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Fantasy [Isekai Hell] Legacy of the Erased

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Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
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In the lands of Mirran, the Kingdom of Brilliance, two outsiders were brought to a grand cathedral by ornate carriages. One was small, wise, and swift. The other large, loyal, and strong. Victorique and Orchid. A request from the Papacy of her Radiance Lucilia to the adventuring guild requesting someone capable of finding an important artifact, and to hunt down the thief who took it.

A fairly straightforward job by all accounts, and it even explained the details of why such a request was made instead of handled internally: the suspected thief was none other than Mirran royalty, Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran. The artifact she took was a sacred relic known as the Sun Shard, said to contain the essence of their goddess Lucilia. Had they sent any of their own people, they could not ensure the safety of either princess or relic due to religious fevour, and thus they sought out those who had a reputation for getting the job done throughout and cleanly. And so Victorique was called. Orchid tagged along since she was still contracted to the halfling.

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The carriages pulled in front of the grand cathedral, and meeting the duo was a priestess of Lucilia. Though it was nearing sunset, the reflective pathway and massive glass windows of the cathedral illuminated the area as if it was day. It was so bright Orchid herself had to shade her eyes, despite wearing her helmet. "Greetings, welcome to the Systin Cathedral. I am Reverend Sister Quenya. I trust you trip here was pleasant. May I know your names?"
 
Victorique Sopheana

One of the best things about having a hulking green giant as an employee? Victorique could finally walk through crowds without having to avoid being stepped on. All she needed was for Orchid to walk ahead of her and even the busy streets of the Kingdom of Brilliance were no match for the green giant's way-making capabilities. That said, it only mattered for the parts of the journey that they hadn't spent in the comfort of a carriage, which was even better. All things considered, she was in an oddly good mood today. After all, an interesting case and a swift journey, what else could one wish for? She loved the intrigue of royalties going rogue.

“I'm Victorique Sopheana. It's a pleasure to meet you, sister Quenya.” Victorique said, glossing over the woman in front of them. The attire was rather dubious for a priestess to say the least, as it missed a fair bit of cloth surrounding the place you'd normally want it the most. Was this Lucilia goddess one of 'those' types of deities? Victorique wasn't sure. She hadn't had a lot of time to read up on it all, which was a shame. With some luck, she'd pick up more details along the road. For now, all she knew were the suspected princess and the odd idea that the artefact contained an actual piece of the goddess. Victorique wasn't sure if she bought the latter, but then again, with all the odd stuff in this world, it wasn't impossible. “Anyhow, I'd rather not waste time. Is there somewhere private where we can talk business?” She was eager to get this started.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
"Of course. This is a matter most sensative,so I have arranged for a private meeting place for us. Follow me." Quenya would lead Orchid and Victorique inside of the grand cathedral. Upon closer examination, the walls weren't merely carved from stone but has a sheen about them that allowed them to reflect and bend light, allowing the area to be illuminated without the need of torches or lanterns. Even inside was strangely illuminated with natural light, creating an ominous dim that was reminecient of an eternal dusk.

As the three walked through the crowd, people parted ways for Quenya. It was evident that she held some status here as people not only cleared a path but also bowed her head to her passing. Compared to her, everyone else dressed more modestly or in conventional fashion. But what Victorique would definitely notice is that between the conventionally dressed and those who seemed dressed for church, there were many people of different shapes and sizes dressed in white robes and masks. She wouldn't be a le to see anything but the area around their eyes. But what she did see were people with darker or colored skin, exotic looking eyes of red, gold, and purple, compared to the fair skinned and relatively normal eyes of everyone else. Most notably was that these robed figures made quite a bit of effort to remain unseen by the likes of Victorique and Orchid: it's only because of the halfling sharper senses that she spots these things before they could hide away

Orchid made sure to stand by Victorique side, not wanting her too far despite their relative safety here. Though Orchid wasn't brandishing her poleaxe in hand, it was displayed prominately over her shoulder, to dissuade anyone from thinking that Orchid was unarmed. Walking through the halls Quenya led the duo to an unassuming room that was more modestly furnished, with regular stone walls, a dark wood desk, and four chairs seated around a low table. Tea and shell shaped biscuits were nearly arranged for Victorique and Orchid. "Please take a seat and help yourself to some jasmine tea and madeleine. I'm sure you have many questions, so I will awnser them to the best of my abilities."

Orchid made sure to try both the tea and cookies first, for Victorique's sake, and confirmed that they're of good quality. The tea is getting a bit lukewarm however, likely was prepared some time ago. "Not bad. The tea has a mild bitter flavor that goes well to neutralize the sugar of the pastry. Eat a cookie, sip some tea, and the next bite will be as sweet as the first."
 
Victorique Sopheana

The place was fancy. Victorique had to give them that. For a goddess of light, they were sure making the light reach every corner of the building. At the same time, it was oddly dusky. She did take note of some other things as well. Quenya being of higher status, the church being surprisingly inclusive, the odd choice of using masks a lot and their sneakiness were most notable of all. As they set down, Victorique had her first question ready. “Do you mind if I smoke here?” If not, she'd get her pipe out of her pocket dimension and light it up. Smoking always helped her think. If the priestess did mind, she'd have to resort to sipping tea instead.

Either way, with that out of the way, the real questioning could begin. “First off, I've heard you already have a suspect. Princes Lynette Yspern Mirran, if I'm correct. For what reason is she suspected? Also, to follow up on that, what is believed to be her motive?” Motive was always an important thing to get to the bottom of, or so Victorique believed. A princess stealing an artefact was odd enough to warrant even more scepticism than normal.

She'd give some time for an answer, then move to the next point. “This artefact, the Sun Shard. It's said to contain essence of the actual goddess. I'm assuming this makes it appealing to both worshippers and cultists seeking to corrupt it alike? Are there any known groups that stand out in particular that we should know about? Also, is it known for having any other properties, or even just rumoured to have them, that might cause people to steal it? This doesn't seem the type of artefact one would steal for a mere profit, after all, unless one were the middle-men.”

The next question was a bit more direct. “I couldn't help notice the masked folks back in the church. Simply covering faces is odd, but I could write it off as a mere religious thing. However, they went out of their way to try to dodge my gaze. The flairs of exotic coloured skin and eyes didn't help them stand out any less either. Do you know who they might be and why they might be here?”

Another question was related to the previous one. “I know that we were hired to keep this from the larger public, but it's tough to believe nobody found out, especially with the odd masked folk going around. Do you know of any other parties that have caught wind of what's going on that might be going around to investigate, or worse, attempt to claim the artefact as their own?”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
At Victorique's request to smoke, Quenya nods, opening a window to allow a bit more air circulation. Orchid stayed quiet, eating cookies and sipping tea as the two spoke. "The princess is suspect due to many factors. Firstly, while I cannot divulge the full details due to security reasons, the only way to access the Sun Shard is through royal blood. Princess Lynette was visiting the Systin Cathedral as part of the ceremonies in honor of end of the Great War. When we discovered that the Sun Shard had been taken, Princess Lynette fled from the Cathedral without warning or explanation. Our paladins had gave chase, but she was somehow able to escape from us. We do suspect she has some outside aid, though we do not know who. We do not know her motives as of yet, which is why we need you to investigate and ideally capture her alive, and bring her back for questioning."

Quenya took a sip of tea as she thought about how to awnsers the second question. Victorique can tell that Quenya wants to rattle off a long and detailed explanation of the history and lore of the Sun Shared, but has to condense it into just relevant information. "We of course have many enemies who would want to take the Sun Shard from us. Not only does the Sun Shared serve as a vital symbol of religious significance, it is the fuel source to one of our greatest inventions, the Sunlight Archon. Another artifact, a towering giant of mithril and magic that can fell storms. It requires immese magic to power however, and only the Sun Shade is capable of doing that. While we have ensured that the Sunlight Archon is safe, without the Sun Shard the archon is useless. Additionally as a source of incredible magic power, the Sun Shard can be used as a catalyst for all sorts of powerful magic rituals, even ones that would ordinarily go against the will of our Radiance Lucilia. It could be used to create a portal to the hells, or bring back foul tyrants of ages past. Under the wrong hands it can grant untold power and immortality in the hands of warlords and madmen. It's potential is endless, which unfortunately makes it a valuable target for many people." In so many words, Quenya essentially explains that the Sun Shard is a powerful fuel source of magic energy, and that anyone with any magic knowledge would want it simply so it can be used as a source of infinite power. So the amount of people who would want it for that reason would include basically anyone who are developed enough to need to fuel any magic, be it enchanted weapons, spells, or what-have-you.

As Victorique asked about the masked people, she could tell there was a slight shift in Quenya demeanor. Previously she was cordial and friendly, but suddenly she began very stiff and professional. Her words were spoken clearly, as if practiced. "They are pages, followers of our Radiance Lucilia. Pages are initiates of sorts, those who join our temple not as merely worshippers but as members of our temple. As part of our beliefs, pages must wear robes and masks, so that they are all seen equal under the light. They shall not be judged by their births or appearances, but by their devotion and faith. Part of that is to ensure they remain out of sight and trouble no one, less their action bring shame upon themselves and the church." Orchid didn't stop eating but she did give Victorique a suspicious glance. In full regelia, no one would really know Orchid was an orc, or even a woman, as her voice was deep enough to be mistaken as a manif you didnt have a keen ear for details. So Victorique has some prior knowledge about how someone dresses to make sure you don't know quite know who someone is.

"As for other parties, as mentioned we have many suspicions, which is a source of political tension for the church. The Princess was once meant to be wed to the Nothrum family via their son, Lord Vespr Nothrum. However he in turned was merely using the marriage as a means to obtain the Sun Shard for himself: it had been revealed that he had allied with vampires and intended to use the Sun Shard to free all vampires from being harmed from the sun, and allow them to counter our magics so that they may rule the realm. Despite how sudden the attack was and the vampires use of blood magics, they were defeated, Lord Vespr was put to the sword, and the Nothrum family lost much of their influence and land due to the ensuing war. They still exist as a shadow of themselves, and thus we have suspicious that they may have coherced the princess to cooperate with them to steal the shard."

"There is also the Whitestrake family, a powerful Dukedom who rivals the royal family in terms of militant power, and they safe guard the Sunlight Archon. Part of the means to ensure no one could use the Sunlight Archon to force the rest of the kingdom into submission was to ensure that we, the church of her Radiance Lucilia, held onto the Sun Shard, and itself could only be accessed through royal blood. Their son, Lord Nevember Whitestrake, personally sleep Lord Vespr Nothrum and rescued Princess Lynette from his clutches. He had been courting her sense and even proposed to marry her, but it was blocked by the royal family. So it's possible that the Whitestrake family has made some clandestined deals with Princess Lynette to deliver the Sun Shard to them so they can use the threat of force to take over the kingdom, or at least allow the marriage to occur."

"And finally, we have suspicion that this may be the work of a cult known as the Inferno Legion. Once our lands were under the yoke of a terrible demon lord before our Radiance Lucilia purged them from our land with her power and light, but despite our best efforts there are still some of their cults around. They are too few in number to be able to wage an open war against us, however corrupting people of influence or just anyone in positions of power is certainly within their means. They could have gotten to Princess Lynette and intend to use her, and the Sun Shard, for profane rituals."


Quenya finished her tea and looked over the two. Orchid herself has finished her snacks and drink, leaving some for Victorique. Crossing her legs Quenya rested her hands on her knees and looked to Victorique specifically, since she didn't believe Orchid had much input here. "Ultimately the church had decided that the best course of action was to enlist outside help. Too many within our kingdom would have much to gain if they were in possession of the Sun Shard. Because for all of our faith in her Radiance Lucilia, and the loyalty we hold to the crown of Mirran, we are but mortal creatures, just as suspectable to corruption when it is disguised as good intent. We needed someone who has no stake in our nations well being, no interest in being a conquerer or ruler, but has proven themselves able to get the job done and see it through to the end. These traits are much harder to find than you may realize. So many have decryed the likes of adventurers as mere mercenaries, willing to betray a client for the highest bidder, or allowing their ambitions to break whatever code or moral they claim to have. And there is much historical proof of this being true. That is why we have requested you specifically, the one exception from the mire of corruption and doubt. Naturally of course, we do not ask that you simply do this out of the goodness of your heart either. We have already arranged a hefty sum for you and your companion for your services, and we will provide whatever resources we have available to ensure your success in this quest, should you take it."
 
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Victorique Sopheana

There was no shortage of information given to Victorique. Enough to make your ears fold backwards... and for her to start taking some notes, sometimes adding her own thoughts to them.

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.

At the final explanation, Victorique smiled a bit. “Solving a mystery is a reward of its own, but I do need to make sure I can write pay checks for my guardian green giant, at the end of the day.”

That was the only slightly less serious part she allowed herself, as she got back to business immediately afterwards. She wished some additional details on most of these points. She'd ask them in order, with a pause to hear the reply between each of them.

“Do you know of any people devoted enough to Vespr Nothrum to steal the Sun Shards so they could revive him? Or people that would otherwise have a stake in his resurrection? Are some of those vampires he tried aiding still around?”

“Do you know if Nevember's advances were reciprocated by Lynette?”

“Is there any relation to this Inferno Legion and the vampires that Vespr tried to help out?”

However, there were a few more things that she wished to confirm or deny. “Were there any witnesses that saw the princess directly before she Sun Shard went missing or that saw her flee the cathedral from up close? If so, I'd like to speak to them.”

Now, the last point she had for now, was going to be a bit tougher. She'd need to try bring this with a little tact. “As much as I admire the idea of having initiates introduced in a way that makes them seem more equal, being a heavily looked-down-upon race myself, literally and figuratively, I have to admit that it provides the ideal way to sneak into the church without anyone batting an eye. On the other hand, they would've been in the ideal situation to see what others might've missed. Is there any way I can speak to the initiates?” After having just learned the initiates were meant to not be focused upon, she made sure to use [Persuasion E] to get across the usefulness and urgency of talking to them. Perhaps that'd convince the woman to break some tradition for the sake of the greater good.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Pouring herself a new cup of tea, Quenya thinks about this question a bit. "Other than his remaining family and immediate servants, I cannot think of any within nobility, government, or church who would want to bring back Vespr. Frankly speaking the only reason the Nothrum family still exist is because after a thorough investigation, it was revealed that Vespr did not let his family know of his intentions, only his own personal vassals and his vampiric allies. Thus while his family are dishonored by his actions, they were not known collaborators. As for said vampires, we have always been hunting them down whenever we can. After Vespr was slain a crusade was called for to eradicate the vampire menace from the country, with over 700 vampires put to the stake or sword. They certainly haven't been able to gather in large numbers since. Though admittedly, we have never been able to execute anyone from Clan Riovas, the leader of the vampires. They themselves were already few in numbers and we had hoped to execute them to break the moral of other dwellers of the dark, but alas we have only managed to find their minions and lesser kin. If the Nothrum family have any support from the vampires, it would have to be through Clan Riovas."

Taking a dainty sip from her cup, Quenya tried not to crack a smile. Talking about the Whitestrake felt more like chatting about the latest drama, which Quenya knew she is t suppose to do due to the seriousness of the situation. But even someone like her enjoys a juicy story. "Well, I don't mean to sound like a gossip, but let's just say that there are many who felt it was improper for the young lord court the princess so soon after her tragedy. A lot of eyes were on the two to see how things would develop but they have never shown any affection for each other openly. All that was truly known was that he was courting the princess, and the fact it was kept all so secretive has made people speculate. Was it be a use she did not reciprocate and this was meant to save face? Was it because she was still mourning the lost of Vespr, and preferred to confine in her feelings with Lord Nevember privately? Who could truly say. All that is known specifically is that the royal family did not allow their union. This of course raised more questions than awnsers. Did this happen because the Whitestrake family tried to press the royal family into a marriage? Was it because the young princess' feelings were true and she wanted to marry for love? Was the veto itself simply due to political manuevering, such as preventing the Whitestrake easy access to the Sun Shard, or on behalf of the princess to keep Lord Nevember from her? Again, no awnsers, and many are left wanting. Truth be told it's only because of these rumors that the Whitestrakes are even suspect: they otherwise have served the nation with honor and distinction. Far be it from me to question their character, but love can turn the wisest man into a mad fool."

Quenya out her tea down and went to her desk. There she took out some stacks of papers, reports on both the vampire and cultists and laid them in the table for Victorique to read at her discretion. They were quite detailed and neatly written. "Strangely enough, we have investigated both and neither seem to be working with one another. In fact it almost seems like these two factions are competing against one another, or at the least seem to never actively try to cooperate. What few cases we have found where both vampire and demonic influences were present, their goals do not seem align or both sides want the same thing but only for themselves. Examples include an incident before Vespr's attempt to the the Sun Shard: there was an attempt on the crown prince's life where both had tried to assassinate him through their thralls. But when they encountered one another, they both fought and killed each other, giving the crown prince a chance to escape and allowing the royal guard to dispatch the survivors with ease. There was also a case where a minor noble family was subverted by demons and quickly rising into ranks, but was taken over by vampires in a swift, brutal nighttime raid. By the time the church had discovered what happened the vampires were gone and any demonic artifacts or influence were erased. Those are just two prominent examples but it gives us the impression that neither vampires nor demons are allies to one another."

Covering her mouth with a hand, Quenya doesn't look diectly at Victorique and instead looks mournfully at the window, the sun setting over the horizon. It would only be an hour or so until nighttime. "I'm embarrassed to say, but I was the only one to have spoken to the princess directly before the Sun Shard's theft. Much like today, I had greeted her by the carriages and took her to her private quarters. We had a light supper and discussed details about the ceremony, and then left to allow her to recuperate from her travels. It wasn't even sunset when we received word of the theft and one of our sentries spotted the princess fleeing through the city gate on horseback. The fact she was able to move so quickly without anyone noticing is why we suspect she must have had some outside help. I had guards posted outside of her room to prevent anyone from disturbing her, so the only way out without some magical means, which we did not detect upon investigating her room, would have been someone who could smuggle her out of the seventh story window, where her room resided. Of this we have some evidence of, as our church mason has noticed scratches and notches in the stonework that would indicate that someone had been climbing the walls. Someone who is quite adapt and doing so without the need of equipment that would damage or leave a major mark. So a climber with the skills to not only scale our cathedral, but with great stealth abilities as well."

Quenya seems stiff and stern again when you asked about the pages. Once more her tone was clear and professional. "Please understand when I say that the pages are not beneath suspicion. Their attire, while meant to be a uniform for all of them to be judged equally, also marks them and makes it known to all who see them of their rank and purpose. The Sun Shard was kept within our vaults, itself a veritable dungeon guarded by our holy spirits and wards. Even before that, our elite paladins stand guard to keep anyone from approaching without permission, and must be inform by yhe reverend mother prior to any visits. And no, they did not encounter the princess during the theft. The paladins were beaten unconscious when we arrived to the vault and have no recollection of what had happened." Taking a cookie Quenya begins to nibble it from the sides, going around the cookie instead of eating it normally. "The pages know not to go there and never have permission to be there, even if accompanying royalty or a revend mother, the only two people who are allowed to even approach the vault. Of all people, the pages are not protected by ignorance if they had somehow stumbled upon the vault."

There is a tense few seconds when Victorique asked premission to speak to the pages. It seemed like Quenya doesn't want Victorique to speak to them at all, but can't tell her why. Eventually she relents however, sighing with a nod. "There are many pages, most who are currently working on duties. But I shall recall them immediately. This may take some time however, so if you have any more questions please ask them before I must leave to call all pages back for questioning."
 
Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.

Among the many, many loads of information that Victorique was presented with, one new thing popped up. Demons. “These demons you mention in relation to the cultists, can you talk a bit more about them?” Until now, she hadn't been aware the cultists had their actual hellish counterparts backing them as directly as Quenya now made it sound.

There was another thing that was starting to bug Victorique. The strange sternness whenever the pages were mentioned. There was one thing that was very odd. “Would the princess have been able to take out those elite paladins?” That seemed like a mayor weak link in the theory that the princess stole it and got help getting out of her room later on.

Victorique shook her head at one of the next parts. “It's not necessarily about the pages themselves, it's about who or what might have posed as one.” There was, however, another part that stood out. “How common is it for royalty to visit the vault and how many people hold the title of reverend mother at the moment?”

Once Victorique would've gotten answers to those questions, she was satisfied for now. “Those would be my main questions for now, as I'd like to speak to the pages next. I promise you it's for good reason, if that helps you see value in the task of gathering them.”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
"Oh my, where to begin... Well, I suppose the simplest thing would be this." Quenya hands Victorique a book. On it was the holy symbol of Lucilia, a circle with six rays of light pointing downwards. "This is a beastiary of the various demons that we have discovered, recorded, and fought so far. They are the ones typically employed by the cult, though a few rare and powerful ones seem to have manifested independently, or otherwise weren't under cult control when we found them. Understand that while the cult is allied with demons, most of the work is done through mortal cultist themselves. We have means to detect demonic presences, especially if they try to manifest themselves within our lands, but alas such influences can go unnoticed when hidden within a man. The most dangerous thing about these demons aren't when they're physically present, but when they can grant their powers to their followers. They can enable even a weak man to become as strong as a knight. Such power is why the cult is able to influence and eventually corrupt others."

Within the book were various detailed images and descriptions of demons in alphabetical order. It noted things such as particular abilities, weaknesses, and tactics they favor, as well as a numerical description of their overall abilities. Some were quite weak, such as Lemure demons, who's only notably strengths was it's resistance to the cold, immunity to flame and toxins, and being so stupid that things that would try to control it's thoughts or emotions would fail against it. But it also mentioned the likes of barbed devils, demons with skin as tough as steel and spikes covering it's whole body, who had the ability to manipulate fire and was notably resistant to many forms of magic. Quickly scanning through the book, one demon stood our: the Barlgura. A sort of demonic gorilla who was not only wickedly strong, but capable of using magic to disguise itself, turn invisible, and even twist one's mind with magic. So a surprising amount of stealth abilities for a giant monster. And while it wasn't mentioned specifically, Victorique could easily infer that a creature would have no issue climbing given it's vaguely gorilla like form.

At Victorique's question about the princess personally subduing the paladins, Quenya shook her head. "I cannot imagine that she could. She was trained in things such as song and dance, as well as academics and a bit of religious history, but she's never shown the talent or interest in any martial or magical abilities. We did check out paladins for poison, but they showed no signs of such. They were physically defeated, and the there was no blood on the scene either. So either the assailants cleaned up the scene after they defeated them, or they have some magical means to beat bloodlessly. And they would have been especially powerful, or at least able to trick the paladins to lower their guards. They are not easy opponents to defeat considering their strength and defensive abilities."

With your last lines of questions, Quenya took some time to think. It seems like it didn't really occur to her that, even if the pages couldn't have even approached the vault without suspicion, they could have been used to transport the Princess around without anyone noticing. After all, it's not like people spot check the pages to make sure they aren't secretly princesses. "Well, royalty visiting is always a notable occasion. It's not as if they just stop by every other weekend. And going to the vault itself is something that needs to be cleared and vetted by multiple parties. As for reverend mother, typically there is one at every cathedral, such as this one. At the moment the reverend mother is currently speaking to the royal family and local nobility in order to investigate this matter in court, before anyone begins sending out questing knights and such. Otherwise smaller temples and churches would have Reverend Sisters, such as myself. As there are about 20 cathedrals in Mirran, there are approximately that many Reverend Mothers. Technically, there are 24, but the other four are stationed in unique positions that don't require them to oversee a cathedral, such as the one that personally attends the royal family, the one that is assigned to Mirran's military, one that serves as a foreign dignitary on all matters related to our faith, and the Pope herself, who technically is a Reverend Mother but greater. However at this very moment, there is only one in this city, and it's the Reverend Mother who is assigned to the Systin cathedral."

"Now if that's all, I shall be back in some time. I will recall the pages into the cathedral."
Quenya stood up, bowing her head and leaving. Orchid, having nothing to eat or drink, simply sat quietly listening to all that the priestess had to say. Once she closed the door and Orchid was certain Quenya was gone, the hulking warrior let out a breath and allowed herself to relax, kicking her feet up on the table. "Well, that was a info dump. I'll be honest with you boss, I only got like half of that, and all I know for certain is that we got three leads to follow up on. Each one sounds like they got the means and reasons to be doing whatever it is they're doing, so who do you think we ought to look into first?"
 
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Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.

As Victorique made her notes, she clicked her tongue. There were definitely many layers to this all. That was how she liked it though. A challenge. When the sister made her way out to go fetch the pages, she took some time to carefully read through the book about demons. She stopped at the page regarding the Balgura, before showing it to Orchid. “It's way too early to say anything conclusive, but this seems a likely candidate, so we might want to prepare for how we'd face such a monster just in case. We'd rather avoid being caught off guard by such a thing.” It was better to be over-prepared than underprepared, after all.

She then started to go through the reports on vampires and cultists that Quenya had laid out before. Although she went through all of it globally, she was specifically looking for anything that might mention the Sun Shard, Vespr or Nevember, and of course the Balgura. As she was doing so, she was starting to wonder if she could meet that Reverend Mother herself. It was a bit odd that the latter was dealing with the investigation separately, even though the explanation for it held up. Victorique figured she wouldn't exclude an inside job from her investigation just yet.

As for what Orchid said, Victorique wasn't sure yet herself. “I'm not sure yet. Besides, there's one thing we can't rule out.” She looked around to see if there was anyone within hearing range. If there wasn't, she'd continue. “This might be in inside-job. I don't deem it likely, but it's a possibility. As such, we should probably try to get some information from other sides as well. We can't really go to sources outside the church itself, but perhaps talking to the pages can teach us something. Other than the things I intend to ask them by default, or course. It seems incredibly easy for someone to disguise themselves as a page and sneak in, but perhaps the pages themselves have noticed someone new amongst their rank. After all, even with eye colour and sound of voice alone, they might be able to recognise someone new for being new.” She sighed. “Sorry, what I'm trying to say is that these people might have a unique perspective on what's going on. Unique enough to try hearing them out, before drawing more conclusions.”

Then, an idea came to mind. “Although if you're bored... You may want to read up on all this stuff as well. Leave the investigation parts to me, but do check on how they usually fight or attack. Demons, cultists, vampires. We might have a lot of dangerous foes to hamper our investigation, so it wouldn't hurt reading up on the lot of them and on how to best defend against or deal with them.” She said, showing the demon book and reports of cultists and vampire incidents towards Orchids, at least after having gone through them on her own. Even her big green bodyguard might need every advantage she could get against these types of foes.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
"Huh. Giant monkey with illusion powers. Shit... Demons get all the cool magic. And it says here it's resistant against mundane steel too. Think the church would loan me a magic halberd?" Orchid asks as she scoots closer to Victorique and reads a bit about the Balgura demon. She looked back to Victorique when she explained another theory, with Orchid nodding her head to her words. "Yeah, makes sense. It all seems to be way too clean to have just been the princess and maybe a buddy working alone. Those paladins getting KO'd without a fight? Her getting in and out without anyone noticing? Hell, giant monkey climbing up the side of the cathedral? Even if it wasn't the Balgura or whatever, can't imagine that could've been done without some serious prep work. Plus... Well, ain't really my place to speculate, but sounds like a classic case of 'hire mercs to do a dirty job' to me. Wouldn't be the first time I got hired to do a job only to get framed up. At least, back when I was still independent. Some perks with being part of the guild though, since if they accuse you of doing that, then the guild might have your back. Uh, I hope."

When Victorique mentioned Orchid doing some reading, the warrior scoffed but also chuckled. "Reading? Learning? I ought to charge you extra for that, boss." That being said, Orchid did take Victorique's advice and starts looking over the book, taking some extra paper and ink and writing down a list of things she ought to bring to deal with these demons, fiends, and other nasties of the night. After about twenty minutes, Orchid was more or less done making her list and Quenya had returned. "Excuse me, would you please come with me? The pages are gathered in the hall." Out in the hall, the regular partitions were gone and only the pages were present. There was well over a hundred of them, all uniformly dressed in their robes and masks. They all sat kneeling on the floor, their heads pointed down. Notably, the only other people here were paladins: They quite obviously looked armed and armored, and while none of them were openly brandishing their weapons they did seem to be here for security reasons.

"These are all the pages that we have in our cathedral at the moment. I'm sure you don't have the time to talk to each one of them, so we have arranged for the eldest of the pages to be gathered near the front. They should be able to answer your questions." There were three pages who stood up from their position to sit in front of Victorique. They sat up, however they kept their heads down and their eyes closed. The first, a large page with broad shoulders, spoke up. "Felicitations and salutations. I am your humble servant, Page Arto. As the eldest it is my duty to teach the younger pages their daily lessons and the rituals conducted under the benevolence of our Radiance Lucilia." The second one was shorter, squatter, but nearly as broad shouldered. "Felicitations and salutations. I am your humble servant, Page Emate. As the second eldest it is my duty to oversee their chores and duties on behalf of the church." The final one was thin but very tall, slightly taller than the previous page. Unlike the others who are Victorique's height or shorter while sitting, the third page was still a head taller even on their knees. "Felicitations and salutations. I am your humble servant, Page Odere. As the third eldest it is my duty to ensure the health and safety of the pages. I ensure that any sickness and wounds are treated and keep them from dangerous situations." All three prostrated themselves before Victorique again, laying their heads on the ground before her awaiting her to ask her questions.
 
Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
    • Over a hundred total.
    • 1 Arto, teaching. 2 Emate, oversee chores. 3 Odere, health and safety.
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.

Victorique smiled at Orchid's thinking. “I'm pretty sure loaning out a magic halberd in return for getting a free demon-slayer is a great deal for the church, so I'd say flex those muscles and ask away.” She had to think a bit about the guild. “I'd like to think I've got enough standing with the guild to get their support by now.” As for the reading part she puffed out some smoke. “You'll thank me when it saves our lives during the coming few days~”

Victorique was honestly rather impressed when over a hundred pages had been gathered, all made to kneel with their heads down. It was a bit odd there were also a fair few paladins looking ready for a fight, but that went to the back of her mind. After all, it was tough not to get a little bit of a rush from seeing so many people bowing down before you. The halfling was barely used to having the power to command the big green set of muscles. Now there was a small army bowing down here at her command.

That said, she clicked her tongue at the mention of her being meant to talk to the eldest three. That pretty much beat the purpose of gathering all of them here. She made a quick note of the names and jobs of the three eldest. She was wondering how to 'play' this part, as she was honestly stuck on what the best course of action would be. In the end, she decided to take the gamble and go with a direct manner of addressing. After all, it was getting late and she doubted she'd be able to gather all these pages a second time.

“Thank you all for coming here.” She'd start, having her eyes wander across the pages. They were all dressed very alike, but sizes, eyes and perhaps things like horns or wings and whatnot might still make some stand out. However, what she was most alert for, was if there were any who's behaviour was ever so slightly different than that of the rest of them. Especially once she began her questions. “We have reason to believe that someone might've pretended to be a page in the last few days in order to go through the church unnoticed.” She wasn't sure how much these pages were supposed to know regarding the missing sun-shard, so she decided not to stir the pot too much by mentioning that part directly. “As it is your duty to normally stay unnoticed, it would give them the perfect method of staying out of sight without raising suspicion. However, you're still here for a reason, so I'm sure that someone that managed to sneak in must've stood out in their lack of ability to stick to customs and routines, even if it was ever so slightly.”

With that set-up out of the way, it was finally time for the questions themselves. “That's why I'd like to ask any and all of you, not just the eldest, if you've seen someone or something that stood out. It doesn't matter how minor or unrelated it might seem to be.” She was quick to dampen her words a bit. “Mind you, I'm not here to sow distrust in your ranks. I believe the manner with which you conduct yourselves is noble and I respect the anonymity you subjected yourselves to. All I wish is to make sure that it hasn't been used against you by outside forces. I don't ask you to judge your fellow pages, all I ask of you is to mention anything that stood out and then immediately forget about it and go about your duties as normal. If you believe what you've seen might be too sensitive to discuss here, I'll be able to listen to it in privacy directly after this meeting. If it is not, I ask you to speak up now, to see if others can confirm or deny having seen it as well.” She made sure to add some [Persuasions E] to try to get them to speak up, especially hoping to counter the idea that only the Eldest were meant to say something. The latter had only functioned to make her more suspicious of the church itself.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
There was an eerie silence as Victorique spoke. The pages didn't stir, and there was nary a whisper. If the halfling hearing wasn't so sharp, she wouldn't even hear them breath, though they were in fact breathing just very quietly. But none spoke out, none rose from their positions. It wasnt hard for Victorique to figure that unless directly asked, none of them were going to speak unless spoken to.

In the end, only Emate spoke of his own volition. "There are 108 pages at the Systin chapel. One of my duties is to clean our uniforms every day, and ensure both it's quality and cleanliness. When we had cleaned our uniforms three days ago, there was 110 uniforms." Quiet again. Then Odere spoke, remembering something. "Four days ago there was an epidemic. Many people came to the cathedral due to sickness from diseased food. Seven of our initiates also became ill during that time. Today five have recovered but two are still ill but continue their work." Finally Arto spoke, mostly out of obligation rather than having anything of particular note to say. "There have been no new initiate pages since three weeks ago. The newest of the pages are still learning their duties and lessons from me and will be allowed to partake in their full duties by this week's end."

Orchid stood by, looking around for anything of note. Alas, everyone was statue still and silent, so Orchid turned to Victorique with a sigh. "Boss I don't think we're going to get much awnsers from the pages. At least I dont think they're the type to admit someone might've infiltrated as one of their own." However as Orchid spoke to Victorique, the shorter halfling would see a blue symbol on Orchid's leg plate. A crescent moon with a tear drop between the tips of the crescents. Just as quickly as Victorique saw it, it dissapeared. Orchid didnt seem to see it, at least not from her position. "Do ya think we need to interview each page? I can take one, you take one, that's uh... Fifty-four or so each of us. Might be able to get it done by morning, if we burn that midnight oil."
 
Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
    • Over a hundred total.
    • 1 Arto, teaching. 2 Emate, oversee chores. 3 Odere, health and safety.
    • Extra uniforms found (Emate), two ill initiates continuing their work (Odere), nobody new since three weeks ago (Arto).
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.

She clicked her tongue. Of course it wouldn't be that easy. However, this was only the start. She'd ensured that all the pages were weary of her existence and that they all knew she was on the look-out for something standing out. That was already a lot. As Orchid said, it would be impossible to question them all. “No, that's quite alright. I've gotten a few things.”

She pondered a little on the stuff said by the three eldest. The only thing that immediately stood out were the extra uniforms. It could have been stuff used to infiltrate. It could also be bad bookkeeping. “Thank you all for coming here.” She had a bit of an odd feeling that none of these pages would come to her simply to talk, so she needed another excuse. Luckily enough, Orchid had already given her one. “That reminds me, we'll be staying at the nearby inn for the night, but we'll probably get to it first thing in the morning. If someone were to be willing to drop off someone weapons for my friend here, ones that she can use against demons or vampires, that'd be greatly appreciated. She's eager to get her hands on one of them, after all.” She said, hoping to catch two birds with one stone. There was one more thing. “Also, before I forget, I didn't want to simply take the records, but I'd like to further look into the ones regarding possible vampire activity. If someone could bring me a copy of them, that'd also be greatly appreciated.”

She then turned to Quenya. “Thank you for gathering them all here. We'll be taking our leave for now, if you don't mind. I'd like to sort a few things out and then get some rest.” She said, giving the woman a short bow before heading towards the exit (unless stopped).

After ensuring that nobody was tailing them and that they were out of sight and hearing range, she gestured for Orchid to bend down, then whispered in her ear. “Someone put something on one of your leg plates. I'm not sure if it's there to spy on us or if it's an attempt to reach out subtly, but let's assume we might be listened in on for now. We'll go to the inn and silently investigate it. Otherwise, we wait to see if someone shows up and if they do, we'll have to keep those plates far enough away just to be safe.”

She would attempt to use her investigative skills on the plates, once they'd checked in for a room at the inn, but she knew little of the arcane, so she wasn't expecting too much out of it.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
With Victorique and Orchid finished with their business at the cathedral, the pages were dismissed, leaving in an orderly fashion to return to their duties. Quenya bid the two farewell, ensuring that some equipment and reports to Victorique and recommended a few local inns to stay at. Mainly just so they know where to find them later. The two would be allowed to freely come and go the cathedral's main hall, however if they intended to go into any offices or private quarters they would need to be escorted by guards. Aside from that the two would head towards the city proper, which compared to the majesty of the cathedral felt almost pedestrian. And that was despite the festival currently going on: the people of Mirran were celebrating the anniversary of Lucilia, who over half a century ago liberated the Kingdom of Mirran from demonic oppressors. Bright lights illuminated the streets and people were out and about, drinking, playing games, and partaking in events.

After some time Victorique would inform Orchid of the mark, but when she checked there was no such thing. Not even a scratch where it should've been. "Huh, someone marked me huh? Think it was one of those pages? Pretty sure magic requires stuff like a catalysts and fancy hand motions, so whoever did that must be a good spellcaster." Orchid looked around but didn't spot anything, no pages either. Eventually they would find a room at a nice inn called the Morning Star. There was only a few rooms left, but they did find one room with two single beds. Not much else available however, not even a loo. Just a bucket of water for cleaning and a chamber pot in a closet. Orchid sat down on her bed, still armed and armored in case something happens. And eventually something did happen.

There was a knock on the door. Orchid looked to Victorique with a silent nod and went to answer it. She opened the door to reveal... A young elven man, holding a wrapped bundle and some books. He didn't looked like a page. "Excuse me, is Miss Victorique staying here? I have her delivery for her." Orchid would let the elf in, but kept a close eye on him. Her dropped off various books on the vampires and their activities, as well as a few pieces of equipment. A silver long spear, two armbands containing enchanted throwing knives, and vials of holy water. "These look useful." Orchid picked up the spear. It wasn't as hefty as her poleaxe, but it was of respectable length, and the tip was strong and sturdy despite it's ornamentation. The knives were fairly small and thin, more like needles really. But they were perfectly designed to be thrown by either Orchid or Victorique. The holy water were kept in metal flasks: instead of being thrown directly at enemies, one just needed to pop the cork off and splash the content onto the target. A shorter range than throwing, but more control. Orchid looked to Victorique to see if there was anything else she wanted to ask the young elf. One thing that the halfling would notice that Orchid didn't was the blue crescent moon with a tear drop between the tips that was on the elf's shirt.
 
Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
    • Stolen just before the festival.
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
    • Over a hundred total.
    • 1 Arto, teaching. 2 Emate, oversee chores. 3 Odere, health and safety.
    • Extra uniforms found (Emate), two ill initiates continuing their work (Odere), nobody new since three weeks ago (Arto).
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.

As they walked through-out the festival terrain, Victorique suddenly realised she'd forgotten to take something into account. “Hm. This festival is bigger than I thought. If this celebration is that important, perhaps there's significant to the date as well.” The Sun Shard being stolen just before the festivities might be mere coincidence, but she shouldn't immediately assume so.

As Victorique assumed, the mark was purely magical, leaving no trace. “You're correct.” She nodded at Orchid's additional insight. Truth be told, she herself hadn't paid to much attention to it, which was another oversight. It was a good thing she wasn't working on this alone, not just for the added muscle. Their room left a lot to be desired, but it was better than nothing.

She got excited when someone actually showed up. “That'd be me.” She answered him, then spotting the same mark as what had been put on Orchid's gear. “Now that's a familiar mark.” She said, pointing out the mark whilst observing the Elf's reaction with her insight. If he was shocked, it meant it'd been an attempt to spy on them. If he was merely surprised, he likely used it as a means to reach out. In either case, the question would be the same. “I'm sure you've got something you'd like to tell us, so by all means, go ahead.” (If he did act shocked, she'd try to quickly gesture for Orchid to ensure the Elf couldn't run off. Otherwise she'd just ask it nicely and enthusiastically.)
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
1662444886563.png

Standing by the door, Orchid closed the door and watched the elf closely. The young man gulped and waved his hand. This dismissed his spell and revealed his true form. His elven features faded away and revealed twisted horns and growths on his face and body, his once smooth arms now covered with thin frayed fur. His skin turned from a light yellow to a dull stony grey, and the whites of his eyes darkened which illuminated his bright yellow eyes more vividly. This was no elf. "I am Ansven. One of the new pages. I know you're looking for the princess. I don't know what she did, but I think I know where she's going. She's heading to the Haven Mountains, and she wants to access the Abyss hidden there." The young man hands Victorique a book. The illusion on it fades: instead of being about vampires the book was about the Haven Mountains. Ansven even had some book marks on the Abyss inside already so Victorique had somewhere to start reading. "The Abyss is where demons come form. Demons... Like me. They come through the Abyss into this world, and sometimes they're found by the church. The older, stronger ones are killed. Younger ones like me become pages. To control our urges. So that we don't succumb to our monstrous nature. I think the princess wants to go find someone there."

Ansven never looked at Victorique, still keeping his eyes away from her. Likely a habit as a page, it doesn't seem like they're suppose to ever reveal to anyone their true forms. It would certainly explain their baggy robes, hoods, and masks: if all demons had horns like Ansven they would need a lot of cloth to cover themselves up. Orchid looked at Victorique with a curious look. "Yeah I had a feeling it was something like this. Among us mercs, kids like these are known as janissaries. Not sure where that bit of etymology came from but basically they're child taken from another land, converted into the local religion, and raised to become warriors."

Ansven shook his head, clasping his hands together. "We are not permitted to join the church militia. However when we become of age we end our term as pages and continue to serve the church."

Orchid made a derisive snort. "Sure, doing things the church doesn't want to dirty their hands with, right? Say, are you here because the church sent you, or do you got your own reasons for helping?"

The young demon doesn't seem to answer. It's hard to tell since he isn't showing his face to you or Orchid, but from the way his hands tighten, his legs stiffen, and his breathing becomes quieter, it seems like these lines of questioning were bothering him. It was evident that he choose to come here, and likely felt that Victorique would be able to help considering that he took the risk to come here in disguise just to talk to her. After some time to think he spoke again. "... I know that you might think the church is evil, for what they do to children like me. But you have to understand that this is for the best. Everyday I fight against my nature to... To lash out. To kill. But I know what will happen if I lose control. It would just be a blind rage that would hurt the people I do care about more, than the people I despise. I only want to do good. I think... I think the princess is struggling with the same thing. An inner desire she had been suppressing, but she's lost control over. Even we pages know that she had stolen the Sun Shard, but I think she took it to the Abyss to... Well, I don't really know. But with the Sun Shard she should be safe from the threats in the Abyss. But I cannot see anything good coming from it. Such an artifact should never be down there, even as a weapon."
 
Victorique Sopheana

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
    • Ansven (demon, new page), claims she's heading to the Haven Mountains to access the Abyss, in order to find a demon there.
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
    • Stolen just before the festival.
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
    • Over a hundred total.
    • 1 Arto, teaching. 2 Emate, oversee chores. 3 Odere, health and safety.
    • Extra uniforms found (Emate), two ill initiates continuing their work (Odere), nobody new since three weeks ago (Arto).
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.

Quite the spellcaster had revealed himself to them. They also made a rather big claim. Even for someone like Victorique, that was a lot to take in. Although it explained a lot, it also complicated a lot of things. After all, what if this was a set-up? Victorique would be a moron to believe this demon instantly, even though they came across as being honest. That said, she fully realised that sending investigators straight for the Abyss to investigate there was likely a very quick and easy way to get rid of them, as that'd be the ideal place for a trap to make them disappear without issue. The name 'Abyss' suggested that much, at the very least.

Now, one thing that was actually good about being short, was that people that averted their eyes normally tended to look down and away. With 'down' being where she was at, she figured she still had a chance of glossing over the demon's eyes to pick up something with her [insight]. Either way, after a while, she'd picked out which words she was going to use. “First of all, thank you for coming here and revealing yourself. Secondly, I'm not here to pass judgement upon the church. If you believe they're helping you and your kind, I have no qualms with it.” She'd shoot Orchid a short glare, not wishing for the Orc to intimidate this kid into silence or into leaving again.

That's where the nice words ended, as she had some serious questions to ask. “Now, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that you're telling us all of this, but I do have some questions. First and most of all, if a relatively new page like you is capable of reaching this conclusion, why would the sister reverend not have done so, or rather, why would she not have told us? Is there a reason for the church to avoid mentioning the Abyss or is there something you know that the church doesn't? Secondarily, you sound like you know more than you're telling us. This inner desire you say she's suppressing, what do you know about it to be able to conclude this with such confidence? Related to that, how did you conclude she's wishing to find someone there?”

As she was talking, she kept observing the demon. In its own odd deformed way, it was sort-off cute, perhaps. That said, she could feel a lingering threat in some of its words, such as the longing for violence. The latter made her figure she might as well try to use [Appraisal D] on this demon child. Perhaps it would reveal her some things that'd help her make sense of the situation.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Orchid sighs but nods to Victorique. She would leave the questioning to the halfling and focus on making sure no one was listening in on their little conversation, stepping outside to keep watch. With the two alone, the demon boy seems to ease up. That being said Ansven gulped as Victorique tried to look into his eyes. He kept trying to avert his gaze but unless he physically covers them, it's hard to do so without his full page regalia. He just settles for not looking directly at her. "I... I do not know what Reverend Sister Quenya knows. However she is part of the Church's Inquisition. It is their duty to investigate these matters to determine if and how to direct the church's militant arm, the Paladins of Holy Light. I... I dare not accuse her of treachery. I know what she does is for our benefit. I... I cannot guarantee if they're in yours." This was a very nice way of saying that Quenya didn't trust Victorique as much as she claims. Or perhaps in her own fanatical way, Quenya does trust the duo, but in a way that still aligns with the church's goals and simply assumes Victorique would be okay with the outcome. Such was the difficulty of trying to get a read on religious folk: they mentality is so warped by their faith they can easily hide their intentions through pure religious fervor.

"The Abyss is... Dangerous. Mirran wasn't always how it was now. Over a century ago the land was ruled by demons and their dark powers. One of their strengths came from their subterranean empire spanning the entire kingdom, the Abyss. It was constantly shifting and full of powerful monsters, but the demon rulers can shape the Abyss however they please. This enabled the demons a great amount of mobility within the kingdom: they could bring their armies from one side of the country to the next in a matter of hours, allowing them to easily defend their borders or release the monsters within to ravage their enemies. But after her Radiance Lucilia defeated the previous demon lord, she sealed away the Abyss, reducing the demon's abilities to use it in Mirran. But every so often, an opening is made that allows demons to escape. Normally the inquisition investigates these locations so they can direct paladins to seal the openings before any dangerous demons come out." After Ansven gave a little history lesson on the Abyss, he held his hands down to the side. His gnarled fingers digging into his palm in nervous fear.

"I... I came from the Abyss in the Haven Mountains. There's a community of demons living there. I don't know how they're hidden from the Inqusition, but they are. I know the princess is going there because... Because I told her how to. When she came here she always went to the library to read. One day I was tasked to attend to her and she... Well she wanted to know more about me. I um... Pages aren't suppose to talk to people, but she was the only person who genuinely wanted to know who I was. Where I came from. What I want to do with my life. So I told her about the Abyss, the Haven Mountains, the demons who lived there, and she wanted me to learn more too. So we began to study together. And then... And then she just left. I heard rumors that she stole something and that's when I realized she... She was..." Ansven bit his lip. Notably his teeth were sharp, and cutting into his lip caused his black blood to seep out. Victorque could tell that the demon boy was feeling guilty. Whether he wants to admit it or not, the princess had easily managed to get him to talk about his homelands with her, which was likely information that she needed. But to what end?

"When I... When I asked her why she wanted to know so much about me, she confined in me that she wanted to know more about demons, my people. She said that she has always learned about the people of Mirran, the elves and humans who fought the demons and settled here. But she wanted to know more about us. I-I-I told her that it was forbidden knowledge, but mostly just because I don't really know myself. She then told me that... That she always felt like people were just using her. 'A cog in the machine' she said. That she was taught never to question how or why things were, even though it could be better. She just wanted to make things better for everyone. Even for people like me..." It was quickly becoming apparent that Ansven was losing his composure. He's probably been keeping this to himself for a long time. A fear that he had done something terrible. But also a deep concern for the Princess, someone who he now considers a friend, even if he also recognizes that he was manipulated. "Eventualy I, I told her that my village it... It was there to protect a crypt. I don't really know for who. But everyone there was training to become warriors so they could protect the crypt. They always killed anyone who approached. They said I was too weak to fight, so I... So I left. I'm sure that the princess is going there to see whoever is in that Crypt." The fear and guilt was written on his face. Ansven felt like it was his fault that the Princess stole the Sun Shard and fled the church. He might also just be projecting hard, so his confession wasn't guarantee to be true, though he himself at least believes it to be. Such as it is with these religious folk.

Examining him through Appraisal, Victorique is able to see a few of his Titles. The most prominent was Page, appropriate considering his current occupation. He also had the thief and vandal criminal title. Victorique can also tell based off previous information that Ansven had an awful amount of skill in illusion magics, but only a slight amount in holy magic. His physical ability was comparable to Orchid, though lacking in any fighting styles, though he did possess natural weapons. But stranger still was that he does not possess the demon racial title. Instead he had something called "Ascendant" as a racial title, but there was no additional information beyond that.
 
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Victorique Sopheana

The demon kid talked a lot more than Victorique suspected he would. As she suspected, the church wasn't given the full run-down of things. “I'm sure the church as their reasons, you've no need to come to their defence. I'm merely hoping they'll at least let me do what they hired me for.”

The Abyss was another new entry into her notebook. However, she felt a bit bad for the kid upon seeing the level of guild he was displaying. “Hey, it's not your fault. Her actions are her own to take credit or blame for, not yours. If anything, she owes you for speaking up to me about it, so that we can try to find her.”

The idea that the princess was after a crypt in a village guarded by aggressive demons was a tough one to swallow. How in the world was she going to go about that one? It was a fair bit outside the realms of her investigative abilities. Another thing that surprised her was his 'ascendant' title. Combined with the lack of 'demon' or 'monster' title, it was clear that things were getting weird. She wasn't sure if it was wise to openly confront him with it, so she decide to abstain from it for now.

Instead, she figured she'd check another option. “I'd need to think things through for a bit, but say I'd want you to show me to that village, would you be excused from your duties if we used the excuse that I wanted someone familiar with the fate to be a direct source of information wherever I went? Also, would you be willing to take us there to begin with?” She wanted to check if this was a possible option or not, even though she wasn't sure if she'd pursue it.

  • Prime suspect: Princess Lynette Yspern Mirran.
    • Sun Shard is only accessible through royal blood.
    • Princess fled from the cathedral right after the Sun Shard was discovered missing (was there for the Great War ceremonies).
    • No known motives, likely outside help.
    • Taken out of a 7th story window by a great climber with stealth abilities.
    • Ansven (demon, new page), claims she's heading to the Haven Mountains to access the Abyss, in order to find a demon there. Told her to go there (?)
  • Sun Shard.
    • High religious significance.
    • Very powerful source of magic power.
    • Fuel source of the Sunlight Archon (used to fell storms).
    • Could be useful in dark rituals (summoning demons, resurrecting undead, etc.).
    • Guardian paladins were defeated without blood on the scene.
    • Only to be visited by Royalty and Reverend Mothers (currently only one in city).
    • Stolen just before the festival.
  • Pages.
    • Initiates who join with hidden identity to be seen as equals.
    • Try to remain out of sight to trouble no-one. (Ideal disguise to sneak into the church and steal the Sun Shard?)
    • Over a hundred total.
    • 1 Arto, teaching. 2 Emate, oversee chores. 3 Odere, health and safety.
    • Extra uniforms found (Emate), two ill initiates continuing their work (Odere), nobody new since three weeks ago (Arto).
  • Nothrum family, Vespr Nothrum.
    • Princess was meant to be married to Vespr.
    • Vespr attempted to obtain the Sun Shard to help some vampires.
    • Was defeated and killed, family remains a shadow of its former self.
    • Doesn't seem to have remaining allies that want him resurrected, other than perhaps the vampire Clan Riovas.
  • Whitestrake family (Dukedom), Lord Nevember Whitestrake.
    • Rivals the royal family in militant power.
    • Safeguards the Sunlight Archon.
    • Nevember attempt to court Lynette, might use the Sun Shard to get his way? (seems unlikely.)
    • Unclear if Nevember's relation with Lynette was a two-way street. Royal family prohibited it.
  • Inferno Legion, cult.
    • Might have corrupted the princess to get the Sun Shard for profane rituals.
    • Might be competing with the vampires.
    • Gain their powers from demons.
    • Balgura demon – gorilla, capable of stealth, climbing, disguising, mind-twisting.
  • Abyss / Haven Mountain
    • Subterranean empire of demons.
    • Radiance Lucillia defeated previous demon lord and sealed it.
    • Openings are still made.
    • Haven Mountain has a community of demons living in it. - Protects a crypt.
  • Ascendant
    • Title held by demon kid Asven. What is it?
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
A few tears fell from Ansven's face as he let his emotions all out. Not really an ugly cry per say, since he seemed to be able to at least contain that, but it really seemed like he had reached his limits and needed to let his heart out. This emotional vulnerability is likely how the princess was able to extract so much information out of him. "I... I don't know. I never told the church where my village was because... Because I'm sure if they knew, they would destroy it. And, and if they knew that I knew they would... I would be punished. I don't really know how I could go. Maybe if you ask Sister Quenya to take a page with you? When the paladins leave on missions, sometimes pages are taken to serve them. I don't really know if you get to choose the pages or not however. I never been asked to accompany paladins. Maybe they could make an exception for you though?" It doesn't seem to occur to Ansven that he could actually leave and it doesn't seem like he particularly wants to. The fact that he had inadvertently revealed the path to the princess has made him nervous about revealing any more, however he did take a sheet of paper and begin to write something for Victorique.

"Um... But maybe I can still show you the way. The village has these special symbols that you need to follow to reach it. If you don't follow the symbols, the path won't be revealed to you. But be careful, the way up there is dangerous. I don't really know how the Princess will manage to go through there alone. Creatures from the Abyss live in the area, as a line of defense for the village. They don't normally bother us demons but I can't say the same for you." Ansven had drawn a makeshift map of the area. He marked a mountain with a few buildings on it, likely where his village was on Mount haven. Then he marked four symbols: A tree with the moon and teardrop symbol you've seen, a rock with what appears to be a closed eye, and finally there was a rectangle with dots arranged on it into a upward pointing half-arrow. As Ansven explains:

"Haven mountain is surrounded by forests. You'll need to find a tree marked by the Moontear, a sacred symbol of my village. When you find it, touch it, and it will disappear. That's when you know you've found the right one. But if it doesn't that means you've found the wrong one and it'll draw in beasts. You have to carefully make sure you find the Moontear that looks exactly like this. From there you need to head towards the river and find the Seeing Stone. Again, there's a lot of them with markings but only a few that's the right one. If you find the right one the eyes should open and reveal the path to you. But if it doesn't open, then it's a trap. The demons will know you're coming for them and they'll be ready to hunt you down. It's harder to tell because they all look the same, but the right symbol has exactly six lashes on it. No more, no less. The last one is the hardest. After crossing the river you'll have to climb the mountain and find the spot where you can see the stars make this pattern. The entrance is near that spot and nowhere else. I've never been there though, so I don't really know where the entrance was. I... I left the village through the Abyss, so I never had to take this way to leave."
 
Victorique Sopheana

She couldn't help trying to reach up enough to pet the kid on the head for a bit (if he'd let her), when he started bawling his eyes out. She felt surprisingly bad for him. She wondered if the risks and troubles of asking Quenya to bring this page along would outweigh his usefulness. As the drew the map and revealed the church might go to destroy the village, she realised just how much trust he was putting in her. After all, for all he knew, she could just tell the paladins and get a small cursade going. She wouldn't, of course, but she could. The fact that he trusted her not to do so was both foolish and commendable. As he started rambling about the signs, tasks and traps, she told him to hold up a few times, making sure she'd write it all down correctly and having him proofread it just in case. (She basically wrote down his entire speech, for good measure.) “Thank you for sharing this with me. Don't worry, I'll sure this doesn't end up in the wrong hands and I'll do what I can to get the princess back safely. Now, unless there was something else you wished to tell me, you'd best return, before others start to wonder what's taking you so long.”

If he left, she'd call back in Orchid to fill her in with the new info, for as far as Orchid hadn't heard them talk from outside the room. That said, there was another thing that was bugging Victorique. “Although this kid helped the princess get to that demon village, he's not the reason she wanted to go there. I think someone might've planted the idea of that crypt. Likely the same person that helped her steal the moon shard. Before we venture off into demon-infested mountains, perhaps we should find out if we can visit someone from the Nothrum or go to the Whitestrakes first. Then again, if the princess really is in the demon village, we might not wish to waste any time getting there.” It was a tough choice and not something her investigative skills really helped her with.

Then again, perhaps this was all a set-up. Perhaps the church learned of the demon village's existence and merely wished to expose it. If that was the case, they'd merely have to tail Victorique and Orchid there, if they were to head their first. The chance was small, but it was there. “Let's visit the Whitestrakes first. They might offer us another perspective on the church as well... after sleeping that is.” She was pretty darn tired after the long trip and investigation until it was long dark.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Ansven would take his leave silently, putting his illusion disguise back on as he heads out. Orchid enters, reporting no suspicious activities. After getting filled in, Orchid ponders the information. "Man, this sounds like a lot of info to work with. Don't suppose we can just boil it down to whatever will help us find the princess the fastest? That is our job after all. From the sounds of it we're getting tangled up in a mess of stuff and people might start asking us to take sides, which is never a good thing when you're a merc." Soon after Victorique spoke about her own concerns about the operation and Orchid shrugged her shoulders. "I'll follow your lead boss. I recommend we focus on saving the princess, but gathering more info so we know what we're dealing with is always important too. If this whole thing really is a big trap, than it'll pay to be prepared. Anyways, tomorrow I'll see about getting supplies and directions to these Whitestrake folks. I'm sure someone here knows where they live." After a light dinner of lentil stew, Orchid and Victorique would rest up for the night without much issue.

In the morning Orchid would make a hearty breakfast of eggs, roasted tomatoes, boiled peas, toast, and freshly squeezed juice. She also gives Victorique some supplies, mostly traveling rations but also a map of the local area and a festival trinket. It was a a small crystal on a leather cord. Squeeze the crystal and it will glow in proportion to how much you squeeze it, but the light will fade when you stopped. Essentially a flashlight. "Wow, didn't know they had tomatoes here. I wonder if they're an export. Hey boss, they say you can make wine out of pretty much any fruit. You think anyone's ever made tomato wine?" Orchid asks over breakfasts. Just some small talk. After breakfast she reports that the Whitestrakes are somewhat close to town. "That is, about a day's travel by road if we took a horse. Their castle is fairly close and likely where they'd find the Whitestrakes for questioning. Problem is all the horse services are being used for the Festival of Light. Can't even buy a donkey right now. So we'll have to walk, which I'm told may be about a three day journey even by road, though there is an inn along the way." Orchid reports as she was cleaning her armor and weapons. While she hasn't needed to use them since their last job together, Orchid still takes the time to take care of them. She has also put on the equipment given by the church. The holy water was attached to straps on Orchid's bandolier, with the knives wrapped around her forearms. The spear she would carry and keep her poleaxe strapped to her backpack.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Victorique shook her head. “Our mission is to find the artefact and hunt down the thief who took it. It sounds by all account that the princess is a mere cog in someone's scheme, as I'm not at all convinced she could've dealt with those paladins. With that in mind, I wouldn't consider catching the princes as catching the thief. I'd also rather avoid the risk of getting caught up on someone's schemes.”

Waking up to a pretty nice breakfast was enough to put her in a great mood. Perhaps it was the halfling blood in her. “Probably.” She replied to the question of tomato one. “They also say that alcohol was discovered on accident by eating rotten fruits, so perhaps some folk made tomato wine on accident as well.” It was a bit of an odd topic, but the road was long, so she'd have time to think things through later. “To that extend, anything that can ferment should be able to become some type of liquor, not just vegetables. Perhaps even grass would work.”

The inability to hire a horse was a surprising annoyance. She didn't want to run late. However, as she saw the Orc heavily packed, she got a sudden idea. “I can put any stuff you don't immediately need in my pocket dimension if you want. Although... I'm pretty sure I'm capable of opening a large enough space to house an entire Orc as well. I'm also pretty sure I could jog at 145 km/h without exhausting myself easily, faster than a horse, so if a horse could get there in a day, I should be able to get there in half a day. Perhaps getting a horse is a waste of time and resources, assuming you have a way to keep up or won't mind the dark of a Pocket Dimension.”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Orchid raised her brow. "Since when could you do that boss? Damn, you're full of surprises. Hmm.... Well, I can't run that fast, but I can jump pretty far. Do some stretches and have a clear road ahead and I think I might be able to keep up if I jump. I think?" Orchid tries to mental math how fast she can go while jumping and then convert that into kilometers, which was hard for her to do since she wasn't really good at math. Eventually Orchid just shrugs. "You know, I think the bag trick would work better. I'll buy a book to keep myself occupied. But will I be able to breath while I'm in there? I don't know how those pocket dimensions work exactly, but I don't wanna end up suffocating to death in there. Would be a shite way to go." Orchid would gather the dishes, neatly stacking them and putting them into a basket. They aren't her dishes so she just needs to leave them with the innkeeper. "Is there anything else we need from the town before we leave? Should we talk to the church for anymore information?"
 

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