back, and the very best you can hope for is 'not as bad as we feared.' Anyhow, they settled up some sort of overseeing, and it's had a few renters since then, none of 'em what you'd call good citizens. Last one's been here three months or so, I think? Tryin' t'make it a fishery again. Lost cause, that. Don't know much else. Never been inside."

    Kat frowns, obviously looking to the others for guidance. "So, we got a plan? From the way Zellara was talking, sounds like this place is a front of some sort, which doesn't surprise me a bit. I'm not much for sneaking, but I can put on the guard hat and do an 'inspection' with the best of 'em. Grumpy checkmarks and lots of shaking my head. Excuse to get in close, see if it's as shut tight as it looks? Dunno. I'm all ears if someone's got ideas."

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    Xen leaves the house without taking any of the offered rolls. She's too confused by the whole affair to be certain of so much as a thank you. Perhaps if the information turns out to be true...

    "I think... The barrels." Xen muses aloud. "They're always coming in and out. Could be anything in them."

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    An omen of coming violence. Kamorkas suddenly realizes the meaning of what the group is setting out to do. Life in the Shingles being never far away from the threat of violence, he's no stranger to it, but more so on the receiving end than as a willing participant. His way of dealing with it has always been flight, or, as best he could, using his wit to negotiate a way out. But this is different. The question now, bringing the fight back to Lamm, just as he said a moment ago. Was I serious? Can I handle it? He looks at his new acquaintances. He knows virtually nothing of these women...

    A guard, big muscle, big weapon. Reassuring. She seems prepared to deal with this without calling on her bosses - good, because that would be a deal-breaker. The slim one, strangely smiling at the prospect. Some outsider blood in her, that often comes with talent. She says she grew up here. She looks like that was a long time ago. Hopefully, she learnt to use that bow. And then... the grey-skinned one, the most mysterious of the lot. Outsider blood also, for sure, but of a different kind? No apparent weapons, but that doesn't seem to bother her.

    Now... Astaria asked the right question - Can they be trusted? I'll have to just take a chance on that.

    On the way to Old Korvosa, he asks two questions.

    "Astaria, if I may ask... Why did you come back? If you managed to escape, why not leave it all behind?"

    "Er... Kat, right? Kat." He hesitates a little, addressing the large half-orc. "You said this is personal... Does that mean no report to your superiors, whatever may happen?"

    Finally, the group arrives in view of the old fishery. Kamorkas has heard of he dispute, and the fire as recounted by Kat. He nods. "Right you are. Maybe I can figure out some more? Just a minute..." He walks to a nearby wall, grabs a little piece of a flaking brick. He closes his eyes, mumbling something indistinct, while his hand plunges under his fraying cloak, as if stroking something underneath.

    Spoiler
    Show
    Casting ears of the city. This lasts 2 rounds, during which he can make 2 Perception checks to gather information as if he had spent time talking to the locals.

    Perception, round 1 (1d20+6)[26]
    Perception, round 2 (1d20+6)[24]

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    Astaria politely declines any more rolls, then gathers her belongings, quickly returning them to where they had previously been stored with a practiced proficiency.

    She's quiet on the trip, try to recall what she can of their destination from her childhood. Unfortunately what she remembers is very little, derelict buildings that she'd thought had been unoccup—

    Her thoughts are cut off as Kamorkas asks her a question. She takes a brief moment to recollect and gather her thoughts before responding. "I escaped, yes, but there are so many who have not been as fortunate as I. Our quarry has been no less a blight on this city than when I left nine years ago." She glances around as she speaks, avoiding speaking Gaedren's name. She knew from experience that he had ears everywhere, especially in the poorer districts. "... And while I know that I was only a child when I left, and I know that if I stayed, I would have died. But still, a part of me feels a small portion of responsibility for his wrongs since I left.

    But beyond even all that, Korvosa is home. It always will be. I was always coming back. I just didn't always know it."

    She looks around and suddenly seems to flush slightly, as if embarrassed to be talking about herself so much, again, then goes quiet.

    ~

    When the group arrives at the fisheries, Astaria listens intently to Kat's tale of their recent history. "A false inspection seems like a decent idea to me. I'd say trying to smuggle ourselves in river-side might work, but I'm not a particularly strong swimmer, nor can I sail a boat..."

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    "Not unless he's keepin' a dragon in there." Kat smiles at Kamorkas's question, understanding what's behind it.

    "I wear the uniform because I can do some good with it, look after those I care about. Don't follow the law just 'cause it's the law. I know, it's not real Korvosan of me. I'm not going t'write you up. No fears from me." Kat leaves the complicated whys of her philosophy for another time.

    Puzzled by this unusual brand of magic, Kat holds off on her "investigation" to see what Kamorkas uncovers. "What is it you're doing?" She asks, all innocent curiosity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryton View Post
    "I escaped, yes, but there are so many who have not been as fortunate as I. Our quarry has been no less a blight on this city than when I left nine years ago." She glances around as she speaks, avoiding speaking Gaedren's name. She knew from experience that he had ears everywhere, especially in the poorer districts. "... And while I know that I was only a child when I left, and I know that if I stayed, I would have died. But still, a part of me feels a small portion of responsibility for his wrongs since I left.

    But beyond even all that, Korvosa is home. It always will be. I was always coming back. I just didn't always know it."
    "I understand", Kamorkas replies. "Korvosa feels like this to me, too." The purposeful walk towards their goal prevents any further discussion of the topic, at least for now, but what little there was is enough common ground for this newfound companion to reassure him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Miss_Adventure View Post
    "Not unless he's keepin' a dragon in there." Kat smiles at Kamorkas's question, understanding what's behind it.

    "I wear the uniform because I can do some good with it, look after those I care about. Don't follow the law just 'cause it's the law. I know, it's not real Korvosan of me. I'm not going t'write you up. No fears from me." Kat leaves the complicated whys of her philosophy for another time.
    "We have a deal, then", is the curt response as they arrive near the fishery. Kamorkas decides to give the benefit of the doubt to the half-orc. She got a card too, so there's a reason she's in this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Miss_Adventure View Post
    Puzzled by this unusual brand of magic, Kat holds off on her "investigation" to see what Kamorkas uncovers. "What is it you're doing?" She asks, all innocent curiosity.
    Kamorkas opens his eyes, to look up at the tall guard woman, blinking against the glare of the sun. "I'm... er... Let's say, I'm sensing the currents of thought in the city's mind". He realizes this explanation isn't exactly enlightening. "Can't really explain better. T'be honest, I don't really understand it myself.

    Anyways, I know things I didn't a minute ago. The fishery's boss. Yargin Balko, is the name. Runs business stuff here. They grind fish into slurry, for dock dumplings, or to make fish bait, that sort of thing. That's fishy, if you don't mind the pun, because by all rights it should have gone under a long time ago.

    The streets also say there are children around, very early or very late in the day. Also, people who do real fishery work here aren't allowed inside. I wonder why. Some also say that Yargin has a secret wife hidden downstairs. Probably not true, but someone left in a small boat some time ago, with an orc. Only the orc came back.

    All I can say is, there's a lot more here going on than it seems at first."



    Spoiler: OOC
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    Refer to the Discord thread for the more precise description of things by PersonMan.
    Last edited by Gwynfrid; 2019-06-29 at 09:11 PM.

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    "Yargin?" Astaria's eyes narrow at the name. "If I remember correctly, he was a fence, basically a lieutenant.

    And I don't know anything about a wife, but I remember our quarry hating crowds. Could have been him, sounds like his kind of way to avoid people. Which on the one hand may mean that he's not here, but on the other hand there may be an orc somewhere hereabouts who does.

    And you're right Kamorkas, this place definitely sounds like a front, but unfortunately we probably won't be able to find anyone who can tip us off as to what we may find inside..."

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    "Um, right then." Kamorkas' explanation doesn't help much, but Kat was in the same boat. Besides, useful was useful. She can't help but blanch at one of his discoveries, though.

    "Dock dumplings are awful. I had more than my share growing up, but there's been some that're straight foul being sold lately. Think we found where they're from."

    "When I was searching on my own, I heard talk that the children were urchins who sometimes sheltered here for the night. Got nothing more when I tried digging deeper. Didn't think anything of it at the time. There's lots of places where the kids hunker down. With what you've got, though, that tale's got a lot more holes in it..."

    She gnaws on a tusk in thought. "Only so much we're going to find watching from across the street. Let's take a closer look, yeah?" Kat crosses the road slowly and cautiously, with a slump in her step, doing her best to look the part of a put-upon watch member doing busy work. Best any traps or nosy neighbors spot her first. On Xen's suggestion, she heads toward the barrels on the loading dock. Easy enough to see (or smell) if anything was actually leaving this place.

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    Kat's approach to the building itself doesn't seem to draw a response - at least, nothing visible. It's only when she crosses to the side and heads onto the ramp that something seems to stir in the old fishery. She's gotten just close enough to smell that the barrels are indeed full of something that smells both like fish and has the telltale not-fresh whiff to it, when the large double doors open slightly, just enough to let a waist-height figure slip out. For a moment it isn't clear if the scruffy figure is a human child or fully-grown member of one of the shorter peoples...

    "And don't even think about slackin'!" He spits back, as the doors shift to be just slightly ajar. His voice is gravelly, and as he steps further into the light it becomes clear that this is a gnome. He looks up at Kat with squinted eyes, unkempt hair wild now that he's tugged down the filthy hood of his cloak. The entire thing is covered with splotches of green, red and brown - the original color seems to have been blue, but that's now little more than a faint memory, covered in grime. "Yeah? What're you wantin'?" He barks at Kat, teeth grinding as if her mere presence is some grievous insult.
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