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Fantasy The Unlikely Road

SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Erected at the bottom of a mountain, the town of Thar Modan is home to dwarves led by Duke Dulgarn. Although all walks of life could be found there. The town itself looked mundane. With its murky wooden rooftops, worn limestone walls, and whistling wind. Some would call it dull while others would say a little eerie since voices could be heard on the winds at night. The streets were lined with flora, beautiful exotic trees that blossomed twice a year for a splash of color. In the distance, snow-sprinkled mountains stretched up words to the crystal sky. Little wisps of clouds hung aloft, casting spars shadows across the ground below. A healthy blooming economy had attracted people to the small border town over the last few months. Rumors of a treasure to be found in some ancient temple in those cold mountain peaks. Although no one has found it as of yet.

With the rumors of some great treasure hiding nearby, it not only brought adventures who wanted to learn the truth but an on-slot of bandits and cutthroats. Those who had wanted the so-called treasure for themselves. Making the roads leading in and out of Thar Modan hazardous. To help put a stop to the robberies and murders, Duke Dulgarn sent word to several organizations to send help. He begged for muscle that could stand toe to toe with the muscled brutes. He asked for healers to tend the wounded. And even asked for people that he could confide in. After all, there was more to the treasure and temple then what most knew about.

Umi yawned as she slowly opened her golden eyes. She had to spend another night in this place and it was starting to stifle her creativity. The music only flowed when she had inspiration. Her ability to heal was only good when she could play. So no music, no healing. And that had been the reason the young tifling came to the area to begin with. That and the promise of good pay. Or was it the fact she wanted to see if the rumors were true first hand? Short strands of mahogany hair fell across her face and back swept horns. Making her amber skin pick up the light tones of red in it. "Morning." She said with a lazy wave of her hand as she headed out of the inn. Already she was pulling her lute from her back, letting her fingers graze gently over the tot strings. the notes hummed softly in the air around her. "Surely it will be more lively today." Umi sighed to herself. Even if she wasn't a tifling, a woman standing 5'8 was still a sight in that area. Most women didn't make it past 5'5 around there.


DatCorn DatCorn

 
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DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
As the practiced melodies from the lute reverberate across the chilly morning air, it seems to usher in the dawn of the morning bustle. Slowly but surely, dwarves of all professions and expertise began prepping for their daily work routine. The spicy scent of the forge brought alight with the shuffling of coal. The sharpening of knives and tools to process the ore and game once brought in. Duke Dulgran, himself, was up bright and early. Though a bit on the shuffly side, as if a specter was constantly tickling his back ears.

A fabled melodist whose tune can soothe the aches and wounds of even the hardiest of warriors was a valuable asset to many organizations that wage war with the calamities of the land. So no doubt, Ume has had her fair share of thwarting offers of dangerous ventures and perilous conflicts. Surely this request in the remote but calming mountains of Thar Modan would be a pleasant to fill the coffers... Right?

"Achoo!!" A hoarse echo disturbed the sanctity of the morning chores, followed by a growly sniffle. A hefty Leonin drabbed in a mountaineer's outfit appears from the inn room, supposedly having received the same accommodations as Ume. With his brawny physique and rugged appearance, he walks like a giant among the nearby dwarves and even tops a foot higher than the minstreling healer. Casually strolling across the crunchy grass towards the location of the mayor, his gaze meets Ume briefly as he offers a humble nod and hand raise.

"Mornin' miss. Make sure to bundle up before yer performance. Strong winds from the mountains." A small purrgrowl of a chuckle emanates as he continues his walk towards the Duke. Distant murmurs ask of the directive of his partner, of which the Duke's finger traces the path back to Ume. The lion turns his neck, straining the fabric, as their gazes meet once more. "Ahh..." he growls out, a sheepish clearing of the throat soon after as he's left standing as a fool in the sunlight snow.

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SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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"Duly noted." The minstrel said in a nonchalant tone as if she could care less. The chill in the air was a bit bothersome, but she wasn't going to let that bother her now. This journey hadn't been what she hoped for. Heal a stab victim, cure a cold. Maybe a song or two to help soothe one's nerves before traveling up the mountain trails. Or perhaps a little something to ensure a safer landing if they fell. However, it was the lack of coins in her pockets that made this less than ideal. By now she would normally have a few pouches of coin. Only this time funds seemed to be a bit more scarce.

Oddly enough, she and the leonin were heading in the same direction. To Duke Dulgarn. The Dwarf in charge of giving out the pairing assignments. She was just barely in earshot as the man before her asked his question. But it was the response she hasn't expected. So she was to be paired with him? A sour note rang out as her feet came to a stop. Surely there had to be some mistake. How was she going to get inspiration from him? This had to be a jest of some kind. Quickly the bard recovered her melody as she took the final steps needed to stand beside the leonin. For once she truly had to look up at someone. " We're working together?" Ume asked as if she didn't hear correctly. "Us?"

Duke Dulgarn Let out a long sigh as he stroked his beard. Giving a curt nod to the tifling. "Of all the people who've come to help, you two seem to be the most trustworthy. I have something a little different to task you both with." He pulled out a small crumpled scroll from his breast pocket and handed it over. "I need you two to follow this to the letter." The dwarf was unwilling to voice what it was he needed. However, the scroll held all the information. The location of the said temple. A box that needed to be located within and secured. Finally, how to activate all the dormant traps.

Ume simply looked at the scroll then to the leonin. "Seems introductions are in order. We can do that after the morning performance. Just don't lose the scroll." With that she turned on her toes and headed off to join a small gathered crowd. Her tail swayed aggressively behind her as she walked.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
"Hrmm..." Bran stood in attention, back straightened, as the Duke continued his description. In Bran's simple mind, he is led to believe that Ume would be ecstatic to work with a proud and powerful Leonin like himself. Why, he probably have enough strength to lift at least a dozen dwarves within this establishment. Perhaps he should tell her that. His concern, however, was how an instrumentalist might contribute to the mission.

His deep thoughts were interrupted as a crumply scroll was pushed into his mitts. Quickly scanning the contents, he was able to absorb the objective, but was a step too late for introductions. "A-ah. Yes! Introductions. The name's Bra-aah... Wait. Where ye goin'?" His ears flapped down as he felt three steps behind. The Tiefling exuded confidence which he found a tad intimidating (shouldn't it be the other way around?), but being a man with more courage than sense, he quickly followed like a puppy in pursuit of his owner. The scroll tucked away crumpedly in his back pocket. Seeing as the crowd was already gathered with anticipation, a man like Bran who needed a two-seater would have some difficulty finding a spot to curl upon, so he settled for standing at the back of the growing crowd.

The town of Thar Modan seemingly lacks musical entertainment. So there were many anticipating eyes settled upon Ume as she prepared her performance. "Is she... Just here to dance and be merry? Was told to be expectin' a medic of sorts." Shhh!! One of the sitting dwarves rightfully hushed the lion man. Silently, he copied the hush motion with a nod and a wink. Clearly this Tiefling got her job posting mixed up with another adventurer. He'll just explain the situation- of which he's quite sure is the case- after her riveting performance with the lute. It's time for Bran to be the hype man!
 

SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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A tick started as Ume realized the cat man was following her. Well, lion to be precise. Still, this wasn't what she wanted to deal with. Most times she found it best to work alone. After all, she just needed to play a song here or there. Maybe rely on her sword and dagger a time or two. Other than that, the tiefling mostly stayed out of the way. Hearing the overly loud hushing, she looked back to the leonin as her jaw clenched. He was going to be a constant thorn in her side it seemed. This wasn't going to be one of her best performances at this rate.

Long slender fingers wiggled in the air a few times before she gave the lute a hard strum, causing the notes to pour out of the instrument like water bursting from a dam. Once all focus was on her, the notes quickly softened into a sweet melody as she lazily strummed each string. "You're already enough, everything you need is within you. Each morning when I wake up, I’m grateful for the beauty around you. Life is a gift and you wanna enjoy it. Always trying to prove, everything you need is already in you." Each word Ume sang harmonized with the notes she played on her lute. The air around her sizzled with energy as everyone seemed to get the healing they needed. A few more charged lines flowed forth before she finally came to a stop.

Well, that was one spell down out of the 11 or so spells she could cast a day. Thankfully she hasn't had to use all her spells since coming here. Slinging her instrument over her back, she headed for the man that was pointed out as her partner. At least the crowed wasn't lingering today. Everyone had things to get done so she would have time to talk. "So, we are working together?" Golden eyes scanned him over once more. "The name is Ume, and you would be?" She hadn't really been listening before when he had tried to give his name. "Take it you're the muscle?" With his large size she couldn't pitcher him being much else.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
Unbeknownst to the public, Branicek was nursing a bump on the forehead. As it figured, dwarven lodgings had limited options for one of his girth, and his bright and cheerful awakening was followed by a massive conk to the noggin. So as he watched the melodious aura from Ume strum across the air, he could feel the painful pulsations quiet themself. With the crowd's modest clapping and whispered thanks, Bran was left standing there, mouth agape. The cogwheel of his mind slowly turning to tick on the lightbulb overhead.

"Hrah! The healer be ye! Veiled in honeyed song and a soft face! Was expectin' some stuffy robed priest from the temple." He let out a boisterous laugh to the sky, then corrected his beastly posture. Right, there were follow-up questions. "The name's Branicek from the Merc's guild. Appreciate ye noticin' my muscles, lass. But I'm also a trained defender so allow me to be ye shield for this mission." He gave Ume a fanged grin and a hardy pound to the chest. How can anyone not feel completely safe and secured under the watchful auspice of this giant lion man? Surely Ume is filled with great relief to have him as a co-op buddy.

Now that introductions were settled, he fished out the quest scroll in question. Twice-crumpled and legibility now shamed. With a few grunts and nods, he turns towards the temple's entrance, a morning's worth of hiking to the more perilous region of the mountain. "Hrm... Gonna snag some hikin' gear from the local smiths. Find a cape or cowl for them tiny bones, lass. Can fend off a bear but not the cold, Hra-hah!"
 

SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Wide-eyed, she stared at him. Twice now he had shown worry for her in the cold. Her head tossed back as she started laughing. "I will get something, no worries there. Get your stuff and we will meet at the inn by mid-day." Her tail swished from side to side as she started off. Only to pause as a thought came to mind. If they were both going to go shopping, wouldn't they essentially be in the same place? "Wait!" She called before quickly backtracking. "Lets both get the supplies we need then we can stop by the inn and head out." If she was going to be stuck with him then she needed to make the best of it.

The bustling market was one of the busier spots in town. With a plethora of food, general goods, blacksmiths, and so on. The core of the market was an open square with carts on all sides that seemed to be constantly moving and shuffling places. Past that was the first round of buildings. Mostly the clothing stores and everyday goods. Then there was the blacksmiths with their armor and weapons to sell. Throughout it all was a heavy sprinkling of new shops with items geared toward those fullish enough to try and go up the mountain in search of treasures. "We also might grab some rations, an extra bedroll, and a pack mount if possible." Now that she thought about it, a backup instrument wouldn't hurt either. Especially if they might see regular fighting. "Anything you personally might need? Like I was thinking about grabbing a bodhrán. Just in case."

How would they afford all of this? She didn't know about him, but her pouch had been a little light as of late. For one she could never seem to hold onto coin when she had it. Although if asked she would give another reason. The area had been in need of her services. Since many seemed to be on the short end of funds, she was doing it all without charge. "Of course, I do have some things back in my room already." A few lavish outfits, a nice pair of boots. Although nothing particularly useful in the mountains.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
After Ume's performance, the noticeable lack of paying patrons did not elude his keen sights. And an intuitive concern began prodding at his brain. Scratching at his chin and bobbing about in deep thought as his tail sweeps the grass, he presents an idea. "Hrmm... The merc's guild allows me a stipend for essential supplies. Not a king's ransom but a fair generous amount. Best we be shoppin' together t'keep track of the spendin'. Just pick what suits ye fancy. And as fer the pack mount..." He gives a quick flex of the biceps with a wink before sauntering towards the stalls.

His eyes focus upon the clothing stores with the full intent of purchasing an insulated cowl should Ume skip upon that detail. The dwarves were more than happy to offer up packs of cured jerky and harvested dried fruit for the trip. Bran had to hold back his salivation as his gut bellowed and whined for a hearty morning's meal. Must... Resist... until they return to the inn. After completing the transactions and checking off the mental checklist, he halts once more. Shifting toward Ume with an inquisitive look (assuming she hasn't departed on a wild spending spree).

"Ahh, yes. What is this... Bod-ran ye seekin'? Sounds like a tough plate of armor." His false assumptions were followed by a mighty laugh from a nearby tender of a stall selling local crafts. The lady shakes her head with a chuckle before speaking. "Cute, but can't blame a marauder like yourself to be oblivious of artisan goods. I'm sure the miss is looking for one of these." She gesticulates to the side of her stall, a few bodhrans line the selection, all with the similar design. "The eye represents the watchful moon who blesses us with sweet dreams and peaceful nights. It is our custom to always give thanks to her presence." At the base of the display was a hefty price tag that made the Leonin's eyes pop from his skull. To purchase said instrument would mean cutting down on a serving or three for breakfast. His gaze finds way towards Ume with small beads of sweat running down his grizzled face, wondering just how desperate she needed a handcrafted drum.


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SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Rubbing the back of her head, Ume looked away. "Healing is just one of the things I can do. Not the best at it but I'm good enough." As he continued on, her eyes widened as she watched him. He really was an over-the-top sort. "Well, glad your guild give you funds." Watching him flex with a wink, she had to stifle a laugh. Making a mental note that he was a proud sort. Really proud of those muscles. Not that she could blame him. If she had muscles like that then she would be proud too. It didn't take long for them to find most of what they needed.

"No, we can pass on this. Unless you have a drum with no design?" She asked. Although it was getting hard to focus on shopping with the way Branicek's stomach was crying out for food. "Either way this could wait. I'm sure there is breakfast waiting at the inn by now. Let's go get a bite, pack what we have, and finish shopping on the way out?" If she had to listen to his guts rumbling for much longer then she would have to stuff him with food herself. Looking back to the shopkeeper with a smile as she grabbed her partner by the arm. "We will be back later, thank you."

"What is it you normally have in the morning? Steak and eggs? Or Ham omelets? Um... flat cakes with fruit and syrup?" Her brow rose as she looked him over. He was a big man. There was no telling how much he would eat. "I bet I can have the innkeeper whip up something nice for you." After all, she had done four morning performances now. A few side glamors. Even calmed a brawl or two. That alone saved the inn quite a bit of money. So surely she could ask something out of it. "Or do you like the sweet stuff? Like the cakes and pastries?"
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
"Unfortunately not, Ma'am. But we can always haggle after you feed your furry friend here!" Bran flinched as Ume dragged him towards the humble inn away from the sweetly waving clerk. For one who seemed gentle and composed in his eyes, Une had a surprising amount of spunk. Maybe he should introduce her to his training regimen. Wouldn't hurt to put some meat on those bones...

Ugh! Food! Ume would find no resistance in her tugging as Bran followed doggedly with high expectations. "S-steak and eggs? Haah, sounds heavenly. Ham omelette with biscuits and gravy. And maybe some waterfowl broth to down it all." The various cravings were practically dancing in his eyes as he allowed Ume full control of his locomotion in his daydream trance. Upon approaching the inn/tavern, even the bard could catch whiff of the morning feasts in preparation. One can only imagine how wonderful the sizzling sounds and scents might be to the magnified sense of a Leonin.

Oof! A man dressed in a fancifully dark attire bumps past Ume on the shoulder as she enters the inn. "Pardon me." He said, with the tip of the hat, continuing along while evading further contact with the large lion man in tow. The inn's waiter is seen waving off the man with hearty goodbyes before noticing the presence of our two goons. "Thanks for your patronage! Oh, welcome back Ume! Lovely performance as usual. You've definitely earned a mountain-high stack of flat cakes, haha! But seriously, what service might you be looking for?"

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SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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He was going on about food as if he hadn't eaten in days. Maybe he was starving? Then why would he be buying things for her? There was a sudden ting of guilt as they made it to the inn. The tefling paused as she looked back over her shoulder to the man that passed her. Then from habit, she started to pat down her pockets to make sure everything was there. He didn't look like a thief. Still, in her trade better safe than sorry. She glanced back once more before smiling at the innkeeper.

"Good morning. It smells delightful in here. I know I haven't started a tab yet but, would you do me a favor?" Pointing to her newfound friend. "He needs breakfast. We need to finish shopping, and as usual, I'll work for my share. But he has made everyone well aware of how hungry he is. So please feed him well for me." They were given a table. One suited for Bran's size. Soon a plethora of foods were laid out. 2 chickens, a large platter of bisects and gravy, 3 loves of bread, a wheel of cheese, some spar ribs with eggs, and a fruit tray. It was sat out for the two to share on the table. Although they both got their own tanker of ale. "Eat up my fuzzy friend." This along with the rations given by the dwarfs should last them for a while.

"So tell me, how did you get into this lifestyle?" Ume asked grabbing a bit of cheese with a chicken leg and some bread. " I mean, a man of your stature could be just about anything." Then again, She knew how hard it could be to find work when one looked so different from everyone else. Or maybe it was simply this was what he wanted? He didn't seem the type to do things unless he wanted to do them. The overly honest stort.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
Branicek was going to town on this generous serving. From the chicken to the gravy, the ribs and the loaves, one would be excused to liken the man to a chipmunk with how his face is stuffed with no evidence of stopping anytime soon. Oh, but the vegetables were left untouched. "Yer too kind, lass! This generosity shall be paid ten-fold!" He managed to speak between munchings. The tail behind him can be seen swaying happily as he washes the food with a mighty pint of ale, a necessary action to reply without spraying foodstuff across the inn.

"Hrmm. This build of mine ain't as much o' blessing as ye think. Can be tough, findin' work when fineries are involved. And can't get me t'read a passage from a tome without fallin' asleep, hra-hah! A merc's life suits me just fine and let's me meet all manner of interestin' folk" His posture was more relaxed now that his monstrous stomach was sated. An arm resting upon the knee, allowing him to engage in discussions with Ume at the same eye level. "Speakin' of, what's got you itchin' to take on this 'perilous quest' [finger quotes]. Wouldn't ye be safer strumming a nice tune and fillin' yer cups with coin in one of the city's tavern? Ye got talent, lass, and it'd be a shame for the world to lose it."

Throughout the conversation, Branicek was making sure to keep an eye on the owl clock overhead. If they wanted to avoid a journey through the wintery night winds, they'd have to move out sooner than later. But there still remained enough time to become amicable. After all, they were going to be partners for this excursion, and he was quite curious to know about her full capabilities.
 

SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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"Oh. Oh my, you were starving." Ume said before grabbing a hand full of grapes and a peach. "What got me into this life?" Now there was a hard question to answer. As she sipped her ale, she thought over what to say. Finally, the tiefling leaned back in her chair, crossing one leg over the other as she did. "Well, I guess it's because I'm good and everything and great and nothing." Bards had a reputation of being a jack of all trades. Knowing a little of every craft but a master of non. "I can heal, fight, enchant, cast spells. Even open a locked door with enough time. I just can't do it as well as someone who's always trained in that craft." Having people think she was par demon with the horns didn't help either.

"Anyways, enough about me. I'm going to go change into something a bit more suited for the road." Not like anything she had was truly suited for the mountains. But one was better than the others. Finishing off her plate, she headed upstairs and changed into her more sturdy outfit (#4). The teal and gold fabric covered her more but was clearly something meant for a male's physique. At least the black criss-cross lacing held everything in place. It went a long way to hide her form and made it a little safer if she was traveling alone. Short pink strands of hair still fluffed around her horns, which offset the vibe. A small pack slung over her shoulder as she took her seat with Bran once more.

"Finished yet?" The tambourine jingled on her hip as she shifted for her tail. Still no cloak in sight. There was also a rapier and dagger with her now as well. The lute was still strung across her back. "What was left for us to get? The drum can wait. I'll make do with what I have." Unseen was also a penny flute stuffed into one of her many pouches. After all, spell components took up lots of room.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
"A firm and fair statement. With so many knots under ye belt, it'd be a waste not to pursue a journeyman's career." He gives a grunt of approval as Umi departed up to her room, busying himself with the last pint of ale. A wave to the front desk signaled the retrieval of his belongings. An oversized hiking backpack filled with essentials like picks and flints, ropes and bandages, already packed and prepared. The allotted time would be spent tying additional knots with the rations and hiking gear acquired during their shopping trip. Would be a dying shame (literally) if they flew in the tumultuous winds.

As Umi returned, Bran leaned back up to sit and stare. His eyes squint in judgment. Analyzing. Deducing. Reaching over, he tugs slightly on the fabric and gives the tambourine a small finger knock, letting the shingles play. Then he hunches back once more while digging into his oversized backpack. "Tis a mighty fine outfit ye got there. Let's make sure it stays fine, aye?" Fishing out the fur-lined cloak, he tosses it to Umi. A gentle acorn brown and expertly tailored, but weightier than first appearance. Then he gets up, limbering up with a few hops and a stretch of the arms.

"If you'll allow, I'll carry any non-essentials on your personage to lighten the load. No need to be shy, lass, just use me as ye need." Hefting the bag upon his shoulders, he jangles it a bit to find the sweet spot to move about effortlessly. The weight hardly encumbers his body as he merrily jaunts out, giving his compliments to the chef. He'll wait for Umi before making any distance towards the village entrance. "I'm sure ye can handle yourself, but make sure to stay within my field of vision. A snowstorm seems unlikely but ye can never be sure with all them wild magic surges. Not to mention all the fell beasts lurkin' in between."

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SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Umi ran her fingers down the edge of the cloak. The thick fleece was warm and soft. The quality of the work was clearly shown. She wasn't used to being given anything for any reason. So the gift was more than welcomed. Even more surprising than the cloak was the way he took her heaver pack without complaint. In fact, he was more than willing to do this for her. "Thank you." Umi muttered as if she couldn't find the words she wanted to say.

Shortly after Bran left, she went to the innkeeper to settle her tab. Making sure she had everything she needed. Double-checked her supplies and spells. Made sure her lute strings were in good condition so they would be less likely to break. It wasn't long before she met him at the gates. The sun was at it's zenith, making the cloak unnecessary for now. But she wasn't so willing to take it off.

"Don't worry, I'm not so foolish as to think I could take on some of those beasts and thugs by myself." Then again, as long as she could keep them tranced in her song or at the tip of the sword then she wasn't too worried. "Wait, what kind of beasts? I don't want to be some displacer's lunch or dinner." The mountains weren't her normal stomping grounds. However, Bran seemed to be more familiar with the ins and outs of things in the colder climates.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
His ear tickled at the muttering of Umi's thanks. The toothy grin concealed by the forward posture as he begins to lead the jaunt towards the temples in the mountain. He had promised to pay her ten-fold afterall, for the delightful morning brunch. With each powerful step, the items jangled and were making their own cacophony of music. An intentional act as to ensure any danger target the Leonin first.

"Not to worry, lass. Any fangs will have to tear through me before they reach ye. Though I'd be enough to fill a dozen beast's bellies." He bellowed a hearty laugh. The trail before them beginning to freshen and line with strands of snow. They were entering the lands less traveled now. "Mountains of sacred origins can house a number of nasties. Undead never laid to rest, snow leopards that hide among the snow. Oh! And demons of ice that conjure elementals. Particularly nasty little gremlins, schemers and pranksters."

As he continued reciting the entire bestiary of mountain encounters, a small jingle echoed through the mountain, causing the Leonin to stand at full attention. His arm blockades Umi's movements, as he keeps ears and snout on full alert. Jingle, jangle. "Speakin' of pranksters..." he growled menacingly, taking careful steps towards the origin of the sounds. "If magic's afoot, I'm at a disadvantage. Ye gots a nifty spell to even the playin' field?"
 

SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Oh this was going to be fun. Or maybe not. The way he stayed in front. He carried her things. At least the heavy stuff. Even treated her with kit gloves for the most part. She wasn't helpless. Yet he surely did treat her as such. Honestly, on some level, it was nice to be guarded so. Better than being forced to fight for every inch. As he started talking about all the nasty things they could run into, she started to worry a hair. Some of the things he listed off, she had never seen before. Not even sure if she could stop anything like that. Then again, he was there to be her muscle.

Pulling her lute off her back, she was ready to fight. Magic with magic if need be. "I have a few tricks up my puffy sleeves thank you." Emi replied as she broadened her stance. The one downside to being a bard was the fact she needed her music to help channel the magic. That meant when using her best instrument, she couldn't hold a weapon at all. Umi was ready with a few spells in mind. Like ego whip, charm monster, and fear. But until it came out of hiding none of those spells could help. "I have a few that could possibly aid now, but if it turns out to be nothing then it would be a waste of a spell. I can only cast so many in a day." But a speed buff would be a nice combination with his streight. Or maybe a shield of some kind?

Her fingers twitched as the sounds rang out once more. Like bells or maybe something metal against metal. It was probably a person. Or at least she hoped it was a person. A living person to be precise Umi didn't want to be running into undead. At least not yet. That could mean the temple had already been breached. "Put the packs down if it makes it easier for you to move." She was still worried about him trying to fight while holding onto so much stuff. Along with the jingles were the sounds of pebbles rolling and twigs snapping underfoot. It was getting close. Her heart skipped as she tried to hide behind the leonin.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
Perhaps his actions have been a tad overbearing considering Umi had the discipline to fend for herself. But underneath the gruff exterior lies a big ol' heart which made it difficult to overlook a burden he could carry. Bran wouldn't dare cast aside his pride to admit it, but the trek through the snow was more laborious on his muscles than he presumed. So looking back at Umi's ready stance and directive, he gave an affirming nod and was more than happy to offload some of the supplies. The satchel and baggings were quietly cast off, allowing him full range of motion to tense his muscles for the conflict ahead. His back hunching down, ready to pounce.

Jingle, jingle. Thump, thump. Footsteps soon followed, like mammoth trudging through the snow. The sound grew rapidly, and was followed by a deafening shrill. A mighty troll crashed through the nearby tree, sparking Bran into action to intercept. He roared back and charged to engage the creature. Two trunk-like arms grab at the icy horns, grappling the troll and locking them both in place as the Leonin refused to let him wrangle himself free. "Lass! Now's yer chance to-" But as he hoped to offer Umi an opportunity to strike with her musical incantations, the familiar jingle coarse the air once more.

Jingle, jingle. Ice from the horn crept slowly from the horn and onto the leather mitts of Bran's hands. The tables had turned. It was slowly engulfing him as he struggled to twist and turn, unable to break the frozen shackles. The strange device on the troll played the melody once more, and Umi with her training can see motes of musical arcana emanating from the device. No, it wasn't of magical origins. It was a curse. Was the troll being controlled by this strange device? If he wasn't being slowly engulfed, Bran might've been happy to speculate. "Brrrghh!! C-C-C-Cold!!" His fur was beginning to bristle and his lion fangs chattering. He'll become a once-living popsicle at this rate!

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SolarRose

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"TROLL!" The word left her lips in a fearful cry. They weren't easy for anyone to deal with. However this one seemed especially vicious. Bran's quick actions had it slowed but not stopped. She would need to act fast. However before she could even play the first note, ice formed over Bran's hand. That's when she spotted it. The box playing music. She knew what to do. Or at least hoped to. Either way, standing there in inaction wasn't going to work.

Umi started a swift downward stroke on her lute. Only to stop a hair's width away from the first string. "No, this won't do yet." She was about to summon flying daggers to attack the beast. However, that wouldn't help her new companion. Instead of a loud angry note, something a little more heartwarming rang out. Instead of her flying dagger, She cast a ward for Bran. Hopefully it would be something to ensure he wouldn't freeze. Thankfully there was no verbal part to that spell leaving her open for a little trick up her sleeve.

A cocky smirk spread as she took a step forwards. Only to remember she still needed her hands. "Well... Hellfires." Umi hissed. It was going to take time to switch instruments. Looks like the tambourine was going to be needed after all. Her lute swung back over her shoulders as she reached for her next weapon. "Come on Bran! Show that thing who's stronger!" He had to hold on. Hopefully, her ward would do him at least some good while she prepared burning hands. Or should she still do the flying dagges? No, then she would risk hitting him.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
Was this it? A grave born from a possessed creature's glacial touch? What a shame, he always preferred a burial at sea. He was ready to announce his noble sacrifice when suddenly, a familiar warmth coursing through the veins of his body. That's right, it was like the performance early at the plaza. Her inspiring melody which sutured wounds and calmed the mind. This second note, which he would later become a personal fan of, lit a flame within his lionheart. It reflected upon his eyes, the firey melody that danced in bright colors as the ice around his fur and arms began melting, to the troll's surprise.

"T'would be my pleasure, Lass!" With newfound strength, Bran began pushing against the two trunk-like arms. Though not enough to capsize the troll, it would be enough to knock it off balance. Finally, an opening! He rocketed straight to the ribs, both of the massive bodies knocked into the snow as they contest in a rowdy wrestling match to pin each other down. A powerful fist from the Leonin managed to connect right on the skull but caused him to reel back, clutching at his hand. A painful throb pulsates within his knuckles as he soon comes to realize that weird helmet device was made of really durable stuff. Something one of dwarven heritage could smith...

Pow! It was the troll's turn to land a clean blow right on the snout. Branicek swung back with a yelp. He put up his dukes, trying to intercept the powerful blows that rippled the air. But it was like trying to stop an oncoming train. The helmet whirring into overdrive and sending the troll on a frenzy. Bran couldn't find an opening. His muscles straining against each blow despite the fiery ward bolstering his defenses. With how close they wrestle, dhe'd have to hit them both, and Bran was prepared to endure some hazardous harmonies for their victory. "Sling yer strongest spell at us! Hold nothin' back!"
 
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SolarRose

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
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Umi wanted to cheer as Bran recovered against the troll. The ice broke away from his fur. Oh thank god, he was going to be ok. Hearing his reply make her smile. Only to watch the two start to exchange thwack for wack. Pummeling each other with mighty blows. Causing the tifling to flinch as she watched them battle back and forth. Forgetting what it was she planned to do next. For a moment, Umi was frozen in fear. Surely this thing wouldn't best him. Worst, when Bran hit the device over its head, nothing seemed to happen.

"Oh.. right... spells!" Her best spell? What was her strongest spell? The tambourine was already in her hand. Leaving her voice and a free hand. What could she do? What to do? Golden eyes grew wide as something came to mind. It was different than what she was going to do. In a way, it was better. "You had better brace yourself. My aim isn't the best." Her left hand tightened around the rim of the tambourine as she started to shake it. Then gave it a solid slap against her hip. Flames formed around her right hand as she skipped forwards, like she was going into battle. "Troll." Umi sang out as she spun then skipped forward once more.

A lance of flames seemed to form in her right hand as she played her tambourine. Using more like a drum than anything. The word troll was shouted a few times. Like a starved person who's found a source of meat for the first time in days. There was nothing sweet or pleasant about the way she said that one word. "Try to hold it still... very still." Spinning one last time, Umi took a final step before letting the lance fly. There was no structure to it. Just energy and flames. However, it should have enough energy to shatter the thing on the troll's head if it hit. Her eyes closed, unable to watch. This spell had only been cast a hand full of times. It was a spell that cost much and would take a while before it could be cast again. A spell that usually finished what ever it hit. However, she had only struck her targets twice with it. She only prayed that Bran didn't get hit in the process.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
As Umi chanted the troll's name in a shamanistic fashion to call upon the piercing flames, Bran's focus was on the troll who was threatening to squish his skull like a goodberry. Its sinister grin ejected a nauseating aroma which was absolutely not helping the situation. Breathing through his mouth, he drummed up a sprint of energy, allowing him to crouch and dodge the seismic clap that stirred even the nearby flora. The request indeed reached his ears, but... uhh. That is quite the request. Still, he had to try. For her safety as well as his own.

Using his advantageous position, he slipped between the legs of the troll and grappled its waist from behind. Linking his wrists together like a chain, Bran tried his best to gain a foothold, but the troll viciously lashed about. A clear protest that his locomotions are his alone. Yet he would find a way. Even if he had to muster all the strength hidden in his massive- oh, wait. The troll stopped its flailing. Ume must have proven successful in her- What in the seven circles of hell is that?!

"F-F-FIRE" The troll whispered meekly, pointing at the pyretic lance that surged before them. Bran, a rugged and battle-hardened mercenary, began whimpering. His eyes quivered as the ruinous flames seem to double, then triple in size. As Umi's eyes were closed, she was spared the pathetic display of these manly men. The flustered leonin reached out desperately, "Lass, wait. No, wait!! H-hold a tad bit back or ye'll-" KABOOM!! The lance did indeed shatter the crown, but was also followed by a grand explosion. White-hot embers leaped and showered along the explosion radius. The sound of two howling creatures could be heard even in the far distance.

Once the smoke settled, Umi could see the troll slumped on the slightly cindering grass. Not a speck of snow remained in the explosion radius. The metallic mesmerizing crown laid shattered on the side. But where was Bran? "HOT HOT HOT!! YEOW!!" The bellowing beastman can be found galloping in circles as pockets of flames merrily licked his fur, his clothing, and his bottom britches. Branicek was desperately trying to pat out the flames, hopping and stomping, rolling and romping, all while hollering and howling. Ultimately, Bran seemed okay. But there would be quite a number of scorch marks to patch up once he manages to calm down.
 

SolarRose

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Hearing the leonin cry out. One eye opened. The flames had grown much larger than she had intended. Oh hell! Her hands went up over her eyes once more, only to peek between her fingers. This time the lance hit right were she wanted. Shattering the head thing. It also caught her friend on fire. "He's on fire!" Dropping her tambourine to the ground, Umi ran over to him. Only to have the flames already gone out. Still, her hands quested lightly to see how much damage was done. Maybe now would be a good time to say she didn't have full control over her spells? Nah, maybe later.

"Bran, are you ok? I'm so So SO sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen." Umi looked to the troll then back to him as she checked once more. "You didn't loose anythmore than fur, right?" Now she felt guilty for doubling her spells like that. Stacking one on top of another. Granted her lance had a much bigger effect. But it also almost took out her partner in the process. "I wouldn't do that again. Promise." Even if she wanted to do that again, it would take time for those spells to recharge.

Umi looked back to the broken headgear. "We should take that with us. It was playing music. Think it was controlling the troll." Was someone trying to stop them? They just started on this journey. As far as she knew, they hadn't made enemies with anyone yet. "Are you ok to travel on?" Rest would have to wait. Getting the device and heading on needed to be their priority for now. However she didn't want to push Bran too hard after what just happened.
 

DatCorn

Shiver me whiskers, Cat Man!
The last of the flames branding his posterior was finally petered out by pounding the ground with a mighty romp stomp. There he was, sitting with tongue lolled and hanging face in a satisfying droop as the situation finally de-escalated. Traces of smoke trailed from the quieted burning. As Umi reconvenes to take stock of the situation, she'll notice small scorch marks throughout his body along with tufts of singed fur. But the Leonin body was conceptually sturdy if nothing else. His clothes were also slightly charred and gave way to ashy color, but still intact.

He attempts to console Umi between haggard pants. "Naw, Lass. Suppose I signed up fer it. Always been a flammable feller." While sitting among the grass, he gave himself a good lookover, taking stock of the damage. A bit of 'yeowch' here and a wince there, but his spirits remained high as all seemed functional, if not slightly frayed. "Tis a powerful- and somewhat scary- gift ye have there. Ye've got a fiery passion for yer art." Bran laugh uproariously while slapping at his thighs, which was followed by another painful wince.

Dragging himself back on two feet, he surveys the area. The troll was knocked out, whew, and the device laid bare its strange clockwork creation. He kneeled down to assess, then pockets it with their unscarred belongings. "Think it's related to that box-a-ma-jigger? Forcin' servitude of the surroundin' wildborns." Bran realized just how ill-equipped they were in terms of information. He scanned the crumbled scroll once more, but it mentioned no signs of melodic mind control, just a prophetically dangerous box that needed to be retrieved along with the temple's various machinations. "Well, no use frettin'. We'll deal with it, baby steps. Let's get goin' then." Hunching down to reclaim their belongings, the stand-in pack mule's completion was tense. Audible grunts were accompanied by hair-raising flinches as he struggled to saddle himself with all the dangling devices. He looked to Umi, veiling his pain with a goofily toothy grin and thumbs up, before making labored steps closer to the temple.
 
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SolarRose

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He was ok. For the most part anyways. At least he hadn't been really hurt. Just a patch of singed fur here or there. All the wounds seemed minor and insignificant. "Baby steps." she agreed. "Because we don't need to rush into danger head first. Why run when it was more relaxing to walk." Besides, the big man looked like he needed to catch his breath a bit. So going slow could be good. But who could blame him after that fight? She saw firsthand some of the blows he took from that thing. "I can carry my own stuff for a while if that helps?" Umi still felt a little bad for setting him on fire. Of course, he would catch like that since he was covered head to foot in fur.

"It might. I want to take it all and look it over slowly when we have time." Someone has gone through a great deal of trouble to place the blasted thing on the troll to start with. Outside of it's muscles, what other reason would a person have to control a troll. "Bran. Do you think? Nah... surely it wasn't a trap set for us. I mean who would know we were here?" Now she sounded conceded or maybe a bit paranoid. Who said it was a trap set for them? It could have just been a trap set for anyone who was on the right trail to the temple. "What did the note say about the temple again?"

Long shadows were already starting to draw across the ground. Only a few more hours left before the sun would start its descent behind the horizon. "Are we camping out here? How much further do you think it is to the temple?" If anything, they would have to set up camp before heading into the ancient structure. She would have to save a special spell just for that.
 

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