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Chapter Fourteen: Stoking the Fires of Preparation

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter

Location: Bren is about 20 feet nearer the Dungeons of Castle Anguish.
Time/Date: Unknown. Last you knew it was mid-afternoon, Monday, 22nd September in the year 1118. Maybe now it's Tuesday?
Weather: Still snowy with that strange cursed-evil-Loviatar-brand-of-Pohjolan-snow. Stay inside because it sure is not getting any better out there. =)

@Captain Hesperus (Tag!)

"Too Late - Frozen" by Type O Negative

As your party retreated to the tunnels from whence they came, the secret door in the wall squeaked and rustled. As it slowly swung open, a large man appeared with hair like hoarfrost atop a thick frame of steely muscles. He appeared at once a man yet not a man at all. Striding forward, a chill wind seemed to accompany him spreading across the bones at his feet. Despite the cold, he wore little upon his broad chest and massive arms. Over one shoulder, he carried a black great-axe, a bloodstained gruesome weapon, in one scarred fist while the other pointed at the proprietor. In a deep, angry-sounding bellow that carried through the cavern, he declared with frosty breath, "Loviatar's patience with you thins, Master Varelys. If it breaks, you break with it."

Loviatar's Tormentor.jpg
(Image credit: Wattpad)

The servants shuddered and cowered without a word, but Barathus Varelys, spectral though he was, stood as firm as he could between the tormentor and his young staff. Yet the merchant took an involuntary step back as the tormentor closed upon him. His reason to fear became clear. The tormentor was a head taller than Brendoran in human form and possessed a stare that seemed to chill all that it beheld. It was as if winter walked with him.

The tormentor opened his free hand toward Master Varelys. "Well?"

In reply, the proprietor shook his head and gestured toward the empty air before his tables. "No customers again? Then perhaps it is time we change the pace of things. One way or another, you will pay tribute to the Maiden of Pain." He glanced upwards. "If you cannot provide coin from your tables, then perhaps it is time to send some of you in... to the Dungeons! Surely you can return with something of value from the depths of Castle Anguish?"

Now Varelys shook with fear as the tormentor passed his gaze across his servants. "Any volunteers?"

The Wayward Wanderers watched this scene from about 40 feet away from the bend in the tunnel they had come through. You could whisper between yourselves, but any sound louder than that would likely carry to the tormentor's ears.

What do the Wayward Wanderers do?


IMG_20160524_210029_TtmGDjozr9.jpg
(Image credit: Tatoodo)
GAME DETAILS Location: The Varelys Trading Station
Mode: Exploration
Click Blue Box for Ambiance =)
"D&D Ambiance - Dark, Dank Cave" by Sword Coast Soundscapes

 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna does her best to be as silent and unseen as possible while peeking out to try and get a glimpse of this tormentor for herself. If he/it is some kind of monster, being able to identify it and any possible weaknesses is paramount to being able to defeat it and rescue these poor shades from their torment.
Cantrips - 4
Detect Magic
Light
Mage Hand
Read Magic

Level 1 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Mage Armor x1
Burning Hands x2
Magic Missile x3
Unseen Servant x1

Level 2 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Blur x2
Scorching Ray x2
Mirror Image x1
Protection From Arrows x1
Web x1

Level 3 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Displacement x1
Fireball x2
Haste x1
Lightning Bolt x1

Level 4 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Ball Lightning x1
Remove Curse x1
Scorching Ray, Empowered Metamagic Feat x2
Shout x1

Level 5 - 3 +1 Evoker spell
Cone of Cold x1
Fireball, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1
Hold Monster x1
Lightning Bolt, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1

Level 6 - 2 +1 Evoker spell
Chain Lightning x1
Disintegrate x2
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth stays as still as a statue, knowing that anything she does might call attention to the party. Besides, she can see Luna trying to examine this tormentor at a distance, and she undoubtedly has a broader knowledge base than she does. The best I can do now is stand ready to fight.
Cantrips
Light
Mage Hand
Mending
Message

Level 1 / 5 spell slots
Burning Hands x1
Gravity Bow x2
Shield x2

Level 2 / 4 spell slots
Flaming Sphere x1
Glitterdust x2
Web
 
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Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Unfortunately, Luna's wide range of skills and knowledge did not assist her here. She saw a very unusual man with a very unusual axe with all that was mentioned before. Then again, had there been anything usual at all since their landing here in the ancient land of Pohjola?
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Trying to catch the eyes of her fellow Wanderers, Luna gives them the universal 'I don't know' symbol of upraised hands, a shrug, and a shake of her head. Whatever this tormentor is, she has no nuggets of wisdom to offer up. Other than the obvious of 'if you hit it hard enough and fast enough, he should die'.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth nods in understanding. No hints on what we are dealing with. Ah, well. Solonor Thelandira will either guide my hand, or we will falter and die. Either way, I won't have to worry about it much longer.

Her long ears twitch, listening for the expected command to attack as she keeps her eyes on the enemy.
Cantrips
Light
Mage Hand
Mending
Message

Level 1 / 5 spell slots
Burning Hands x1
Gravity Bow x2
Shield x2

Level 2 / 4 spell slots
Flaming Sphere x1
Glitterdust x2
Web
 
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Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Bren also studied the tormentor, but could summon no further knowledge from his memory beyond the fact that this curse had to be escapable somehow. He glanced at his party, then out at the scene 40 feet away. The tormentor's ultimatum decided his course of action. He whispered hastily to the others, "Powerpaw, with me. Otiorin and Oreleth behind us, Bria and Luna behind them. Nivirea, try to stay out of sight as much as possible unless battle is joined. Let us see if we can learn more through direct interaction!"

The paladin strode forth into the "shop" area. "And what do you think they might accomplish there, foul servant of Loviatar? How does 'tribute' figure into their situation?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth steps out into view, keeping an arrow knocked and ready to fire, and does her best to maintain as much space as possible from the man and his massive sword. While her eyes are locked on the man, her ears continue to scan the area, trying to give her a heads-up if there were other foes that may be approaching.
Cantrips
Light
Mage Hand
Mending
Message

Level 1 / 5 spell slots
Burning Hands x1
Gravity Bow x2
Shield x2

Level 2 / 4 spell slots
Flaming Sphere x1
Glitterdust x2
Web
 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

The form-shifted Half-Elf skulked out of the shadowy tunnel shoulder-to-shoulder with Oreleth, short bow ready with arrow set. Soundlessly, he moved out to a far flank, far enough that he knew he would be just on the extent of the barbaric tormentor's field of vision. He remained silent, despite his anger and held himself ready to act at a moment's notice.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
@Captain Hesperus

The paladin strode forth into the "shop" area. "And what do you think they might accomplish there, foul servant of Loviatar? How does 'tribute' figure into their situation?"
The Tormentor spun warily toward the sound of the party's approach. A icy, wolfish grin rose as he took in Brendoran's words and stance. "Arrogance," he gripped his magicked great-axe with anticipation. "To so demandingly stride forth proclaming answers into matters not your own... takes arrogance. All without even giving your name."

The skulls of the dead rattled against his muscled skin and furs. He measured Bren with a hard-eyed stare. "I don't know who you are, but you're my kind of asshole."

Powerpaw heard this and chuckled.

The Tormentor's excited gaze took in your party including Otiorin but minus Nivirea who crept in the shadows as ordered. "Lord Varelys, stay back where it is safer." Barathus did just that.

"Wait," he paused. "All cats?" He lifted a fresh-looking scroll from his belt pouch. A weight hung the parchment open that he might read it one-handed. His eyes rapidly scanned its contents. "There is nothing here about cats. And only six of you?"

The Tormentor frowned in disappoinment and mild confusion. "I am Tarros the Tamer under the paid service of Loviatar's cleric. I sense the Curse upon you, but I don't see you on my contract. Mind telling a warrior who you are..." he daid as he crouched and flexed his eager muscles, "...or shall we say to hell with the details and battle it out instead?"

"Hey, evil-face," Powerpaw smiled with a feline snarl.

"Aye?"

"Yer my kinda asshole too."

Both warriors shared a grin.
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna's eyes narrow in anger. "Your rear belt pouch contains the missing jawbone. What kind of asshole does that? Only the likes of your mad goddess and her ilk would be so cruel."
Cantrips - 4
Detect Magic
Light
Mage Hand
Read Magic

Level 1 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Mage Armor x1
Burning Hands x2
Magic Missile x3
Unseen Servant x1

Level 2 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Blur x2
Scorching Ray x2
Mirror Image x1
Protection From Arrows x1
Web x1

Level 3 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Displacement x1
Fireball x2
Haste x1
Lightning Bolt x1

Level 4 - 4 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 20 (22 for Evocation Fire spells)
Ball Lightning x1
Remove Curse x1
Scorching Ray, Empowered Metamagic Feat x2
Shout x1

Level 5 - 3 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 21 (23 for Evocation Fire spells)
Cone of Cold x1
Fireball, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1
Hold Monster x1
Lightning Bolt, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1

Level 6 - 2 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 22 (24 for Evocation Fire spells)
Chain Lightning x1
Disintegrate x2
 
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Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth drops her gaze to try and confirm what Luna has said, keeping her arrow knocked and ready to fire.
Cantrips
Light
Mage Hand
Mending
Message

Level 1 / 5 spell slots
Burning Hands x1
Gravity Bow x2
Shield x2

Level 2 / 4 spell slots
Flaming Sphere x1
Glitterdust x2
Web
 
Last edited:

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter

Location: Bren is about 20 feet nearer the Dungeons of Castle Anguish.
Time/Date: Unknown. Last you knew it was mid-afternoon, Monday, 22nd September in the year 1118. Maybe now it's Tuesday?
Weather: Still snowy with that strange cursed-evil-Loviatar-brand-of-Pohjolan-snow. Stay inside because it sure is not getting any better out there. =)

@Captain Hesperus

Luna's eyes narrow in anger. "Your rear belt pouch contains the missing jawbone. What kind of asshole does that? Only the likes of your mad goddess and her ilk would be so cruel."
Tarros's reply to Luna was firm. "Simple. The kind of asshole who was paid to."

Lord Varelys straightened in silent surprise hearing this. Slowly, he turned toward Tarros. Tarros returned the scroll he was reading to its place and without taking his eyes off of the undead lord-merchant, he reached into his rear belt pouch and slowly withdrew an adult-sized human jaw bone Luna had spoken of. He did not dangle it idly like a thief with stolen property but instead he displayed it as if it were his sworn duty to do so.

When Lord Varelys saw the missing piece of his own body, he recoiled at first. Then his shoulders and head sagged in disappointment. Meanwhile, his four faithful servants shouted cries of surprise and disbelief. Soon, all four, Obba included, were hurling volatile oaths and insults at the warrior. Bria sighed sadly and Powerpaw glared, but Tarros the Tamer continued to grin grimly while he gazed at Lord Varelys.

"Aye, it is true. I am not proud of it, but I was paid to lie to you, lord-merchant. Playing the role of this Tormentor, my keeping of the answer to all of your Curses and having all of you search for it every evening was written into my contract with the elf."

Powerpaw took a stomping step forward. "So you iz an evil-face!"

Tarros spoke slowly as if he did not expect anyone else to listen to him. "Cat, I am as evil or as good as I am paid to be. I have returned abducted virgins to their parents untarnished and taken the heads of the righteous in the same day. I don't care for anyone because no one in the universe cares about me."

"That's not true," said a small feline voice from behind Oreleth.

Tarros did not seem to hear it. He addressed Luna again. "But you have it wrong, you judgmental, pampered page-turner. I do not swear fealty to the Maiden and her spiteful games. I am just a simple man who does his very best when set to a contract. Have your holy ones call upon the powers of their gods to see if there is evil in me. I will submit to that. But I don't expect any of you to believe me. Or care." He exhaled a frosty cloud. "The only one here I believe who understands or even wishes to understand..." he pointed to Barathus Varleys, "... is him." Tarros grinned respectfully at the undead lord-merchant. "When the fight begins, old one, just stay down and thus, stay alive."

In answer, Barathus reached up and unhooked the jaw he had been wearing. He set it down gently upon his nearest table and gazed at his real jawbone with great longing.

What do the Wayward Wanderers do?


Loviatar's Tormentor.jpg
(Image credit: Wattpad )
GAME DETAILS Location: The Varelys Trading Station
Mode: Exploration
Click Blue Box for Ambiance =)
"D&D Ambiance - Dark, Dank Cave" by Sword Coast Soundscapes

 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

"So you are proudly a hireling. A man, for want of a better word, who sells his skills and his morality to the highest bidder. You have neither honor, nor pride. You lust only for cold coin. What a pale, pathetic creature you are, a mewling unworthy piece of meat available to the one with the largest purse.", Otiorin replied with a bored tone in his voice, "You're more a slave than Lord Varelys will ever be."
He shook his head dismissively.
"So what's the price of your loyalty?"
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth speaks out, "I know your name, Tarros. You are known to honor your coin above all else, so I can say that you do speak the truth that you do not swear allegiance to the Maiden of Pain. But be warned that we have already broken one tortured soul from the grip of Loviatar's curse, and we will do the same for Lord Varelys. I will not bother to waste my breath in threatening you to give the jawbone back."

"My friends, be aware that he is able to summon forth fellow barbarians when faced with a fight that he is unable to win with his own blade. He is a not a singular opponent. We will either have to buy his service, or face him in battle."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
The Tormentor frowned in disappointment and mild confusion. "I am Tarros the Tamer under the paid service of Loviatar's cleric. I sense the Curse upon you, but I don't see you on my contract. Mind telling a warrior who you are..." he said as he crouched and flexed his eager muscles, "...or shall we say to hell with the details and battle it out instead?"
Arrogance was one thing Bren had never been accused of before, as he was in general a fairly humble man. All the same, he stood stood before Tarros with pride, not in himself, but in his party and his goddess, and answered, "I am Brendoran Sarabina, paladin of Mielikki, Count of Highwind and ally to all good peoples in need of aid. Among whom I count this merchant and his staff, which makes their predicament my business." He didn't seem as eager to skip the "details" as Tarros, but neither was he unprepared for battle, if it came to that.

"Aye, it is true. I am not proud of it, but I was paid to lie to you, lord-merchant. Playing the role of this Tormentor, my keeping of the answer to all of your Curses and having all of you search for it every evening was written into my contract with the elf."
"That seems unfair, even for the Mistress of Pain," Bren pointed out. "Has she abandoned her habit of making it possible to break one's curse, however difficult? And you haven't answered my question about the tribute. To whom, and for what purpose, is that intended?"
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

The form-shifted Half-Elf skulked out of the shadowy tunnel shoulder-to-shoulder with Oreleth, short bow ready with arrow set. Soundlessly, he moved out to a far flank, far enough that he knew he would be just on the extent of the barbaric tormentor's field of vision. He remained silent, despite his anger and held himself ready to act at a moment's notice.
Otiorin Taletreader

"So you are proudly a hireling. A man, for want of a better word, who sells his skills and his morality to the highest bidder. You have neither honor, nor pride. You lust only for cold coin. What a pale, pathetic creature you are, a mewling unworthy piece of meat available to the one with the largest purse.", Otiorin replied with a bored tone in his voice, "You're more a slave than Lord Varelys will ever be."
He shook his head dismissively.
"So what's the price of your loyalty?"
The barbarian's laugh echoed throughout the cavern. "You speak of morality and honor while aiming an arrow at my back? Hah!" Tarros grinned at Otiorin with a sly look in his eye. "Does your courage come from your advantageous position or the odds of five-to-one? Civilized hypocrite!"

Oreleth speaks out, "I know your name, Tarros. You are known to honor your coin above all else, so I can say that you do speak the truth that you do not swear allegiance to the Maiden of Pain. But be warned that we have already broken one tortured soul from the grip of Loviatar's curse, and we will do the same for Lord Varelys. I will not bother to waste my breath in threatening you to give the jawbone back."

"My friends, be aware that he is able to summon forth fellow barbarians when faced with a fight that he is unable to win with his own blade. He is a not a singular opponent. We will either have to buy his service, or face him in battle."
Tarros listened to Oreleth and nodded, shifting his great-axe to his other hand. "Good. Someone else with sense!" He took a long look at Oreleth and her gear. "I am a singular if I wish to be. As the last of my tribe, my laws are my own. You are correct, cat-woman; no amount of threats will change my stance. I am not born from the soft-bellied, high-walled realms but of the Frozen North itself! Once, Heimdall the Guardian was my god. But you have the right of it; I can be bought from the cleric's services - I told her this when we wrote my contract."

All the same, he stood stood before Tarros with pride, not in himself, but in his party and his goddess, and answered, "I am Brendoran Sarabina, paladin of Mielikki, Count of Highwind and ally to all good peoples in need of aid. Among whom I count this merchant and his staff, which makes their predicament my business."
Tarros rubbed his chin in thought. "Huh! And here I thought the Maiden of the Forest had no paladins left after Lord Dayne of the Fangs of the Forest Mother fell. Shows what I know." He sized Bren up and kept what he thought of that to himself.

"That seems unfair, even for the Mistress of Pain," Bren pointed out. "Has she abandoned her habit of making it possible to break one's curse, however difficult? And you haven't answered my question about the tribute. To whom, and for what purpose, is that intended?"
"Am I your lapdog, Count Sarabina? To whimper and grovel at your feet while your underlings aim arrows at me?" Tarros shook his mane and bared his teeth. He glared at Brendoran making his clear distrust plain on his rough features. "Civilized or not, this is not how men deal. If you want me to bend my neck, you'll first have to take my head!" Tarros the Tamer grasped his axe now in both hands and crouched, ready for anything, death included.

Lord Barathus could take no more of this. He raised his hands into the air and waved them to get both Bren and Tarros's attentions. Meanwhile, Bria watched with some apprehension her weapon behind her. Powerpaw stood beside Bren, his hammer ready. Sparkle curled about Luna and stirred. The quietest of all was Oscar. He stayed upon Bria's large backpack and watched, his ever-racing mind drawing conclusions only geniuses know.

What do the Wayward Wanderers do?
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
"Am I your lapdog, Count Sarabina? To whimper and grovel at your feet while your underlings aim arrows at me?" Tarros shook his mane and bared his teeth. He glared at Brendoran making his clear distrust plain on his rough features. "Civilized or not, this is not how men deal. If you want me to bend my neck, you'll first have to take my head!" Tarros the Tamer grasped his axe now in both hands and crouched, ready for anything, death included.
Bren shook his head. "You've completely misread me," he replied. "Although I suppose that's not your fault, as we seem to have at least partially misread you as well. I'm sure you can understand that this is not a place to just wander blithely about, and without knowing what to expect, we prepared for the worst -- and the worst has been most of what we've received in this realm. If I ask them to stand down, will you give your word not to attack without warning? I'll do the same. I'm not here to 'bend your neck,' I'm here to free my friends, and Lord Barathus and his people, from Loviatar's curses." He turned to gesture at Barathus as he spoke, and realized the man was waving at them. "What is it, sir?" he asked.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
An amused snort comes out of Oreleth. "Assuming that we would wish to try and pool our resources to buy you out of your contract, how much would it take to do so without having to spill any blood?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna doesn't say anything. She simply stands still, watching carefully, waiting for the word to unleash her magics on the mercenary before them.
Cantrips - 4
Detect Magic
Light
Mage Hand
Read Magic

Level 1 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Mage Armor x1
Burning Hands x2
Magic Missile x3
Unseen Servant x1

Level 2 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Blur x2
Scorching Ray x2
Mirror Image x1
Protection From Arrows x1
Web x1

Level 3 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Displacement x1
Fireball x2
Haste x1
Lightning Bolt x1

Level 4 - 4 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 20 (22 for Evocation Fire spells)
Ball Lightning x1
Remove Curse x1
Scorching Ray, Empowered Metamagic Feat x2
Shout x1

Level 5 - 3 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 21 (23 for Evocation Fire spells)
Cone of Cold x1
Fireball, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1
Hold Monster x1
Lightning Bolt, Empowered Metamagic Feat x1

Level 6 - 2 +1 Evoker spell Save DC 22 (24 for Evocation Fire spells)
Chain Lightning x1
Disintegrate x2
 

Captain Hesperus

Harbinger of the End Times and Apostle of Ghan
Administrator
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

Rankled by the savage's use of the term 'underling', the half-elf lowered his bow but kept the arrow to the string, just in case.
"Calling someone a hypocrite for being prudent is hardly the way of a man. Would you wander gaily through the stronghold of your enemy without your axe in hand? Would you not brandish it and seek a position of advantage when confronting a potential foe? If you answer nay, then you are a fool."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
"If I ask them to stand down, will you give your word not to attack without warning? I'll do the same."
Tarros glared at Bren, the barbarian clearly itching for a fight despite the odds. A long moment passed as the northern man considered. "You are asking for trust, city-dweller. There is but one man here that I trust." Tarros turned his head to Barathus. "Old one? Do you trust this cat-man at his word or is he just another misguided milksop preaching his fancies for his own gain?"

In answer, Lord Varelys walked with dignity beside Brendoran and moved to place his hand on Bren's shield-arm. For the hot-blooded barbarian, this was enough. The wildman straightened and relaxed. But the fire in his eyes did not dim nor did the hold on his great-axe lessen. "Aye, then! And may all the gods of Asgard curse the first of us to break our word to each other!" Tarros spat into his hand and offered it to Bren clearly expecting him to do the same.

* * *​

An amused snort comes out of Oreleth. "Assuming that we would wish to try and pool our resources to buy you out of your contract, how much would it take to do so without having to spill any blood?"
Tarros gave a foul frown. "And what makes you think I am willing to open a contract with the likes of cat-people? Bad enough that fool Gerran attempts to twist the deal at every turn and that damned warg at his side makes me angry enough to want to wear his pelt, why would I want Loviatar's icy lackeys howling for my blood? That is just what would happen were I to treat with you."

* * *​

Rankled by the savage's use of the term 'underling', the half-elf lowered his bow but kept the arrow to the string, just in case.
"Calling someone a hypocrite for being prudent is hardly the way of a man. Would you wander gaily through the stronghold of your enemy without your axe in hand? Would you not brandish it and seek a position of advantage when confronting a potential foe? If you answer nay, then you are a fool."
"On that we can agree. No man should walk strange wlldernesses without his own fangs ready." The northerner scowled. "It is your instant judgment of my life as a mercenary and your city-bred talk of morality that earns you the title. As if adventurers were not mercenaries under a different name! Tyr's dark laughter! How quick civilized mongrels are to talk cheaply of a wilderness man when they would not last a week under a barbarian's winter!"

* * *​


He turned to gesture at Barathus as he spoke, and realized the man was waving at them. "What is it, sir?" he asked.
Tarros turned too. He wanted to know what was on the old man's mind.

Barathus disengaged himself from Brendoran as Tarros opened his moist hand to the paladin. Whatever they decided, Barathus pointed at Tarros's waist and then at his missing jaw. Barathus turned once to his servants but none of them, not even keen Obba, could discern what the merchant-adventurer meant. Barathus stamped his feet in frustration.

Then Bria approached, her soft, silky fur creating quite the contrast from the hard rocks of the cavern you stood upon or the lifeless, dreary bones that laid in their horrid, macabre pool.

Bria stepped beside Bren outside of his axe-arm's reach. "I am Bria of the Ko. Pleased to meet you, mister barbarian sir." With this, she bowed from the waist as Ko monks do.

"What is a Ko?" Tarros replied.

"Um," Bria made a briefly confused face, "we are a people who live between the civilized world and the wild, respecting both worlds but truly belonging to neither and so we have made our own. We are a law-abiding society of monks, teachers, lovers, advisers, and healers. LIke you, we live by our own code."

"Huh!" Tarros did not appear to know what to think about that.

Bria glanced at Barathus. "I believe I understand mister Barathus's concern. It concerns your contract." Immediately, Barathus began to nod eagerly. "Um, is there anything in your agreement that denies the jawbone of mister Barathus returned to him now that the truth of the ruse has been discovered?"

The barbarian's mane shook. He looked about, surprised. This was a thought he had not once considered. "Nay, lass!"

"Well, in that case," she crossed over to stand beside Barathus and folded her paws with her biggest, most-harmless smile. "Would you return his property to him?" Barathus saw what Bria was doing and clasped his hands together just like she did. "Pretty please, mister barbarian sir?"

Tarros could not believe what he was hearing. "You!" he aimed a finger at Brendoran. "You are a paladin! Laws are your thing! Am I just to hand it over then?"

Tarros gazed at Bren. So did Barathus and his servants. Bria peered too, keeping her paws clasped.
 

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