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Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
"I hope this display of courage isn't for my benefit, Loopanom," says the bat with Vanwandir's voice. "I am fully prepared to accept your martial superiority over my erstwhile companions as an article of faith."

"You're a creature of many talents, Vanwandir," Moire says in a conversational tone, as the horde of wolves descend upon the party. "Why shouldn't I display a few of my own?" Her conversational levity doesn't reach her face, which is tense with the impending conflict. And then the wolves are upon them. Thankfully, the bat actually spooks one of the wolves and Tegan's spear claims two.

Her handaxe makes three. Four left, and none of her friends harmed as yet, Ilmater be praised. "Hold the line," she says to her companions. "We may yet win this. Or at least convince them to flee."
 

jfish

Junior Member
Seeing that the stronger members of the group are keeping the closer wolves at bay, Ina instead looks over to the alpha, the casual attitude of the creature unsettling her more than if it had attacked. Probably. She turns the crossbow towards the beast but her nerves get the better of her and the shot goes wide. Again. She curses and runs across the rest of the bridge, looking for any sort of inspiration but once again, her efforts are fruitless. She dashes back to the group,
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
Tegan raises his arm just in time to catch a wolf's jaws before they reach his throat. He falls backwards as the wolf sinks its teeth into his forearm. As he hits the ground, he uses the momentum from his fall to roll backwards and get himself back on his feet. Somewhat dizzy from the maneuver, Tegan's retaliatory lunge misses by a mile.

He then bangs his wounded arm against his chest, trying to deaden the pain from the wolf bite with a surge of adrenaline.
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
As the wolves close in, Moire closes ranks with her companions. It's not enough.

The first wave goes well. Her handaxe cleaves into the head of the wolf that immediately engages her and she's elated to see Tegan and Hircus have similar success. But then two more wolves lunge over the bodies of their fallen comrades and Hircus goes down in a wave of wolf flesh, despite her best effort to block them off with her shield. Handaxe in hand, Moire hacks into one of the wolves and bisects its spine but can't quite reach the second before it goes for Hircus again.

Except Ina's there, suddenly, arms tucked under the cleric as she hauls him off. As best as she can, Moire positions herself in front of that wolf, blocking its access to their fallen comrade. "Ilmater, witness your faithful!" she cries as she readies for the next onslaught.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
The wolf next to Hircus clamps down on the fallen cleric's ankle and pulls backwards. Ina feels Hircus' broad shoulders start to slip from her slender fingers. At the same time, the wolf that has driven Tegan back presses its advantage, lunging at him once more.

The large wolf in the distance locks eyes with Moire and quizzically cocks its head to one side.
 
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jfish

Junior Member
Ina is slightly breathless as she scoops her arms under Hircus’ fallen form. "Got him!" She calls out and begins to drag him away, adrenaline coursing through and giving her strength as she glares at the wolf that was about to take her friend. "More nothing over the bridge," she reports quickly, fear subsiding slightly with the proximity to her friends.
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
Tegan watches a wolf begin to lunge as Moire's shield arm comes crashing down on the wolf's side, interrupting the attack. While wolf turns to face its new challenger, Tegan spears it in the chest, dropping another of the pack.

"Nice save!" he says as he moves forward to reform their ranks.
 

jfish

Junior Member
Ina almost growls as a wolf latches onto Hircus’ ankle, effectively stopping her from pulling him further along the bridge. After failing to dislodge the creature, she takes a deep breath and lets go with one hand, unhooking her crossbow. Got to be quick, She thinks to herself. She swings the crossbow round and lets go of the cleric’s other shoulder in order to steady the aim directly at the wolf - and finally hits something. She lets out a cry of elation as the bolt strikes true and the wolf falls.
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
And as the wolf falls, Moire places a hand on Hircus' forehead, once more feeling the lifeforce ebbing from her friend.

"Ilmater, this man has suffered greatly today. But he answers Torm's call, not Yours. Return him to service to his God, if You will, and help me to always be true to my service to You."

Lifegiving energy flows into the war-torn cleric of war.
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
"...service to you." is the first thing Hircus hears as his thoughts struggle to piece together his reality. The world he wakes into is cool and damp and his limbs move only with great effort. Pain screams at him from multiple injuries, but against these torments, he manages to open his eyes and remember. With a painful lurch, he sits up trying to confirm his companions are safe. All in a flash Hircus sees Moire returning to her battle stance, Tegan covered in blood with a fierce bring it on look in his eyes and Ina looking down with concern. Hircus forces himself to stand, grab his gear and take up his spot in the line once more.

Taking in the scene in the road, it occurs to Hircus that these are likely the beasts that killed Vanwandir's former companions, so he asks, "Vanwandir, I must assume this is the pack that took down your mates, not the tail tucked strays I dispersed with a stick."
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
batsnarl.jpgVanwandir turns his tiny bat head in Hircus' direction, but his mouth is frozen in the snarl that seems to hold the nearby wolf at bay, and he's unable to produce more than inarticulate vocalizations.

The distant wolf that remained seated through your desperate battle against the onslaught rises. It shakes its head and the wolf that was unwilling to approach Vanwandir whimpers and runs off into the woods. The big wolf's mouth hangs open. It nods to each of you in turn, then strolls casually off the path and into the woods itself, leaving you alone with the corpses of the seven wolves you've slain.

Vanwandir's gums relax and he heaves a little sigh. "I'm sorry, Lonely Teeth. I'm no expert on these creatures—one looks much the same as another to me—but their general appearance suggests they may very well have been one and the same. I believe I counted more back at the clearing, but who can say? What will we do now? I hope 'proper burials' are not called for."
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
"We take a gods damned nap, that's what." Tegan says as he slumps against the short wall next to him.

Looking up at his companions he says "Would be a damn shame to let all this meat and fur go to waste. Even bringing the dogs to town might get us enough coin for a few nights in some place cozier than we're accustomed to."

He shuts his eyes and rests the back of his head against the cold stone. Without opening his eyes, Tegan says "Van, how long will it take us to get to town from here? Can we make it before nightfall?"
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Hircus leans against the opposite wall and rests the heavy hammer on his knee. "So, Vanwandir, you're a bat now? I guess that's normal in these mist-shrouded lands, is it?" Asks Hircus as he rubs the lower part of his legs that still shows the marks of a wolf's teeth. "That was a handy trick you displayed just now. For now, my appreciation for being alive prevents me from thinking too much about whatever font of arcane power you drew from. Moire, thanks to you as well. I can only guess that you called upon Ilmater to assist me in my sad state. And Ina and Tegan, I will strive to not draw on so many of the group's resources, nor lean too heavily on your talents." Hircus stuffs the chain mail back in the bag and double checks to make sure that nothing has fallen out. "We must press on. I pray we make it to some kind of safety before nightfall. Let's gather what we can and move. Tegan, if you can make quick work of a carcass securing a bit to trade, then I say do it, but I don't know how much we can carry nor do I want to linger here long."
 
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Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
The sight of Hircus back on his feet fills Moire's heart with a warm elation to chase off the bitter taste of fear that clings to her, like the endless fog in this cursed country.

She lowers her handaxe as the lead wolf moves on its way. Moire waits for it to vanish entirely and doesn't shift her attention at all until Vanwandir moves on her shoulder. With a faint smile, the Paladin glances down at her tiny companion and says "That was good work there, Vanwandir. You may have been the difference between life and death for us. You're full of surprises, for which we're all grateful." She considers commenting on the fact that it used to be a frog before deciding to just let it pass as one more feature of weirdness in this land.

As Tegan reclines against the wall of the bridge railing, Moire crouches down to examine the wolf corpses. The pelts were likely rather intact, given each had perished with a single skillful stroke. "You make a good point, my friend," she says to Tegan. "Wolf pets have value enough to a good tanner but a nearby city might well have a bounty posted, if they're as aggressive to others as they were to us." Of course, Moire's share would ordinarily be donated to her local temple while her basic needs were met with the charity of the lay worshipers of Ilmater. But for all she knew, this land had never heard of her God and there would be no temple to her God to donate to. One more question to explore.

Moire sets to skinning the animals the best she can, either with the handaxe or perhaps preferably the knife Ina employs. The best tool for the task at hand. While she works, she nods to Tegan's question of Vanwandir, and smiles a bit when Hircus asks the question on the familiar's nature that she hadn't brought herself to. At the war cleric's gratitude, she simply nods an acknowledgment and continues to work. But upon seeing the cleric begin packing the armor way, she speaks up. "Speaking of carrying, Hircus, we have a minute. You might try on that armor. I doubt that wolf will be back with friends in the next ten minutes, no?"

"As for the corpses of these wolves, let's salvage what we can of value and move the bodies off the bridge so travelers don't have to deal with them. I appreciate the concern about not being weighed down but this..." she pauses and smirks slightly as she says "this windfall of ours may be the only coin to land in our pockets for a while. Who's to say what work will be available in town? To say nothing of rearming and armoring us in the manner to which we were accustomed. If we end up chased again, we can always drop the hides but, for now, let's carry what we can."
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
"The vicissitudes of this land are not responsible for my appearance, Lonely Teeth. When I spoke of the transience of physical forms, I was not indicating a recent condition. Where I come from, my brothers and sisters all share my adaptability. It has always been so."

batcloud.jpg"Now where are we at? Let me see...a stone bridge over water...I believe it took us about an hour to get here from that sad town the other day. Yes, one hour to go. I can't say I'm terribly eager to go back there, but some of you do look to be on your last legs. Perhaps you have more powers to restore yourselves, say a vial of something revitalizing?"

As you discuss what might be done with the wolves, Vanwandir flits away to scout the area. His silhouette darts in and out of the mists. Moire finds separating the wolf from its hide a more complex operation than she'd hoped. After she's been struggling at it for a bit, Vanwandir returns to her shoulder and whispers in her ear, "I didn't want to say anything in front of the others, Loopanom, but were I you, I'd conserve my strength. I couldn't help but notice your impressive healing touch, how you addressed Lonely Teeth's injuries. Make sure you save some of that healing for yourself. What good will it do your friends if other beasts target you instead, and you've expended your wondrous healing elsewhere?"
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
Tegan opens his eyes at the wet, tearing sounds of Moire's skinning attempt. Grimacing, he says "If we're only an hour's walk from town, let's just use some of the rope to strap a wolf to whoever can carry one and be on our way. Moire you had the rope, right? Shall we cut off a length from it to get a wolf secured to my back?"
 

Epiphany

Behind Your Chair
Sighing ruefully at her inexpert job, the Paladin turns at the sound of Tegan's voice and she nods before unlooping the coil of rope she'd salvaged from the dead. It'd been years since she'd been at sea, but sailing was in her blood and it took little work to do up enough knots and lengths of rope for both Tegan and herself to haul what they could. Hircus had nearly died twice today and looked barely on his feet, while Ina had never been one for hauling a great deal of weight.

Or had she? How long have I actually known her? How did we meet, anyway?

Shaking off the disturbing thought, Moire beckoned the rest of the party and set off towards town. As she walked, she contemplated Vanwandir's words and how best to respond to them. His seemed an honest inquiry but he plainly had an intelligent mind, with a well developed set of morals clearly at odds to her own. He was a useful ally and she didn't want to offend him. At the same time, she didn't want to leave him with the impression that she was receptive to his way of doing things.

In the end, Moire at last said, "Vanwandir, my healing is granted to me by Ilmater, the God of Suffering and Endurance. The reason He gave this power to me was to use it on behalf of others. In doing so, I honor them and the one who is the source of both my powers and my salvation. That said, the degree of healing I can do is because of how I've used it in the past for others. The more I save others with it, the more it grows and the more saving I can do with it...including you and including me. You seem to have a mind for looking to long-term gain as well as short-term. I wanted you to know there's a long-term gain I have in mind that informs my short-term approach. I also want you to know I value your advice. By all means, keep giving it."

And if the shapechanging familiar is so inclined, Moire is happy to dig into part of her rations to offer him morsels to nibble on.
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Each piece of chain mail that Hircus dons is another bit of confidence he regains. "I am beginning to feel a bit more like myself in this armor. I am not the young, flexible cleric I once was." He slips the heavy armor over his torso first them moves to strap and buckle his extremities.

"I am carrying more than I can and still keep up with you all. Moire? May I add to your arsenal by gifting these javelins?" Hircus then reaches to the pile of gear and hands over the weapons. "Vanwandir? Is it possible that all of this gear will be recognized in town? I don't want to risk being branded road bandits the second we reach a safe haven."
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
pallisade.jpg"The god of suffering?" asks Vanwandir. "I suspect he oversaw my formative years. I would not repeat them. You must have great confidence that you have already secured a comfortable place for your soul, to think of these 'long-term gains' when we could all perish tomorrow."

Before Moire can reply, the talking bat jumps to the subject of Hircus' question. "We did spend some time in the dull town that lies ahead, Lonely Teeth, but don't worry: I can tell you who to avoid, and how to get what you need. Most of the people there are frightful or dead in the eyes anyway, and won't dare raise a finger against us. Besides, I don't expect we'll stay very long."

With the wolves bound to Moire and Tegan's backs, you heft your packs and cross the bridge for what will hopefully be the final stretch to the town of Vallaki. Vanwandir the bat continues on Moire's shoulder.

Being prepared for another hour or so of walking, it comes as something of a surprise when, fifteen minutes later, you see signs of civilization. A quarter mile ahead, the spiked silhouette of a palisade wall looms in the fog. The road leads directly to it. Tegan's foot crunches on something in the road. It's another handbill, muddy and crumpled, for the Wolf's Head Jamboree.

Vanwandir expresses surprise at how quickly you've reached the outskirts of Vallaki and puts forth some complex-sounding theories about distortions of space and time here in Barovia. He also declares his intention to continue the journey inside Moire's backpack, to which he retires.

As the palisade draws closer, you can see the large gate where the road enters. There are several stakes planted in the ground near this gate, each with a roughly oval object perched atop it. A handful of run-down houses along the road lean severely to one side or the other, unfit for habitation. Off to the north a bit, not too far from the palisade, a low, dark cloud of smoke billows on the ground. Ina can make out a few people moving around over there. It looks like they're tending a very smoky fire. A deep smell of burnt meat in the air confirms this impression.
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
"Now this, this I know." Tegan thinks to himself. The sight of such an impoverished place brings back memories of many such places where he would deliver or procure goods for his shipping caravan.

Somewhat overcome with relief and excitement at the prospect of a bed and a drink, Tegan forgets to filter his inner monologue and says, audibly, "And where there's destitute souls, there's ale, and a slightly less destitute soul to sell it to them." Tegan grins before turning to Hircus and shrugging his shoulders to jostle the wolf. "If there are any questions, we'll just blame these hounds."

Tegan approaches the folks near the cloud of smoke in as nonthreatening a manner as he can, armed and covered in blood.
 
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ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Hircus gives a half-hearted nod and follows Tegan toward the fire. The day's arduous events are beginning to weigh more heavily on the older man's shoulders in an near physical way as the potential for real food and rest come into grasping range. Hircus struggles to place one foot in front of the other but yet maintains his military-bred posture.

"Tegan," Hircus says under his breath as they walk, "If we are able to make a trade for these wolves know that the first bit of coin must go to bed and bread. If we have any left over only then we can consider the ale. Torm would not look poorly on this loyal traveler of his numbing the pain of such a day, but we must prioritize the essentials." With a harrumph and a nod, Hircus hikes up his pack.
 

TemplePhantom

New Member
"Come now, what is ale if not liquid bread, you old spoilsport!" Tegan nudges Hircus in the side with his elbow. "What say we see if we can lend these folk a hand and learn more about this settlement?"

In his mind, Tegan is running through a repertoire of pseudonyms and personas he's cultivated to make social interaction more favorable when on the road, knowing his intel on the local social hierarchy was scarce, he decided he would take the safe route and divulge little about himself until the opportune moment. Realizing his companion may not be as keen on duplicity, he dons a smile and simply suggests to Hircus "Let's not give our life stories when we first meet these folk, we do not yet know their customs. It would be a shame if they were offended by something in our nature or took excessive advantage of your or Moire's unique talents."
 
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ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
"Aye, I trust you, Tegan." Hircus pats the man on the shoulder with a big paw. "I just needed to know we were on the same page. Today has been the longest day and I just need to rest. Tomorrow we can figure a way out of this damned mud pit."

Hircus falls to the back of the group and plods along. Scanning the walls and fallen buildings for anything that looks like trouble.
 

jfish

Junior Member
Ina bites her lip. "I'm far better at negotiating conversation than anything else we've come across today, but today has been exhausting. I shan't drink but it would be interesting to see what these folks have to say before we find somewhere to stay. Gods has it really only been a day?"

The elf keeps close to Tegan, arranging her hair to hide her ears as best she can given the fact that it's far from manageable. She's hyper aware of her lack of knowledge on local...well, anything. And Lala's comment on her race has left her...cautious.

A memory of an awkward encounter long ago brings forward a small smirk, and her fingers twitching towards the signet ring she no longer possessed. When she had first begun learning how other people worked - such as how their body language or tone of voice revealed hidden intentions (though in her opinion it was much easier to rifle through someone's cabinet than read their minds) - she had caused several scandals by just...outing them. It had taken her a while to get the hang of subtleties, and it had never really been her thing. She needed to remember that she wasn't really sure how her companions would react to her ideals of justice and...

You're getting ahead of yourself, Inawenys. Not every word has a double meaning. Some people just want to get by. Her father's words come to her, and she takes a deep breath before clearing her mind and accompanying Tegan towards the fire.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
As Tegan and Ina approach the dark, billowing smoke, with Hircus and Moire behind them, one of the three people there takes notice— a woman with a long spear and red and yellow livery. Like the two men she supervises, her face is smeared with soot and her eyes are red and teary. These three have likely been out here a good part of the day.

She pulls aside the handkerchief covering her mouth and nose to speak. "Shame you're too late. Burgomaster's bounty ended days ago. You can just throw 'em on the fire if you want to lighten your load," she tells Tegan, indicating the wolves he and Moire are carrying.

One of the laboring men, who use long poles to move things around in the firepit, speaks up, his words muffled but intelligible through his kerchief, "Why waste good wolf? Krushkin should still pay the old price."

"Maybe," muses the woman with the spear. "Vallaki's stuffed with wolf now. We'll be eating wolf steaks for weeks. But you can ask him. The hunters Krushkin and Szoldarovich drink at the Bluewater sometimes. Check there. But don't be too long getting into town. Gates'll be locked in a few hours."

The second worker comes closer with a slight limp, reaches into his coat, and presents Ina with a crumpled handbill, different than the Wolf's Head Jamboree:


blazing-sun.jpg

"It'll be a good one!" the man proclaims before returning to his labors at the pit.

An errant gust momentarily pushes some of the dark smoke aside, giving Tegan a glimpse of the many headless, smouldering carcasses within the shallow depression. So many charred wolves. Bright embers glow where the flesh has turned to charcoal. The smell of it invades Tegan's nostrils, making him dizzy, so that he's caught off guard by the enormous, still-living wolf charging through the smoke towards him. The beast is the size of a horse, and as it comes within leaping distance, Tegan's hand flies up instinctively, releasing a barrage of glowing darts that tear into the monstrosity's face, shearing off flesh and obliterating its eyes. The giant wolf tumbles into the pit and vanishes among the forms of its companions...

"Careful, sir!" shouts the woman in livery as she grabs Tegan's arm to right him before he topples into the pit himself. His head clears a bit. Of course there was no giant wolf, no glowing projectiles. It was some kind of hallucination brought on by the smoke. But what is no hallucination is the tingling in the hand that cast those darts, and the memory of how to work that spell, and others as well. How could such power be so completely forgotten until this moment?

To the rest of you, Tegan simply wandered too close to the pit, flung a hand out to protect himself from the fall, and was saved by the female guard, who returns to her work pointing out bodies that need turning in the fire.
 
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