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"Curious," Ilya muses. "This 'Stag Lord,' I assume he is some sort of bandit king? Tis an interesting moniker, I wonder how he got it? Still, this... complicates things," Ilya says with an odd smile, considering the now-increased difficulty of the task at hand. A bandit king! the young man thinks. Ever so much more exciting than trudging through the wilds rounding up common ruffians.
" There is a particular stolen item. A ring. Taken by Kressle from the family that lives here. Do you know what happened to it?", Estanos asks, and watches the bandit's face carefully, gauging his response.
Zinovia shakes her head. "Yes, but animals are themselves detestable, so I'd not put much stock in their verdict. A dog will love without question any man who gives him food, and snarl at any who does not."
The wizardess raises a thin eyebrow at Tireas' cryptic answer. "There are many powerful men, and many delicate situations. As it doubtlessly involves Brevic politics, or Brevoy generally, or some yet more distant land, I find that my interest wanes." She sighs. "I have no time for politics. It is dull and musty as a tome, and full of men who bow and scrape, and those who believe a castle is a prize that matters."
"Bandit King," the bound thug muses. "Its a fancy title, but I guess nobody else's a king round here, and he good as controls all of us bandits. So yeah, maybe king's the right word."
Judging by his eagerness to agree with Ilya's assessment, it seems as though he is willing to say whatever you want to hear, if he thinks it will increase his likelihood of being set free. You also detect uncertainty. He's heard of the Stag Lord, but he doesn't know very much about him. He's not quite making things up... yet.
The captive's turns to face Estanos. "We took a ring, sure, first time we came. Took lots of other stuff too. That was... let's see... It was during the winter, so Kressle ain't set up a meeting with some of Brevoy's less upright merchants to sell the loot. Should still be in the camp, along with everything else."
"Most intriguing," Ilya says upon hearing the bandit's response. "Thank you for your outstanding helpfulness," he says with a smile. "I have only one more question, if you'll humour me. Why become turn to banditry at all? Surely there are many opportunities for one such as yourself?"
"I have heard all I wish to hear from this bandit," Viktor says. "If there are any other questions to be posed, let them be asked now. Otherwise, I suggest he be held here until he can be sent to Restov for trial. If Abadar is merciful, you may yet live." The paladin looks grim. "Now, if there is a celebration to be had, it best be done soon. It would be wise to be away from here at dawn."
The bandit looks glum at Ilya's question. "Opportunities to hang, maybe. One of them lords wanted an army, see, and peasants can die good as anyone else. So I was 'volunteered.' I ran, ended up here. Not a bad fit, really. Never was a good farmer."
"Right," Oleg says gruffly when Viktor announces that he has finished with the bandit. "I'll lock him up in the storeroom. Anyone has more questions, you can find him there." He lifts the bandit to his feet, then pauses. "Oh, and while you were talking to him, I rounded up their horses. Figured you could use 'em when you leave." Then, with a shove, he marches the bandit off.
I'm moving the scene along. If anyone still has questions, feel free to go to the storeroom and ask them.
Svetlana has been preparing a feast, judging by the smells of baking that waft from the small frontier house. At noon, she comes bustling out into the courtyard with a huge checkered table cloth and an equally large, beaming smile on her face. She spreads the cloth out over one of the large tables in the courtyard usually reserved for visiting merchants. She hums a slightly off-synch version of Ilya's bardic song as she works. She makes several trips, returning each time with a dish more appetizing than the last. Sausages sprinkled with fresh herbs that have just sprouted up, enough potatoes and gravy to feet a horse, doughy pastries rolled in sugar, and mugs of ale to accompany it all. Svetlana claps her hands enthusiastically. "Lunch is served! Come everyone, let us eat!"
When everyone is seated around the table, Oleg raises his mug. "To you," he says simply. "Couldn't have come at a better time."
Zinovia finishes her conversation with Tireas as Svetlana calls to her guests. She groans inwardly, and likely outwardly too, as she stands. But even she has to admit that the scent of food is appetizing, even for her. She feels a twinge in her stomach as she seats herself gingerly at the table, but shakes her head. Such an trivial thing to want... Hells, but I can't help it.
"This is impressive," the wizardess says to Svetlana haltingly, slightly unsure as to how to praise a dish of food. "You have my gratitude." It is hard to tell under her hood, but it seems as though Zinovia's thin lips actually smile.
"To us," she replies to Oleg's toast, raising her mug only slightly, her hand quivering.
"Probably for the best," responds Tireas, "Considering your lack of interest just saved a man's life, I can only imagine it added a few years to mine."
"Well, we could have come 2 months ago, but I'm glad we could help. You're such kind folk."
The tiefling eats more than his fair share of food, reaching for the meat more than anything. All the while, he steals a few glances toward Zinovia. Although she was quite blunt about the issue, Tireas didn't feel it proper to outright ask why she decided to come along.
Maybe there's a rare tome hidden in the Stolen Lands or something. It wouldn't surprise me.
There are bodies to be seen to, souls to be lightened of their sinful load in the flames of absolution. Estanos strips them of their valuables (material possessions do not benefit the dead) and drags them one by one outside of the walls of the small fort. He seeks permission from Oleg to use some firewood, and builds a simple pyre outside the walls next to them.
One after another he pulls the ex-bandits on to the pyre. Once each is arranged, Estanos crosses their arms over their chests, opens their eyes so they can see the sky, and blesses them one by one. Bad men perhaps, but men nonetheless, and respect must be paid to the wasted potential in their lives.
He falls in to a reverie after he starts the fire. So little is clear here. He's been gone for almost half a year, and never felt homesick until this moment. A long sigh escapes him. Not even noon yet and he feels exhausted; a bone deep weariness that has nothing to do with arranging the pyre and moving the bodies.
The fire crackles and catches in earnest, its bright red tongues lapping at the dead. Estanos lifts up his faith, focusing harder on the words, repeating the catechism of Light to dead ears as they vanish in to ash and sky.
" We reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by hatered. We reject the false promise of certainty, and spurn the path that is short but wrong..."
Estanos eats a very respectable portion of potatoes (sans gravy) and pastries, clearly possessing a hunger worthy of the exertions earlier in the day.
" Truly, your cooking warms both the body and the soul, Goodlady Svetlana."
It feels... better. Whatever malicious air circulated earlier seems to have dissipated. He isn't sure if he can trust it yet, but Estanos is smiling once more. He looks tired and a little worried, but he smiles.
" I thought you might want the chance to confess, " is the greeting Estanos extends to the bandit as he enters the storeroom.
Taking a seat next to the bandit, the priest has attired himself in his official vestments. Entirely black save for the brilliant sunburst done in cloth-of-gold on his chest, its design austere and severe by intention. " I don't know the laws of Brevoy very well, and I wasn't sure if they would allow you benefit of clergy. I wanted you to have the option."
" Anything you wish to say? Actions you regret, and wish to repent...? I'm sorry, I don't remember you saying your name.", Estanos prompts as he sits back in his chair, and waits.
The battle finished, Viktor returns to his quarters to remove his armor. Polishing it clean of blood and mending the dents, the paladin stores it safely by his bed before returning to the courtyard in his plain tunic.
"Svetlana, I thank you for your effort," he says sternly, before breaking into a wide grin as he sits. "If there was ever a debt between us, it is payed in full!" the paladin says, laughing a booming laugh as he heaps his plate with sausages and potatoes.
"Indeed, let us all toast to our victory here today," he says, raising his flagon high over his head. "This is the first of many victories to come. Together, we will defeat all the evils of these lands."
"Why, how delightful," Ilya exclaims cheerfully as Svetlana brings forth the food. Seating himself properly at the table, with back straight and hands in his lap, the young man waits for the others to join him before serving himself. He samples a variety of food, not eating much of anything. Well, it tisn't the palace, but I imagine there shan't be much better out here.
"To us," Ilya says, joining Zinovia's toast. "Truly, we're very glad to have been able to help."
As he eats, Ilya chatters to his new companions. "Estanos, if I might ask, you said you're from Qadira? Or somewhere else Kelish?" he says, gliding over any distinction between various satraps of the empire. "It must be fascinating to come to Brevoy, though I daren't think that these lands are as exciting as your home."
The funeral pyre crackles, lending a hint of sombreness to the joyous proceedings. Pale gray smoke rises up to greet the sun, and Estanos' prayer lights the souls on their way to their fates. As you eat your lunch, the fires die down lower, embers still hot around the charred yet dignified remains atop the pyre.
At the table, Oleg is his usual gruff self, but he even laughs at Viktor's boisterous declaration that the debt is paid. Svetlana grins alongside her husband.
Feel free to advance your timeline, or talk in multiple scenes. Basically, this is an RP fest for as long as you'd like, as OMG's done
Later, Estanos proceeds into the storeroom, stacked high with barrels and crates. Oleg has put out a cloth mat for the prisoner. Though far from comfortable, it is a small mercy. The scruffy young man looks up as the priest enters, fear in his eyes.
"Marrin, sir, he says, seeming momentarily like a child in the face of a figure of authority. And I... I ain't never done nothing like that before... But if you think it would help. You know. Put in a good word for me in case."
Marrin takes a deep breath. "I know I didn't do my duty to my lord... But I ain't going to repent for that. Don't care what they said, it ain't justice to want to hang a man for not wanting to kill someone... But I guess I ended up killin' anyways. Killed a guard, and another bandit. I... I didn't care what happened here either. The priest of Erastil in my village said we know good and evil in our heart, and I did. But I did wrong anyways... I don't know why... Too hard to go back, I guess." He stops. "And I didn't want to go back. You ever killed a man? It's the power... You feel strong, like you could take on the world. Ain't a right thought, but I liked it. So I guess I repent that." He looks expectantly to Estanos, unsure of what happens now.
" The trip itself was remarkable precisely because it was so unremarkable. The benefit of having a talented guide when one travels is the paucity of untoward excitement one finds. Brevoy itself... is very interesting. It is nothing like my home." He smiles, and then continues. " Home being the Empire proper, and not one of its satellite states; I spent most of my life in one of its greatest cities, Persipoli. The Grand Temple of my Goddess is located there, and it is there I studied for my vocation. The city is so busy, always bustling, always carts rolling in laden with... well, everything in the world. It seemed there was always music in the air just barely beyond ones hearing. Some large cities hum, or buzz. Perispoli sings."
The priest looks 'round the table at his fellow travelers. " Are the rest of you locals? Relatively speaking?", Estanos asks the rest of the group, as he resumes tucking in to some potatoes.
"Indeed," Viktor says, answering Estanos' question. "Born and bred in Rostland. New Stetven, in fact." The paladin takes another swig of ale. "I'd be very surprised if you could find a man more Brevish than I," he says with a laugh before returning to his ale. If his earlier cheer was due to the victorious battle, it seems that the usually stern man's spirits are kept that way by the drink.
"Some would argue," Tireas responds to Viktor, "That anyone born in New Stetven isn't Brevish, but merely Issian. It is so difficult nowadays to even hear the word Brevish anymore instead of Issian or Rostlandic. In fact, I would say that I am the most Brevish of anyone here, having traveled between both Rostland and Issia constantly, unwelcome in both."
As the conversation turns towards their origins, Zinovia's eyes flicker to Tireas. I wonder what this one will say. As much as he told me?
"Yes," Zinovia says, responding to Estanos' question, "though I think less than some. My training was in Varisia. Brevoy is woefully inadequate for anyone wishing to learn magic, but it is woefully inadequate at many things, and so I am grateful for my foreignness, if that is an accurate description. Being part of the ruling family has benefits, however obnoxious the politics."
Ilya listens intently as Estanos speaks. "It sounds absolutely magical," Ilya says with an almost imperceptible sigh of longing as the cleric finishes. "New Stetven - I was born there as well, though my family, the Kurils, are Issian merchants - doesn't hum, and it certainly doesn't sing," Ilya says. "No, no, it shivers," he says with short laugh.
" Oh? You're a member of the ruling family? And you're permitted to run about the wilds without a small battalion of guards? Brevoy -is- unlike my home. The family of the Padishah Emperor is... well protected.", Estanos remarks to Zinovia before finishing off the last of his pastries. He pushes his plate away from himself, dabs at his mouth with a napkin (if there were none at the table, he brought one himself), and waits for an opportune hole in the conversation to interject.
" Not to spoil the meal by talk of unpleasant things, but we should figure our next move. Goodman Oleg here seems to think that the remainder of the bandits won't bother him, now that we've removed half of their force. Before, I had thought we could map out the Greenbelt in a methodical manner. Do we proceed with that, or do we head directly for this bandits camp? We would have the element of surprise, but I worry that we'll stray too far from our true purpose here if we spend too much time hunting bandits. "
Estanos nods his head at points as Marrin speaks, listening to the crimes the young man had committed. Worse than he had hoped, better than he had feared. It seemed life was held particularly cheap in this barbarian nation.
" You have to remember that you can always 'go back'. Every moment is a fresh chance. Every moment you can make the choice to do the right thing."
He stands, looming over the ex-brigand as he says in his Serious Priesting Voice," You must strive ever afterwards to make that correct choice. Will you? I won't lie; it will not be easy. If you swear that your days of committing such sins are behind you, I will see what I can do. And you must really -mean- it. To lie in this moment would compound your villainy further, and doom not just your life but your immortal soul."
"I say we attack while they sleep, blissfully unaware of our presense. My eyes see far in the darkness, unlike your human ones, and I can move silently under the cover of night. If good Father Estanos will permit it, I shall slay them in their sleep, save for one, and make certain that these brigands can do no more harm to Oleg, Svetlana, or us."
Tireas stands up, stretches, then continues, "If not, then we face quite a difficult battle, and I cannot guarentee any of our safety should we face a fortified camp. Let me know when you've decided our course of action, and I'll be ready to leave."
"I believe we should attack at once," Zinovia says of Estanos' question. "The sooner we may be rid of these bandits, the sooner we may get on with our task in peace, without the risk that they overrun Oleg's Post and butcher everyone inside. And I would rather not make of myself a permanent fixture of this place, so, attack."
"I wonder at the prudence of that plan," Zinovia says softly at Tireas' suggestion. "For one, only fools would leave their camp unguarded, especially in darkness, and doubly so in a lawless land. For another, slaying all of them without a single error that might cause them to wake and seek vengeance seems..." she coughs, her face contorting, "... unlikely."
She strokes her chin under her hood. "I wonder if we might not spare our bandit prisoner. I have thought of a use for him. He presumably knows of the camp, of how to get past its watchmen without harm. He leads us inside safely in return for his little life."
" Oh? You're a member of the ruling family? And you're permitted to run about the wilds without a small battalion of guards? Brevoy -is- unlike my home. The family of the Padishah Emperor is... well protected."
"Well, I don't think Zinovia is, how to put it, very high up within the royal family here," Ilya says. "I, in fact, have it on extremely good authority that the closest relatives of the king, the princes, for example, are indeed very safe." He finishes, smirking, before making eye contact with Viktor and smiling genuinely. I do feel safe, he thinks. Still, there's no reason I can't have my little joke.
"I think that's a wonderful idea!" Ilya exclaims as Zinovia makes her proposal. "He'll get to be helpful, and, by turning against his former-masters he can prove that he's really changed. He can lead us to the camp, and perhaps even get us inside," the young man says enthusiastically.
Zinovia raises an eyebrow at Ilya's commentary. "No, I am peripheral. Which is to my liking. And all the royal families breed like rabbits, so my chances of coming into some position requiring good breeding and tact are slight." She does not bother suppressing the sneer that runs across her face. Then she adds, her cold eyes focusing on Ilya, "But then, there was one strange little prince who ran away not long ago over some breeding dispute. A childish action that has likely gotten him captured and punished by now. So it occurs to me that not all Surtovas are so eager to produce sires, and that perhaps my chances are better than they seem." Her voice is mingled sarcasm and amusement.
Viktor is horrified by Ilya's cheek, and yet touched at the same time as the other man smiles and smirks while playing his word games. I have kept him safe, and will continue to do so, the paladin thinks. His prince's wellbeing and gratitude are reward enough for him. He returns Ilya's smile
His reverie is broken abruptly as Zinovia replies. Viktor's brow instantly furrows and his expression goes stoney. What does the wizardess know? he wonders, almost frantically. Surely she cannot - even should she know, would she send a message to the court? Could she, out here? The paladin looks back and forth between Ilya and Zinovia, thinking of how to proceed.
"No," he says finally, in a measured voice, deciding that it is best to ignore the wizardess' comment for the moment. "I do not think that sneaking or deception will aid us in this endeavor. We should enter the camp, head-on. Abadar willing, we will triumph again. This captured bandit may join us, though in truth I have little faith that he will not change sides in the course of the battle."
"Very well," replies Tireas as his proposal is refused. "If anyone, then, dies in such a reckless assault, then the fault cannot lie with me. Never let it be said again, that I do not understand the value of a life."
"Wait just one minute," Zinovia says indignantly to Viktor and Tireas equally. "I never said anything about a frontal assault! Why not simply send them a message now, telling them that we will be arriving shortly, and that would they please ready themselves to receive us? It is folly! At least, it is folly if we do not prepare properly." She clears her throat, though this does little to help her voice, that begins to grow hoarse from all her talking. "We cannot... simply attack in broad... daylight... But neither are the rest of us prepared to fight in the night... should Tireas need assistance... Perhaps the answer is to do both. Tireas can approach the camp in darkness... and kill any who are within easy reach of his blade... Then he retreats, and we attack the weakened camp at daybreak."
"How dangerous can they really be?" Ilya asks. "If they're anything like their compatriots here, I'm sure Tireas will do spectacularly. Or rather, unspectacularly, since a spectacle would be unfortunate while trying to sneak into a bandit camp," the young man says, seemingly amused at his own cleverness. "Tis a good plan, I think. Shall we be bringing our bandit friend along with us, or not?"