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…And lately, every time Glaffin says something, Alec thinks their healer of light will probably end up being one of his most challenging adversaries. While Alec also doesn’t see their victories as “just” in the traditional sense, he considers them very much worthwhile. The stance that conflict is inherently wasteful and pointless is so uncompromisingly…Thariusian that the pirate feels the muscles to either side of his spine tighten. It goes beyond believing that the world needs both viewpoints. He thinks this philosophy is rigid to the point of easily shattering, which is precisely the sort of thing that Alec fights against with misleading words and knives in the dark.
Laelaer, meanwhile, both shames and worries him. She’s clearly taking the conservative view of their shared faith. On one hand, Alec must respect that, yet at the same time, he avoids it. Bringing challenge to the world is well and good, but when he can, he prefers to lean the odds in favor of success and growth rather than leaving it fully to chance. He does not throw people off a cliff and expect them to learn to fly on the way down (unless it’s as an example or motivation for others).
So, Alec acts as he usually does when he is faced with opinions with which he cannot agree. He simply says nothing at all.
At least, on matters of philosophy. ”I will tell him,” he promises Glaffin, pointedly ignoring the rest. ”If all of you will gather whatever else you want to take, then I think we can leave soon.” And with that, he picks up his tools and walks away from the group.
After replacing them in his saddlebags, he steps lightly towards Adrian. Assuming the young man still sits by his friends’ graves, Alec crouches near him with enough distance to give him space.
”…I was nine years old when my first sister died,” he says. His tone is more musing than emotional. ”I can’t remember much of it; so many years have passed. I do know I was old enough to understand the idea of death, but not in the way everyone else might’ve liked. My family and our friends said that she was merely somewhere else. She would live on in this new place, they said, and then perhaps live in many others, as though she’d just moved across the sea and decided to build a new life. Even if I pretended to agree, I didn’t feel it. To me, she was gone, completely. I would never see her again. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, made me very sad.”
He falls back into a sitting position, his feet also resting on the ground and his knees up with his hands behind him for support. ”Now, though, I believe what I was told. I believe Janek and Merla are…somewhere, wherever they’ve found home. This doesn’t invalidate your grief, of course. Lost friends are lost friends, whether they walk with the gods or live in a new town a hundred miles away. Still, I find that it helps me to think this way. Maybe you can find at least a little comfort too? They’ll continue on. Just…not here.”
Thorus looks unfazed. "People die every day. Whenever ya do somethin' like banditry, ya roll the dice. Sooner or later, yer number comes up. No sense lettin' it go ta waste." He scratches his chin idly, wondering if he should chime in about their employer or not. He figures he'll wait, see if Glaffin gets reprimanded in any way before putting any chips down.
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
"We do need to leave soon." Aside from practicality, Alec isn't sure that this outdoor temple to death is the best place for mourning anyway.
"...And I want you to come with us," he adds, deciding to just launch right into it. "Not just back to the caravan, but with us as we travel. I said before that it's your choice, and it is, but I want you to take the offer. You won't only be appeasing Mister Tallhelm; you'll learn a trade, maybe several, you'll see the world, and you'll have an opportunity to make a new life. You might've lost whatever you and your friends were looking for, or running from. Maybe we can help replace that. If not, we can at the least give you a new start to replace it yourself when you leave us."
And, because he gives credit where credit is due, he also says, "Either way, Mister Pickthrower, the dwarf--" he points briefly "--has talked everyone into giving you a share of the money we found. If you do decide to take your chances without us, you won't leave completely empty-handed. Otherwise, he'll help you use the funds or keep them for you until you set off on your own."
Glaffin seems deflated by all the conflict going on in the group, and instead of going on about it further, he simply sighs and gestures to the chest with the sweep of an arm.
"Anyone mind giving me a hand with counting this out? Dividing it into silver and copper, then tossing each into nine piles, is going to take a dog's age even if we get started now. If anyone else found some money around the camp worth parting up, now would be the time to say so."
"I will assist you." Laelaer offers, stepping up. "Why don't we bring the chest over to that table so we have a good surface to count on?" She suggests, moving to lift the chest, perhaps with a bit of help from Glaffin.
"I'll help too." Cecily offers. She's not sure what else to do with herself right now. She's not sure she wants to get into the current conversation about Tallhelm. At least, not right now. She somehow doubts she can avoid it, even if she would choose to try.
Glaffin, Laelaer and Cecily moved the chest over to the table, dropping the heavy box next to it and taking the seats left behind by the bandits. While they set to work counting, Ehrlson busied himself loading their new horses with any tools and things he could find that weren't tied down. The barrels of ale would be too unwieldy to bring along without a cart, unfortunately, but the guard went over to check the supply shed periodically in any case. After a short time Jack returned to help, carrying a carved wooden box, about the right size for a pair of gloves.
"Found this in one of the tents," he explained. "It's got a key in it. Couple of other things, too." He dropped the box on the table next to the pile of coins and made himself busy elsewhere. Cecily opened the lid and took out the key. It looked like it might fit their chest, which solved that mystery, at least. Also inside was a small gold bracelet, a wand, and a pair of vials. The bracelet was unadorned, just a simple band, but gold was still gold.
"Thank you, sir." Adrian didn't seem very excited about the money, but that was understandable given the circumstances. Any amount of money could be considered small compensation for a young man's loss.
"I've thought about your offer, sir. On the trip out here. And now, well, I don't.. I don't have..." He coughed, held up a hand, and went on. "Sorry. I've not got anywhere else, now. I'll come."
Alec doesn't insult him by saying that this'll soon get better, although he thinks it will. He only pats Adrian's shoulder once and points to the horses.
"Come on, then. We have work to do; while the others tally our findings, you and I can load it all for transport."
Maybe it seems cruel to put the boy to labor right now, but Alec hopes that by having something physical to do, he'll keep his mind as occupied as it can be. Plus, between this and the walk back, if he's tired by the time the caravan sets up camp tonight, he might actually be able to sleep, which probably wouldn't happen otherwise. While they work, Alec remembers that Adrian was supposedly starving hours before, and encourages him to have some of the food they're bagging up. The irony of the apples isn't lost on him.
On a small note, Alec does glance over the various new things that his companions have uncovered, but he doesn't see anything he has to have, or even particularly wants. Upon spotting the wand, he whistles to Indrys and points to the stick. The elf will probably be a better judge of it than anyone else.
"I suppose we should have looked a bit harder for this." Cecily sets the key down next to the box. She removes the vials and the wand and places them on the table as well. The bracelet she dangles from her finger. It's quite pretty... "A few more things for us here at least. We'll need to find out what these do." She places the bracelet down next to the rest of the items, and she hums a slow tune as she runs her fingertips over the items.
Cecily uses Detect Magic, studying the objects for the full three rounds. She will also study whatever items turn out to be magic further, making spellcraft checks.
And here's a big old pile of spellcraft rolls for each potentially magic item:
Vial 1: (1d20+7)
Vial 2: (1d20+7)
"I suppose so." Laelaer agrees, chuckling. She picks up the key and examines it a bit, turning it over in her fingers. If only she'd taken the time to search the camp. She'd have found the key and the box it was in, and that lovely bracelet. It was unlikely such a simple thing was enchanted, but jewelry was jewelry. The drowess could already see that Cecily was eyeing the item, and she doubted the other woman would just hand it over. The Duskblade pulls her eyes away from the little bauble to examine the other items. The vials probably contained some useful brew, perhaps something magical. The wand was certainly magical, she didn't need a spell to know that.
"Indrys, you may wish to look at these." She calls to him in a polite tone, doubting that the elf would respond well to Alec's crude summons.
The Duskblade pockets the key to the chest, holding it until it may be needed again. If no one else used it, she may keep her own coins locked up within. All of this wealth was certainly not going to fit in her beltpouch! she thinks, returning to counting out the coins.
Thorus chuckles once, adding "That woulda been simpler." His eyes scan over the contents of the box, taking inventory. Jewelery's only appeal to him was its monetary value, but the vials and wand had the potential to be interesting. Lacking the expertise required to identify them, he waited for one of the others to do so.
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
Unfortunately, the only item that registered any magic was the obvious one; the wand. Its aura was faint, and registered as divination magic. There weren't a whole lot of spells it could have in it, she thought, running her mind over potential candidates...
Examination of the vials found that they seemed to contain more antitoxin, like the one they'd found at camp. Useful, but perhaps not as much as another cure potion or two would have been.
By the time the money had been counted and split up, Ehrlson and Jack had finished stripping the camp and loading the horses with whatever they could carry. There'd been a lot of complaining about the necessity of leaving the ale behind, until Jack had found a few clean-looking clay jugs stashed in the back of the cooking area. They weren't enough to carry all of it, but they carried enough to placate the guards. Adrian had helped through the whole thing, already taking Alec's suggestion that he join up with them to heart. When the money was being claimed, the boy held off on taking his.
"Mr. Alec or Mr. Glaffin can hold onto mine for now," he said.
With that sorted, and the horses ready to go, the group collected their prisoner and began the trip back to the caravan. They'd been gone for a while, and Tallhelm looked understandably relieved when they got back.
"No trouble then, I hope, hm? Ah, and look at everything you found! Well worth the trip, then, well worth it. The delay was unfortunate, most unfortunate, but we'll be at Seabreak by tomorrow even so I should think."
The merchant busied himself inspecting the new horses, and directing the transfer of the goods looted from the bandits, hmm-ing at the items and marking them down in his ledgers. "Bad business, the whole lot, but at least we've got something out of it. Now, I think we still need to decide what to do with our new friends?"
Adrian nodded, taking that as his cue. "I've decided to come with you. Sir. Mr. Alec thinks it'd be good experience for me."
"And I'm sure he's right! I know the good ones when I see 'em, I do," Said Tallhelm, missing the irony entirely. "We'll get you put right to work, then. Nothing like a bit of honest labour to earn your place in the world, I always say, and look where that's got me."
Pausing here in case anyone wants to interject. I've left the list of unclaimed items rather vague, in case anyone wants to lay late claim to some of the goods. Tallhelm has assumed that he's getting the horses.
"Very right," Alec agrees with a faint, friendly smile. He has a small, nagging piece of inward discomfort at the business of Adrian's contract; locking him into a legal arrangement now seems unnecessarily controlling. He hardly seems like he's going to run off, at least not without good reason. Still, he already brought it up to Tallhelm, and the pirate does want to see that handwriting. He meets his guilt halfway by deciding to sign his own agreement. The idea doesn't make him feel constricted; if he decides to leave the caravan at some point, it can't be that hard to steal the document, or go for overkill and just burn whatever wagon it's stored in before riding off on a new horse.
"I'll show him around and start setting camp for the night," he says to the head merchant. "After that, I think there's the matter of documentation. I've decided to take your offer and come with you for the full route, so I'd like a contract as well."
Indrys remained aloof, as was his custom, as the others divvied up their material earnings. He accepted his share of coinage with a nod and a thin-lipped smile, but didn't speak... as was most assuredly not his custom, as he tended to engage in such Brobdingnagian verbosity that his partners in conversation would generally find themselves adrift in a storming sea of linguistic overflow. In any case, he remained silent... perhaps rendered mute by Adrian's grieving for the loss of his friends and neighbors. Truthfully, Indrys hadn't yet allowed himself time to grieve for his own loss. The rebellion at the Enclave had doubtlessly resulted in the death of many of his family. He didn't know how many. He hadn't yet gathered to courage to investigate it. He ignored both Alec's whistle (rude!) and Laelaer's far more tactful summons, as Cecily seemed to have the circumstance well in hand. It was a blessing, really, to have their group so well-stocked with practitioners of the Art. It meant that he would not be called upon incessantly to deal with the minor chores that it entailed. Once the group has returned to their caravan, Indrys returns to his wagon and sits at the small desk that he had acquired. Once there, he buries his face in his hands and thinks about his distant family, his mother and father, his aunts and uncles, his nieces and nephews.
Any one of them... half of them... all of them... they might be gone.
Cecily glances toward Indrys when he's called, and is glad he doesn't come over. Only because she's much rather have the opportunity to demonstrate her own skill with magic rather than have to rely on someone else. "I can handle it myself, thank you." She says to Laelaer. Now if only she could figure out what spell the wand contains... At least she might be able to discover how to activate it.
"I'll need to hold onto these to examine more later." Cecily picks up the bracelet and the wand. "The potions definitely aren't magical, though."
"Are you certain of that?" Laelaer asks, a hint of challenge in her tone. "I could identify them now. Like Indrys, I too have studied the Arts at the University." She says proudly. "We needn't waste time." The drowess holds out her hand to take the items.
Cecily smiles a little, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "Thanks for the offer, but like I said before, I can handle it. It's not any trouble at all; There'll be plenty of time for me to pursue it while we travel." She nods to the others preparing to get moving. "We should probably join the others now anyway."
"I suppose we can decide who would best need those items when we return to the caravan, after you have made your identifications." Laelaer agrees. "If you need any help, don't hesitate to ask." The drowess offers with a grin, standing and heading towards the horses with her portion of the spoils. With the new horses, she could probably get one of her own. Laelaer tries to pick a nice one for herself, but is not skilled enough to truly know which was the best. As she walks, she looks over to Indrys, concerned, but leaves him to his thoughts, as they were preparing to leave.
"I'll remember that." Cecily says, giving Laelaer a false smile as she departs. Not a chance she's going to let that happen. The bard sets about gathering up the items and prepares to head back tot he caravan as well.
The knock is enough to wake the dosing gray elf, who had fallen into a dreary sleep while still sitting at his desk. He snorts, once, and then lifts his head from the blotter. "Nng. Yes? Who is it?" While waiting for an answer, Indrys takes a moment to wipe his eyes on a handkerchief and then to readjust his hair, some of which had come undone from the topknot. It wasn't an ideal preparation for company, but it was better than nothing, and surely no one would begrudge him a nap, no matter how fitful, following the excitement of the day's events.
"Oh. Alec. Yes, please, come in. Make yourself at home. Could I offer you something to drink?" The elf rubs his palms nervously over the knees of his pants. Having doffed his cape and coat upon entering earlier in the day, he looks quite a bit less voluminous, quite a bit thinner and less important. His red, puffy eyes contribute to his looking much less impressive overall, more like a peasant than a prince. But his smile is real, and he seems genuinely pleased to see his friends. "I'm sorry that I've shut myself away this evening. Today was... strenuous, and I felt in myself a mood to rest. I actually fell asleep for a little while, if you can believe it... An elf, falling asleep. Such wonders we witness." He clears his throat. "Ah, how about that drink? I think that I have some wine around here somewhere." He stands and heads towards his trunk. "Not a particularly famous vintage, but times are tough all around... although today's affairs should help us turn that about, don't you think?"
"I could've slipped you one of the bottles we found if you'd asked. Now it's probably too late for one to go missing."
He decides not to comment on Indrys's appearance and assumes that it's because of the murder and near-death and whatnot. There probably wasn't a lot of that going on back at that school. Then again, Alec wouldn't know. Laelaer went to the same place, and he can easily picture her pushing classmates off of balconies.
He sits, on the floor if necessary. "But yes, wine would be nice while we discuss Seabreak. And maybe some of our friends."
"Please, Alec. Surely by now you know me well enough to know that I wouldn't poison my body with that bandit swill... But those silks, ah, that's another story entirely... especially that bolt of silver cloth! Have you ever seen anything like it? I'd call it dwarf-make, likely, maybe even elven." He then opens the trunk and digs around for a bit before bending upright with a triumphant "Ah, hah! There you are, you little devil!", a bottle of dark, dark wine held firmly in one hand. After then procuring two tall glasses, he directs the pirate towards the small table whereupon he takes his meals. "Please, sit. I'll pour." After having done so, and placing a full glass in front of his friend, he takes his own seat. "Very well, then; What's on your mind?"
Alec hums to himself while he decides what to start with. Since operations in the next village depend on what and whom they can make use of, their fellow guards are a good place to begin. "I've been watching Thorus. From what I've seen, I think he could help us. Maybe not as a planner, unless he demonstrates that too, but he's already good at what he does--" what he does being a startling level of destruction "--and he isn't picky about it, better yet. I think he'd be happy helping earn money in less than legal ways. To play it safe, I could find something small to bring him in on, just with me, in Seabreak. If it works out, by the time we reach Stormgate, he might be a great asset."
His tone is soft, close as they are, despite being in the wagon. It's easy enough to listen at a wall. Alec thought about using a different language, but the only one he and Indrys share is the orc-speak, and it's hard to carry on a nonviolent conversation with that.
Indrys takes a small sip of the wine to prepare his pallet before speaking. "Thorus is a powerful warrior, of that there is no doubt, but I worry that he might be incapable of maintaining discretion. He seems very... blunt, let us say, as opposed to 'brutish'." His voice, too, is soft and measured. This is the Indrys Alec knows best. "But, I like him and, as you say, he should be tested, his capabilities determined and quantified. Every organization needs a strong man, and Thorus is strong enough for three." He drinks, sighs, and smiles. "I concur. Find something for him to do in Seabreak. If he succeeds adequately, he may be fit to join our enterprise. If not, well, strength is not so rare a commodity that it cannot be acquired elsewhere."
It's as good a segue as any before they back up and talk about the rest of the group. "I do suspect that there won't be much to do in such a small village, especially when we might become celebrities for clearing the road. We'd have to be extraordinarily clever to pull off anything significant without being caught. I say we act quietly and save bigger plans for Stormgate. We can't really plan until we see what we have to work with, of course, but I think burglary is a good bet. There should be at least one rich home, and today proved that I haven't lost my touch with locks. If guards are involved, it might be a prime chance to let Thorus work. Ideally, I'd like to set the stage, do the job shortly before we're set to leave, and frame some of the villagers for it. Rumors will likely circulate about the wealth the bandits had, particularly when Tallhelm offers some of our findings for sale. That alone might convince some people to try their hand at it; if you were to work a little of your magic to seal the deal and encourage a separate robbery, maybe a jailbreak for the highwayman we're bringing in, then we'd have our scapegoats. Particularly if they fled the village to take up the same post as the ones we dealt with today before anyone could question them."
If this went according to plan--surely there'll be variables, but they're impossible to know before having a look at Seabreak itself--then Alec would gain more than a share of the profits. He'd replace the dead bandits. While he's very proud of himself and the others for overcoming this challenge, they also removed it from the path of future travelers. Alec would love to repair the damage rather than waiting for it to remedy itself, which it'll surely do in time, either way.
The pirate washes down his idea with the wine, letting it sit on his tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. "Of course, we can only speculate tonight."
Indrys drinks, slowly, enjoying the wine as it flows over his tongue. "Hm, yes, speculation." There is a brief pause while he considers the plan. "I know that we'll need capital, and lots of it, if we're to have any chance of achieving victory, but..." he sighs. "Framing villagers? A little theft is, I suppose, forgivable in the long one -- my goal is noble enough to justify itself -- but to have the innocent punished for our actions?" He shakes his head. "Even if we were to force the blame onto the ne'er-do-well that we have in custody, should he successfully escape, he may go back to banditry..." Indrys arches an eyebrow that has been carefully plucked into a pleasing angle. "...Which I suspect is your goal, isn't it? To reintroduce a thread of chaos into the tapestry of the region, after we worked so hard and risked so much to remove it in the first place." He shakes his head. "I suppose that there's no way to avoid the unpleasantness, the nobility of our purpose or not, but..." He takes another drink. "It just doesn't sit well with me. However, I may have a plan of my own, or rather an addendum to yours, if you would be interested?"