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Fantasy [Isekai Hell] Legacy of the Erased

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Victorique Sopheana

Victorique shrugged. “For a long while, I guess it was never relevant before. Besides, I normally don't like getting sweaty or tiring myself out before an investigation, but in these circumstances, it seems to be the easiest option.” At the mention of a book, she shrugged. “Make sure to bring a light source. I can probably keep it open a bit to keep air circulating through, or otherwise just periodically open it to freshen it out, but I doubt much light will reach through.” The question on what they'd need from the town was a more difficult one to answer. “I've gotten most of what I wanted from the church, as I doubt they'll tell me more than what they told us yesterday. We could check if anyone in town has seen anything suspicious around the church, but with the festivities going on, that'd be a very long and tedious job and time isn't on our side.” She shook he heard. “I'll probably think of a plethora of things I've forgotten to mention or ask along the way, but right now I can't think of anything.”

She smirked, as she opened up the Pocket Dimension once they were outside (and somewhere not too crowed), wide enough to let the Orc enter. “Please make sure not to step on my pipe. It's somewhere in there as well. I guess I'll see you when I found our destination.” If she'd safely Pocketed the Orc, she'd head off in for the Whitestrakes, going half her top [fast] speed at C – 90mph (max) = 145 km/h to ensure she'd not tire herself out.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Orchid showed Victorique the trinket, covering the light source issue. The duo would eventually leave the in and go through the festival, which was already in full swing. Despite the missing princess and the theft of the Sun Shard people still seemed to be enjoying themselves, though it's possible that the information about the two haven't been released to the public yet. So another time factor to consider. Orchid picked up a book about the local culture and would step inside of the pocket dimension. It was a strange feeling since she couldn't really feel anything to step on, but at the same time wasn't falling either. She gave the halfling a thumb's up once she was inside and the two were off.

The journey towards the Whitestrakes manor was long and filled with minor inconveniences. A lot of travelers were on the road, forcing Victorique to often have to go around them. People who didn't notice her inadvertently got in her way at the last second and began a hazard. Though the Halfling had enough wit and attention to smoothly maneuver herself out of the way without losing any momentum. If there was one bright side to all of these travelers, it was the merchants who would be willing to sell a bit of food or drink for Victorique to snack on as she moved. While most of the food were meant to be enjoyed while sitting down, more than a few vendors were more than willing to accommodate a traveler on the go. Along the way she would pick up bits and pieces of rumors and gossip from the visitors.

Information regarding the Whitestrakes were few, with some who live in the area complaining about taxes and bad crow yields. Nothing of real note. The only thing she did pick up on was that the Whitestrakes seem to be holding a personal celebration in their castle, with many merchants wishing they had the invitation to join. A lot of important people were going to be there, and what few merchants were allowed in would surely find many customers with heavy purses. There was even word of a Grand Melee, a tournament open to the public, to recruit knights into the service of the family. All in all it seems like the Whitestrakes weren't going anywhere, which was good if Victorique needed to talk to them. What was harder was getting a chance to talk to them since they were going to be so busy, but that tournament would give her a chance since participates will be allowed to join the feast and the victor would even have the honor of meeting the family themselves.

Thanks to Victorque's sheer speed, and eventually an open road where she wouldn't need to worry about pedestrians, they would arrive to the Whitestrake manor roughly around eight in the afternoon, which was far faster than what they were expected to reach by horse. It was still nearly half a day of running, but aside from a serious case of munchies due to all the energy she has been using, Victorique was no worse for wear. The castle wasn't open right now but there was a village nearby with an inn that the two could stay at, plus there was a small festival here as well. Unlike the one in the town, this was was more of a local potluck, with dancing and singing, rather than a festival with special events and such. That occasion was likely reserved for what was happening in the castle. This could also yield an opportunity to learn more about the Whitestrakes from the locals and other information worth gathering.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Victorique didn't think she'd ever miss highways. She was wrong. Having to go past all sorts of other travellers was a major annoyance any time she just got up to speed again. She might've managed not too lose too much momentum, but continuously having to pay attention was obnoxious as best. Apparently the Whitestrakes were celebrating something, which was peculiar, considering the already ongoing general festivities.

A bit before the village, she'd let the Orc out again. It'd attract a bit too much attention otherwise. “It seems like we might have a tough time getting an audience, unless you're up for joining a tournament. These Whitestrakes are celebrating on their own in a pretty closed circle.” She clicked her tongue, trying to come up with a plan. “We could also mix in with the celebrations here, perhaps we'll be lucky enough to run into someone from the Whitestrakes or one of their servants. Either way, for now it seems like our best option is to go around and see what we can learn.”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
"Heh, and here I thought I'd be bored. Sure, I can join the tourney. Be nice to see how folks in these lands fight. Still let's hedge out bets and schoomze with the locals. Maybe we'll be lucky, who knows." Orchid begins to doff her plate, taking off her plate and striping down to just the padding of her armor. She didn't want to scare the locals by being a giant armored warrior in their midst, so just being a regular big person ought to suffice. The celebrations here were more close knit but the duo would find company easily enough, joining a feast in front of an inn. There was food and dancing and a woman came over to offer the two drinks. "I'll cover this one boss. Why don't you go have some fun, I'll do some information gathering myself." Orchid says as she pays for two drinks of crisp apple cider and starts chatting up a patron.

Aside from feasting, there was someone telling stories about epic battles of the past. There was also a bard singing tales of battles the Whitestrakes have fought. And finally, there was something of a fortune teller. She had all the tale tell signs: a dark tent, a large covered table, and a crystal ball. Plus there were many folks just milling about, partially drunk, just having a good time. There did seem to be some guards stoically keeping the peace, occasionally dragging a drunkard out from the crowd to a designated drunkard area. It doesn't seem like any Whitestrakes are present, though chances are if there were they'd be incognito. Otherwise they'd be surrounded by guards.

That being said, Victorique did notice someone who stood out. Most of the folks here seemed reasonably peasant, and while everyone was dressing as best as they could they were still noticeably plebian. But occasionally Victorique would spot a brunette woman with sparkling sapphire earrings. Something far too fancy for a common woman, and she was accessorized in other pieces of jewelry that shined bright like the stars at night. If this was the Undercity or indeed, any larger city, such a woman would be a ripe target for thieves. But she seemed to just be a regular maiden serving drinks and talking to patrons, yet she was obviously wealthier and treated more kindly than other servers. It's possible that there is more going on with her than most other villagers, should Victorique choose to pursue this route.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Although a tourney might take up too much time, it was still good to have it as a back-up option in case they couldn't contact the Whitestrakes otherwise. For now, however, she took the apple cider and then headed off to investigate. People were a lot more loose lipped when a giant hulking orc wasn't standing around and people didn't often suspect (or even spot) a halfling going around.

She eventually found the type of person she was looking for. Someone standing out just enough to potentially be meaningful. In this case by the value of their jewellery. She wasn't sure how to approach, until she figured she might as well play along for now. If the girl was serving, that'd be a good way to get some attention. “Good evening, ma'am. I'm new to this place and these festivities, so I was wondering what you'd suggest I try here. Does the place have any unique drinks or foods?”

As she awaited the reply, she made sure to carefully observe the woman's reply and the way she handled herself. An experienced server should be separable for someone just doing it for fun every once in a while, after all.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
The woman looked down at Victorique, confused a bit at first but gave a professional smile. "Well here in Rickenwoods, we raise the finest game fowl and grow the sweetest cherries in the region. So I would recommend our fried hen legs with some cherry sauce, or if you'd like we also sell a wonderful spiced wine. There are plenty of other things that may suit your taste, m'lady, so let me know if there's anything else I can help you with." This woman had the signs of a regular server, a commoner who is used to be subservient to others. So not a noble in disguise. She does seem prettier than most, which was likely why she was lavished with such fine jewels. You catch her name from a patron drunkenly calling out to her; her name is Delilah. If you had to guess, she was the village beauty. A flower in a field of weeds. Perhaps a local lord felt infatuated with her.

"Where do you come from, stranger? We don't see many halflings in these part, least not unless they're a caravan. Are you an adventurer perhaps?" Delilah asks as she takes some coins and orders from a nearby patron. She seems good at multitasking and listening to people while busy.
 
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Victorique Sopheana

Considering Victorique felt like she was allowed to treat herself after a day's worth of jogging, she figured she'd actually go with that recommendation. “I'll have the fried hen legs with cherry sauce and a glass of spiced wine, in that case.” From what Victorique gathered, this woman was not a noble, but it wouldn't surprise her if one of the nobles had an eye out for her. If she was working for a gossip magazine, this would be the scoop of the day. Village beauty gets expensive gifts from Whitstrakes noble. That said, she was a detective and she wasn't sure if this girl would help her case.

Then again, she was surprised when this Delilah took the initiative by asking her questions first. “Indeed I am. I was hoping to discuss some jobs and quests with the Whitestrake family, but it seems they aren't currently accepting visitors. It's a bit of a shame, as there is some urgency to it, but I'm afraid it can't be helped.” She wasn't exactly lying, just cherry picking which parts to stress with some persuasion (E) to see if this girl would be able and willing to share a way to access the Whitestrakes.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Deliliah takes the order and leaves to fill out her list. It takes a few minutes, in which Victorique gets to enjoy the sights and sounds. Their dancing here was a mix of drunken men and women doing very simple hops and spins, and some actually very professional dancers who seem to have an entire area dedicated to their routine. They danced using large hoops with ribbon ornaments on them, which when in motion almost appears like fire. The hoops were so large it was possible for them to stand inside of the hoops and roll around in them like a wheel before expertly dismounting to continue their performance.

Soon the maid came back and had your food and drink. When you told her your business here, she seemed hesitant for a moment. But the gossip within her couldn't keep her tongue still. "Is it the rumors about the Mirran princess being here? I've served in the castle a few times and they're never this opulent unless the young lord was expecting his beloved to be here. It would certainly explain why I haven't been invited despite the occasion. Such a shame it is." There was a hint of spite in her tone as she mentioned this information. A jealous lover most likely. After all how could a peasant compete with a princess? But this could be an opportunity to get more information from Delilah as well. It doesn't seem like she quite knew the current accusations against the princess from the church, and her feelings for the Whitestrake Lord could be used against her.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Her questions had gotten her a pretty different answer than expected, but it was welcome information. “So those rumours reached even this far? I can neither confirm nor deny the princess' being here at the moment, but it wouldn't be too surprising. Either way, it wouldn't change the fact that I'm trying to get to meet them. Say...” She said, speaking a bit more hushed as if starting a conspiracy. “You don't happen to know a nice way into the castle, do you? If the princess is actually here, I might or might not be tasked to bring her back to the capital.” She wasn't sure if that would work, but she'd put some persuasion behind it.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Deliliah seemed hesitant. She obviously knew she wasn't suppose to tell anyone what she knew, but the fires of ambition burned brightly behind her eyes. All was fair in love and war after all, and this you g peasant girl was going to need all the help she can get. "Well... Obviously, no one is allowed inside the castle at the moment. Only the family servants, that is their guards and attendants, are allowed to come and go through the gates." The young maid took off her sapphire earring and gently placed it in front of Victorique. "All of the Whitestrake servants wear their symbols, a blue gemstone, on their person at all times. And I have been waiting for one of their servants to deliver this case of cherry wine to the castle. If you happen to find a servant who can deliver this to them, let them know if this urgent delivery. It wouldnt be anyone's interest to keep the lord's cup empty."

Delilah obviously gave Victorique a disguise and alibi to get inside of the castle. The crate of wine was rather heavy for a halfling, but not impossible for her to carry. Though this wasn't a fool proof disguise, as obviously Delilah wanted to get inside but couldn't, despite being far more qualified than Victorique to do so. Chances are this cover was only going to be good enough to get past the guards at the gate, and any further investigation would require stealth.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Victorique took the gemstone and nodded. The crate was heavy, which was obnoxious, but it worked. She'd normally stuff this stuff in her Pocket Dimension, but that'd ruin the disguise. “Thanks, I'll make sure the lord's cup will soon be filled once more.” She said, with an appreciative smile. She'd make sure to temporary store the crate in her Pocket Dimension to quickly fill in Orchid. If she wanted to come along, she could hop in the Pocket Dimension again as well. That said, she'd take the crate back out long before the castle gates, making sure not to stand out and putting on that earring. She didn't worry too much about what she'd do after getting past the gates just yet. Worst case scenario, she'd be fast and agile enough to rush out. Best case, she'd be able to talk her way into meeting the guy if she got caught. Either way, that'd be worries for the next stage. For now, she'd approach the gates hoping to get in to begin with. “Good evening, I've brought the lord's new delivery of cherry wine. Would you anyone open the door for me? My hands are rather full at the moment.” She'd yet again add some persuasion to try making folks a bit more cooperative.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Orchid was a bit sloshed, but not so much that she couldn't follow what Victorique was saying. "Oh. We storming the castle eh? Count me in! Just gotta go say goodbye to a new friend." After she finished her pint, Orchid would hop into the pocket dimension to join in the infiltration. Reaching the gates they around come across two guardsmen, looking stoically at Victorique as she approached. When she arrived with the booze one of them just sighed and signaled for another guard on top of the wall to open the gate, just enough for Victorique to enter. "Kitchen's to the right, follow the smell of cooking. Can't miss it."

The courtyard wasn't quite as rowdy as the village, but there was certainly some activity here. Mostly it seemed to be squires, retainers, and other low nobility and their servants. This was like a formal dinner party as opposed to the revel in the village. Additionally Victorique could hear and smell the smell of cooked food wafting through the air. She could see the busy kitchen with many servants quickly darting in and out, carrying trays of food and drink to and fro. The head chef was a large gruff man, almost ogre like, but moved with precision in the kitchen. He was the one doling out orders while also working on some frankly complex meals. You spot a few other servants, halflings even, carrying similar crates of wine into a room connected to the kitchen.
 
Victorique Sopheana

Victorique figured she'd follow direction initially, not wishing to stand out immediately. Once there, however, she'd put the crate in a corner of the room she saw others carrying the wine into and made sure not to stand out. Using her agility, she'd attempt to move through the kitchen in an attempt to get her hands on a tray of food. That'd give her a great excuse to walk around to the main event, which was exactly what she'd do upon success.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Grabbing a tray of food was easy enough, Victorique didn't even need to try as one was handed to her as she was brusquely ordered to start serving the hour de vours to the guests. It wouldn't take her long to figure that most of the servants here didn't truly belong to the Whitestrakes, but where various servants and the like from the guests. The halflings seem to belong to a young elven woman who surrounded herself with many male courtiers, a few elves servants seem to serve various human nobles, and what few humans servants were around appeared to be locals working with Whitestrake. The conversation here was just more gossip about the affairs of other nobles and compaints about ones personal life but oddly enough, no signs of the Whitestrakes.

The only clue given was that there was some sort of private dinner going in right now, but it seems like only the Whitestrake servants, who were all human with the sapphire gemstones, we're allowed to assist in. They all left in an orderly line inside of the keep, with only an occasional sight of them as they passed a third floor window.

A scan of the area would give Victorique a rough layout of the keeps competition. Currently the courtyard was being used as a wine and dine area for the retainers and such. There were six set of stairs leading to the castle walls, with four entrances from the wall to the second floor. The third floor lacked any means to access from the outside short of climbing, so chances are it was only accessable from within. However Victorique does note a lone sentry on the roof of the castle, so there may be a roof entrance she could take. Most of the guards here were human and were either near braziers illuminating the dark, or carrying magic crystals which serves as a powerful light source. The castle wasn't quite as naturally radiant as the cathedral, so for once Victorique may have the cover of darkness, assuming the weather permits. It was getting darker after all, and with the clouds in the sky there may come an opportunity where she could slink into shadows.
 
Victorique Sopheana

As she was pretty much forced along, she spotted a way in that seemed promising. The third floor in particular. Considering it lacked any normal entrances, it would be the easiest way to slip in unnoticed. She just needed to get there. Running up the wall shouldn't be too difficult with some Halfling Parkour and she could use her Precognition to find the best moment to time it. The only thing she still needed was to ensure the guards were distracted. She could let out Orchid, but that'd be a bit too much of a dick move. She sighed. All things considered, her best bet was to wait for the clouds to cover the moon and make a rush for it, hoping she'd be [Lucky] enough not to get caught. After all, all the ideas she had for causing a distraction went from bad to worse, as she doubted knocking over braziers or chugging food at nobles would work as well as she'd hope.

Lucky usage: (1/2)
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Fortune favors the bold. The winds of fate blew in Victorique's favor, and a large cloud began to block the moon. This created a shroud of darkness that covered the area, though it didn't particularly alarm anyone. Just a momentary darkness is all, and the braziers lit up the area well enough. But it also provided just enough shade for Victorique to find an opening as guards were either watching guests or the outside, and not paying attention to the castle itself. Seeing her opportunity Victorique would be able to dash up the wall quickly, reaching a closed window. Being three stories up, it wasn't designed with a lock in mind and Victorique could easily get inside. She appears to be in some sort of bed chamber, with some belongings present but no one in the immediate room.

However this room was too nice to be a guest room. A suit of fine armor hung on a rack nearby, with equally fine weapons displayed ready to be used at a moments notice. There was a large portrait of a noble family, and the bed here was made of fine silk and dark wood. This was likely the bedroom of one of the Whitestrake family, possibly the lord, though it was fairly small for a lord's room. That being said, Victorique could hear some low murmurs in another room. It didn't seem like a closet and there was more than one voice, but unless she went to investigate, it was impossible to hear further details from her position. A quick scan would reveal aside from the equipment and luggage, a desk with multiple letters and a journal on it, a recently used bottle of medicine, and a woman's pair of shoes. They were very fancy, but one shoe had a broken heel.
 
Victorique Sopheana

As she made it into the room, she was quick to open up her Pocket Dimension to let out Orchid. She wasn't sure how well the oxygen situation would be at this rate, after all. She did make sure to to keep a finger pressed to her lips to ensure Orchid wouldn't speak up. After the Orc was out, she ended up surprised by her findings in this room. Woman's shoes with a broken heel? That almost made it seem like the princess had actually ended up here. It wasn't impossible. If she wanted to go for that demon village and the Nevember was truly her lover, perhaps she'd come here to ask for help? That'd be an ideal scenario, as that meant Victorique had caught her already. She doubted she was that lucky, but she would certainly welcome it. Either way, she gestured to the letters and journal, hoping Orchid would scan them for anything relevant. Meanwhile, she herself would make her way to where she heard sounds coming from. She had pretty amazing hearing, so she was hoping to catch the conversation through the classic trick of cupping ones hand against the door and pressing one's ear against it.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Once the orc was out of the bag, Orchid was a bit delirious but quick to figure out what Victorique wanted by her hand signals and went to go look at the notes. As for Victorique, she listened in through the door. It was a thick one, but she was able to get a good bit of it.

"She can't have gone too far through the weld. Even if someone is helping her, those beasts in there give our best knights a hard time. Let alone whatever foul demons lurk in those mountains."

"M'lord, this is why we cannot act rashly right now. Our scouts report that so far the beasts seem oddly idle in the forest. We have made further progress in the past few days than we have in the last five years. Somehow she has quelled the beasts. They only begin to act when we approach her position, so we must gather our best and prepare for the worse."

"We're already a few days behind Calhand, and who knows how long this opportunity will last. I will ride out myself if I must!"

"With all due respect sire, skilled as you are you alone cannot handle these beasts. The tournament is nearly over, tomorrow is it's last day. We should continue the plan to recruit the promising warriors within to assist us on this quest while your forces are away."

"Bah. Mercenaries, the lot of them. I can't be seen among their rabble. Not to mention I've no doubt a few are already under the service of Lord Yarosmere, Tatalia, or even Nothrum. Or worse, the Inquisition."

"I understand your concerns sir. But all the more reason we will need them with us at the Haven Mountains, to dispose of them as needed. This way we may eliminate two threats in a single blow."

"Ugh. So be it then. I swear, that woman will be the death of me. Tch... Fetch my ointment. Suppose I'll have to sit out the melee tomorrow if I'm expected to go on this quest with whoever wins the tourney."


Victorique hears footsteps heading in her direction. She has a few seconds before someone goes through this door!
 
Victorique Sopheana

Victorique certainly got her money's worth of information. Apparently a fair few people were hunting for the princess already, a lot more than she expected. There were names in there that she hadn't heard in the church either, making this case even more complex. She also heard a clear dislike of mercenaries and a clear desire to play the backstabber. Bloody bastard. When she heard someone heading for the door, she almost desired to just light up her pipe and play it cool. Answer with the old 'your security sucks old man' and bluff her way through. That said, she decided to go with the wiser option, sprinting off to quickly [Pocket Dimension] the Orc back up/in and then jumping out the window. She'd use her [Halfling Parkour B] at its fullest to be out and about before they'd even realise who or what they'd just seen flash out the window. She'd also take the unconventional way out, choosing to descent the castle wall on the outside to dodge the guards keeping eyes over the plaza with its guests. With some wall-running and acrobatics, she should be able to scale down the building well enough and taking this alternative trajectory was the best way to ensure she wouldn't get an arrow in her back.

Hopefully making it out (relatively) unscathed due to the sheer surprise her presence there might bring and due to her sheer speed, she'd continue to sprint into the village, where she'd first let out Orchid. “We were probably spotted, so we might want to quickly round up our business here, perhaps gather some last bits of supplies before the mountains.” Secondly she'd find the server to return her earring, not wishing for her to become implicated due to Victorique. It was best not to leave any evidence, after all. She herself knew that from having used such things in her investigations. That said, she'd made up her mind on their next course of actions. “As much as that tournament might give us an easy way into the mountains, I'm not going to work with a backstabbing bastard, which Nevember most definetly is from what I've heard him say just now. I've learned just how many people are after the princess, so I'd say we just try to beat them all to it. By the way, did you spot anything of note in those letters?”

There was one other issue. “I'd rather not spent any more time here, as they probably saw me running and would come to investigate. Let's head for the Haven Mountains immediately. They weren't confident on going without warriors from the tournament, so with some luck they'll assume we're with one of the other parties and they'll still wait on the results there, which would give us exactly one day of a head-start. We'd better make the most out of it, so how about you carry me for now, as I'm drop-dead tired of having ran most of the day, then in the morning I can use my Pocket Dimension and sprint the next stretch. I'll fill of what I've heard along the way.”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
Orchid was a bit surprised getting whisked away by Victorique barely a few seconds after being told to read the letters. She was still trying to recover from her drink and unfortunately didn't get much information from the letters. "Best I could tell was that those were letters the princess was sending to this fellow in the castle. A lot of generically mushy princess stuff you know, lots of talk about love and light and all that. I might be able to read more since I did manage to grab them, but I wasn't able to get the book. Sorry boss." There was a bit of a commotion at the castle, as someone had spotted Victorique but weren't able to get a clear shot of her. Just something falling from the third floor. Guards were already outside investigating, but by the time they reached it Victorique and Orchid were already in the village. A few were heading to the village too, so Orchid knew their time here was very limited. "Fortunately for you boss, I'm always ready to hoof it from the law."

Orchid wrapped Victorique in a towel, swaddling her like a child precisely to disguise her as the big green woman made her way out of the village before any guards could question her. They ran away into the night, heading vaguely in the direction of the Haven Mountains. Orchid has something of a clue of where that's at due to the book she had been reading, so she was able to follow the road to get there as quickly as she could. Not much foot traffic at night, and with the moon high in the sky it was fairly well lit. Orchid went at a slow and steady pace, doing her best not to jostle Victorique. Compared to the halfling, Orchid may as well have been crawling with how slow she was going, but it had been quite a long day for the little investigator. Orchid herself had barely done much but drink and eat so she had plenty of energy to keep moving.

Eventually, about three hours into the night Orchid would unravel Victorique and set her down. "Aight boss, if what I remembered is correct, this is the last bit of road before we have to go through some forests into the Haven Mountains. The place is suppose to be crawling with monsters, so I think I'll have to stay up and keep watch. Haven't found an inn or any shelter though, so we're going to have to set up a camp tonight. Fortunately, I got a tent, and there's ridge right here that I think ought to be a safe enough spot. If you aren't too tired we can try and read those notes too, or maybe give em a look in the morning perhaps. Either way, gotta set up the tent."

Orchid would take her backpack off and take out a rather small looking bundle of sticks and canvas. Despite the small size, this was an expertly made tent that used light-weight but sturdy material to ensure it's compact for a traveler, and relatively simple to put together. Just connect the sticks into two longer sticks, loop them through the hooks, and then hammer the stakes down into the dirt to keep the whole thing from flying off. Orchid also tries to make the ground a bit more comfortable by brushing away any rocks and debris, though unfortunately all she had for that was her foot. There was also the matter that Orchid only had one bedroll of sorts, the towel which she had wrapped Victorique with, which Orchid set down for her client. It seemed like Orchid intended to just stay up, spear in hand, ready for sentry duty. She set her backpack inside of the tent along with the notes from the castle, should Victorique want some reading material before bed.
 
Victorique Sopheana

“That's alright.” Victorique replied with regards to the letters. “I'm already thankful you managed to take that much.” Their ways of escaping this place was embarrassing to say the least, but she managed to swallow her pride for long enough to deal with it. If anything, she kinda just drifted off into sleep automatically, after having jogged and ran around for almost an entire day.

She grouchily awoke upon being put down. “Right... I heard something about the princess pacifying them, but the monsters being a pain to deal with otherwise. Perhaps if we do what the demon kid told us, we'll be able to steer clear of them as well.” The letters were too alluring to forsake. “I can quickly go through the letters before sleeping. I've already got some hours of sleep on the road anyway.”
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
"Alright. I'm debating if I should start a small campfire, but since we're so close to those haunted woods and it's just us two, may be best to keep a low profile for now." Orchid goes to get comfortable and keeps watch while Victorique goes over those letters. And while most of them do indeed start off with very flowery words of introduction and praise, Victorique is able to parse through most of the fluff and get to the real meat of the letters. A lot of them spoke about the princess' concerns about the current political tensions between the peasantry and nobility, citing that the church has been creating a lot of division with their recent actions favoring the peasantry. She worries that they are taking advantage of the fact most nobility are still trying to reclaim lost lands in the outskirts of Mirran, and wants Lord Nevember to ease up on military action to try for a more diplomatic approach. She goes into further detail that the church's treatment of the demonkin has made an easy scapegoat for the peasantry to direct their frustrations towards and how sicken she was at how they parade them like exotic pets instead of people.

Correspondents from Nevember paints a different picture. He has been doing his best for his own people but it's harder to share those ideals with his fellow nobles, who are far more pragmatic about their treatment of serfs. The Whitestrakes are only so successful because of their military success, and lack the arable land or profitable enterprises means that the only way his people are able to live comfortably is if they continue supporting his conquests via military or supporting his army. He does want to lower military activity, but the only way he can do that is if he can claim a valuable location, such as a mine, forest, or particularity fertile land. Which he hasn't been able to do since many of his fellow lords have been competing for the same territory he needs, citing the fact he has the "honor" of guarding the Sunlight Archon as a reason he shouldn't be given any additional accolades. He further complains how the royal family has gifted him such a burden without any means to make use of it, putting his people in an unfortunate position of having received a great honor, but not one that can actually be used.

He further reflects how he wished things were a simpler time. Where valor and honor received accolades to be rewarded and praised. Not to be seen as a threat to power. He also mentions wanting to try and muster his forces to take the Haven Mountains, citing it's vast wealth of nature resources that go unclaimed due to it's proximity to the Abyss. His men are the only ones in position to do this, and asks for Lynette's support in these trying times. From here, the letters start becoming less formal as the conversation begins to take different turns. Lynette expresses little desire to support further military action and wants to try a diplomatic route, but Nevember cites how much danger those demons and beasts have been for the entire country, with concerns that there has been demonic activity sensed and encroaching his villages. In fact it's gotten so bad that his army has been called to assist other locations with demonic incursions, a fact that he loathes but is honor bound to answer due to summons by the pope. This would explain why he's looking for mercenaries to assist him if his own knights are off fighting elsewhere.

The last of the letters mention how Lynette will be arriving nearby soon. She has an idea and asks that he puts his faith in her. This was just a few days before her disappearance and the theft of the Sun Shard. It doesn't seem like Nevember knew about the theft, or at least he isn't a part of it. However there was a high probability that he was still going to attack Haven Mountain, which can complicate an already complex situation. At least they had a day before Nevember could muster his forces out.
 
Victorique Sopheana

The letters had given Victorique some insight into the princess' person. She was an idealist, hopelessly so. It also sounded like Nevember had a good reason for wanting the Sunlight Archon. Perhaps even to the degree he'd manipulate the princess into stealing it for him. That said, the final letters on the stack made it seem like it was clear what was going on. The princess learned Nevember was set to attack the demons and went there with the Sunlight Anchor to prevent her love interest from slaughtering whom she deemed to be demonised members of society. Quite the tragic love story. It seemed like her idea didn't go over well with Nevember, perhaps she had to flee the castle after he tried taking the Sun Shard for himself or something? It wouldn't surprise Victorique. “It looks like the princess is trying to stop Nevember and others from trying to root out the demons, whilst Nevember might want the Sun Shard for himself. We should be weary of the implications of getting our hands on the princess and the Sun Shard, as we'll immediately be targetted from all sides whether by words or by weapons.”

There was one thing, however, that was still stuck on her mind. “There's one thing I still can't get out of my head. That demon kid didn't have a demon title, not even a monster one, just some vague 'ascendant' thing. Is there a possibility that these demons aren't real demons to begin with?” She asked herself aloud, not really expecting an answer from Orchid. She'd take some more hours of sleep short after, but would offer to stand guard in the early morning so Orchid could have at least a few hours of rest as well.
 

Lucius Cypher

Delicious Friend
As Orchid's watch was coming to an end and Victorique was offering to stand guard, Orchid shrugged and allowed it. She was starting to get a bit tired, if only because it was getting so late. As for her question, Orchid had a few thoughts on the matter. "To be honest with ya boss, I don't think titles really mean much at all. What you do, and who you do it for, that's what matters. One man's hero is another man's villain." Taking out a snack, Orchid munches on it to keep her energy up. Even though she hasn't really done much this whole day, she was getting a bit sleepy just because it was so late at night. "Maybe this is a big misunderstanding and we aren't going in with a full picture. Maybe someone wants to use that ignorance to do something terrible, or at least live with the guilt afterwards. Ascendant... Reminds me of a trope. You know about fallen angels yeah? Beings that are suppose to be made of pure good or whatever, agents of god, but turn away from him for whatever reason. The old morning star Lucifer was one such character." Orchid yawns and stands up to stretch. She'd have a long watch ahead of her. "Well if angels can fall from grace, maybe demons can ascend to heaven."

After Victorique slept and awakened, Orchid decided to take a short nap too just to alleviate her weariness. The night went on without much fanfare, though Victorique did see some beastly shapes moving at the forest edge. Fortunately the camp's position was hidden well enough to prevent those shapes from moving closer and the night went on without any incident. Soon dawn would rise from the horizon, illuminating the towering Haven Mountains. Orchid would rouse from her sleep easily enough having gotten a bit of rest, dons her armor, and does a gear check. Breakfast was simple porridge of salted meats, pickled greens, mixed grain, and light seasoning, heated over a small fire. Not the most complex of meals but it comfortably sat in the stomach and didn't require much clean up. "Eat up boss. We'll need your brains today. I think we gotta look for a tree right? In... A forest." After she cleaned up Orchid looked around at the woods around her. Nothing but trees for what felt like miles. Even the mountains felt like they were in another continent beyond the sea of green. "Cripes. Forget a needle in a haystack, this is finding a needle in a stack of needles. Where do we even begin?"
 
Victorique Sopheana

After a hearty breakfast that didn't go down too well (what kind of barbarian ate pickled greens for breakfast?), they were back in business. Even so, last night's topic was still on her mind. “Demons ascending to heaven? That doesn't sound too convincing to me. If anything, I'm inclined to believe the princess and think these folk are demonized so the church has an easy scapegoat. Perhaps they were never even demons to begin with.”

Either way, it was a topic that was best left for later. For now, they needed to figure out where to go.“It's time of figure out of that kid's words are worth something.” She opened her notes back up. “Find a tree marked by the Moontear, touch it and it will disappear. Don't touch the wrong one or it'll just attract beasts. Head towards the river from there, find the Seeing Stone, find the right marking with exactly six lashes on it and the eyes will open and reveal the path. If it doesn't open, demons will be alarmed of our arrival. Then cross the river and climb the mountain and find the spot where you can see the stars make a certain pattern.” It was a lot, but it seemed fairly straightforward, after showing Orchid the kid's drawings again to make sure she'd be able to keep an eye out as well.

“Alternatively, we can hope we run into something intelligent first and use our words. For now, our best bet is to start looking for the kid's clues though.” With that, she'd do as she said, using her investigation and higher senses in the hopes of spotting the correct symbols and of tracing down this series of riddles and clues.
 

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