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Party 1

Conflicting feelings clash against each other in Ina's chest; even though she had suggested it she felt uneasy about leaving Moire and Hircus. It had barely been a day - one filled with confusion, pain and fear, at that - but Ina felt fiercely protective over them already.

And she was finding herself feeling similarly protective over their newest friend, too. She'd already disregarded the idea of Syvis conveniently filling a Tegan-shaped hole in their lives - the two couldn't be more different; Syvis' discomfort since entering the village was...well. Who could blame her after that macabre display at the gates? She shudders a little.

Ina surreptiously glances at the other elf, smiling as Syvis talks to the bird - Otrev. She steps a bit closer to Syvis as they pass more people, offering a guiding arm if needed, relieved when they finally approach the tavern. A guilty look upwards and a returned smile to Danika later, she ushers Syvis towards the porch, shooting a dismissive look to the man who brushes past them (oh, to his back, of course). Maybe he's our man? Wait, no, beard's too long?

"It's alright," she replies to Syvis, likewise in elvish. A small smile tugs at the corner of her mouth, pleased to be speaking the language again. It feels like it's been so long... "I just need to offer my apology and ask after a couple of people. We really shan't be long."

"Danika,"
she hurries forward almost breathlessly, tugging Syvis alongside her to keep her close, "I see you're very busy, but can I steal a moment of your time? I came to apologise for last night." Her voice lowers for the last sentence, then lifts again as she turns to introduce Syvis. "This is Syvis, another...traveler, I suppose you might say. A friend."
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
Moire smiles gently at Nina and once more pats her arm. "Thank you," she says, dipping her head in acknowledgement. "I know you have the best of intentions for us. That you would trust strangers from the beyond the mists to have a good reason for invading the home of a native villager? It's generous for you to judge our characters so highly. But if we are to live up to being the kind of people worth that trust, we can't accept your invitation."

"As my friend says, there is a child's life at stake. But we don't have any proof that this man was involved and we don't know the laws of your village enough to justify the invasion of his privacy and property without something more to go on." Moire nods to Hircus and his suggestion. "But that doesn't mean we can't look around. If he's left an open window and we can peer inside without breaking in, for example? Let's see what there is to see before we escalate things."

The Paladin grins once more at Nina's expressiveness and general energy. "Besides, doing the right thing is its own reward. Once we've finished this day's work, perhaps we could talk more about it. Say, over dinner?"
 
Hircus shies away just a step embarrassed by the contrast between the paladin's approach and his own. He looks at the ground for a moment in contemplation and slowly begins to nod. "Yes, yes. There is a way to keep this safe and lawful while still making progress. If there is just cause we can bend the rules, but until then I would prefer that we steer clear of willful criminal action."
 

Ina & Syvis
Porch of the Blue Water Inn
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otrev.jpg The little bird is perplexed by Syvis. A talking humanoid is truly an anomaly in his eyes. And while he's chatting away to her about the crowd and the weather, he's doesn't seem to entirely trust her. With deft kicks and dashes from side to side, he simultaneously shows off the interior of the cage and warns her off of getting any ideas about taking his place in there.

By the time Ina gets within earshot of Danika, the man with the floppy hat is already at the innkeeper's side. Danika waves him off and turns to Ina instead, an apparent source of great annoyance to the surly man.

"Oh Ina, you silly," Danika says, brushing a hand through the white streak in her black hair, "like I said last night, there is nothing to apologize for. I asked too many questions. It was a deserved lesson for me." A dark bruise colors her face where Ina hit her.

She takes Syvis' hand in greeting and offers cups to both women, apologizing that they contain sweetened, spiced goat's milk instead of wine. "Will you come in for something to eat? Maybe you heard we had even more drama last night, after you left, but Urwin still made sausages this morning like always."

Floppy hat, still waiting nearby for Danika's attention, stares daggers at the two elves.
 

Hircus & Moire
The House on Bow Lane
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n.jpg Nina drops her hand and looks somewhat put out at Hircus' chiding. Moire's further explication of principles seems to soothe Nina's hurt pride a bit, but she professes to still be bewildered by some of the finer points. She begins to pose some hypothetical about what if you knew that this man Pullo was already dead, but thinks better of it and takes up Moire's suggestion of a later rendezvous instead. "Sure," she says, "let's meet up outside the inn just after seven bells tonight." (It seems safe to assume the young woman is not referring to the system of bells used to mark the passage of time at sea.)

When Hircus adds a still another clarification to Moire's statement of values, Nina shakes her head, chuckles to herself and says with a smile, "You guys are so adorable."

As Hircus and Moire pass between Pullo's house and its neighbor to get to the rear, Nina and Mykola watch and whisper to each other. All of a sudden Nina calls out, "Wait, what missing child? You didn't say anything about that before." and hurries after while her glum companion stays put in front of the house.

The shutters all around the small building are closed, as is the back door. The land behind this row of houses opens out in a misty meadow that ends in the distance where part of the village's palisade wall cuts across it. A few good-sized trees grow close together about two hundred feet away. More houses, fronting another street, are visible through the small grove.

In the grassy area immediately outside Pullo's back door are some objects Moire recognizes from past acquaintance with waterfront scenes: a rack for drying fish, a three-legged stool, a dirty knife on an upturned pail, tangled fishing lines handing from a pole propped between two forked stakes.

A gentle breeze picks up and rolls across the open meadow, shaking the tree branches, tangling the lines further and making the house's shutters tap against the window frames they cover.
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
Moire nods approvingly at her fellow clergy-member and then brightens a bit when Nina follows after them. The young woman is rather adorable herself and the Paladin is already coming to enjoy her company. Especially if her expertise, like Ina's, lies in the clandestine. That said, she winces slightly at Hircus' admission and doesn't elaborate on details to Nina. After all, if it was revealed that the missing girl was Vistani, her helpfulness might very well dry up.

Stepping around the back of the house, Moire takes in the familiar scene before frowning at the fishing lines. Why would the man leave them to tangle, when he knew he'd be needing them? ...and for that matter, if he's gone fishing, why leave his fishing lines behind? If they were extras, surely they would be spooled and stored rather than left outside to tangle. Something wasn't right about this.

Moving to the backdoor, Moire trades looks with Hircus and there's a lack of humor in her face now that hopefully communicates to the cleric that her casual interest has turned serious. Then she knocks. Loudly. "Sir, are you alright in there? Can you answer the door? Do you need help?"
 
Hircus surveys the area behind the house and watches as Moire examines the fishing line and heads toward the rear door. Nina's sudden question and Moire's loud knocking embolden Hircus. He charges toward the door. "Don't judge me too harshly Torm! There may be a small child in harm's way." Grabbing the doorknob he attempts to open the door.
 

Hircus & Moire
Behind the House on Bow Lane
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The house's back door is swollen in its frame and sticks before popping inward with a bit of effort. The dark interior is a single room about ten by fifteen feet. A faint odor of dead fish, mixed with stale sweat, wafts out from within. By the dim light from the open door, Hircus and Moire can make out an unmade bed, a small table bearing items undiscernible in the darkness, a cook stove, a long chest, a few shirts draped over a chair. Muddy boot prints dot the floorboards. Two pieces of decoration adorn the house's walls between shuttered windows: an old hand saw and a two-headed fish skeleton an arm's length from head to tail.

Nina, who has been looking around the drying rack and three-legged stool behind the house, moves so that she can see into the dark room while remaining a good five feet behind Hircus. "Is there anyone in there?" she asks him with trepidation.
 
"There is nothing deserved about the mark I gave you," Ina's voice is laced with sincerity and regret, "You were merely trying to be hospitable to newcomers."

Ina gratefully takens the cup and takes a sip, pleasantly surprised by the flavours - instantly transported back to a winter many, many years ago in her childhood. Cheeks warm, she inclines her head to Syvis, "This is the sort of...incident we mentioned earlier. With the memories." Again, the last sentence was said in a quieter voice lest anyone be listening too closely. Ina then turns and makes direct eye contact with the bearded man, flashing him an apologetic smile before reclaiming Danika's attention.

"That sounds wonderful, but unfortunately we've got several things to attend to before the festival - the winery, for one," she raises her cup, taking another sip before continuing. "I thought I saw...something?" Ina gestures to the window, "I couldn't be sure - I was rather out of it, as you say. What did happen?"
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
"It doesn't look like it," Moire says, peering in after Hircus. Seeing the cleric intends to investigate further, and seeing how small the space, the Paladin instead turns back to their resident guide. She takes Nina by the arms and looks her in the eyes. "I don't think we're going to find anything here. Which makes it that much more important that we find the man himself. He's a fisherman, obviously. Do you know if the town has fishing shacks? Places where the fishermen store supplies closer to a lake or river, or a place that provides shelter from the rain or snow?"

"Or for that matter, do you know if he's likely to be with the others at the bridge?"

The questions are important, and they're questions she wants answers to. But she's also conscious of buying her friend time to see if he can turn up any clues while keeping the girl preoccupied.
 

Ina & Syvis
Porch of the Blue Water Inn
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Pressed among the crowd of people on the porch, Syvis sees a pair of gray squirrels scamper to the edge of the awning above and peer over. "Uh oh, something smells dangerous here," one squirrel says to the other. Seeing the two rodents, Otrev flaps his wings aggressively, shooing them away.

"Who does he think he is?" the second squirrel asks the first. They exchange some unkind judgments of the little songbird that Otrev is probably happier for not being able to understand.

Danika pauses at Ina's question about the previous night's incident at the inn. Her eyes dart to the man with the beard and the other people on the porch. "Oh, whatever you heard, I think it might have been exaggerated. It was just some bats that got worked up by something and broke one of our windows." She gives Ina a subtle look that pleads for no further discussion of this topic out here in front of so many ears.

"This is good news that you will be seeing what has happened at the winery," she continues, "But please, be careful on the roads. Hopefully you will find Tobar Kale and the others who headed there a few days ago."


Hircus & Moire
Behind the House on Bow Lane
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skull.jpg The little house's dirty floorboards creak as Hircus steps inside. He invokes Torm's light, the better to see within. Myriad everyday objects spring into view from out of the shadows. The table, for instance, holds a candle and two worn books, one of which has a wooden cup resting on its cover.

The long trunk near the foot of the bed is made of stiff canvas and the lid wobbles as Hircus tips it open. This appears to be the source of the fishy odor here. It holds a few fishing poles, some rags, a knife. Several tiny metal bits and other scraps have collected at its bottom. Resting on top of the poles is a brightly-painted bird skull, maybe that of a crow, mounted on a short stick like a jester's wand.

Outside, Nina grows a bit more serious at the intensity in Moire's eyes. "Really, just up at Lake Zarovich, north of town, like I said before! They leave some old boats and things there. But I don't know where this guy is now. Sometimes I've seen him with the others going off to fish at the bridge, but not always."
 
Syvis tried to pay attention to the conversation, but being uneasy about so many people ... made it hard to focus. She tried a sip of the milk in the cup, nose crinkling at the spice of it. The sound of chittering caught her ear more than the words of people did, wearing a confused look at the squirrel's noise. Murmuring softly, Syvis spoke to Ortrev in Sylvan, "They will not have your nest little one, I promise." Speaking slightly louder to the squirrels she asked, "What danger do you smell little ones?"

Her attention returned briefly to the tone in the woman's voice, frowning as she sipped the strange drink again, muttering in Elvish, "I think bats would rather be anywhere else than the glass of this place."
 

Syvis
Talking to Squirrels
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squirrel.jpg The squirrels freeze in place and stare at Syvis when she speaks to them. "Did you hear that?" one asks the other, who replies in the affirmative.

"Everyone should run away and hide," the first squirrel rapidly chitters to Syvis. "Big predator over there." It points its head towards the far end of the long porch, where a narrow staircase climbs to the inn's second floor. The two squirrels turn and scamper back out of sight onto the awning.

"Don't talk to squirrels," Otrev advises Syvis. "They just want to steal things."
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Hircus feels the heavy pounding of his heart in his chest as he inspects the contents of the small home. Lifting the lid to the trunk he turns his head in quick response to the smell. The trunk contains fishing gear and a strange stick with a bird's skull attached to one end. He turns to let Moire know there is no one here and whispers in her direction only to see that the paladin has moved away from the door. He turns back to the trunk to retrieve the wand, shoves it in his pack and lets the trunk fall shut. Another quick look around the room, he looks under the bed and behind the furniture for anything that might be hidden out of sight. Then he turns and quickly moves to the door. "There isn't anyone home." he says as he leaves the room and shuts the door. He takes a moment to survey the view behind the building to see if anyone is watching them at the house.
 

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